Can I stop swatching now?


The good news: I have Made Progress on my sister's modified Central Park Hoodie.

The bad news: I've done so many swatches that if all those stitches had been Actual Hoodie Stitches, sister Liz would be wearing her new hoodie by now.

I really have a love-hate relationship with swatching. It has to be done, there is just no way around it, unless one wants to be knitting afghans and gorilla sweaters all one's life. I have nothing against afghans and gorilla sweaters; I believe that some gorillas might even appreciate a handknit now and then, to comfort themselves as they sit and people-watch from within their enclosure at the zoo, or to cozy up next to in their bed of leaves in the wild. But some of us want to be knitting for humans, and humans have a strange preference for clothing they can wear, as opposed to something they just drag alongside themselves as they knuckle-walk through their day.

(Where was I? Oh, yes: Love/hate. Swatches. Gotcha.)

I love swatching for this hoodie.
As I tried to work out my ideas on my computer, then on my needles, I learned an enormous amount about cables and how they work (also: how they don't work!). The intense chart-and-swatch, chart-and-swatch process has taught me to read cable diagrams at a glance, rather than laboriously counting squares and trying to remember which stitches cross in back versus which in front. I feel ten times more confident with cables now than I did a few weeks ago.

On the other hand: Swatching, I hate you. You make me frustrated when the stitches do not look like they do in my head, or in the glossy photo in the stitch dictionary. You drive me insane with your endless cycles of knit-and-rip, knit-and-rip. You make me feel as though I've gotten nothing done at the end of the day, let alone the end of another blogging week, because I have nothing to show for all my hard work except yards of bedraggled frog-pond yarn.

The big question now is: Do I have a winner? I was trying for a cabled heart design running up each sleeve. I swatched intertwining hearts; I swatched heart ribbons; I swatched Viking hearts and Celtic hearts. The challenge was to find a cable the fit into the existing hoodie, which meant something that fit into a rather narrow band (fewer than 20 sts).

The cable in the photo is one I cobbled together myself. I took a traditional braid that was the right width and proportions, and carefully tweaked it, removing some crossings and altering others, until it looked like overlapping hearts. Then I framed it with tight, mirror-image ropes on either side.

My internal jury is still out on this one. What do you think? Let me know in the comments if this cable is a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down"! If enough of you give it a thumbs up, then I'll keep going; if it's a thumbs down, then I'll have two choices: more swatching (eep!) or giving up and just knitting the pattern as written. (I don't know if I can do that. I mean. As written? That's…that's just so Not Me.)

And just as a side note: Throughout the composition of this post, my spelling checker insisted that the word I wanted was "swatting" not "swatching." I am beginning to think my spelling checker is wiser than I am.

Stay warm; wear a handknit sweater!

– Sandi


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily each week. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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