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August 13th, 2007 at 00:01 am

Swatching and Sampling

Why do people resist “swatching and sampling”? Hard to say, it is never wasted time, you learn so very much even with just a tiny three inch “test for drape”.

It is so liberating to be able to pick and choose materials other than what is listed in the instructions.

Okay, so it is somewhat understandable not everyone is as, well, obsessed, with knowing where to find both common and esoteric tools and supplies, or the origins of a specific tool or technique.

It means you can use whatever fits your budget or the planned use (i.e. no $50 a skein yarns for a dog blanket, but maybe for that christening blanket that will be passed down thru the generations?)

Yet, it seems every time Swatching and Sampling is mentioned, even in an email discussion group, you can feel the collective shudder, cringing — as if you had just announced an invasion of Slytherins.

If, one is going to spend hours creating something that hopefully will be enjoyed by its users for years to come, isn’t it worth making sure it will have the look, feel and durability to survive the generations?

Doesn’t the recipient of your gift deserve not only the best of your skill, but also the best you can afford in the types of materials and supplies you choose to “invest” into the project?

Knowing what is appropriate for your works intended use means you have to know, in the back your tiny doggie brain, how it can be used, and

For designers and teachers and all with skill levels from beginner to advanced, having your own library of examples is an invaluable resource.


– Best does not always mean most expensive,

sometimes it just means most appropriate

within your personal budgetary constraints.

For YARNandTHREAD – no matter how I plan to use the material or what it is going into, everything starts with a swatch and then maybe a bigger sample.

As this series continues, I hope you will share your ideas and methods – because what works for one may not work for others.


  • 1

    I have recently found the joy in swatching. It took me a long time to do so. I used to do gauge swatches for all of 2″ and then pull it back out and start working.

    Now? I have 3 yarns I bought for sampling (just 2 skeins of each) and have been just playing with stitch ideas for a dress I want to make. I’ve been known to make an unofficial swatch and then the official one for submissions. Why? Because I have accepted the process.

    The plan when I have time (ha!)? Swatch most of the stitches in my Harmony Guides so I can see what they actually look like rather than just a picture.

    fibersbytracie on August 13th, 2007
  • 2

    Hi Wheat:

    I think the no-swatch issue boils down to many people not liking the act of knitting: what they like is HAVING knit, i.e a finished garment. How many people hurry through the final stages of assembly etc.
    Add to this that uncertainty that they feel when swatching: “Will it be OK? Will I have to return the yarn (which I love)? Did I get enough to not rip-out? (I found that many many people are allergic to ripping, esp swatches)”

    Also, it seems like wasted work to them. they want to depend on the “expertise” of the LYS or a good friend or someone on the ‘net, not actually do it themselves.

    One day I will do a Starmore for my daughter, and I’ve been swatching for 3 yeas now. and I haven’t settled yet. Not small swatches, either, 8×8 or bigger to see how the fabric REALLY drapes. And then I put them away. Unusual, I am.

    I LOVE playing with yarn, I mean swatching :-)


    yogibeaty on August 13th, 2007


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