Saturday, July 31, 2010

Swatch, Swatch, Swatch and Swatch again. :)

Most people hate swatching!  If you don't know what swatching is, it's knitting or spinning a small sample of your yarn or fiber and make sure that it's the correct gauge or thickness for your project.  Gauge for those non-knitters is stitches knit per inch.  Depending on the size needle and the thickness of your yarn, your gauge changes.  Most if not all patterns have a gauge for you to get with the needles and yarn you pick for your project.  Sometimes even though you knit with the same needle size and yarn as someone else, you may knit tighter or looser and your gauge will be different.  In these cases you would have to go up a size in needle or down a size.   OK...enough education for today.  It's early for me.

I've been planning out a sweater project with some of my hand spun.  Now, I could just spin up all the fiber and then see what thickness my yarn ends up being and find a pattern that matches but instead I'm trying to spin for a certain yarn weight.  My first attempt at a spinning swatch didn't go well.  First off, I spun up too much of a swatch...I tend to do that because I get so into spinning that I forgot that I'm just doing a swatch.  Second, my singles were way too thick for what I was hoping would be a three ply.  The sweater calls for a worsted weight yarn.  This is a standard medium weight yarn.  You can read more about yarn weight standards here.  The end result of my three ply swatch was more of a Bulky weight which wouldn't work for the sweater pattern I choose.

3 ply. 2 plies of brown merino, 1 of some other fiber.  Bulky weight
So, back to the drawing board I went.  This time I sat down with my fiber and worked on spinning up the fiber the way it wanted to be spun.  I then realized that I was forcing it to be thick and it really wanted to be a lot thinner.  Now I had to decide what to do.  I did end up spinning up a lot more single of the brown merino I was working on before I said...time to swatch! 
Both swatches.
 This time I decided that I'd spin up a small and I meant small sample of the two white fibers I now am going to ply the brown up with and see if this will need to be a 3 ply or 4 ply and which I can get gauge with.  Last night, I pulled out two different white rovings I have.  I have about 3/4ths of a lb of some pretty white Corriedale and less than 1/2 a lb of Cormo.  I'm thinking of doing a single of each of these fibers with two singles of the brown merino which I have probably now a little more than 3/4s of a lb.  I'm hoping by mixing the three different fibers in my stash I will have enough fiber to yarn for a sweater.

After spinning the other singles up, I wound some of the brown onto another bobbin and did a very tiny sample of three ply.  Two brown and one of the corriedale.  I then checked it with my yarn gauge and realized it would be way too thin.  So, I did two plies of the brown, one of the corriedale, and one of the cormo.  I checked and it seemed generally to be about right.  I'm still working on getting my singles a consistent thickness so it's not really perfect but I"m ok with that.  I plied up a little more of this 4 ply and then I set the twist last night. What do you think of how it's coming out?  It's a barber pole effect. 
4 ply worsted weight. 2 plies of brown merino, 1 of corriedale, 1 of cormo.

When I got up early this morning, I pulled out my small sample and knit up a gauge swatch to see if I had reached my goal.  Surprise, Surprise to me of all people, I have!!  It's not perfect and the gauge isn't consistent through the whole swatch but on average it's 18sts/4 inch which is what the pattern calls for!  

I also pulled off a yard of my spinning swatch so I can weight it and determine if I'll have enough lbs of fiber for the yardage I need.  That is for another day because I might have Special K take it to work and use the scale at his work, a machine shop! :)  For now I feel comfortable that I can keep spinning the way I have and just work on getting my singles as consistent as I can.

Hope you guys enjoyed this sort of lesson in swatching.  I know it's a lot of babble really but I didn't sleep well last night because of a leg cramp and I'm up early on a Saturday trying not to wake up Special K who is still sleeping.  When he finally gets up, we are heading to brunch and then to Babys R Us for some registering.

Happy Spinning and Don't forget it's a good idea to always Swatch! :)

PS. I know the pictures are crappy as I'm still using my cellphone to take pictures. :)  Some day I'll get a better camera. 


  1. Ug I hate swatching but it is such a necessary, have to part of knitting!


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