Random Things + Swatching A Cable Pattern

I'm a little bit frustrated with my swatching efforts, so before I get to that, two random things to start your morning.

1. I just discovered the NYT's Only Ice Cream Recipe You'll Ever Need, and it is a keeper!  Even better, they have a chart of the best way to do add ins. I wanted to make basil strawberry ice cream, and it would never have occurred to me to whiz up the sugar and the basil in the Cuisinart before adding it to my custard mixture.  Genius!


2. I just discovered that my Mom, in her late 70's, is now on Instagram.  How do things like that happen? Will I be this cool when I'm her age? (Probably not.  I'm not that cool now.)


3. Swatching.  It's a little bit perplexing to try and count all those mashed in stitches when you are swatching for a cabled pattern.  I do like how my swatch has improved with proper care, though!  Here it is as knit, all scrumbled up together. This is for one of the new sweaters in Rowan 58, Glacier.


Here it is after blocking, all relaxed and happy.


The best I've been able to figure is to put a gauge over the swatch, pin its edges, and then stretch the swatch apart to count stitches.  And, doing this makes me happy, because I am good.  Pattern gauge is 20.5 st = 4' and I'm getting 20 stitches to 4", so I think I can work with that. Row gauge is good as well. True confessions: A lot of the knitters I know are amazing and really good at this stuff.  I'm not, but I'm okay with that.  I'm a working Mom of four.  I give myself permission to do my best and enjoy the process of knitting even when I flame out. But, I adore this yarn (Snug Bulky from The Plucky Knitter) and I have high hopes for this project.  I WANT this sweater.


Although I want to knit some on the last square this weekend (and I did sneak in the cast on of a new project I'll show you when it's a little further along late last night), I'm also going to cast on Glacier and get to work on the first piece next week.  I can't wait!


How I Learned To Love To Swatch

I'm not a swatcher, at least not until recently.  I always wanted to be.  And, sometimes, I would swatch, at least sort of, in a small way.  But I had never blocked a swatch.  That turned out to be fatal a couple of times, like when I knit Tiny Owl's Fairy Lights Hat in Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere, and the yarn bloomed and grew to half again it's original size when I blocked my beautiful, but now very large, hat.  

Sometimes, I even pretended to myself that I was knitting a swatch, when my process wasn't sufficient and my count was haphazard.  Recently, this resulted in an Agnes Sweater, which, although intended for me, didn't fit my 15 year old or even my 11 year old.  A friend's 6 year old became the profoundly happy recipient of a gorgeous, but very small, sweater knit in Malabrigo Mecha.


My historical approach to swatching can only be called denial.  It was obvious from pretty far out that no amount of blocking would make that teeny-tiny sweater fit my body!

Going forward, I'm committing to being a better swatcher.  I recently discovered knitting podcasts, and one of the first ones I listened to was Kelley Petkun on the Knit Picks' Podcast. She made a compelling case for swatching.  And, she made it sound fun.  I'm glad I listened.

For example, one of the patterns in my queue is Gathered Pullover by Hanna Jason.


Her photo is gorgeous and I've wanted to knit this for a long time.  If you look at the photo you can see you need a soft drapey yarn knit at a loose gauge.  I swatched two different yarns I thought I wanted to use and I'm glad I did because even before I blocked them, it was apparent they were not going to be winners. Although I got gauge, neither was drapey or loose enough.  Swatching here has caused me to pull out several finer yarns and saved me a lot of unhappiness.

This week, I've spent my time swatching for several new projects.  I'm knitting generous swatches and carefully blocking them.  I don't cut the yarn off of the skein — instead I wash the swatch and block it still attached in case I need the yarn for the project.  And, I've gone to knitting full swatches in the round because I know my gauge changes when I knit flat.

Green swatch


For a project in Malabrigo Rasta, I needed gauge in both stockinette and 2×2 rib.  I turned my swatch into a pair of mittens.

Rasta swatch

Rasta gloves

I hope swatching will make me a much happier and more successful knitter.  I feel like I'm finally on the way with swatching, although I may have gotten a little bit carried away with this one.

Sweater swatch





Knitted Swatch Complete. Gauge Perfect. Oh Joy!

I am a good person.  I will surely go to heaven when I die.  For I have swatched.  I have swatched and gotten gauge.  Not only did I knit the full number of stitches called for, surrounded by a garter stitch border, I blocked my swatch after it was complete.  Yes, surely I will go to heaven.

knitting gauge swatch tiny tea leaves cardigan madeline tosh vintage yarn

Even if I don't make it to heaven, I have high hopes that Ellie's fall sweater (the Tiny Tea Leaves Cardigan, knit in Madeline Tosh's Vintage Merino) will fit because my gauge is perfect.  It's perfect after blocking.  And this must be a good omen from the knitting gods that all is well.

gauge swatch tiny tea leaves cardigan madeline tosh vintage yarn knitting

I am fascinated by this yarn.  I don't think anyone does single color variations as well as Madeline Tosh.  I adore her yarns.  This one is a superwash merino, and it has an odd texture, almost coarse but not unpleasant.  The surprise came when I washed my swatch and it softened up nicely into something you would want to rub against your face.  Hopefully I'll get to spend some time with Tiny Tea Leaves this week.  I can't wait to get started, now that the swatching is done.