Swatch, Block, Rinse and Repeat

The featured image on this post is a knit art installation by Ivano Vitali.  Pieces are knitted of recycled newspaper.

The Pride Blanket Project – SF MEN KNIT

Our men’s knitting group made a Pride Bpride blanketlanket in honor of San Francisco Pride.  The blanket was built of indidual squares, each knitted by men in the group, in the Pride flag colors.

After the squares were all gathered, a party to join them together was held.  And the result?  A beautiful expression of friendship and community.  A love of fiber art.  Love and Equality.

There were squares knitted by new knitters, squares by experienced knitters, and squares from designers.  They’re not all the same.  Even the colors are not all the same.  But it is still a moving and beautiful expression of knit as ART.

Our local yarn shop, IMAGIKNIT, offered to let us display the blanket in the storefront window during the week of Pride.  Inside the store there was a description of the group, the project and a map listing all of the artists who contributed squares to the piece.

The blanket was to be removed on July 5th, but the shop gals and owner asked to keep it in the window another week because so many people were coming into the store to see the piece and read about our group and the project.

As of this writing, the blanket is still hanging, but I think it will be removed on Wednesday.  It was a true honor to contribute to this piece.



Master Knitter Woes

Well, here it is, nearly the middle of July and I’m STILL struggling with this damn lace swatch!  Yes, folks, no matter how good a knitter you may be, there will always be struggles.

The issue isn’t that I don’t knit lace… I do.  Honestly, I really enjoy knitting lace, though I tend to prefer other techniques much more.  It’s not that I just can’t grasp math.  It’s not even the prospect of designing.  I’m looking forward to being able to really start producing designs for release into the wild.

It’s gauge.  Yes, gauge.  Hearken ye back to my very first set of posts on gauge swatching; you’ll remember I highly recommend everyone knit a gauge swatch.  I knit swatches for everything.  Sometimes I knit swatches just because I’m watching a movie (currently I’m reliving the 80s and 90s by watching ALL of the Murder, She Wrote episodes, in order — all 12 seasons) and I need to do something with my hands.  While I’m watching a show, I take up the needles, in the dark, and swatch — to practice knitting without looking.

An observation about that — I noticed that when I’m not staring down my knitting, eyeing every stitch as it comes off the needle, I knit faster.  I remember in high school I took a typing class.  Yes, typing.  On a manual typewriter.  With the letters on the keys painted over with many, many coats of cheap nail polish.  And what happened?  I learned to type by feel.  I learned to type accurately.  I learned to type FAST (110 wpm and proud of it).  Now, so far, the resulting swatches typed in the dark, watching tv, are not nearly perfect.  But I have found that I knit faster when I don’t look.  Now to figure out how to marry not looking with perfect knitting; at least as close to perfect as hand-knitting can be.  That will take time, and someday I think I’ll be there.

But back to the lace swatch that’s giving me fits.  The pattern and all the maths are correct.  The pattern is horizontally balanced, and I believe it’s vertically balanced.  That was my first real challenge — vertically balancing a lace pattern.  But after some trial and error, and charting out variations on the pattern, I believe I found a working solution.

So that challenge is hurdled.  Now to knit a test swatch in ‘waste’ yarn (yarn I got specifically for test swatches that won’t be submitted).  I knit the first test — success!  The pattern worked just fine.  Whew.

That relief was short-lived.

After blocking the test, I wasn’t happy with my bind off.  I wasn’t happy with my seed borders.  I wasn’t happy with the drape of the fabric – it felt too “drapey.”

So I test swatched again.  Better.  Blocked.  Ugh.  I hate it.

And again.  Ugh.  Garbage.

And again.  Mostly ok, but still not 100% satisfied.  Seed seemed a bit loose for my taste, so I decided to change needle sizes.  And swatched.


Test again — changing needle sizes yet again.  Swatched, blocked and ….


So I knit it yet again.  On my 4th choice of needle size.  Halfway through I thought, “Hmmm, not too bad.”  Finished and bound off, blocked.

@#$#@ ($*@ %*@#$ !!!  I lived in NYC for many years, so this swatch used every creative F-word I could find.

And then it hit me.

I was knitting angry and stressed.  And it showed.  Subsconsiously clenching my teeth (my dentist is going to give me a lecture on that one).  Scrunching my eyes.  Raising my shoulders.  Gripping those needles like they would fly away if I let go.

See, somatic and emotional tension not only hurt your health.  It hurts your knitting.  It creates uneven stitches.  A too-tight bind off (something I have to continually work on).  Tight stitches on the needle (YOU try working a clean SK2P with over-tight stitches!).

But I like solutions to problems, and I don’t give up.

I decided to start a ‘warm-up’ swatch.  Scrap yarn, needles.  40 stitches.  A small seed stitch border.  And just plain old stockinette.  And the goal?  To get my mind and body “in the mood” for knitting.  Knit this swatch slowly, mindfully and just think about smooth tension and perfect stitches.  After a few rows you’ll notice you’re much calmer and ready to really get to work.  I don’t bind off… I leave the swatch “live” on the needle, ready for the next day.

This style of swatch has some great benefits:

  • You’ll be much calmer.
  • You’ll be “in the mood” to knit
  • You’ll be knitting faster and smoother
  • Best of all, you’ll get BETTER at your knitting

But what does all this have to do with my lace swatch dilemma? 

I found my solution.  I knew what I needed to do.

And I began again.


–Happy Knitting!


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