Vogue Knitting Live Tip #1: Swatching

Swatches from Lorilee Beltman's Vertical Color Stranding Class
Swatches from Lorilee Beltman’s Vertical Color Stranding Class

As previously mentioned, I booked myself as many classes at Vogue Knitting Live as I could. It’s not every week that I have the chance to study with the best of the best, so I took full advantage when I had the opportunity! I’m generally a pretty adventurous knitter – I don’t really care about making mistakes if I have the opportunity to learn something, but I do get very frustrated if I spend alot of time on something and then can’t use it once it’s done. As with so many problems in knitting, the answer is to swatch.

I took a class in vertical color stranding in cables with Lorilee Beltman. The swatches in the photo above are from that class, although we only had time to do two of them in the class period. I knitted the rest at home because I didn’t want to forget how to do it, and I wanted to explore it further. As a designer who is moved first by color, this class was incredibly inspiring. I have never done this technique, so Lorilee opened a whole new world to me. It is a bit involved, and to be honest, I was very happy to learn it in a class instead of staying up half the night watching Youtube videos like I usually do when I’m figuring things out on my own. (For those of you who are wondering what this is, it’s a way of introducing different colored strands of yarn that work their way up your knitting without having to be wrapped and twisted as in Fair Isle or intarsia.)

I took other classes over the weekend also, which I will be sharing soon. However, all weekend long, I heard a recurring theme from all of the teachers, which was to swatch, swatch, swatch. After learning my lesson the hard way once, I have always been a person who swatches to get gauge before casting on for a garment. This truly is the best way to ensure that a garment will fit! But I’ve never really thought of swatching as a learning tool until I kept hearing every teacher mention it last weekend. Of course, it’s common sense. If you want to try or explore a new technique, there is no better way to do it than to work through a series of swatches. You can try all the variations without having to knit an entire sweater or shawl. Of course, if you are knitting a garment, it’s advisable to knit bigger swatches to get a feel for the drape of the fabric.

I was a bit burned out this week, as you might imagine (see my previous post). However, I did spend alot of time knitting swatches based on the things I learned in class. It was really relaxing and stimulating to simply knit swatches without having to worry just yet about how I’d apply it to a design. If you have certain techniques you’re interested in learning, I would encourage you to browse the knitting books at your local library, and start knitting swatches. Even though it feels like you’re not accomplishing much, you are expanding your skills and it will pay off when you start a new project!

Thanks to the teachers I was privileged to study with, I will now look at swatching as a chance to explore, rather than as a chore that needs to be done before I start a project. I hope you will too.

2 thoughts on “Vogue Knitting Live Tip #1: Swatching

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