I'm feeling much more resilient today, thank you very much. Being able to present myself fully, without the desire to be fixed or rescued or solved, always relieves the tension. One friend of mine says: I don't mind when God says "No," but I have a real hard time with "Maybe" and "Not Now"! We may be powerless, but we are not helpless.
And now it's time to present equal time to:
The Arguments Against Swatching
With the help of you readers, I've listed 11 rules for swatching. But MamaCate has brought to my attention the fact that these rules can seem a tad confining, perhaps judgmental, certainly directive--and definitely anti-relaxing! So let's talk about the reasons for just leaping in.
1. Swatching can become an excuse not to launch into a project. The map is not the territory. There is a certain point where you have to take action--if you are like me, fear can hold you back.
2. Swatching can feed into the restrictive idea of perfection. Let it go. There are some not-so-pretty words for this. The goal is not a perfect swatch.
3. Swatching, although helpful, does not guarantee a likable, nay loveable, final project. The issues of fit, pattern balance, appropriateness of color to the wearer, weight, blahblahblah are part of the equation.
4. Swatching does not have to be in the form of a little square. I often swatch by making hats or pillows (see Pillow #1 of the Celtic Pillows pattern) or inadvertent tea cozies. The difficulty with this approach is that you might feel constrained by the fact that you are making "something" and therefore not feel free to change your mind about colors and patterns mid-stream. When I was making the Celtic Pillow, I fell in love with the very first chart and color pattern I did--it was very hard not to repeat that one over and over again rather than launching into other color tests, some successful and some not. I guess this isn't an argument against swatching per se, is it?
4a. Swatching can take the form of your sleeves. Just start knitting the sleeve to see if your idea works out. If it does, great; if not, no biggie.
4b. Swatching can take the form of a child's garment if you don't mind a larger than you'd expect project. When I had my Shaped Shoulders in the Round brainstorm (see sidebar), I made a child's cardigan to test it. Because this was just for fun, I got a bundle of colors I'd never considered using before (lots of spring-like pastels) and threw in some patterns from cross-stich books. Pretty satisfying all the way around.
5. Swatching ups your chances of success, but if you are willing to rip out unsuccessful choices you can just head into the project. My usual practice is to swatch a bit, but then I'll leap into the project, changing some elements as I go. Not always successful, but I don't mind doing things over and over again. Downside? Some things sit in baskets for a long time until I want to deal with them again.
6. Some of the best knitters out there have confessed that they do not swatch. Read Meg Swansen or Joyce Williams, for example. Of course, they have years and years of experience under their knitting belts. I've heard that Alice Starmore can make up to 20 swatches for a given design.
7. Swatching can rid your design of sponaneity. You can analayze it to death, till you're sick of the damn thing.
I swatch more now that I did when I first began designing my own stranded patterns. My first designs used a single color pattern on a changing background, which reduced the number of decisions involved. I've gotten a bit more adventurous in the last few years--and you know that adventure always includes an element of danger. Many of my ideas have not panned out!
Another reason that I swatch more now is that I have hard-earned experience in how long it takes to finish even the smallest stranded jumperweight project. To tell a story on myself: my second self-designed project (November Garden) is one of my favorite sweaters, but I have not been able to wear it. When I had knit 4 inches of the body, I realized that my gauge had tightened up and that the sweater would be too small. But I thought, oh, I've gone so far already it'll be a breeze to finish this up anyway, and of course I'll lose weight this'll be an incentive. Well, there's a lot of sweater between 4 inches of body and a done deal let me tell you.
I have learned not to wait for the perfect swatch, though! I fussed and fiddled with my swatches for the Autumn Rose Jacket, but no matter what I could not find a good border design. So I started knitting the jacket body with only the vaguest idea of how the final garment would look. Meg Swansen has called this "knitting by the seat of your pants." Indeed. When the body was done, I cut the steeks and tried it on. The full effect of the garment helped me define the borders. From the get go I had known that I wanted the warm brown, but I kept pairing it with chartreuse and mustard, thinking (mistakenly) that these acidy colors would "perk up" the design. The light bulb moment upon seeing the body entire: its color effect is very warm and I needed a warm green. It worked! I knit the border off of the cast on edge, which leaves a lovely little raised line like and embroidery stitch. Sure, I might have made some different decisions if I'd known what border I wanted from the start, but I probably wouldn't have made it in the first place if I had.
You'll get to watch this process in action as I work on the Brown Sweater. I'll swatch the center panel, but I'm planning to add small side panels with personal motifs, and the border will be designed on the needles.
If you choose not to swatch, you might get caught in a paralyzing judgment game as you knit along. You know, negative self-talk the therapists would call it. When this happens to me, I put the stitches on a thread and block the garment-in-progress. Inevitably I decide that it is going just fine, and I knit along with a lighter heart.
Swatching Bottom Line
Know your tolerance for risk! And then go knit--that's the important thing. My motto:
A finished garment is a beautiful garment.