3 kinds of swatches

Swatching! Do you like it? Do you hate it? Why do we swatch?

There are many types of swatches.

There is the “insurance” swatch, the one you make (or know you should make) more or less grudgingly (often more) before you can launch into your new project. This swatch is your insurance for obtaining a finished item that is the size indicated in your pattern, and for not running out of yarn. You have your yarn, you have the gauge information, and you are trying to see which hook will make your hands work to the prescribed gauge.

There is lots to say about the insurance swatch, but right now, let’s just say that though you may not enjoy making it, it can save you a lot of trouble. The insurance swatch is your indispensible partner and your best friend, even if you don’t particularly enjoy spending time with it.

There is also the “research” swatch. You have a pattern, and you are looking for the perfect yarn. Will it be smooth or fluffy? Solid-coloured or variegated? The one you first thought of or something completely different? You start your investigation, you discover how your stitch pattern interacts with different yarns, you make choices, and during your research, you get some good and some bad surprises.

At the end of the day, your research swatch must also respond to the criteria of the insurance swatch. It needs to conform to the gauge in your pattern – or you will need to do a lot of math.

Pictured here is a third kind of swatch, the “exploration” swatch. It’s the kind of swatch that, if all works out (there is no guarantee), can become a new pattern.

Most of the time, when I start my exploration swatch, I know which yarn I want to work with, and I know, or decide rapidly, on the hook I want to use. The actual gauge, the number of stitches and rows per 10 cm or 4”, doesn’t matter. I will indicate the gauge data precisely in the final pattern, of course, but right now, this doesn’t matter at all. The yarn colour is not important. I just use the first light colour I can get my hands on. The colour needs to be light because I need to see my stitches very clearly.

I begin my exploration swatch with a vague idea, some kind of theme floating around in my mind. It might be a family of stitch patterns. It might just be a couple of colours I want to play around with to see how they go together (in this case, of course, I select them from the start). Or it might be much less defined— more like a wish, a longing, an emotion or a simple spark of curiosity.

It’s a long kind of swatch. It takes a long time (don’t ask me how long, I don’t count hours at this stage) and it gets very long – this one is currently 90 cm/34.5”, and it’s not finished. When was the last time you made a meter/yardlong swatch?

It’s not always fun. When making an exploration swatch, I sometimes learn that my initial idea wasn’t good, or that it can’t be made as I thought it could. This is a swatch full of failed initiatives – and that’s the whole point.

Because from the failed initiative sometimes a better idea will arise. The starting point is further and further away, but a new angle comes into view, clearer and clearer, until it becomes truly evident. My heart beats faster when the stitches come together as I want them to, when their appearance is what I had imagined – or something completely new, a treasure I was hunting for without knowing it.

This means that the first half-meter/yard or so in this swatch, as well as dozens of Post-its, notes, drawings and ideas, will seem completely unrelated to the end result. But all these dead ends, halted ventures and failed endeavours were strictly necessary to get there.

There’s no point in showing you a close-up of this swatch, because you would find it unappealing. But in my head, I can already see the finished sample, and I think you will like it.

If all goes well, we can crochet it together this summer.

Sun motif

A third motif from my 2016 Advent Calendar. At the time, I saw a star at the center of this motif, now I see a sun !

One of the participants used this motif to make a colourful blanket – perhaps you would like to do so as well?

You can download the pattern for the motif in pdf format here:

My ideas for this motif can be found here. There are some interesting ideas about joining motifs to check out!

The round-up of the different interpretations is here!

Three-colour motif

A second motif from my 2016 Advent Calendar. What would you like to make with this one?

In my Advent calendars, the mini projects are presented step by step over 4 or 5 days (depending on complexity). It a mini mystery CAL and sometimes, I build in a small surprise. Here, the motif starts out as a square in the center but ends up being circular.

You can download the pattern for the motif in pdf format here:

This motif would, of course, look lovely and interesting in a single colour, too!

My ideas for this motif can be found here.

And all the lovely interpretations are here!

Two-colour motif

If you’re like me, in these strange and troubled times, there are moments in your day when the feelings of anxiety and stress peak. This happens to me around 4 a.m. – I wake up and can’t go back to sleep.

To cope and feel a bit better, for the past few days, I have been crocheting motifs in the early mornings. One day, if I come up with something interesting enough, I will show you the result of these experiences at the break of day.

But right now, I’d love to share the first motif designed for my 2016 Advent Calendar. At the time, the instructions were distilled over several days on my blog. To facilitate things, I have made a recap pdf that you can download here:

My ideas for this motif can be found here.

And all the lovely interpretations are here!

How about you? What kinds of motifs do you like to make? And how do you use them? Do you make blankets, scarves or something else?

Substituting yarn

You know that I firmly believe that playing with yarn is a very efficient way to relieve anxiety – and this is something I think most of us need right now.

However, you might want to start a project for which you do not have the prescribed yarn at home. And for many of us, this is not a time to go yarn shopping.

I hope that this article on yarn substitution, from a few years ago, can be helpful, interesting, or thought-provoking!

Flower Brooch in leftover yarn

Here is my little layered flower, made using the tutorial I discussed yesterday.

I made it with some leftover Zauberball yarn. Since this yarn changes colours slowly, I took out some yarn between the layers to get better contrast.

So now I have a couple of tiny yarn balls. I might use them to make the back of the flower brooch, or for something else!

Stripes by EclatDuSoleil: Colour Beams

As we’ve already seen, EclatDuSoleil/Hélène Marcy loves stripes and plays with them in her designs. Today I’d like to spotlight the shawl Colour Beams, a design where she took on a technical challenge: how can you produce vertical stripes when crocheting horizontally?

Hélène’s solution to the problem became the pattern for Colour Beams. Using only one colour on each row, the stitch pattern produces vertical solid-coloured “beams” throughout the center of the shawl!

To make her shawl Hélène used a self-striping and a solid-coloured yarn from her stash, but you could, of course, use two contrasting solid colours for a striking effect. My yarn suggestions can be found on the pattern page in the shop.

Check out the Colour Beams pattern in my shop!