The Swatch

12 March, 2009

Twenty-five years on, I have yet to knit a swatch. I will admit, however, that there were times when I was a neophyte that doing so would have saved a lot of grief. But, there it is and here I am, still swatch-less and unrepentant.

I learned to knit from my mom-in-law, a lovely woman who could run up anything on a sewing machine, but who also picked up a smattering of various crafting skills along the way. So one day, she cast on 30 stitches for me on a set of sticky, size 8 aluminum needles, showed me how to do the knit stitch, and I was on my way. There was absolutely no reason why I should NOT have quit right then and there – the scratchy, acrylic yarn was from the 1970s, and the colors were truly atrocious — it hurt just to look at!  But I kept going and eventually produced a classic, beginner’s scarf, seven feet long and entirely in garter stitch. My husband, bless his heart, claimed he loved it.

It was the last time I used garter stitch for anything other than borders, and until a year ago it was also the last time I knitted a scarf. I figured I knew how to read, and if I could read and follow printed directions, I could knit sweaters. And it has been an adventure ever since, especially since I have managed to ignore every single dire warning about gauge swatches. In fact, these days I don’t think I even actually see those cautionary notes about the “essential-ness” of said swatches.

I suspect I have a permanent blind spot about those warnings because I think of knitting as a journey. I love picking out the yarn, feeling the fibre wrapped around my fingers, working the individual loops into a fabric, and seeing the fabric miraculously become a garment. The end products were never that important to me: most of them become stash and will have second, third, even fourth or fifth lives as “new” sweaters. Mom would be proud. Besides, she never said anything about swatching.

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