Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Swatches, swatches everywhere

Over at the OKC group at Ravelry, Jenean brought up the question of what to do with gauge swatches. It's hard for some of us to persuade ourselves to even knit swatches. I find it torture when I want to dive right into a new project to have to start instead by knitting at 4 x 4" square. (And maybe more than one, if the gauge isn't right on the first attempt.)

But let's assume we all actually knit swatches, as we should for most of our projects. What do we do with the little masterpieces once we're through with them?

I know that I've always been loath to throw them away. They're sort of nice to touch and look at. And they represent effort. But I can't recommend what I do with them--I cram them into the purse organizer that holds my hibernating knitting projects. Surely there's a better way.

I guess the answer is to examine why you keep the gauge swatch. If, as Jenean suggested, it's because you might use the same yarn with the same needles again, and you want to avoid having to re-knit your swatch, then keeping it makes sense. But it's imperative, in that case, to identify your little swatch. You need to indicate the yarn and needles used. Otherwise it's useless. But then what do you do with it?

A three-ring binder with sheet protectors makes sense to me. You could use secure sheet protectors to keep the swatch from falling out of the top of the notebook. Another thought would be a fisherman's worm binder (which is how I store my circular needles). Still another idea would be to put them in ziploc bags and store them in boxes or bins. You could also affix them to your knitting-project journal, but that'd make for a pretty lumpy journal.

Pondering this has made me question whether I should be keeping them at all. Do I just throw them away? I suppose I could stitch them together and make a little blanket for my cat to snuggle in. (Hey, that's not a bad idea!) The truth of the matter is that I've never referred to a gauge swatch after the project was over, so I think it's time for me to either think of a way to reuse them (my cat, Joe, who is supervising me as I write this, votes for the gauge-swatch-kitty-bed idea) or toss them.

In the Ravelry thread, Suzanne made the very good point that you should at minimum keep the gauge swatch until the project is finished, in case you run out of yarn and need to unravel it.

I'm making a vow to myself (and a note in my calendar) to do something about or with my collection of swatches before the end of March. 

How about you? Do you keep your gauge swatches? If so, why? And what do you do with them? If you don't keep them, have you ever regretted it?


Ang said...

Maybe I'm not supposed to do this, but I don't cut off for my swatch - I make it, measure it, and then unravel it and start making my project. If a)I'm using the yarn suggested and b) the gauge matches, I simply put a checkmark in the pattern. Otherwise, I jot down any changes I made to make it work. I don't see any use for gauge swatches, so I don't even keep them past creating them. Is that wrong?

owl knits said...

Here is another idea for those of us who aren't big on swatching and who tend to use a certain brand of yarn a lot AND who occasionally just want a mindless knit and who have leftover yarn in small balls: take all the yarn of one type and knit a swatch scarf. Start with the smallest needles and knit a few inches, do a division line (purl instead of stockinette, or some such), and move to the next largest needles, repeat until you've used all the needle sizes. Label the scarf with the yarn type, and put a tag on each section for the needle size. Voila! a lifetime gauge swatch.
I've did this when I was teaching kntting to show students how changing needle size affected the gauge of what they were knitting.

Amy said...

I keep notes about gauge in my knitting journal, because I am forever substituting yarn, particularly with sock patterns. I do keep lace swatches pinned to my bulletin board for inspiration along with certain pictures and things. But typically after a project is over if the swatch is plain I make notes and move on.

Stephani said...

I make a gauge swatch and take notes as I am making it: needles used, etc. I took 8.5 x 11 pieces of cardstock and cut them in half. Then, I sew the swatch onto the cardstock and also write my notes on it.

I store the cardstock in a photo box and have the cards organized by yarn weight. That way, I can make swatches and don't have to decide on a project right then -I look through the box to see what yarns I have and if their gauge will match the project I have just chosen.