The Design Diaries: just keep swatching...

In the first instalment of The Design Diaries, I talked about the inspiration behind my current project. Today I'm going to talk about everyone's most favourite topic: swatching.

Part 2A: Yarn Choice

In this particular project, I knew which yarn I was going to use almost as soon as I knew what I was going to design. At last year's Unravel, I was Allison's booth babe at the Sweet Georgia Yarns stand. We were right next to the wonderful and lovely Rachel Coopey, who was selling her then-most recent book. She also had a couple of crates of Titus yarn, from Baa Ram Ewe, and I was totally smitten with a couple of the colours. When only one skein of one of My Colours was left, I kept flinching every time someone picked it up. Finally, I just bought it so I could stop glaring at people who were fondling My Yarn. 

When the idea for the Boat Race Hats popped into my head, I knew that this was the project for that particular skein of yarn, in that particular colour. Thankfully, Baa Ram Ewe has just released this year's new colours, and one of those was perfect for the other side of the river.

So after deciding on the yarn and the colours, the next question was: how many people will want to knit a fingering weight hat (mostly) in reverse stockinette? Or rather: could I knit a fingering weight hat in reverse stockinette quickly enough for the time frame I have in mind?

The answer to that question was, as you may have guessed, a resounding no! So I decided to swatch with the yarn held doubled, hoping that it would knit up faster AND be a bit warmer against bitter river winds.

Part 2B: The Swatching

I am one of those odd people who really enjoys swatching. Well, I really enjoy it up to the point where I'm sick of it and just want to cast on already. So I pulled out some needles, some graph paper and some stitch dictionaries and tried out some combinations.

Swatch #1:

Worked on US 6/4.0 mm needles, the standard Tree of Life stitch pattern from Barbara Walker with slipped stitches, but worked in twisted stitches instead of normal.

Verdict: needs a smaller needle size, and no slipped stitches. Twisted ribbing is good though.

  Swatch 1 - good for ruling things out

Swatch 1 - good for ruling things out

Swatch #2:

US 5/3.75 mm needles, again with twisted rib, but no slipped stitches. Also tried alternating the branches (oars) coming in to more closely mimic how a rowing shell looks from above.

Verdict: fabric is better, but probably still needs to drop down one more needle size. Working twisted stitches every row way better then slipped stitch version, not sure about the alternating oar arrangement.

  Swatch 2 - getting closer...

Swatch 2 - getting closer...

 

Swatch #3:

US 4/3.5 mm needles, and more variations on the twisted rib and Tree of LIfe. 

Verdict: right needle size, hooray! I'm intrigued by carrying the twisted stitches from the oars along the vertical. Some variation of this will work well for the beanie version with a closely packed stitch pattern, but it's not going to be strong enough for the slouch, with a widely spaced stitch motif.

  Swatch 3 - right fabric, maybe

Swatch 3 - right fabric, maybe

 

Swatch #4:

US 4/3.5. mm needle, a larger motif that I'm looking at for the slouchy version of the hat. 

Verdict: I like the three stitch wide twisted stitch boat, and I'm also a big fan of having the oars stop when they reach the 3 stitch column, rather then feeding in a becoming part of it. 

I think the oars need to be longer then they are in the lower iterations, but this is just about right.

So now I'm at the stage where I've got a good sense of what the fabric is I'm aiming for, as well as the bones of the stitch patterns. And it's definitely time to start the prototypes:

  I love 1x1 twisted ribbing...

I love 1x1 twisted ribbing...