Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swatch Scarf

I found some Elizabeth Lavold Silky Wool on sale online, and I ordered a variety of colors thinking it would be good for gloves.

When it arrived, it didn't feel right for gloves. Not soft enough nor springy enough nor tough enough to make the sort of gloves I had in mind, anyway.

Yarn plays this sort of trick on me all the time. I buy it thinking it will work for one project only to swatch it and discover that it flat out refuses to become what I had in mind for it.

I have an old wool/silk scarf that I love, though, and the nubbly fine-textured yarn seemed like it would make fine scarves.

I leafed through my stitch treasuries looking for a good pattern stitch. I decided to start some leisurely swatching, knitting up some patterns I'd never tried before. I cast on 40 stitches and planned on working through about 4 inches each of Sailor's Rib, Twin Rib, Shadow Rib, Berry Stitch, Brioche Stitch, Wheat Ear Rib, Clove Stitch, Syncopated Brioche, Zigzag Knotted Rib, and Waffle Brioche.

I'd worked through four or five of the pattern stitches when my daughter casually asked, “Are you making a scarf?”

“Oh no,” I responded, “I'm making a gauge swatch of all these stitch patterns. When I finish, I'll choose one for the scarf, rip out the swatch, and knit the scarf.”

She looked at me as if I was slightly demented.

“It looks nice like that, with all those patterns together. Why don't you just make it longer and call it a scarf?”

So that is what I did.

There was one small catch. I hadn't included a side border stitch on the swatch. Some of the pattern stitches needed a border to look finished. The width of the pattern stitches also varied considerably, and a side border would help smooth the variations.

When the scarf was finished, I needed to pick up stitches on both sides and knit in a garter stitch border.

Fortunately, I'd started the whole endeavor with a few rows of garter stitch, so I was able to measure to deduce that 40 stitches of garter stitch equalled roughly 7.5 inches.

I marked 7.5" sections along the edges of the scarf. Fortunately, the scarf was 75" long, so the math came out even. (How often does that happen in knitting?)

Along each marked section, I picked up 40 stitches.

Okay, I didn't actually pick up 40 stitches. What I did was to pick up stitches in the most natural, consistent way possible. Then I counted them. When I had fewer than 40 stitches, I picked up the deficit evenly spaced across the span. When I had more than 40 stitches, I dropped the extras evenly across the span.

I've read a lot about different ways to pick up stitches, but I'm here to tell you it doesn't usually matter much as long as you pick them up consistently. You can pick up inside the outer loop (okay for bulky yarn in a reversible pattern), the inner loop, the running threads between the first and second column of stitches, etc. Each gives a slightly different look and might turn up an edge on the wrong side. Sometimes, you get loose stitches at the edge, but you can tighten them up by knitting them in the back loop to twist them shut.

When the scarf was finished, I thought it looked a little funky with its uneven edges, but it's a good color and undeniably warm. Several family members tried to stake claim to it, and Garry ended up scoring it.

My knitting project for my trip to Manhattan was another scarf from the same yarn, this time in Portcullis Stitch in three colors:

When I got back from New York, I was ripping the pages off my Stephanie Pearl McPhee knitting calendar. I chuckled at April 9th's You Know You Knit Too Much When... and Garry wanted to know what was so funny.

“You know you knit too much when you're glad your kids lost their mittens. You wanted to make more anyway.”

He looked at me with a twisty smile on his face and said, “Oh good. You'll be glad to know I lost one of my gloves, then.”

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