Sweater Knitting: Swatching

sweaterknitting
I only ever wrote one post in my sweater knitting series and decided it was time to bring that back and hopefully do more regularly scheduled posts about it since sweater knitting is my favorite and I still has so much more to learn. But today for this Friday I really have more of a question…
Untitled
How often do you swatch?

I will be the first to admit that I feel like swatching is such a pain, when I’m ready to go I want to get started but it’s a necessary evil. I don’t want to spend all my time knitting a sweater that ultimately doesn’t fit and I’ve had a couple of mishaps early on with ill fitting sweaters becaus I just didn’t pay enough attention to knitting a gauge swatch or two to find the right needle for the project. And creating gauge swatches also lead me to consider using different weights of yarn and needle sizes to achieve gauge but get a different fabric. A perfect example is my Colorblocked Boyfriend Cardigan.
Colorblocked boyfriend sweater
The original pattern had a gauge of 16 x 22 stitches for a 4×4 inch gauge on size 8 needles. I got the same results using dk weight yarn and size 10 needles. It created a lighter fabric with a bit more drape to it which is exactly what I wanted. So do you always make a swatch before you get started on a large project? I’m curious to hear what you all do.

Motivation & My Knitting

I read this post on Instagram the other day by Karen of Fringe Association and it resonated with me. I’ve been struggling to finish my Flaum cardigan and finally decided to put it to the side officially. I’m not motivated to knit it and most sweaters fly off my needles. It could be because the Fisherman’s rib is tedious or the oatmeal neutral color is just too boring. Whatever it is, I’m putting it down for a bit. And if I let it sit for too long, I may just frog it and move on to the next project. No need to waste my time on projects that don’t spark me creatively. And honestly, although I see others knitting neutrals I realize that’s really not me. Rainbows are my neutral. Exhibit A, this is a neutral sweater to me:
Louise top down
I knit a lot but I’ve realized that I plow through projects that spark me creatively. When the yarn is super dreamy and the pattern is interesting I can’t wait to finish it. When a pattern is tedious and the yarn is boring I don’t want to be bothered. Once people come to this blog, check out my Instagram feed or look at my Ravelry page they always comment on how many sweaters I knit. Non-knitters hear that I knit 24 sweaters last year and immediately ask me why I don’t sell them (there’s a long list of reasons why not). Knitters typically just ask HOW!?! And I’ve realized a few things that make a difference for me:
My lap

  • I don’t have children.  Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I have 3 godchildren and a cousin I treat like my child. I just don’t have biological children of my own. If I did have children I think most of my hours would be spent with them and attending to their needs like my Mom did with us when I was growing. That would just leave the end of the day when they’re asleep to knit. Instead I have two small dogs who just want me to sit down and let them curl up on my lap or right next to me. It’s a perfect opportunity to knit, although sometimes I’m swatting a tiny chihuahua out of my face who just wants to lick me.

Untitled

  • I always have knitting with me. A couple days a week I commute in to work with my husband and that means I have an hour in the morning (and in the summer an hour in the evenings with daylight) to knit in the car. I can do a lot with just an hour. I knit when I bring my lunch with me or go to eat by myself at a restaurant. If I could knit in meetings I would but I feel like it would be frowned upon at work. Even my students know, when they have a test I sit at the front of the class knitting and watching for an hour and a half.

screen-shot-2013-09-06-at-6-34-13-pm

  • I am a hermit. No really, I am. I relish my solitude. My husband travels for work and when I have a week or two in the house to myself, I knit without guilt of ignoring him. When I knit this pattern he was halfway across the globe.
  • I don’t put deadlines on my knitting. That is a big difference to me. I’ve done one test knit and may do others but only when I feel like I have the time (usually in January or the spring when I don’t feel like I really to make myself a new sweater). If I’m making something for a baby it might not make it for the baby shower but they’ll get something from me in due time. And I’ve said I want to knit things for the holidays but if it doesn’t get finished by December 25 I know it’ll still be cold in January or February! Taking away that pressure keeps my knitting more enjoyable.

These things make a difference in the amount of time it takes me to knit a sweater, on top of the fact that I’m pretty fast and don’t have to look at my hands anymore when I’m working on straight stockinette stitch for big sweaters. I consider myself lucky that I get to make as much as I do and can hopefully keep up the pace for a bit but also know that I have to give my hands and wrists breaks so I don’t over do it (I haven’t knit anything for about 36 hours now because I just need to pause). So that’s the method to this sweater knitting madness and why I’m already on sweater number 24 this year (you can see all my projects on Ravelry here) and will most likely surpass last year’s total.

Any other questions?

Sweater Knitting: The First Sweater

I’m finally introducing a new series of posts about sweater knitting and the lessons I learn along the way.
Sweater Knitting: What I Have Learned Series
This isn’t a tutorial series (at least not now) because I’m not an expert. I am always learning. What I want this to be is a space to share what I’ve learned, you tell me what you’ve learned and we all share in hopes that it will help someone else. That’s what I love about the blogging community and knitting in general – we help each other grow in our skills. So to kick this off I thought I’d start by sharing my very first sweater knitting project.
Gemini Sweater
Meet Gemini, my very first sweater. Little did I know it would begin my love affair with Jane Richmond patterns and sweater knitting in general. Gemini was an interesting starting point for sweaters but it was the suggested pattern for use at my LYS’s Intro to Sweater knitting class. Reasons why I like this as a first step into sweater knitting:

  1. It’s short sleeved. You get just enough finishing that you have a sleeve but you don’t have to do a full or quarter length sleeves. Baby steps, folks.
  2. It’s top down so you can try it on as you go along.
  3. It had some lace detail just at the top. It kept things interesting.
  4. The pattern was easy to read and understand and it was free! (I should also point out that Lion Brand has a free My First Pullover and My First Cardigan patterns that are also both free).

When I learned how to knit in 2011 I went in stages. First year I knit a billion scarves and baby blankets, the next year I added hats, then it was fingerless mitts and gloves. My patterns were getting more complex and so in 2014 I took a sweater knitting class just to see if I’d like it. I kind of loved it. I could knit an actual garment that fit me in as much time as it took to make a baby blanket. So what did I learn from that first sweater?

  1. Do not be intimidated by a large project. There is no deadline, it’s not a race. Do what you can do and frog it back if you make a mistake.
  2. If you can, take a class at your local yarn store. It’s nice to have someone give you tips, answer questions and help you learn from your mistakes. Plus you’re learning with others who are probably just as intimidated by the thought of knitting a sweater.
  3. Your swatch gauge is super important. Buy that extra skein of yarn because you might make 2 or 3 different swatches just to figure out your closest gauge to the pattern. Without getting the right gauge your project will be all over the place.

Six Point #2
The next sweater I did by myself after this one was the Six Point tee that I’ve made again. I wanted to make something fairly quickly after to keep my knowledge fresh and I went with a bulky weight knit to make it a quicker project and my first solo sweater project was a success! So if you’re dipping your toe into the sweater knitting pool, what intimidates you? And if you’re a seasoned sweater knitting pro, what have you learned? Do share!