Even though I have read Deborah Newton‘s many articles on design, and I own her books Designing Knitwear and Finishing School, in which she recommends not only making a swatch, but making a significant swatch that includes design elements like sleeve and neck shaping to create a silhouette, I usually start my designs without swatching.
Sometimes, if I’m trying to rework instructions for a stitch pattern from flat to in-the-round, I’ll swatch that pattern, which later becomes a hat I can sell to feed my yarn habit. But usually, I have an idea, I figure out stitch counts, then I cast on and start knitting the prototype, taking design notes as I go.
Indulging the impulsive and impatient six-year-old knitter inside me has bitten me in the hind end a few times, forcing me to swatch in medias res, but I still mostly go from idea to needles.
I knit my designs more than once, so let’s call the prototype a big swatch, okay? But for this cabled Aran sweater, I’m going to grow up. I’m going to listen to Deborah Newton and do it right.
I gathered a few of my stitch dictionaries and started paging through them.
I was anxious to get started, so I started swatching the first cable that spoke to me. (With, yes, the most boring yarn, but it was what I had at hand. Why did I have it at hand? Because I had just finished knitting the most boring prototype sweater from it.)
This wasn’t a hardship because I love swatching cables. Stitch dictionaries are my bedtime reading, and on nice mornings, I’ll sit on my porch and knit up a cable or two that I bookmarked the night before just to see what it looks like.
Very often, I create designs around those aimless cables. A banjo cable became my Arcadia Scarf. A criss-cross cable accented my Very Blackberry Pullover, which I then used as the main event of my Irene Adler Pillow.
But this time, I’m swatching with a purpose, and I’m feeling a little pressure to choose the right ones right away (even though I know that isn’t the way my designs come about). I want a cable combination that’s familar, but different. I want my finished design to be recognizable as a traditional fisherman’s sweater, but with a unique interpretation. I want it to be so spectacular that someone at Rowan takes notice and asks me to be an in-house designer. (I would politely decline.)