I don’t know what’s happened to me. I’ve actually been… excited? to make swatches. I even swatched for socks. In my life, there’s been heartache and pain, and even taking that into consideration, I have never once swatched for socks. Of course, I wasn’t actually swatching for gauge, although I did measure it and make a mental note. I mainly swatched the sock yarn because I had no earthly idea how it would behave.
I like a good Big Lots yarn. There aren’t many good ones to be had (at least in my general vicinity), which makes the search even more interesting and the occasional score even more exciting. My absolute best find to date was two balls of a brown ombre fingering weight, which I really liked using – and wearing, after a few washes. I resigned myself to never knowing what exactly the socks were truly made of, when I had a “that’s my dog!” moment in the forums, where someone had posted a picture of socks with stripes that looked just like mine.
It turned out I had gotten ahold of some Moda Vera Noir. I’m 99% sure of this, both because of the unique colorway, and the fact that the comments on the yarn’s page reflect my experience: the stripes are impossible to match up, and the yarn was kind of stiff and scratchy at first. After a number of trips through the washer/dryer, though, they’re lovely – soft and warm with no pilling, barely any fuzzing, and excellent stitch definition. I’m leaning towards the idea that it’s Australia’s version of Kroy Socks: widely available in box-craft stores, and wears like iron. How it wound up on this hemisphere, available for a buck a ball in a North Carolina Big Lots, is anyone’s guess.
However, while I’ve managed to find a few random yarns that I liked (even if that’s the only one whose pedigree is at all discernible), most of what I’ve seen there is entirely uninspiring, and even though it’s cheap, I have enough yarn whose quality (and quantity) is known, to gamble at the penny slots for stuff I’m not wild about.
I do like to dye, though, and my capacity for sock yarn is pretty much limitless. So when I found two balls of an off-white fingering weight back in September, I bought it and stuffed it in my “to be dyed” bin. I decided that I’d use it for the February SKA, so I skeined it up and dyed it a pretty tonal purple. I actually used a ton of purple and some blue dye, so I thought it’d wind up a lot darker than it did.
But before I could use it to make socks, I’d have to make a swatch of it. Not for gauge, though, since toe-up means never having to do a gauge swatch. I swatched and pinned it to a tank top and ran it through the wash to see how it would act. Based on the result, I’d say that due to how well it held dye, it’s either a standard sock blend or all-nylon, but it burns and feels like a wool, so I’d guess it’s a mill-end of Heart and Sole. And now it’s becoming a pretty pair of socks.
Swatch #2 was for a Baktus. Now, the Baktus is a fairly simple pattern: knit flat in garter stitch, increases every four rounds until you use up half the yarn, then decreases every four rounds until you get back down to your four cast-on stitches. I’ve already made the lace version, which is a miracle, because if there’s anything more tedious than endless garter, it’s garter interspersed with endless yo-k2togs. But I liked the yarn so much* that I powered through it, and now that I’ve cut my hair short, I wear the scarf on almost a daily basis.
Usually I wear it only at work and keep it in my locker, but with the recent freezing weather I had to press it into service outdoors. Its shape lent itself nicely to being wrapped around my head and tied in the back, but the eyelets made it a little more airy than I’d have liked, and I thought “it would be great to have a scarf like this without all the holes in it.”
I couldn’t knit a straight-up triangle just out of garter, though, so I thought “maybe I could make a Baktus with holes in it, but just around the edge, like a string of Christmas lights.” So I wrote out a couple different methods of making eyelets around the edge, and swatched them to figure out which ones looked best. So I made not one but three swatches for this project. (I suppose I could have just searched for one that looked like what I wanted, but where’s the challenge in that?)
My last swatch was for a pair of Ginger & Wasabi. Admittedly, I don’t really need another pair of gloves, as my Ringwood are serving me just fine. (I don’t really wear my After the Rain that much, because I’m too ashamed that I made them different sizes. I forgot to cast on 6 extra stitches on one of them, but I didn’t realize it until I was halfway through with the second. And had already woven in all those ends.) But they do tend to fuzz up a bit, and after their most recent shave, I caught myself thinking they’d probably last longer if I had another pair of gloves to alternate with.
I immediately liked Ginger & Wasabi when I saw it in Knitty. It was one of the few patterns in that issue that actually appealed to me (Vino being the other one). It’s not that they aren’t nice, they’re just not really me. But the gloves seemed like they literally reached out and grabbed me, and with the name of the colorway Frog in a Party Dress, the deal was sealed.
I knew I wanted to use On Your Toes, since I had several different colors of it and using all the same yarn would eliminate worries about varying thicknesses. Originally I was thinking I’d use the purple and green colorways together, but seeing that the purple is self-striping and the green is variegated, I thought the solid brown and green went together best. (I did measure this one, because even if they’re made with sock yarn, gloves are not socks.)
After I frogged my swatches (because I’m a bad person), I dove right into my Baktus. You can only knit so many swatches, you know? But now that I have, I have a little more appreciation for the process, and a pretty good case of semantic satiety where the word swatch is concerned.
*Araucania Ranco, which is a “sock” yarn inasmuch as it’s fingering weight and a great deal of the patterns made from it are socks, however, it’s not superwash so I’m extremely wary of making socks from it. I got mine at a Tuesday Morning, which is another repository of cheap yarn, except the stuff they sell is higher-end and properly labeled. I found it before I realized what an awesome yarn it is, so now I live in fear of TM getting more without my knowing, and everyone else getting it for $7 a skein.