I never thought my first blog post would be about swatches, but it makes sense considering the type of yarn I have in my store.
There are many reasons not to make a swatch, and I've held onto those excuses for a long time: it takes too much time, I know how to knit, it will probably be fine, it's a waste of yarn, it's difficult to keep track of which needle the swatch was made with, and so on... But I've come to realize that wool doesn't always behave like we think it will, and it's actually very useful to make a swatch.
There are many reasons to make a swatch, and I think we all know them. But the most important reason, and the reason why I made this post, is that a swatch gives us a lot of information about how the yarn reacts to knitting and washing. In my store, I only have sustainable, untreated, rustic yarns. That means that by knitting and washing the yarn, you are often giving it its first real treatment. Whether and how a yarn changes after washing can depend on a number of things: is it made of one material or a blend, how is it spun, how many plies does the yarn have, which needle you use, and so on.
Untreated rustic yarns often feel rough when they are on the ball, and if they are spun very loosely, they come apart very easily. That's why I often get asked if the yarn is too scratchy and if it's easy to knit with.
There are two swatches and two leaves in the picture. The swatches have been washed, but the leaves have not been. The white swatch was knit with dLana Autóctona and the light brown one was knit with dLana Rústica. It’s too bad that you cannot feel the difference, but you can see that the leaves and swatches don’t look the same. The stitches on the leaves are rougher and more irregular. Besides that, they look a bit stiff and tough. The stitches on the swatches are even and also look more filled. And, you have to believe me on this, the swatches are a lot softer and drapier/more flexible than the leaves. The stitch count on the leaves and swatches is also different and this can have a huge impact on the final result.
Finally, a tip I got from my friend, the Portuguese designer Filipa Carneiro. I always found it difficult to know which needle I used to make a swatch and more than once I made the same swatch with the same needle twice. The white swatch has four holes in it and that tells me that it was knit with a size 4 mm needle. The light brown swatch has two purl stitches next to the four holes, so I know it was knit with a 4,5 mm needle. For every needle number, you make a yarn over followed by a knit two together, and for every 0,25 mm, you make a stitch that will stand out in your swatch pattern.
I hope this doesn’t sound pedantic, but since I sell sustainable, rustic, and untreated yarn, I thought it was important to share this with you since my goal is to make you as happy as possible with everything you buy from Wol uit het Zuiden.