I swatch a lot. It's a terribly time-consuming habit, not like nipping outside for a quick ciggie.
Sometimes I will sit on the sofa all night swatching, unravelling, re-swatching, until I get it just right. I enjoy the process, I like to see the stitch taking shape, the thrill of the unknown. I see a crochet stitch I like and I have to have a go, I have to know if I can do it and I want to see if it turns out pretty. Inevitably it is pretty. Crochet is pretty darn pretty huh?
It has become a slight obsession, like Battlestar Galactica which we are currently binge watching on Netflix (frakking awesome if you must know), there are abandoned squares of crocheted stitches everywhere in our house. I'm turning into Scarf Lady from Sarah and Duck - which is no bad thing in my opinion although if I start adding cats into the equation, send help!
My obsession has got a lot worse since I bought The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper, I am in the thrall of having a book with so many stitches to attempt, it's like Christmas every day. I like the fact that she doesn't name her stitches, they are simply numbered, no fancy stuff just crochet, futuristic, utilitarian style. Subsequently my crochet notebook is crammed full of cryptic number references that I'll be honest don't even make much sense to me, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to match the numbers up to the swatches, I could have done a much better job if I'd thought about it.
The swatching started when I realised that I want to make things the way I want to make things. I didn't know that I was going to reach that stage, I'm a very happy pattern follower. But recently I'd wanted a specific kind of scarf that was a bit like two others I had seen both of which were gorgeous but didn't quite feel right and so I came up with my own design. And that was how it happened. A stealth bomb of creative inspiration has now taken over and our dining room table looks like a particularly messy yarn shop.
Swatching gives you an idea of how a particular stitch will work with different kinds of yarn. It is incredible how something with a high wool content will look in contrast to something mercerised, smooth, silky or fine. Some stitches are meant to be crocheted in a chunky wool, to get some serious definition whilst others look better in a delicate haze of lacework stitches to up the pretty.
Swatching helps you to understand a tricky or new pattern/stitch and it helps you figure out your gauge if you are making something fitted. Checking your gauge is a right pain in the arse but you will not regret it. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to restart something because it's been way out there, off the scale out there. Sometimes patterns, not you, are squiffy, I had to make a baby cardigan for a one year old in a 2-3 year size and it was still small. Do your gauge, be a winner.
Yarn is also a world of different strokes and you start to develop preferences. I will always use an acrylic/nylon mix for baby stuff because it's super soft and easy to wash, Sirdar Snuggly DK is my favourite. For most other work I like a wool with a merino, alpaca or cashmere mix. My favourite yarns of all time are Rooster Almerino and Debbie Bliss Cashmerino, both stunningly soft, both in a wide range of colours. I usually swatch in Rooster just because I like the colours best.
My slightly over the top swatching fetish explained. I am now after another stitch book called The Essential Handbook of Crochet Stitches by Betty Barnden, this chick names her stitches, no numbers for Betty - she might just be my new best friend.
How about you, do you swatch? Do you always check your gauge?