Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Holiday issue of VK turned up yesterday – yes!

I am so enchanted by Meg’s hat that I may attempt it, like, today. Surely it counts as a “sign” that the magazine arrived before Ketki’s sweater had actually been cast on? And that Christmas is coming?

I finished the swatch, and wound the yarn for the ribbing of Ketki’s sweater. Stash Haus, I hate swatching, too, and I’m sure I read somewhere once that Meg never does it. She knits a sleeve first if she’s uneasy.

This has been an interesting experience, therefore – I haven’t even got around to the stitch-and-row count stuff, but I’ve learned things about my ideas and about the colours which have dictated big changes. I nearly burst out laughing when I read your question, do I wash a swatch? But, hey! if I knit that hat, there would be plenty of time to do it. If I do, I’ll take the gauge carefully before as well as after.

But I'm glad I'm not a designer, whose life must consist of a frantic series of swatches.

One of my theories about life involves ethnic knitters (Shetland, Icelandic, Norwegian, whatever) and how they work over and over with the same yarns and the same shapes. They don’t need to worry about swatching. The basics become so familiar that they’re able to improvise on the wing, when inspiration strikes.

I was also very interested in Leigh Witchel’s article “fibres of fantasy”, about Habu Textiles. (Leigh is a cyber-friend of mine.) He makes it sound as if the firm is American, founded, owned and run by Takako Ueki from a shop on West 29th. (The spell-checker queries “Takako” but accepts “Ueki”. Why?) And it is she who will be conducting the workshop that Chronic Knitting Syndrome and I are going to at K1 Yarns in a fortnight. I’m very excited.

There are other good things in this issue. What about an opera coat, for instance? High fashion and I have never had much to do with each other, but this issue, like some of the great VK’s of yore, sort of sweeps one up into the excitement and induces a blissful temporary suspension of disbelief.


It was desperately touching to hear how the press corps stood up for Obama yesterday, and how he was startled to see it.

Chronic Knitting Syndrome says that it’s all right to show you this cartoon, from a recent New Yorker. I am entitled to publish extracts for the purposes of criticism or review. Well, maybe.


  1. Clearly a visit to the bookstore for the VK issue is in order.

    Honestly, I don't swatch very much at all. I work with a basic idea of what gauge I should be getting and then check as I'm knitting if it's going to be a concern. I may machine wash a swatch if I want to see how the yarn will behave, but that's usually the extent of it. With hats, of course, it rarely becomes an issue.

  2. my cousin who is moving to kyoto next month says that habu is indeed american and habu means something like material or thread or something and that he can find nothing on the internet about it from japanese sites.
    i am enchanted by the company and the beauty of some of their things. the issey miyake beauty that is.

    oh swatching. it is so much fun to sew how the thing looks on a small scale and what to expect. and i have started actually casting off all swatches and save them, if once i should teach knitting. and i wash them mostly too as recommended by meg and elizabeth. and some wool and some patterns change a lot so the relaxed gauge will make things bigger which is not always very good.

  3. Anonymous4:06 PM

    I think your theory about the ethnic knitters also holds true for Meg. I think that she uses the same yarns over and over- the ones Schoolhouse Press has sold for years- so knows what to expect with her knitting.


  4. I'm terribly lazy about commenting but wanted to make a point to tell you again how much I enjoy your blog every day. This has been a wonderfully exhausting week. Between the daylight savings time change and most holding our breath until the election was over--we are all tired. Tired...but thankful and optimistic and hopeful. Its been a long time coming.

    I'm always anxious to see what you are knitting. I'll have to check out the new VK!

  5. I'm glad I could give you a good laugh, Jean! :-)

    I hate swatches, rarely do them (especially in garments for children, since if it doesn't fit the intended recipient, it will fit someone else), and have never washed them. I will do swatches for sweaters for myself.

    Then I read about swatches and realized there are knitters out there (perhaps much more anal retentive knitters than I) who DO do this. And they even save them, along with notes, etc., for future reference. It all makes one feel quite inadequate.

    I'm wondering if one of the reasons Meg does not do swatches is because she works with yarns she is very familiar with. And you're right - at Knitting Camp, she says that she much prefers to start with a sleeve, or do a hat as a gauge swatch as you then have an item of practical use at the end of the swatch.

    Mel - that's what I've heard to, that others wash a swatch of "unfamiliar" yarn to see how it will behave. I have a hard time getting beyond the idea that the guage swatch is a waste of yarn and time - although I've no problem frogging over and over - so this is obviously an irrational quirk of mine.

  6. Anonymous10:07 PM

    I'm with Stash Haus (having been to Knitting Camp with her a number of times) and Anonymous that Meg rarely swatches since she's so familiar with the yarns she usually uses.

    I generally swatch but it usually doesn't hep does give me an idea of what size needle to use....and while I might save them as I never throw anything away I don't save any notes so they don't do me any good in the long run. LOL

    I don't swatch with Shetland yarns when knitting Fair Isles anymore since I'm familiar with my gauge with them...sort of!! Like Stash Haus, there's always some frogging going on...

  7. Anonymous3:09 PM

    A little late to the swatching discussion but I wanted to say that I can't keep notes and the swatch in the same spot. I do keep them but now I purl the number of stitches corresponding to the needle size in the swatch so that if want to refer to the swatch again I know what size needles I used.
    Someday I'm going to organize all the swatches in a binder-right after I organized my quilting, sewing and the stash. In other words never.

  8. Anonymous8:32 AM

    But Jean - Habu IS run from NYC on West 29th! They import from Japan and oddly enough, several of their customers are Japanese who cannot source these yarns in Japan.

    I was just in London and Bristol for the week, which was marvelous. I only wish my schedule permitted a visit to Edinburgh (which I am planning on one trip, I promise!)