What’s in a Swatch?

A girlfriend recently asked what I do with my swatches. At first it seamed an odd question but then I remembered that not everyone shares my love of cataloguing and research. After years of resistance I have learnt to embrace swatching and now treasure my swatches.


I make three kinds of swatches: gauge, stitch and pattern swatches. Gauge swatches generaly end up back in my stash along with the yarn they were made from. I should find a better place for them but for now this works. When I need the yarn, they are there waiting to shed some insight on how the fabric will behave and what needles I’ll need.

Stitch swatches are a little less useful to keep but I keep them all the same. Generally I make these swatches smaller, just large enough to see how the stitches are going to look in my chosen yarn. Often a great yarn and lovely stitch aren’t as fantastic together as originally thought. Rarely do I start a lace project without having done some of these little tests first. They are especially vital when designing. As for what I do with them when done, they go into my pattern binder. Yes, the pattern binder, tucked in the plastic sleeve with printed pattern. If I remake the pattern, or perhaps never got beyond the swatches, these little tests remind me of the yarns I was considering way back when and chances are that yarn is still in my stash.

I use pattern swatches primarily when I’m designing something new but I have used these for shawls as well. Anytime I want to see how different stitches are going to come together I do one of these swatches. If I have a pattern/design in mind these swatches will be on the larger side and get archived with the pattern’s design notes or printed pattern.

When swatches go rogue
I have been guilty of procrastinating on labeling swatches. The idea being that “I’ll remember what I did” but I rarely do. Label your swatches as soon as you are done! I try to get into the habit of making the label while the swatch is blocking and place it next to the drying swatch. Unlabled swatches are usesless for future refrence and that makes them sad. Record the yarn, stitch and needle sizes at the very least. Fiber content and yarn weight are useful too but so long as you have the yarn listed, those can always be looked up.

From these pictures, can you tell what else I’m guilty of with my stitch swatches?

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