Today’s Lesson
Published On: April 19, 2012

You know how all the instructions in every knitting book ever strongly encourage you to block your swatches?  Yeah.  I’m here to remind you of the same thing.  This time with a demonstration.

You see, I’m working on a little cowl.  It’s a lovely fabric, open without being lacy, structured without being stiff.  I’m rather taken with it.  The yarn was new to me (Handmaiden’s Silk Twist), so of course I swatched.  And because I’m lazy and only want to knit it once, I blocked my swatch.  It’s a good thing I did, because the swatch grew by about 50% when blocked (it’s because of the stitch pattern, not the yarn).

I took my measurements from the blocked swatch, did a bit of math, and cast on.  As I worked, I got to feeling a little nervous.  My drapey, open, lovely swatch was great, I loved it.  The fabric on my needles?  Not so much.  It was bunchy and stiff and scrunched up.  I was not loving it.  See?

Not horrible, but not what I was going for.  I kept tugging on it and pulling it and thinking it was too small and fearing it was all wrong.  But I knew I’d swatched the right way, and I trusted my math.  But I also know that swatches sometimes lie.  So I decided to indulge my paranoia and double check.  I slipped the stitches onto a bit of extra yarn, tossed the cowl in the sink (securing the ball of yarn so kitten overlords didn’t dunk it in the sink too), and gave it a swish.  I took it out, blotted it dry, and laid it out.  I didn’t even pin it out under any strain.  I just sort of patted and shook it.  It relaxed more or less instantly.  The bunchy mess was soft and lovely.  See?

Much much better.  The size and the fabric are both right on track.

So, we’ll call this a reminder that you should just about always block your swatches.  I’ll grant an exception if you’re making your second pair of socks using the exact same yarn and pattern and you just know it will work, or if you’re making a market bag and don’t really care about the finished dimensions.  But if you want the finished object to be a particular size, you really need to block.  And if you’re ever doubting your work, blocking in the middle can be marvelously reassuring.

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