I always encourage you to swatch before jumping into a project, and with the Custom Fit program, you have to swatch before you can get your pattern. I know it seems like they're making you finish your vegetables before you can have ice cream, but it's not meant to be mean. The truth is that it's impossible to generate a Custom Fit pattern without a swatch because the patterns are all generated specifically for your measurements and your swatch.
But it's still important to work a swatch even if you're not doing a Custom Fit sweater. In fact, I think it's important to swatch even if you're doing something besides. Here's why
- Get to know your yarn. A swatch is your first date with your yarn. You have a chance to see how it behaves on the needles and whether you like knitting it as much as you liked looking at in the skein. Give yourself enough time with the yarn to make an informed decision on it. Do you like the feel of it as you knit it? Do you like way the fabric feels and looks at the gauge you've knit it?
- See how your yarn looks knit up. That sounds pretty obvious, but it's amazing how much different a yarn can look when it's knit up, which is pretty important since you won't be wearing the skein. This point is particularly important with multicolored yarns or yarns with an unusual construction or texture. More often than not, you'll be even more in love with the yarn as you knit it than before.
- See how your fabric reacts to washing. Some yarns grow, some shrink a smidge. If that's the case, better know that ahead of time and adjust accordingly. Not all yarns change, but they are all better after a nice warm bath. I mean, who isn't? Give your swatch a chance to show you just how lovely it can be.
- Practice your stitch pattern. If you're making a shawl or even a scarf with a relatively large number of stitches cast on, it's a good idea to cast on a few repeats of the pattern and work through it several times. This process allows you to develop the muscle memory so that your hands and your brain are helping each other. It's much easier to learn and make mistakes on 30 stitches than on 200. Trust me.
- See if you like the fabric at sweater scale. If you've every painted a room based on a paint chip and been unhappy with it, you know just where I'm going with this one. You might adore a busy, high contrast yarn in a small accessory, but you may not like it for an entire sweater. Or you might love it. But you won't know until you see it in a generous swatch. Same with a striking color. Give yourself a chance to see that yarn at sweater scale before you commit to covering your entire torso in it.
Since the swatch is such an essential part of the Custom Fit Program, I put together a swatch guide for a nice big swatch that's easy to measure. Give it a try - I'd love to hear what you think.
I look forward to seeing you swatching in the shop, and around the table - you are always welcome here!