Swatch, Swatch, Swatch

comments: 35


Little Flower Cover 2


I'm swatching yarn samples like crazy, trying to decide what yarn to use for my little kid sweaters. The doll sweaters use Nature Spun Sport. I wanted something slightly heavier for the kid sweaters but I wanted it to feel the same-ish. Right now I'm leaning heavily toward using Cascade 220. Huge palette of colors, light worsted—/DK-weight. It has the kind of halo I like, and the "yarniness" I like — I liked plied yarns without a ton of twist, and I like yarns that aren't too smooth and round. Just round enough. It feels old-fashioned and rustic-y, but it really softens after blocking and it is durable. It's affordable and very readily available, and this was really important to me. Downside, it’s made in China. :(. Originally I was totally going to use acrylic for these, but it just was not working for me, no matter what I did. It just wasn't make me happy when doing colorwork. It just wasn't giving and stretching the way it needed to. As soon as I switched back to wool it was just like . . . yep. There's a superwash 220, too. I'm getting the same gauge for the superwash and the regular, which is apparently a bit unusual, as the superwash is supposedly lighter. I'll do samples in both, just to see.

This brought up a conversation at the yarn store yesterday. When you knit a pattern, do you use the yarn that is suggested? Do you just go to your own personal favorite? How much does the yarn used by the designer influence you? Can you see past that if you don't like it, or is it a major factor in whether you can visualize your project? Do you just go to the store and pick something out and then try to find a pattern for it? Tell me everything. I'm really curious about this now. I almost never use the yarn that's recommended. I have no idea why. Rebel.

***By the way, for you non-knitters, "swatching" is the process of working up a little 4"-square sample of knitted yarn, generally in the stitch pattern the design calls for, to see exactly how many stitches you get per inch, and how many rows you get per inch. This is your "gauge." All patterns should have a gauge, and it is super important. One stitch short on a 4" gauge swatch can add up to being several inches off on your finished piece, so it really matters. Number of stitches across is more important to match; matching rows can be trickier. Usually patterns will tell you how many rows (or rounds) to knit and also give you the length in inches and centimeters you are aiming for (on a yoke, sleeve, or body, or an amount of ribbing, etc.). If you know how to knit and you've heard about gauge but you still think it's kind of confusing (I did, too, when I was first learning), leave me questions and I will answer them. And also by the way, if you are interested in writing knitting patterns, The Beginner's Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns by Kate Atherley is excellent. I highly recommend it.


I rarely use the yarn recommended because I have a huge stash that I want to use. Often when I am "destashing", if I don't want to donate a yarn (can't bare to part with it), I'll research Ravelry for patterns using yarn of that particular weight.

I saw on my instagram feed yesterday, Lion Brand Superwash looks fabulous and has many beautiful colors. I do not own any of it but it looks interesting to me, and affordable. Also, many times I make items as gifts for babies and kids which need to be machine washable and non itchy.

It's so interesting seeing people's responses to your question. When I first started knitting I usually went with the suggested yarn, probably just out of a lack of confidence. These days, I get on Ravelry and see what other people used and how their examples look. Then I let that guide me along with availability & price concerns. I love stalking yarns and whenever possible poring over them at the yarn store, but with the occasional exception I can't imagine buying yarn first and then picking a pattern (not that I judge others who do - it's just different). Even on the rare occasions when my choices are yarn-led rather than pattern-led, I still have a vague idea in my mind of the type of pattern I could use. Anyway, the bottom line is that Ravelry-trawling allows me to experiment and vary from each pattern without totally going out on my own (though I still do that once in a while).

I use the recommended yarn maybe 40% of the time and feel free to substitute away the rest of the time. I will never use Cascade again due to a pretty unpleasant email from them a few years ago. I had used their yarn several times to make things I was pretty sure the recipient would put in the washing machine. All was well until I noticed that the labels started adding China as the place of processing. The last few labels I have seen seem to indicate the yarn is now sourced in China as well. Aside from the carbon footprint issue, there is little or no regulation of labor practices in China. I emailed Cascade asking about the change and noting my concerns. I got a very terse email back that clearly I didn't understand that they are a small family owned company and have to be free to do business as they see fit. I haven't spent a dime on Cascade yarn since then.

I have rarely ever used the recommended yarn. I just like to buy the yarn that speaks to me and adjust as needed. Or I'm working from stash. I usually focus everything around the color I want to use and go from there.

I read the blog title, Swatch, Swatch, Swatch. And immediately felt guilty!
Maybe I'll do better now.

Someone may have already mentioned this subject, but I recently learned about a yarn's 'grist' and how that can help you make successful substitutions:

Kathy Stewart says: October 28, 2019 at 10:53 PM

I’m quite a fan of lite lopi. It is Aran weight so a little heavier but a beautiful heathered color palette. Not too expensive and readily available. Lovely halo and softness once it is washed

I think about where I want to wear the sweater and then look for the yarn, thick or thin, wool or cotton or viscose.
Mostly I use favorite yarns and then do not need a stitch sample.

So far I've only knit a model from Brooklyn Tweed with the recommended yarn.

I hardly ever use the suggested yarn because it is often so unaffordable to me. £90 to knit a shawl 😲 nope. I usually spend hours on Ravelry searching through projects in yarn that I have or I know that I can get on sale (and that also doesn't give me the itchies)

It's pretty impossible to get things that aren't from China. Chances are even if you think something isn't made in China most of its parts are 😩

Sheryl Powell says: November 15, 2019 at 05:42 PM

I just love your dolls, thank you so much for sharing them

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.