A Song of the Weather

The title of today’s post refers to a song by Flanders and Swann of which I quoted a verse in my monthly newsletter yesterday: “Farmers fear unkindly May // Frost by night and hail by day!”.

I seem to mention the weather a lot, don’t I? Now I’m working for myself from home, rather than being in a school setting all day, the weather has more of a direct impact on what I do and when. For example, I want to go for a walk today and need to buy some ingredients for dinner (vegan casserole), but every time I think about going, the rain starts again! Walking in the rain is not impossible I know, but I’d rather not get soaked carrying a bag of parsnips, cabbage and carrots for some reason.

Plans are afoot for the next MKAL with Yarn O’clock and I’m going to start swatching this afternoon. Yes, this does mean that the Grand Mystery Project is all done – it’s going in the post in the next couple of days once I’ve photographed it. Again, this is dependent on the weather…

I’ve talked about my love of swatching before – it’s great trying out a range of ideas on a small canvas and seeing what works best for the design overall. Swatching as a designer is like playing with the paint box or dressing up box – lots of fun and endless possibilities. Swatching as a knitter is different, as it tends to be knitting stocking stitch squares (known as gauge swatches), but it can help you get to know an unfamiliar yarn and how it behaves and sometimes a new stitch pattern as well.

It always amazes me that so many knitters are reluctant to knit gauge swatches, looking on them as a waste of time. The main point is to see if your personal knitting tension with your needles and your yarn matches that of the designer with their needles and their yarn, with the goal of checking that your knitted item will come out at the right size. This is rather essential for garments.

But I would say it’s so much more than that; it’s to find out whether the fabric the designer had in mind is one that works for you – I once really struggled to ‘get gauge’ with a pattern I loved the look of and tried a range of needle sizes until it matched. I was using the designer’s own yarn, so there shouldn’t have been a problem there. However, once I got the stated gauge, I hated the knitted fabric. It was like cardboard. But I had ‘got gauge’ so I carried on making the garment with those needles. Did I ever wear it? No. I ripped out the yarn in the end (this is called ‘frogging’ – because you ‘rip it, rip it’) and re-used it for something else.

Of course, what I should have done was stop at the gauge swatch point and ask myself if this was a fabric I liked the look and feel of. If not, I had choices – I could have made something else straight away (and saved myself many hours of knitting that didn’t result in a wearable item), or I could have found a needle size that gave me a fabric I did like and work out which size to make from there.

So, this afternoon, while my sourdough rests between sets of pulls and folds – I’m trying a larger quantity today, 1.5x my usual – I shall be playing with yarn and peering out of the window at the clouds to see if I can make it to the shops in time before the next downpour.

What will you be up to? Whatever it is, stay safe, Kx

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