One of the features at this show is The Great Wall of Yarn. This is a huge expanse of grid wall filled with samples of new yarns. Each yarn is shown with a swatch, and shop owners are encouraged to take a strand of yarn for reference as they shop the market.
Those of us who teach at Stitches were invited to make the swatches this year. This is a wonderful opportunity to play with new yarns before they are generally available, and I jumped at the chance.
Here are the swatches I made:
Clockwise from top left: Tahki Yarns Ringo, Universal Yarns Verve, Great Andirondack Yarn Co. Aurora, Alpaca The Way it Should Be Earth Treasures, Skacel/Schulana Luxaire, Trendsetter Yarns La Furla.
Creating these swatches brought me back to the time when I owned a yarn shop. In my shop, there was a swatch or sample made with every yarn on offer. These samples hung on hooks near where the yarn was shelved.
I know that not every yarn store displays samples. Creating these swatches is an investment - after all, a ball of yarn you've used for a swatch is a ball of yarn no longer available to sell. As a shop owner, I was willing to make this investment for 2 reasons. First, I think it is important to give the customer an idea of how the yarn will look knitted up. When you can see and feel a knitted sample, it is easier to imagine how the yarn will work in your project, and you are more likely to be satisfied with your purchase. Second, I think is important that a shop owner really know the product she is selling. I personally knit with every yarn in my shop, so I was able to speak from experience when discussing the pros and cons of each yarn.
I'm always surprised to hear someone say they hate making swatches. I love them. A swatch is an experiment, an investigation, a learning opportunity. As a designer, I often use swatches to test ideas and see how stitch patterns will combine. In the swatches for the Great Wall of Yarn, as in the shop samples I used to make, the objective was to show off the yarn. Several of these swatches were knit more than once, as initial efforts revealed that a different needle size would improve the hand of the sample, or a different stitch pattern would best display the yarn's special qualities.
Learning to enjoy the swatch process will make anyone a better knitter.