Sunday, June 3, 2012

Swatch It!

The semi-annual trade show for the needlework industry is coming up at the end of the month. Columbus, Ohio will be overrun with needlework shop owners, yarn manufacturers, publishers, designers and anyone else you can think of who is involved in this business.

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:

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.

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