Tuesday, April 07, 2009


There is much discussion in the knitting world about swatching or not, with the majority of conversation tending to lean towards the "not" camp. I'm not a huge fan of it either, as I see it as a roadblock from being able to CAST ON RIGHT NOW!!!, but, at least for sweaters, I refuse to spend the hours (and usually weeks...or months) that it takes work the project up, and not know that I have a fair shot of it fitting properly. This makes swatching an absolute must for me, no questions asked.

To make myself feel a little bit better about all of this, I make sure to swatch for something while I still have something else exciting on the needles. In fact, I usually swatch in batches. (But then, this is how I generally attack the less pleasant areas of life, so this makes sense to me.)

So, why am I bringing this up? I've been thinking about swatches recently, because I've been in the planning stages of weaving The Shawl for my Aunt Susie (the one who sent me the aprons). This is a something that will really matter, so the final product can't be a mere experiment (like all of my other weaving projects up until this moment). This is a shawl that A. Susie will use to base her entire hand-sewn outfit around (for her son's wedding), so I am deeply committed to it Being Perfect.

I know little to nothing about the finer points of weaving, so I'm kind of flailing out in the deep end here. Sampling , without a doubt, is needed. I am going to weave the actual shawl on my 30" Kromski Harp, but for the sample, I just so happen to have my handy, adorable little Schacht Cricket.

(OK, so you've already seen this picture, but whatever. I like it.)

I'm using Zephyr Wool-Silk laceweight. I had this idea for graduated striping in the weft, double threading everything (for a basketweave effect), and going across the warp like so: 2 threads of Vanilla....1 thread Apricot, 1 thread Vanilla...2 threads Apricot...1 thread Apricot, 1 thread Cassis...2 threads Cassis... and then gradually back to Vanilla in the same manner. I feel like that was kind of a messy way to explain this, but you can look at the pictures and connect the dots, should you feel the need.

This was a 42" warp, because that happens to be the length of my carding/photography/etc. table.

This was direct-warping, and before I slayed the heddles (I have no idea if that's the correct terminology), so it looks a little funny.

Once it was all woven and wet-finished, I was incredibly relieved to note that my idea had taken shape exactly as I'd had it in my head. The only surprise was the fringe -- I had thought I'd be completely sold on the twisted fringe idea, but now, seeing the simple hem-stitched edge with a cascade of loose fringe contrasted with the twisted one, I'm not so sure. (The twisted one, it should be noted, was twisted by hand, a little too briskly, and very late at night, so it's not the neatest example. If I do this in the final project it will be with an actual fringe-twister, and a heck of a lot more care.)

I also played around with using 1 thread each of Vanilla and Apricot for weft, weaving an inch like that at the beginning and end, just to see what the effect might be. I kind of like the fade out to pure Vanilla at the edges when using two strands of Vanilla only, but the Vanilla/Apricot definitely plays up the peach tones overall, which might be more to her liking. We'll see what she says when she has the sample in hand.

I used my 8-dent heddle, thinking that I'd probably have to go to the 10 or 12 dent, but was very pleased with the drapability of the fabric as it was. Once I had washed it (and gently scrunched it, although the silk content didn't allow for felting), the fabric became more cohesive, and less prone to threads slipping around. I started to imagine what other colorways I could use in a shawl for me...

The sample has been sent off now to Aunt Susie. As soon as I get her feedback on it, I'll be able to warp the bigger loom and get started. Now that I've played with this lovely yarn and simple weave structure, I am very excited to see the finished product!

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