This blog post probably won’t be terribly fun for some people, but I’ve evolved into the freakish sort who love swatching. They are my favorite way to sketch out design elements, and as a recovering nostalgic, they fit into my innate desire to keep a journal, without actually having to keep a journal.
There are already a wealth of great resources about swatching for cables out in the internet ether, but I wanted to talk about how different stitches behave when they’re next to certain kind of cables, and what that means for how you swatch for Marsellus (and any cable sweater).
I did three swatches when designing Marsellus, and I think those swatches show something interesting about how certain stitches behave when they’re next to different cables. The #1 swatch was a 4” square of moss stitch, #2 swatch was a 4x repeat of honeycomb, braid and moss, and #3 swatch was a 4” square of braid cable with moss stitch.
What happens to the moss stitch when it's next to a panel with honeycomb cables is fascinating, admittedly the word fascinating is a subjective one, so I should probably quantify by saying I think it’s fascinating. Once blocked, the moss stitch in swatch #3 blooms exactly the same swatch #1, retaining the same stitch/row counts. But, in swatch #2, the moss stitch row gauge doesn’t change at all in the block, and is slightly more contracted than the moss stitch in swatch #1. Visually, this difference is basically indiscernible, but it makes a huge amount of difference if your pattern is written to be worked in inches, rather than row by row. Marsellus is written row by row in the sleeves, but if it weren’t, here’s why it matters.
The body of the sweater is honeycomb city, flanked on either side by moss stitch, and is worked 16” from the cast on edge to the underarms. This doesn’t change much in the block if you compare this to the finished measurements of the sweater. But (in my gauge) if the sleeves were written to be worked by measurement and not by row, they would be worked for 17 inches. The finished measurement of the sleeve is 19 inches. That’s a huge difference!
Kate Gagnon Osborn describes how to knit a good cable swatch much better than I’ll be able to do here, so if you haven’t read it yet, check out this post on Fringe from her Amanda KAL. If you’re knitting Marsellus, I’d recommend doing two swatches, #2 and #3 from above. I can completely sympathize with not wanting to eat up this amount of yarn only for swatching, and I typically frog extra swatches once they’ve served their purpose. Some yarns hold up better than others when being reused after they’ve been blocked, so admittedly it isn’t always possible to yarn recycle in this way, but it can in some cases ease the financial burden of an extra half skein of yarn.
I hope this has been in some way helpful, I’d be curious to know how others handle their swatches once they’ve been blocked and measured.