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Son Of A.R.A.N. Project

Part 3: Let's Talk About Swatching

Copyright 1999 Janet Szabo. All rights reserved.

I am well aware of how most knitters feel about swatching. We are all eager to get to the actual knitting of our next project, but if there is one thing I have learned about Arans, it is that my time is well-spent swatching. Remember, we are designing an Aran from scratch. We need to swatch not only to determine our gauge over the selected patterns, but to select those patterns as well. I made no less than three swatches of cable combinations for each version of the SOA. These combinations are the ones I like best, and the ones I will present to you now. It is important that you knit these swatches using your yarn and needles, because that will determine the numbers we use to knit your sweater.

Shortly, I will post two sets of instructions. One is for those of you working the worsted weight SOA. The other is for those of you using sport weight yarn. Esther will put both sets of instructions on her web site, as well as scanned pictures of each of my swatches. That way, you can see what the arrangement of cables looks like. (It just so happens that I had Brown Sheep NatureSpun in both worsted and sport weight in the same color.)


CABLE PATTERNS: I have selected a combination of cable patterns which I think will suit everyone's needs. I wanted to make sure that we didn't lose any newbies along the way. Therefore, the largest row repeat in either set of cables is 16 rows (Four-Rib Braid in the worsted weight swatch and Off-Center Trellis in the sport weight swatch). The rest of the patterns are either 2-, 4-, or 8-row repeats. I am sure that there will be those of you who want to substitute cables and that's fine, as long as you keep the width of the cable the same as the original, so as not to mess up the proportions. However, I can't promise that I'll have time to give individual help to lots of people who change their cable selections, so it's going to be easiest to knit the cables I've chosen. ("What? You don't like my design?" )

The other advantage of having the largest repeat be 16 rows, BTW, is that it allows for individualized lengths. Each repeat of the Four-Rib Braid, for example, is about 2 inches long. Therefore, your sweater can be 24" long, 26" long, 28" long, etc.

CARDIGAN KNITTERS: Knit the swatch according to the directions, and we'll make any necessary changes on the front of the sweater (basically, we'll just have to split that center panel).

PEOPLE KNITTING KIDS' SWEATERS: Again, go ahead and knit the swatch as directed. What we'll probably end up doing for the kids' sizes is simply removing one or more cables. We'll use the same cables, but in a different arrangement.


I'm going to give everyone until a week or so after Easter to get their swatches knitted up before we move on to the next step. I know some of you are itching to get going, but there are a lot of people at Stitches this week, and people who are waiting for yarn to arrive. I want to give everyone ample time to catch up.

And please, if anyone catches errors in the swatch directions, give a holler!


Q & A:

I am not sure if I missed something but there is talk of washing and blocking a
swatch.  I don't usually do a swatch so I am not sure why this would be done. 
Is it washed so you know the gauge after the garment has been washed?  And if
that is the case then should I get my gauge from the washed swatch instead of
the original?  And do I get the gauge after it is washed and blocked and is
there a specific size I am tring to block it at. 

These are good questions, and I'm glad you asked them.

My rationale for having everyone knit their swatches and then wash/block them is because it has been my experience with Arans that gauge can change -- sometimes dramatically -- from the unwashed swatch to the washed swatch. I found this out the hard way, by knitting several Arans which fit me perfectly until I washed them, at which point they grew into much larger sweaters. It's better to find this out before investing all the time and energy in a sweater. By taking our measurements from the washed swatches, we'll be knitting to the size the garment will be after it has been worn and washed a time or two.

I've also found that I need to go down a needle size, and sometimes two, from what is suggested on the ball band. Remember, the suggested needle size is

  1. just a suggestion and
  2. usually what is intended for stockinette stitch knitting.
It is better to knit an Aran to a firmer gauge to avoid the possibility of stretching and sagging.

We're not aiming for a specific gauge with this project. I wanted people to be able to use a variety of yarn sizes and fiber contents. Some people are using wool, some acrylic, some cotton, etc. Some people are doing worsted weight, some sport weight, and some DK and chunky weights, too. The goal is to personalize this project. Your sweater will be your design based upon your yarn choice and the finished measurement you're looking for. I apologize if it seems kind of nebulous -- at this point it still is -- but I'll try to explain everything as we go along.

I hope this clarifies things, but if not, ask away! There are probably others out there wondering the same things you are.

Janet (List Mom and coordinator of the Son of Aran project) Szabo

Last Updated: April 12, 1999
Page maintained by: Esther S. Bozak, ebozak@cs.oswego.edu
URL: http://www.cs.oswego.edu/~ebozak/knit/soa/part3.html