Can I stop swatching now?

The good news: I have Made Progress on my sister's modified Central Park Hoodie.

The bad news: I've done so many swatches that if all those stitches had been Actual Hoodie Stitches, sister Liz would be wearing her new hoodie by now.

I really have a love-hate relationship with swatching. It has to be done, there is just no way around it, unless one wants to be knitting afghans and gorilla sweaters all one's life. I have nothing against afghans and gorilla sweaters; I believe that some gorillas might even appreciate a handknit now and then, to comfort themselves as they sit and people-watch from within their enclosure at the zoo, or to cozy up next to in their bed of leaves in the wild. But some of us want to be knitting for humans, and humans have a strange preference for clothing they can wear, as opposed to something they just drag alongside themselves as they knuckle-walk through their day.

(Where was I? Oh, yes: Love/hate. Swatches. Gotcha.)

I love swatching for this hoodie.
As I tried to work out my ideas on my computer, then on my needles, I learned an enormous amount about cables and how they work (also: how they don't work!). The intense chart-and-swatch, chart-and-swatch process has taught me to read cable diagrams at a glance, rather than laboriously counting squares and trying to remember which stitches cross in back versus which in front. I feel ten times more confident with cables now than I did a few weeks ago.

On the other hand: Swatching, I hate you. You make me frustrated when the stitches do not look like they do in my head, or in the glossy photo in the stitch dictionary. You drive me insane with your endless cycles of knit-and-rip, knit-and-rip. You make me feel as though I've gotten nothing done at the end of the day, let alone the end of another blogging week, because I have nothing to show for all my hard work except yards of bedraggled frog-pond yarn.

The big question now is: Do I have a winner? I was trying for a cabled heart design running up each sleeve. I swatched intertwining hearts; I swatched heart ribbons; I swatched Viking hearts and Celtic hearts. The challenge was to find a cable the fit into the existing hoodie, which meant something that fit into a rather narrow band (fewer than 20 sts).

The cable in the photo is one I cobbled together myself. I took a traditional braid that was the right width and proportions, and carefully tweaked it, removing some crossings and altering others, until it looked like overlapping hearts. Then I framed it with tight, mirror-image ropes on either side.

My internal jury is still out on this one. What do you think? Let me know in the comments if this cable is a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down"! If enough of you give it a thumbs up, then I'll keep going; if it's a thumbs down, then I'll have two choices: more swatching (eep!) or giving up and just knitting the pattern as written. (I don't know if I can do that. I mean. As written? That's…that's just so Not Me.)

And just as a side note: Throughout the composition of this post, my spelling checker insisted that the word I wanted was "swatting" not "swatching." I am beginning to think my spelling checker is wiser than I am.

Stay warm; wear a handknit sweater!

– Sandi

Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily each week. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, you can follow her: sandiwiseheart.

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64 thoughts on “Can I stop swatching now?

  1. I like the hearts, I looked at the swatch and immediately saw them and then read the post. I am not sure about the tight ropes, maybe just twisted stitches or cross the ropes not as often. Just my thoughts, feel free to ignore.

  2. Pretty! Do you remember the Sweetheart Sock in IK a couple of years ago? It had a similar cable with a lighter feel. I remember trying to use the cable in something else which just didn’t work out, but it was nice.

  3. Okay so again, I will be happy with whatever. No seriously. I love every picture of every swatch you have posted so I can’t be disappointed.

    But, now I am starting to feel twinges of quilt (I am my mother’s daughter after all and oh btw so are you . . ) and I hate to see you suffer over cables. I sometimes suffer over cable but that is usually when it cuts out in the middle of Criminal Minds or Fringe or something. Please end your suffering and assuage my guilt – pick a swatch, any swatch.

    Now, and finally, I must know, does this mean that when I wear this sweater I am not allowed to drag it alongside myself as I knuckle-walk through my day? I do plan on using it to comfort myself as I sit and people-watch from within my enclosure at the zoo, or perhaps even cozy up next to it in my bed of leaves in the wild. I hope that much is alright.

  4. Love the cables and the ropes! They definitely look like hearts. Go for it! I’m sorry but I really love the image of dragging along this sweater knuckle-walking through the day – well, maybe being careful not to let it touch the ground…

  5. I like the hearts, but the ropes seem a bit heavy to me – they kind of intrude on the hearts. The hearts alone might work well for a sleeve. Don’t want to cause you any more swatching stress, though!

  6. The overlapping hearts look great! I like the ropes in the body but not in the ribbing. This cable pattern is a feature that can really guide the eye. I can imagine this on the front panels of a symmetrical button cardigan sweater or along one front side of an asymmetrical sweater. It’s time for Liz to get a hoodie!! (And maybe a dragging blankie made with all the swatches sewn together!?) Nancy

  7. I like the hearts; you did a great job adapting them to your needs. The ropes are just too heavy and detract from the heart cables. I second the idea of a simple twisted stitch. I think the problem with the ropes you have is that they are so raised that they overpower the cables.

  8. I love the hearts, but agree with some of the others that the ropes look a little heavy and do intrude on the hearts. Maybe if they were the same as the ones in the ribbing?

  9. Thumbs up for the heart cable. Thumbs up for the rope cable too–but not together. Like others, the ropes are over-bearing for the hearts and the hearts are so pretty they need to POP! I like the suggestion of a twisted stitch bordering the cable.

    I also concur the ropes don’t look great in the rib border. However, I did like the swatch in a prior post where the entire motif broke the rib border.

  10. Love the hearts but agree about the rope. Something lighter for the border…maybe a simple elongated stockinette stitch (slip the K stitch and P on the next row) would define the border of the pattern but not detract from it.

  11. I love the hearts, think they’re quite lovely. The ropes are a bit thick & clunky, but I do like the idea of framing the hearts. What a lovely endeavor! -Susan

  12. Love these hearts. You did a fine job with them!
    Not so much with the “ropes”–maybe smaller/thinner? And not in ribbing.

    Worth the effort of many frogs.
    Impressed with your accomplishment.

  13. I think it is lovely, especially the detail extended into the rib… that is a very nice touch. The ropes frame it nicely. I think the swatching is over, at least for this project. Please post a picture when it is done.

  14. I agree with many people about the ropes – too thick for the cables. You might try separating them from the cable with a couple more stitches. More space might make them more tolerable. I also am not too fond of the ropes in the ribbing. I think I would replace the ropes with a raised stitch, like knitting into the back loop, maybe even with 2 raised stitches.

  15. I like the cable you’ve designed. I wish I could enlarge it to get a closer look at the details. I finally gave in (?!) and swatched a real 4″ x 4″ sample and as Clara Parks always says, washed it and blocked it as if it were a done-deal!! I hate to admit it – but what a difference!! I’m now knitting the sweater I swatched for and I think I will block the pieces before I assemble it as I can see it will be a much easier fabric to do the finished sweater! and it will probably fit!!! Also a new concept – not really… Most sweaters I’ve made in the past I’ve steam-blocked after assembly but I may be a new believer!

  16. I like the overlapping heart pattern and think that you should use it!


    I can take or leave the rope on the sides … I think it frames the hearts nicely … but have to agree with others that it may overpower the hearts just a wee bit.

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. I give the swatch a thumbs-up, the pattern it very distinct and the stitches are very well defined. I am not that successful with knitting with cables, I found it very complicated; hopefully if I keep practicing my cables will turn out like the sample above. Fashion’s By Lee & For The Home

  18. Time to stop swatching – I agree the ropes are overpowering – something simple would frame the hearts better. This will be a gorgeous hoodie – lucky sister!

  19. To be honest, when I first caught sight of this swatch it was so beautiful it just pulled me right in. I didn’t notice at first that the ropes were ropes but the general appearance was very pleasing. I wouldn’t change a thing. Good work!

  20. Thumb up.

    I recently finished a vest for my bf where I did my own Aran type design–front and back of course. Was I ever glad for row counter stitch markers. I was using about 12. (knit in the round as far as I could because after row 1 of the sweater, nothing happen all on the same row)



  21. I love the pattern and think you should go with it. The only problem I have with the overall design is the fact that the main sweater is done in reverse stockinette stitch. Other than that I’d knit it in a flash. Congrats!

  22. You’ve got my thumbs up for the heart cable – definitely a winner! But I think the ropes are too heavy for the hearts. If you could modify the ropes to make them less prominent, I think it the patterns would blend together better. Would you be wlling to share the heart cable pattern? It’s definitely a keeper to be used only for a very precious project.

  23. the hearts are fine, the ropes are too heavy and pull in. How about a column of yo eyelets framing it where the ropes now stand? It would allow the hearts to come forward. Right now the ropes come forward and in so much, they push the hearts back.

  24. Absolutely a thumbs UP! These leapfrogging hearts are so pretty. I would definitely want to see more of this pattern. I do think the ropes are a little heavy. How about rows of mirrored twisted stitches to highlight the beautiful hearts?

  25. I love it! I’m a cable addict, and just can’t seem to keep anything “simple” – got to put cables somewhere. This is like a wishbone cable, but what did you do to get it so heart-shaped? It’s more rounded at the top of each “heart” and wishbones are usually flat – at least mine are. And, cable gal that I am, I don’t think the ropes are too heavy; I’d probably do this pattern repeat across an entire sweater! Gonna share the pattern anytime soon?

  26. Once on the arm, I think the side cables would be too thick. Love the intertwining hearts though. Find the idea of eyelets interesting as it will ‘lighten the look’, but it may take more swatching (arghh) and don’t know that you will want to go there.

  27. Love the heart cable. While I also like the rope and how they frame the cable, I think the rope would probably work better if it was a little further away from the cable so it would complement the cable more instead of compete with it. Also, I’m not crazy about how the rope looks in the ribbing. Just my humble opinion!

  28. Lovin’ the hearts, but not so much the ropes framing them.
    Was LOL at “swatting” coming up with your spellchecker. Know that feeling well when it comes to SWATCHING! 🙂

  29. The hearts are very subtle yet effective. The tight cables definitely draw attention away from the hearts. A simple one or two-stitch ridge along the sides of the hearts would emphasize the hearts without drawing away from them.

    And I love the color you’ve selected!

  30. I have the pattern for the Central Park Hoodie and plan to make it soon, although I won’t be making any changes as I have not learned that part of knitting. I make patterns just as they are. I do like what you have done and hope you continue. I think it looks nice.

  31. I love the hearts. I can’t wait to see what you decide, in fact I am hoping you will share so that maybe I can even use some of your modifications when I can get around to knitting the CPH.