I once took a class for which the instructor (the lovely and talented Arenda Holiday) had pre-knitted all the class swatches. She had decided early in her teaching career that in order for her students to be successful in the technique she presented, the swatches they worked on had to be dependable, which is to say, all made by the same person. She liked making swatches, and could knock out bunches of them while watching tv, etc. It was no hardship for her, and ensured that her students had every advantage.
For us students, it was pure luxury. I can't tell you exactly why, but those little knitted squares (perfectly blocked, too) and knitted by someone else brought a level of ease and decadence to the experience that I can scarcely describe. I promised myself that I would do the same for my class one day, when the opportunity was right.
My Madrona students are being asked to make an entire neckwarmer for their homework. In light of that lofty goal, I could hardly expect them to make practice swatches, too. The time had come for me to become a benevolent swatchmaker.
Now, you know that my relationship with math is casual, at best, so when I figured out all by myself that 24 students needed 3 swatches each, for a total of...well...a LOT of swatches, I realized that I should start banging them out, and soon.
I am normally a reluctant swatcher. I really only do it because I'm usually writing directions that other people have to follow, and they might come and find me if I'm at all cavalier about things like gauge. Picky lot, you knitters. Left to my own devices, I hardly ever bother swatching. I just kinda use the Force.
But these swatches are different. They aren't trying to prove anything. There are no right dimensions to achieve. If I get a wee square of stranded fabric at the end, then my work there is done. Little 4-inch success stories; that's what these are. I couldn't be more smug. Yes, they are the stranded colorwork equivalent of boiled water. But you know what? Some days boiled water is a pretty impressive achievement. So I'm taking my validation wherever it's offered.
Appreciating the humble swatch solely on its own merits is a new idea to me. When the swatch is relieved of all responsibility for informing us of what a garment will be (totally unrealistic notion, by the way), it's really just a cute little mini-project. Do I want to do this all day? Not really. But when I asked myself what there was to be learned from this exercise, I was surprised by the answers.
Swatch On, Dear Friends.