Breed Swatch-along, British Wool, KnitBritish Rav group, knitting, love, wool
comments 7

assorted thoughts on swatching – #BreedSwatchalong

The enthusiasm of people who have expressed interest in taking part in the Breed Swatch-along is infectious, but it also makes me giggle a bit too. Here we all are, a bunch of wool-loving crafters all getting excited about knitting single breed swatches….SWATCHES…the one thing we know we should all do when it comes to approaching any knitted item and the one thing that most of us do not do.


Some of us are afraid of the knitting maths (me!), some of us think it’s easier to just cast on and get going (me!); some of us are happy with our own gauges and can trust ourselves, but we all know, deep down, that swatching is important. I am definitely someone who passes on the good advice of swatching, but rarely do it myself, but for some reason doing it for this just seems so much more FUN, does that make me sound shallow? oh, well!

Swatching is the whole basis of our upcoming KAL – by knitting a square of fabric we shall be able to discover the evolution of our single breed wool; we will be able to chart the intrinsic characteristics of that yarn and that little square is going to be able to tell a story. As we cast it on – Once Upon A Time – we are introduced to the yarn and we have initial thoughts on its character, what it might be best suited for and we watch that yarn take shape in the knitting.

Swatching also tells us if the needles are right and if your chosen pattern is showing off the wool to its very best and when we cast off it is not even the end of the story – the repetition of washing, blocking and wearing shows how the character of the wool develops and it shows how the wool fabric changes. Only then can we know if there will be a Happy Ever After!

I also heard about a novel approach to swatch knitting the other day. We all lose the knitting mojo from time to time, we feel we can’t knit, or life isn’t lending itself to knitting time. A friend told me that when this happens she just picks up some needles and a new ball of yarn and casts on a swatch. No TV, or music, no background noise – just sit in the quiet and focus on the gentle action of knitting. Whether or not the mojo comes back, she did not say, but her swatch – not knitted to check gauge or for anything other than meditative knitting – is a little testament that she can knit and she did have the time and that amid everything else that is going on there was a little quiet time and a little soothing knitting. 

I’ve been reading and re-reading some lovely posts on swatching this week. My lovely woolly mucker Felicity Ford wrote a series of posts on swatching using the KnitSonik Stranded Colour-Work Source Book. For Felix her colourwork swatches are incredibly important…

Each one is a kind of case-study for The KNITSONIK System in action – a test piece of knitting exploring a design palette, patterns and shading based on a different everyday inspiration.

KnitSonik, On Swatching

Swatching is useful and practical and, as Felix goes on to say in Money, Time and Swatching, they are an investment of time which create an “ideas bank”. This doesn’t just apply to your own colourwork designs – how wonderful would it be to take part in this -along and at the end of it be armed with knowledge of different single breed wools, how they knit, how they wear and what they will be best suited to for future use?

And what of that future use? Our swatch reviews will be available for people to read and research; to know of our reviews and base their future wool buying upon them. I also want to create a virtual wool blanket of all our swatches too, but what will you do with your swatch? Some people have already said they would like to knit them into a blanket or a cushion, which would be such a beautiful idea and a lovely, long lasting tribute to the work you put into the KAL and what you discover from it. 

We could also be so artful with our swatches. I was so inspired by a drawer at the Shetland Museum and Archives in the textile collection. Inside the drawer is lots of circular knitted pieces of fine lace. This is an exhibit by Deirdre Nelson and Anne Eunson. Each swatch is dyed with tea and represents the Truck System, when women bartered their knitted items for payment in goods, such as tea. 

Work by Deirdre Nelson and Anne Eunson and displayed at Shetland Museum.


Of course, we are working with undyed yarn, but I am sure there are myriad ways to show off the natural beauty of your swatches…frame them, display them, treasure them!

My wool wall hanging made from Pop Blanket squares

My wool wall hanging made from Pop Blanket squares

However we approach our swatches and whatever happens to them after the KAL I just want to say how excited I am to be embarking on this journey of woolly discovery with you. And, who knows, maybe the swatch-along will totally change how some of us view swatching forever!


  1. Carol Christie says

    I was already inspired – but now I’m reaching conflagration level! Your enthusiasm is so beautifully expressed that it’s completely catching. I never thought I’d be so excited about swatching either.

  2. LaceLady says

    What a lovely tribute to the Zen of knitting ~ “just sit in the quiet and focus…”! In addition, you’ve put icing on the swatching cake by adding a link to Deirdre Nelson and Anne Eunson. You and Clara Parkes with your swatches ~keeping the coals of creative inspiration glowing!

  3. […] Oxford through the stories of its textiles; Louise is running the eminently practical and inspiring Knit British breed-specific swatch-a-long; and Tom continues to make incredible 100% WOOL creations and develop his thoughtful contemplation […]

  4. I’m very new to knitting, it feels like a secret hidden super power I didn’t kniow about…I’m currrently knitting with some wool from JAmieson and SMith, and it smells so warm and sheepy..a joy to touch and knit and inhale….I’m so excited about Wovember, I hoe this isn’t a silly question but does the swatch have to be a square, garter sttich round the edge, stocking inside or should we do something else? I’ve not needed to knit proper swatches before (I’ve only ever knitted scarves or dishcloths but am now knitting a shawl on circulars…yay!)

    • louise says

      no rules apart from it should be at least 8 inches square. you can use any weight or stitch pattern.

      if you look at the related posts at the top of the comments column or search breed Swatchalong at the top of the page you’ll find more posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.