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Vintage Swatchin'

I recently bought a stack of cheap vintage patterns, reasonably priced too as they were the originals and not photocopies of the originals.

My purpose was to look through and see if the lace and texture patterns used were any different from the stitch patterns found on line, or in modern books. I have even got bored of my old Harmony stitch guides!

All these sources do have some beautiful stitches, it is just that there are so many knitters out there, who go online that display their beautiful work using these stitches that it leaves any design I come up with using those stitch patterns a little over used.

My intention is not to copy the vintage stitch patterns at all. I am just researching and practising and what I like about these vintage patterns is that it is easy to see how tiny differences in placing the YO's or decreases can make very different looks. I have already come up with a variety of stitch pattern myself that is an easy lacy rib. I still want to make my patterns easy to do, but to have effective small stitch patterns that are unique.

Time savers for busy swatchers

Casting on
Whilst swatching, I also realised that the way I normally cast on is tedious. If you are swatching yourself, I recommend ditching any fancy edge and just wrap the stitches around the thumb, but not knit them off, so you are literally looping yarn straight onto one needle. Then purl the first row and you have a base on which to knit your swatch.

Multiple swatches
When knitting swatches, if you aren't worried about making distinctive photography with them showing all four edges then why cast on for each one? For example, my first swatch was a 9st repeat and 1 edge = 28 sts. My 2nd swatch was for an 8st repeat plus 2 edge sts = 26, I just knit a band of stocking stitch between my 2 swatched and decreased a couple of stitches. You can even change yarn if you want and it all saves time not to have to cast on again.

Casting Off
In the same way as casting on correctly wastes time, as it is not always the cast on edge you want to see, casting off can be a bit tedious too and the normal way does seem to cause a curl. I use a more flexible cast off on a slightly larger needle. It is so much faster to do.

Knit the first stitch as normal
Slip this first stitch worked from the RH needle back onto the left needle
*K2tog the previously worked stitch with the next stitch
Slip worked stitch from rH needle back onto LH needle again
Repeat from * onwards

It gives a strange edge, almost like the live stitches have had a thread pulled through, I am not keen on the look but for speed it can't be beaten.

What to do with finished swatches
Eventually you may have enough swatches, so what do you do with them? Leaving them lingering in your project bag does no good at all. M
y swatches get washed in water slightly hotter than suggested to test the yarn, then dried flat and labelled.

Make a paper label and put on the name of the stitch, the size of needles and gauge of yarn on the front, and on the back if there is room write out the stitch pattern or if there is not then put a ref to where you can find the stitch pattern again.

Then what? Swatches are attached to the relevant pages in my design journal, or they get put into a bag and put into my swatch box or they are filed with the actual project file if there is a lot of paperwork and a plastic envelope for that project.

And something that has cropped up whilst writing this, is my love of the original patterns themselves, I am not so interested in copies. It seems that those who keep vintage libraries sell copies for quite a lot of money, e.g. about $5 compared with me paying the same for 15 women's patterns from ebay. One such company, had some beautiful colourwork and I hastily pressed the BUY NOW button, but then on the order it referred to copies. I wrote and asked very politely if the patterns I had bought were original or photocopied and got the response "they've been copies for 10 yrs!!" which put me in my place. However, it stank of poor customer service as I was only asking an innocent question, I would have bought the copies too, but not now. As it turns out, the buy now only put it in a basket, which generated an invoice and they take cheques so I will not be sending mine!

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