Wednesday, June 6, 2012

On Swatching, Gut, and The London Summer of Love

One of my La Poetique swatch photos
I am not usually a big fan of testing the waters. Usually, I like approaching things head-on, full speed ahead. If mistakes are made, they can be corrected; in many instances, mistakes lead to other meaningful insights. Good you say.

Formalized education (I'm talking the classroom now) should be a mistake-approved zone. Where else should one be able to take the time to work out chinks than in a classroom? Yet, education makes us more afraid of failure, because we've placed so much on and into it. Not so good, you may say.

So then, one starts to test the waters in all aspects of life. One asks "What if?" way too often. One just starts to watch and investigate, but not really engage. It's a fairly quick path to a detached way of being in the world.

So what does all this have to do with swatching you ask? I have never been a big fan of swatching. I pretty much didn't see the point. I would just start projects, and if I didn't like how they were working out, I'd frog and start over again. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned. Personal philosophy safely in tact.

However, I have become a complete convert to swatching. Actual swatching, and not just the detached process of going through the 4" x 4" motions. Yes, I'm definitely testing the waters ... but it still doesn't mean I don't learn things along the way. In many instances, swatching for Project A has led directly to the idea for Project B. And if Project A's swatch turns into a happy failure, well, so be it. As the blues song goes "Ain't nobody's business but mine."

Of course, a swatch is just that: a test. Things can and often do change once one is full throttle into the project's design. Fiber, and it's many lovely inconsistencies, can make a design morph pretty quickly. (For a more in-depth look at fiber and it's quirks, read this Doris Chan recent blog entry.) And that's just one of myriad factors that can impact a final design.

That's where gut comes into play. Education (of all varieties) informs gut, at least mine. I don't want to ever stop informing or listening to it. To do so would take the me out of my designs.

So I'll happily and mindfully swatch. And engage my gut. Read any and all life metaphors into that as you wish.

In the meantime, London has kicked off it's
2012 Summer of Love  (my characterization)
with a diamond jubilee bash that saw all manner of gut engagement. It will be no different in late July, when she hosts the summer Olympics. For fiber enthusiasts who wish to go for fiber gold, Ravelry's third Ravelympics event is well into the planning stages. Teams are forming left and right (like, two pages worth of team rosters at last look). No detachment for me: I'm co-captaining one team and a member of two others (one as team mascot, go figure). There will be a swatching event. You knew there would be.

Too bad there isn't a crap shoot event. Now that would be perfect.

One of the Ravelry
images from the 2010
Winter Games. Bob
is looking fine in his
winter finery.


  1. It's very true that we teach people to not make mistakes... and therefore not take risks... only the A students get scholarships and you usually do not get rewarded for being different.

    It's actually quite surprising how uncomfortable other people are when you take a calculated risk. Some folks really cheer you on, but most others seem to want to see you fail.

  2. I'm a slow convert to swatching. My recent disasters have proven it is a good idea :) In fact, I've just swatched for a sweater I plan to knit this summer - the gauge was perfect, but, I discovered I didn't want to make it in that yarn after all. Phew. Expensive mistake averted!

    1. See? It's sort of like eating your peas. :)

  3. I really should learn how to swatch. You know going on the school metaphor, you usually want to be cautious when first learning things, one step at a time so you get it perfect.

    But, I like the head on approach too. Only, speaking from experience, it gets me into trouble quite often (this is for yarn and for other real life too). :)