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Why Sample?

What to do with all those samples? Also – why do I sample?

There are many reasons to sample – the most important of them is so we get gauge. This is also important in lace knitting. We want to make sure that once that item we took so much care to make is finished, it does what we intended it to without surprises. It’s important to knit enough of a swatch – I like a 4”x4” size – to get several full repeats of any pattern both horizontally and vertically if you are knitting lace or cables. If you are not, you want to make sure you have enough fabric for your tension to have leveled out. If you don’t get gauge, go up, or down (or both!) a needle size and check again. Make sure you wash and block before you measure. Swatching and sampling will also help you determine if you got the right drape.

It matters for spinning too – is my yarn thin or thick enough? Do I prefer a two or 3 ply for that stitch pattern? Keep a control card with an in process singles wrapped around it, and a ply back sample, so you can spot check as you go.

But sometimes we have multiple samples for an item. Or, maybe we sample different colorways or breeds of sheep. What do I do with all those samples and leftover yarns?

And here’s another use for those samples: What if you develop a hole that you need to darn? AND YOU ARE OUT OF YARN? Or maybe you misjudged your order and need just enough to finish the row and bind off? We’ve all been there. IF you have your swatches you are stress free, unlike your friend who has to match a dye lot and order another ball. You just pop over to your swatches and unravel that perfectly matching yarn and continue on your way.!

My friends, so many reasons to swatch and so many options!!!!

I touched on sampling briefly in my Breed Study blog post back in April 2016. I’m still working on that stole by the way. I think it’s a lap blanket now. But I promised you a blog post about what to do with the samples and it’s time.

Summer is a great time to sample. It’s hot, we’re distracted by summer activities at the beach, ball field or vacation rides. Small items are more manageable. And remember, like it or not, fall is not far off and we need to start planning our fall and winter knitting projects. We even run into significant temperature fluctuations for air conditioning vs outdoors. Brrr, I can hear my coworkers’ teeth chattering away.

Here are a few ways to use your samples:

A breed sampler stole, lap blanket, or picnic blanket. Hey – wool is actually easily cleaned, bacteria resistant and insulating against dewy earth at summertime band concerts. What’s not to love? Here are a few patterns which are easy to add on various samples to get you in the mood:

This Sampler pattern from Leisure arts uses larger scale samples to create a lovely throw.

You didn’t think I’d forget those adorable little hexipuffs did you? The Beekeeper’s Quilt let’s you make all sorts of little puffs to assemble any way you want – stuff them for extra warmth – and using up some less than spinning desirable wool you may have acquired on a whim, or from a wonderful non-spinning friend who loves you, found it for free, and had no idea that you just aren’t ready for that right now.

The pattern I use for my sampler stole is Feather & Fan, which I picked up out of a stitch dictionary, but is also available online. Pick a number of repeats to get your preferred width, stick a simple garter stitch border on it to keep it from curling, and go!

Want something a bit more color oriented? Or maybe something more garment like? Oh yeah, we got that too.

Less is More by Spunky Eclectic’s Amy King is an awesome use for different weight yarns in different colorways. Choose your own adventure!

Rams and Yowes comes in hats, scarves, blankets, and even sweaters. And don’t be afraid of color in those sheep!

Anything Fair Isle! Watch your tension and keep those carries shorter, but Fair Isle is great. Tams, mitts, cowls. Small projects are great!

But wait, I weave – or want to. Oh my friends, we love you too! Aside from just throwing everything on the loom in a rave of color and yarn use (no really, go to town, it’s your cloth) you can do something more color coordinated like these:

Pin Loom weaving let’s you make woven ‘granny squares’ and assemble them anyway you want! Some inspiration can be found in Pin Loom Weaving and we do carry Zoom Looms.

Just put on a warp and go to town with whatever color coordinated yarns, as I did, or non coordinated ones you wish!

Just grab some warp and weft, and get to it! 

Don’t stop here – use these as launch points to do your own inspiring combinations! Sampling is awesome – and educational!


Not on Ravelry? Links to the Ravely patterns also available on public sites are listed below, in order of appearance in the article:

Sampler Afghan
Beekeeper’s Quilt
Less is More
Rams and Yowes  (though you may need to use the Ravelry store anyway)

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