This WIP Wednesday I am going to talk a little bit about blocking and swatching. I recently saw on a friend and colleague of ours Natalie Selles' (@leeleetea) instagram stories about how she was struggling to work out her gauge over a large area of cabled and textured stitches. Even though she had swatched for the project. She wasn't getting a correlation between her small swatch and her larger project. Her solution for this was to block mid project and in doing so relaxed the fabric and reassured herself that all was good and the gauge was perfect.

Well if you remember me going on about how I was going to have to rip back a jumper I started because I was worried it was too small. (Read about it in this WIP Wednesday Post from a couple of weeks ago). Well I took inspiration from Natalie and blocked it and voila! My faith in the project was restored and it turned out to be the size I wanted it to be all along. The gauge was being distorted by all the knits and purls in the basket weave texture which pulled it in and made it seem a lot smaller than it should be. Blocking relaxed all this and opened it up. What I learnt from this is that it can be a very good idea to block a little bit as you go. Especially so if this is a garment and is heavily textured, or involves a lot of cables and ribbing that may distort the fabric. This can help you determine length, width and shaping in a much more accurate way as you know you are working from the finished size. Of course you block and measure your swatch, but a swatch only gives you a small window into the whole finished fabric. Blocking as you go as Natalie described: 'It's a giant gauge swatch, the most accurate you can get!'.

It was very simple to do. My tip would be to transfer all live stitches onto a scrap piece of yarn rather than leave them on a needle. This way they have more freedom to move and behave more naturally. I then just soaked and blocked as I would normally do. This involved a bucket of warm (not too hot) water with a few drips of Soak laundry soap. Excess moisture dried out by sandwiching between a rolled up towel and then unrolled and left to dry on a flat surface. I did not want to block aggressively so I did not pin it as I wanted the stitches to lie naturally and not bounce back as soon as I took the pins out. I left it to dry and took my measurements. I'm so glad I did this process as it has saved me so much time and because now I only have the sleeves to go I can swatch for a new project!

So now for my next project and I'm really excited for this one. Yesterday I wound up and knit a swatch for the Longfellow Cardigan by Michele Wang. A classic, simple go to cardigan, which has just what I'm looking for in straightforward spring/autumn layer. I'm going to be knitting it in John Arbon Devonia 4ply. A yarn we have had at Knit With Attitude for a while and I have been itching to use it. So let me introduce my swatch and talk a little bit about the yarn.

Due to all of my swatching and size shenanigans with the Roland Jumper I'm playing this one by the book. So this is how I swatched for this project:

The gauge required is - 23 stitches & 34 rows = 4″ in stockinette stitch with 3.75mm needles, after blocking. To make sure I had 23 uninterrupted stitches I cast on 27 stitches, thus giving me a bit of a border. I knit two rows of garter stitch and then began the swatch by knitting in stocking stitch with a border of two stitches in garter stitch either side. Of course you can knit more of a border if you wish, but the main thing is to have a border because it means the part you will be measuring will be as even as possible. I continued with 34 rows in stocking stitch maintaining the garter border and finished with two rows in garter stitch and then cast off. Now for the blocking. I blocked and pinned the swatch, but did not stretch it. The pinning was just to hold it in place while it dried. I let it dry and measured it. I find this rarely happens to me but I got gauge bang on, which is the dream. If my gauge was off, for example if I had more stitches per 4" I would have to go up a needle making my stitches slightly bigger and getting less per inch. If I had less stitches per 4" I would have to go down a needle to get smaller stitches and more per inch and of course swatch again. But as it happens I can stick with what I have and I'm ready to go. Now a little bit about the yarn.

John Arbon Devonia comes in two different weights, a 4ply and a DK. It has the most amazing range of sumptuous heathered jewel tones. John Arbon are a Devon based mill and the fibre for this blend is sourced locally to them. It contains Exmoor Blueface, Devon Bluefaced Leicester and Devon Wensleydale. Worsted spun it is soft but still rustic with a very slight halo after blocking. Each fibre bringing its own quality to the yarn. For me it is the richness of colour this yarn has, It is so lovely. I have chosen the colour Pollen Gold, perfect for the spring and I'm very much looking forward to knitting with it.