swatching for dalis

Oct 04, 2016 :: by Leila Raabe

Dianna Walla's Dalis pullover from our latest collection, Sea Smoke, is a seriously beautiful example of a little colorwork going a long way.

Knitted in five colors of worsted weight Lark, the sweater is graced with ribbon-like bands of patterning at the hem, sleeve cuff, and around the upper body yoke.

Dianna's color choices worked so well together, it was hard to picture it in any other combination.

Dalis by Dianna Walla in Lark, colors Audouin, Delft, Fjord, Carrie's Yellow, and Kumlien's Gull

Nonetheless, we were curious. So here at Q, three of us picked out some skeins—trying both not to deliberate too much, AND not to settle into our usual comfort zones too easily—and swatched up some alternate Dalis color combos. Below, the fruits of our swatching labor.

How to swatch?

First thing's first. The thing about stranded knitting is that, if working in the round, it's important to swatch in the round, and not flat—the simple reason being that your back-and-forth gauge is likely to differ from your circular gauge. There are knitters who don't see a different result between the two, but they are rare.

Better to be safe, and swatch in the same manner as you would knit the actual project.

left to right: Leila's swatches, Whitney's swatches, Dawn's swatches

There are a few different ways to work up a colorwork swatch. For variety, the three of us (Whitney, Dawn, and Leila) each took our own approach.

For Whitney's bottom swatch (pictured above, center), she chose steeking: Cast on the number of stitches needed, plus four extra steeking stitches between the beginning and end of round. She joined in the round and knitted circularly on a very small circumference, then cut her steek afterward (choosing not to reinforce the steek in any way).

Dawn chose to double down (pictured above, right): Cast on for two repeats instead of just one, joining in the round to work on a larger circumference roughly the size of a sleeve cuff, which a lot of knitters find much easier to manage on the needles. Yes, it creates twice as much swatching, but the result is more even tension and smooth sailing once it's time to measure. No need to cut anything, just block and measure.

For mine (pictured above, left), I chose the "speed swatching" method: Instead of joining in the round, knit across to the end of the row, then, instead of turning, draw out a length of yarn behind the swatch and return to the beginning of the row, then knit across again—essentially knitting flat, but always knitting every row (never purling back). I also cast on one or two extra stitches on either side, and if I can remember to do so, twist those extra stitches by knitting them through the back loop. After binding off, turn the work around and cut the long lengths of yarn stranded across the back and neatly trim, creating fringe on either side, held fast(-ish) by the twisted stitches.

Whitney tried out this method on her top swatch above, center—see the fringe at the edges? This method is nice because it's very quick, but the downside is that the edge stitches can be a bit sloppy and thus, not very useful for taking a gauge measurement. Make sure your swatch is big enough to take this into account.

Try out different methods and see what works best for you.

Color combinations

We dove into the office yarn bins and started matching up colors. Which five colors? How do you even begin to narrow it down? One way is to start with the main color and work from there. We all began with the original MC, Audouin, then quickly went off on our own.

Whitney took a neutral approach with her swatches, choosing Audouin with Caspian, Kittywake, Sabine, and Crow, and concentrating on tonal values. Switching a couple of them around created a completely different play of contrast and resulting look to the motifs.

I went outside my usual favorite picks (I'd go with the colors Whitney chose, any day) and picked a folksy Fall scheme. In the first swatch, I tried dark gray Storm with Carrie's Yellow, Nasturtium, and Split Pea, sticking just to those four colors for both banded motifs. For the second swatch I swapped out Storm for Audouin, and introduced Caspian plus a fifth color, Honey.

Dawn's swatches were a surprise to all of us: Audouin with Marsh, Bosc, Clay, and Glacier. Once she reached the motif where Glacier began, she was a little iffy on whether it really fit in with the other colors. After finishing and binding off, however, there was a unanimous agreement that blue Glacier did, in fact, bring the whole thing together in a really beautiful way. Soft and vintage in feeling.

She started out with the swatch on the bottom, but wasn't satisfied with the lack of contrast between the clay and wasabi in the bottom motif band. So for the second swatch, she flipped the two greens—Marsh and Bosc—around. Much better! 

It takes some experimenting to figure out how colors are going to play with each other, and where that harmonious sweet spot lies. All three of us, seasoned knitters and proud, still found ourselves marveling at the unexpected results of our swatches.

We highly recommend experimenting as much as you can, for any colorwork project that catches your eye and becomes something you might want to knit. 

Which colors to choose? Best way to find out—get swatching. Save the leftovers from your other projects to build up a good palette for playing with color. Most important of all, have fun.

Related posts in: Colorwork | Dawn catanzaro | Design team | Dianna walla | Lark | Leila raabe | Steeks | Swatching | Whitney hayward
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