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Although personally I support a long-standing tradition of non-swatching, in this particular case I would say — swatch. Dartmouth Yarns has its Grand Opening in a few days (schedule here) and there is a contest for a stitch pattern (you can see the rules and samples here). I didn’t plan to invent a new stitch but the idea was still brewing in my head.

Somewhere in her post, Kate, the store owner, mentioned that the stitch should reflect knitters creativity. There are many beautiful and sophisticated stitch patterns out there but I am mostly interested in using a combination of simple stitches to create meaningful and useful shapes. Also I wanted to connect the idea of knitters creativity with the diversity of projects they undertake. So, disregarding all rules of the contest (a new stitch, 6 x 6 inches swatch with the border, written pattern), I came up with my own swatch suggestions.

Exhibit A — sock yarn swatch. It’s just what you think, a tube of 60 sts on 2.25 mm needles on my ankle that shows how the yarn will behave in a sock. Maybe more experienced knitters are able to say right away if the variegated yarn will produce stripes or chunks and how the colour is changing but when I see a multicoloured skein, it’s always a guess for me.

Plus, it can be used as a tomato cozy. (Well, not really, I just couldn’t think of another way to tell you that our little garden patch produces delicious tomatoes).

Exhibit B — mini-shawl for fingering weight yarns. It seems to me that warm, simple, and yet sophisticated shawls are quite popular now, most likely due to attention from famous knitting personalities. Think Wingspan, or Colour Affection, or locally designed Bermuda.

Well, my ‘shawl’  is just an idea of a swatch (50 sts on 4 mm needles). It can be either based on a pattern or be made with a simple stitch combination that shows texture well. I wish my camera didn’t go nuts and completely distort red colours and you could see that I didn’t mean to reproduce a matador’s red cape but show the rich golden hue in this yarn.

It is a painfully simple ‘design’ because it’s my first attempt to knit a ‘shawl’. But I was happy that I got the shape from the first try so the rest of it happened sort of by itself. Somehow I think it would be cute to see little swatches like that in the store. (Don’t judge me, I have two little kids and live in the world of ‘cute’).

Exhibit C — wristband or bracelet. I am still on the topic and charted the whole alphabet, and it’s halfway knitted in black and white. For the occasion, I wanted to demonstrate how it could be used for anything from promoting a local yarn store to promoting a healthy life style. My original chart was based on a smaller gauge and included the word ‘Dartmouth’ on top. Well, I didn’t have the right yarns/needles to make it happen today, so instead I am a proud owner of yet another bracelet that has a very fine message indeed — love yarns.

The back has two hearts because the second word ‘yarns’ in between them would make this bracelet into a nice garter, and if used as a display, it would slightly decrease the number of people with whom I could share my views.

I bet you, if it was done in fingering weight yarn, nobody would have to run around me to see what it says. I might try again later.

There are two days left before you can submit your swatches for the contest should the inspiration strike. So swatch away, knitters, swatch away.

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A while ago I decided to add Craftivism (craft + activism) page to this blog in order to publish patterns with which knitters could express themselves or promote ideas they care about. I imagined a small item, completely customizable, preferably made with bits and odds of yarn in stash — and the first wristband prototype came about. This one has a simple message of love where the object of your feelings is known only to you. Maybe it’s about your boyfriend, your kids, your pet or smoked mackerel.

It’s a fast project that can be made with fine yarn scraps (like sock yarn or baby yarn); it will fit your wrist and express your very own ideas. Conveniently, those ideas are easily understood by non-kniters who might not decipher a subtle message of self-reliance, DIY spirit, and creativity from your hand-knit socks made with hand-spun yarn. While working on this project I read a few books like Craftivism by Joan Tapper and Knitting for Good by Besty Greer who coined the term ‘craftivism’ to see if something like that existed already but I didn’t find anything. Betsy’s book confirmed my feeling that these little statements that I would literally wear on my sleeve are mostly directed at myself and only then at others. It’s what I want the world to know about me (that I am a knitter, for one) but it’s also a powerful self-motivator. It’s like a new year’s resolution, displayed publicly,  that forces its owner to live up to it. If you wonder what I am talking about, here are some more examples. This wristband reads ‘NS locavore’.

(I am holding a zucchini from my friend’s garden but it was too big to fit in a picture.)

Wikipedia defines locavore as ‘a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market’. And that’s exactly what our family is trying to do. We have a little garden patch in the community garden, we go to farmers’ market, and choose locally grown NS foods over imported ones in a supermarket. Does all my grocery list originate in our province? No. But wearing this thingy makes me more willing to take an extra trip to the market and pay premium prices to support local farmers and stomp a bit lighter in our carbon footprint. It makes me feel like I am the kind of person who does such things and then I actually do them.

I often wondered if it was possible to influence others as well, could this little project be viewed as idea-spreading? I was wearing my locavore band almost daily for about two months (durability — check!), and some people asked me about it. I explained what it means, and received a polite ‘I see’. To be completely honest, I don’t think it has more power than a bumper sticker. (Unless you think those change the world one bored driver stuck in traffic at a time). Reading an idea conveniently packaged for your consumption is nearly not as powerful as the one you spell out yourself, stitch by stitch, and display on your hand for the world to see.

So I decided to check the middle ground and made a wristband for my husband. It says ‘I bike’. Now, truth to be told it should have said ‘I was biking to work last summer until something broke in that old bike my friend gave me; it’s expensive to fix it and the bike didn’t fit me anyway’. Since I was researching the motivational power of my knitted creation, I went with aspiration, not the status quo. Plus, I don’t think my husband would be wearing knitted leg warmers covered in lengthy messages in public.

To make it more visually appealing, I used a chart, where the word bike is a pictogram. To fit three of them, I had to use finer yarn. It turned out pretty if a bit feminine so I made another one, in grey and black. Since only two chart panels fit that gauge, I separated them by what I imagine to be bike tracks.

He really likes them and wears them although he says ‘Well, I don’t bike now‘. But that’s the whole point, I wonder if he would be motivated to live up to the warm and fuzzy expectation on his wrist. (These things are strangely comforting, by the way).

Two days later.

See that shiny handle? It’s a new bike. I think it worked.

I am now creating a little library of letters, digits, and symbols that can be used for an infinite number of messages  — political, personal or cryptic — and I will gladly share it with knitters who would like to express their views in stitches.

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