Always make swatches for merino wool!

I’m knitting for myself usually. So I know what approx. amount of stitches I need. When I knit most of the time I just measure the item by putting it to myself to see if it’s enough length. However, this NEVER works with merino wool. As I’m knitting yet another sweater from merino, this time I’ve decided to take some photos and to show why this does not work. Hope this will be a good argument why you MUST make swatches and count when working with merino for someone as lazy to do this as I am…

This time I’m working with merino soft ‘superwash’ yarn:

I’m using lace pattern from some Japanese magazine. As always – I knew I’d have to adjust pattern to fit my non-japanese figure, so it takes lots of counting.

This time I’ve decided to do it almost proper way:

  • Started with swatch. This is where “almost proper way” comes from – I always make gauge swatches as small as possible and it makes more challenges while measuring.
  • Washed the swatch and left it HANG dry with weight. Usually you leave swatch to dry laying flat. At least for me – this does not work with merino, especially when lace pattern will be used. For a swatch of ~11 x 11 cm I’ve used the remaining yarn of this 50 g from which I’ve knitted it as a weight.
  • Left the swatch to hang dry for ~12 hours. Then – left it for another ~24 hours to lay flat. Only then started measuring and counting.

After I’ve knitted the front side of the garment, I was surprised. My design required it to be 53 cm length. I’ve knitted it after lots of counting according to swatch and… I’ve finished with item of 45 cm length and correct width! 8 cm difference in length, that’s a lot.

Well, but this is merino… So this time before knitting back side I’ve decided to wash the front side, lay it flat (no specific blocking to shape) and leave to dry for at least 12 hours. After those 12 hours I measured it again. Well, after this time – everything is according to pattern and swatch: width did not change, length became exactly 53 cm.

Now I have back side knitted (but not washed). This is how it looks like:

Front side – on the left, back side – on the right. Same 8 cm difference in total height, ~2 cm difference in height before armhole starts.

Lessons learned:

  • Always make a swatch for merino
  • Hang swatch with some weight when drying
  • Leave swatch flat for at least a day to come back to ‘real’ shape after hanging
  • Measure and count a lot before knitting
  • Wash and leave dry flat all the parts of the garment BEFORE sewing them together


Tina Frauberger pattern 32 diagram demo

I think i’ve been complaining about “it’s almost impossible for me to tat using written patterns”. As I’ve found out a book by Tina Frauberger in public domain with patterns I really like, I’ve decided to do something about that. The initiative “let’s draw a diagram for written pattern” has started. If you’d like to contribute by drawing diagrams for those old pretty patterns or to be a test tatter / reviewer – please join Facebook group “Tatting Diagrams for Written-Only Patterns“.

And here’s my not first, but first “more serious” attempt to draw a diagram from written pattern. This is pattern No. 32 from Tina Frauberger book “Schiffchenspitze” (1919).

Will need to test-tat it one more time, but I think this diagram is almost complete.

Do slightly different w/cm matter in tatting?

I’ve always been interested in how slight difference in thread thickness affect tatted item. I have lots of left over threads from various crafts projects: too little to create something serious, too much to give away. Most of the time I use them for trying out some pattern elements.

I’ve been working with various kinds of tatted onion rings recently, and decided I could do those trial pieces using different colours. I took out two random threads, which visually look almost the same. Maybe one is more mercerized than the other, slightly more twisted and slightly thicker. Here’s what I’ve got after trying two different colour combinations:

I’m tatting really tight, so after seeing this I’ve decided to measure thread wraps / cm. It appears that yellow is 12 w/cm, pink – 13 w/cm. Slight difference in measure, huge difference in how it looks when mixed.

Well, never mix left over threads for tatting samples. Or at least measure them before doing this – slight difference matters. For lots of kinds of most popular lace / tatting threads Threads for Lace” by Brenda Paternoster is a must-have time saver. For other kinds of threads (or when you do not know what you are using) – winding 1 cm of thread yourself and counting wraps does not take so much time.

Coins and reverse tatting

As a visual learner and non-native English speaker I’m always having trouble trying to tat some items from English books which have only written instructions (e.g. anything from The most annoying thing is all those “reverse” / “turn” / “rotate” abbreviations. When tatting from diagrams, I just “know” what to do. When tatting using written instructions… Well, I just try not to use them, there are so many other items to tat :D

People say it’s easier to remember what is what when you have something to associate to the thing you are trying to learn. I think finally I’ve got it! Thanks for a person who is collecting coins and recently came back from USA.

So my current associations for tatting terms:

  1. Rotate” – like in image manipulation programs, clockwise or counter clockwise.

  2. Turn” – like page of a book.

  3. Reverse” – like trying to see the other side of USA coin with image / number facing me. And the sides are named “obverse / reverse” – it really makes it easy to remember, that this is about “reverse” term in tatting. Guess this one is the strangest one, but here’s how it works.

When I place side by side a coin from USA and a coin from EU, both facing reverse (number side up), I see number / text so that I can read it:


When I want to see the obverse (the nice side) facing me and I do it the way I’m used to, I finish with this:


That’s not what I expected! If I want to get what I want, I need to do movement changing sides of the USA coin like this:


And that’s exactly what I need to do in tatting when “reverse” work action is required.

At least it matches some of the simple pattern elements I’ve tried. Still needs more testing, but hope I’ll finally have even wider choice for tatting patterns.

Tatting dictionary: RU -> EN

Once again I had to help with translation of Russian tatting abbreviations. I feel I need to write this down so I could just share link to this page in future. By no way this will cover all cases, as designers write some things differently. Let me know if you feel I should add something more to this.

Russian (full term) Russian (abbreviation) English
кольцо к ring
дуга д chain
узел у knot (usually means double stitch if used in pattern)
двойная петля ДвП double stitch
бисер б seed beads
бусина Б any bead, usually larger than seed bead
пико п picot
узел “Джузеппина”, пико “Жозефины” Дж, Ж Josephine knot
длинное пико ДП long picot
короткое пико КП short picot
челнок ч shuttle
закрыть закр. close ring
перевернуть работу пр turn work (or rotate work)

Plain numbers usually mean number of double stitches (e.g.: “3п3” is equivalent to “3 ds, picot, 3ds” or “3-3”).