One of the many hats I wear is that of Sample Knitter. Yarn shop owners, manufacturers, yarn dyers; they all need samples. It’s usually a garment rather than just a swatch of fabric. Their purpose is to sell you something. It may be the knitting pattern, more likely it is the yarn.

Walk into a yarn store, or a booth at a festival, and you’ll see beautiful sweaters, luscious scarves or cute hats on display. Samples help you envision how the sweater in the pattern picture will look once it is knit up. Sometimes you can try on the sample and see how it looks and feels.

Samples can give you an idea of how the yarn behaves.  Does it seem springy, such that the garment keeps its shape? Multi-colored yarns look one way in the skein or ball but it can be difficult to imagine how the colors will align when it is knit up. Samples help you decide if the yarn is a good choice for your project.

I like knitting samples for many reasons. Often I get to use expensive, luxurious yarns that I might not choose to afford for myself. This piece was knit with cashmere yarn and a multi-colored yarn spun with a glittery thread.

A Touch of Zen (Nature Speak Knits)

Some patterns have interesting techniques or construction methods so I have the fun of learning something new. This one uses dropped stitches to make interesting open ladders.

Drops and Ripples (Nature Speak Knits)

And here’s a shawl with beads in the edging.

Sister Joan (Sivia Harding Knit Design)

These pieces were all knit for Ellen’s 1/2 Pint Farm and are samples she uses in her festival booth.

Sometimes I’m knitting samples to coincide with the release of a new pattern. It is fun to be working on something secret, though it doesn’t make for good blogging because I can never show any of the work in progress. For some of these emerging patterns I have also been the tech editor. This means that I’m checking pattern math, making sure the instructions make sense and are described at a level consistent with the pattern rating, and of course, checking for typos. In this case, knitting the sample is the final step for me in editing the pattern. It not only has to look right on paper, but the instructions have to work right for the knitter.

I have a new project in my sample knitting queue, but there’s always room for more. If you make yarn or write patterns and need a knitter, I’d love to help you out.

Author: Jennifer Kortfelt

Owner, Heron Pond Designs, a fiber and textile exploration.

3 thoughts on “Sampler”

  1. This all seems like an important service you perform, especially making sure that patterns make sense and are error-free! Do you also weave samples or is it more a knitting thing?


  2. I haven’t done any weaving samples. Never really thought of that. I don’t think there’s the same volume of new work being published in weaving as compared to the knitting patterns that are released, especially by designers not associated with the big yarn companies (who tend to have their own teams for that.)


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