How to sort your knitting swatches

How to sort your knitting swatches

When you knit a lot of test swatches, it's challenging not to be precious with every little knitted sample. You kind of want to keep them around, to admire and fondle them. But let's get organized. Let's declutter and move on

Get yourself a couple of clear storage boxes with lids.

Get all your swatches out, and sort them into piles.

Here's how I categorize mine:

Pile 1: Active swatches

These swatches are for yarn and designs that are currently under development. I try to keep this pile fairly lean. It's tempting to keep a stack of swatches in my knitting basket, but for my creative process, I have to make sure I don't clutter up my basket with too many "someday" projects. I'm a good multitasker up to a certain point, and then it all just turns to chaos. Knitter, Know Thyself.


Pile 2: Worth keeping

Here is where I file interesting textures and pretty yarns. I also put large swatches that I might want to reclaim for the yarn. (I sometimes test out pockets, undearms, sleeve caps, collars, and these tests take up a lot of yarn.) 

I also keep unsuccessful combos of yarn, stitch and/or needle size. Why would I want to keep those around? It's easy to forgot the misses, so I keep these as reminders to stop me from repeating the mistakes. 


Pile 3: Keep for posterity

Most of these swatches I don't really need to keep. They were used in design submissions, or in pattern development. The pattern has since been written, sample knit and tested, but I like to keep the swatches for posterity.


Pile 4: Might come back to that some day

Swatches that I can't quite bring myself to get rid of.


Pile 5: Inspiration

There are always a few swatches that you want to display. It's worth weaving in the ends, documenting the stitch and needle size, yarn colour and lot number. I like to tack these to the wall in my studio.


The Final Pile: Be cruel but firm

Get rid of some. Yes, you might cobble together a peculiar blanket out of that mixed pile, or you might reclaim a few yards of yarn. But will you really get around to it? Try a visualization trick: can you actually visualize yourself stitching them together and weaving in the ends? Would a blanket out of those swatches look good? Do you really need a few yards of crimped yarn? No? Be firm and be prepared to get rid of the ones that are holding you back.


Don't like the idea of putting knitting in the garbage? Neither do I. You can:

  • Put them neatly in a ziplock bag, and into the charity pile. Some knitter will find them and breathe new life into them or reclaim them for yarn.

  • Cut them up and put them out for birds to use in their nests.

  • Yarn bomber in your life? Those swatches would wrap a bike rack very nicely.


Stay inspired

Weigh your swatches. It's kinda fun to see how much you've done.

Take the time to stack up your swatches, organized by colour, and trim the dangling ends. 

When you're done, stash them away in clear storage boxes.


How much does your swatch collection weigh?"
Back to blog