Sashiko Happy Coat MAL Prep 1: How to swatch, block and practise the embroidery.

Updated: Apr 22



Hi everyone! I am as excited to start this Garment Masterclass Coat MAL as you probably are to get stuck-in to the project (I suspect we all love that “new-project feeling” as all our creative juices are going mad), but first it’s really important to sort out some technical stuff!


Now that you have chosen your Scheepjes Our Tribe and Alpaca Rhythm colours, next step is swatching for gauge, and practicing the embroidery on the swatch. First, I would recommend checking out my previously published post, CT#8 The Dreaded Swatch where I used my Sashiko Happy Coat as an example to explain the reasons for and importance of swatching and blocking, along with exactly what I mean by “blocking”.


Take a hot beverage and a chocky biscuit to sustain you through that bit of reading, then come on back here and I will go step-by-step through making the specific sized swatch described in my pattern, and show how to follow the path for the embroidery and what to do with those pesky tails!


WHERE ARE THE SWATCHING INSTRUCTIONS?

The Pattern Notes section of my Sashiko Happy Coat pattern describes my recommendation to work 33 fdc followed by 31 rows of “Main Fabric Patt” as a swatch, and references Stitch Chart 6 at the end of the document to describe the slip stitch embroidery.


A quick look at the Special Abbreviations section tells you that the “Main Fabric Patt” means “Ch1 (counts as dc), dc flo across”. The information to swatch is all there, but in retrospect I could have bunched it together and specifically written stitch instructions for the swatch in the Gauge section or Pattern Notes.


I will bear this in mind for future patterns, and it’s exactly what I will do here now: #alwaysimproving


Step 1 – Swatch Stitch Instructions

Row 1 (WS) With 5mm hook and 2 strands of Our Tribe, work 33 fdc, turn. [33 sts]

(For how to work the fdc, check out CT#7 FDC To the Max: Stretchy Stitches and Building Bridges).

Row 2 (RS) Ch1 (counts as dc), dc flo across (meaning dc flo in each stitch across to end, starting in 3rd st from hook as the ch1 counts as the first dc of the row and sits on top of the last fdc of previous row), turn. [33 sts]

Cont in Main Fabric Patt as described in prev row for 30 more rows. Fasten off.

This produces a “fabric ground (or grid)” 33 sts wide and 32 rows tall. We need this specific number for the embroidery path to work out.


Check out how to insert the hook in the last stitch of the row in this photo below:


I even made a video about how to work this straight edge - because how you turn has an impact! Or maybe this is more than you ever wanted to know about turning.... but here we are anyway:



Step 2 – Block Your Swatch

Next, wet-block and dry your swatch as described in CT#8 The Dreaded Swatch. Swatch and block again if required until your gauge is accurate or very close to accurate, bearing in mind the coat is constructed in vertically oriented rows so the stitch gauge will affect length of garment, and row gauge will affect chest/bust circumference of garment. (Each swatch should use approximately 28 grams of Yarn A, so the extra 1 ball is enough for 2-3 swatches if you use each end of the one ball).


Step 3 – Slip Stich Embroidery (Also known as “surface crochet”)

Let’s have a look at a Stitch Chart 6, and the instructions at the top and bottom of the chart:


Things to note:

· When reading the chart, each grey dot represents the top of a dc flo stitch. A hole is created by working only the flo when making the main fabric – insert the hook into that hole of any designated stitch. Work 3 stitches in a straight or diagonal direction as indicated to make each segment of the overall pattern of the swatch.


For extra clarity - here is a quick pic of my "Leftovers Coat" Collar (after blocking), held up to the light so you can see the holes I am talking about:

· The diagonal segments are the trickiest because it’s easy to accidentally go 1 stitch across & 2 rows up, instead of 1 stitch across & 1 row up when working the next diagonal stitch. Take note that the unworked loop of each dc row leaves a ridge every 2 rows of fabric, so use that as a landmark to help you as you stitch.


· The first of three embroidery stitch paths to complete the swatch starts one stitch in from each edge as indicated by the green coloured "1" and the associated directional arrows in green. Looking at the sides of the embroidery pattern, you can see a perimeter of 1 grey dot outside the embroidery, as all the outer-most embroidery stitches are positioned 1 stitch in from each edge of the swatch. Noting this is another landmark to guide your stitching to check you are in the right place as you work. The stitch and row count of the swatch must be accurate for the stitch paths to work this way.


· Use 2 strands of Alpaca Rhythm and a 5mm hook (or same sized hook you achieved gauge with when swatching the Main Fabric)

The path to follow becomes clearer when you scroll through the next few photos of my Mum’s swatch (thanks Mum!), and I will point out some stuff to notice under each pic.


STITCH PATH #1

To work with 2 strands of Alpaca, Mum used both ends of the same yarn ball.

For the fabric ground, the beginning tail before the fdc row is the one that is lighter in colour at the top-left, and the darker tail at the top-right is the finishing tail.


The start point is 1 stitch in from each edge at the corner nearest the bottom of the photo, and yellow arrows show stitching path across to the other corner and back again. You finish each stitch path in the same place that you started, then cut a 15 cm tail (We will come back to this - I will show you how to deal with the tails at the bottom of this post).


STITCH PATH #2

You can now see the new beginning tail for Stitch Path 2 as well as the two tails from Stitch Path 1 to finish off later. Red arrows indicate the weaving stitch path away from start point back around to start point, then green arrows indicate the return path back to the start point again.


STITCH PATH #3

Now you can see the beginning tail of Stitch Path 3 out the top-left side of the photo, blue arrows indicate stitch path away from start point back around to start point, then pink arrows indicate the return path back to the start point again.


Note that whenever you come up against the edge of the pattern, you turn 90 degrees to work the next segment, and this avoids the return path having to double back on itself. To imagine this, look at the bottom right corner of the above photo. The blue path could have curved right around in a three-quarter circle, but if so, the pink return path would have to hit the bottom edge, then turn 180 degrees to work the next segment, and then do that again at the next edge. If you do that, the slip stitches no longer sit flat on the fabric and it gets messy.


Step 4 – Hiding The Tails

I made this video to show how I deal with the tails. I made it all in one go (one take), and realised afterwards I left out a few words. When I transfer the loop to the back of the swatch, I should have said "you also then continue to gently pull on the hook until the tail is pulled through the loop to fasten off your yarn". Sorry about that - and just quietly, how riské is it when I break the rules and tie a knot, huh!? Very liberating!


Tail-hiding mystery solved - yay, right!? It's a bit fiddly, but gives a good result.


And voilá! Here is my finished swatch with my two embroidery yarns I will use for the coat. Thank you to Scheepjes for yarn support for my coat!:


And the back:


I hope all this has helped you to feel ready for the coat. Next week I will talk about choosing your size and how to see if you want to customise fit before we start the actual MAL April 8th!


While you are all swatching away and having a go at the embroidery, I will be testing out an coat idea that I have been itching to try for some time! "WHATS THIS?" you ask!?

A yarn experiment, if you will - if my initial reconnaissance work pans out okay, this could get really interesting....... (thoughtful face emoji goes here).


More on that later - wish me luck for phase one of the experiment for now while I swoosh off in a cloud of mystery...


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Happy Swatching!

Susan (Peppergoose)


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