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See also: Swatch


Swatches (sense 1) of fabric


Etymology 1[edit]

From earlier Northern England dialectal swache (the counterfoil or counterstock of a tally) (1512); further etymology unknown. Cognate with Scots swach, swatch. Compare English swath, swathe. Compare also Old English swæcc (taste; flavour; odour; fragrance).


swatch (plural swatches)

  1. A piece, pattern, or sample, generally of cloth or a similar material.
    He held a swatch of the wallpaper up to see if the colors would match the room.
    • 1821 June, “Art. XVIII. The Ayrshire Legatees, or the Correspondence of the Pringle Family. From Blackwood's Magazine”, in John E[lihu] Hall, editor, The Port Folio, volume XI, number 234, Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by Harrison Hall, No. 5 North Eleventh street, →OCLC, page 411:
      [...] I beg you will go to Bailie Delap's shop, and get patterns of his best black bombaseen, and crape, and muslin, and bring them over to the parsonage, the morn's morning. [...] You will get, likewise, swatches of mourning print, with the lowest prices.
    • 2013, Kristin Omdahl, “Introduction”, in Knitting outside the Swatch: 40 Modern Motifs, Loveland, Colo.: Interweave, →ISBN, page 7:
      I love knitting motif swatches. They're small and quick to make, allowing you to experiment with new stitch patterns and techniques without a big commitment in time and yarn.
    • 2014, Chloe Taylor, Swatch Out!, New York, N.Y.: Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, →ISBN, page 45:
      "Shall I give you some money now for the swatches?" asked Mrs. Flynn. / "What's a swatch?" Sophie asked suddenly. / "A swatch," said Zoey, "is a little sample of fabric that people use to pick and choose what will work for them without having to buy a whole yard. And fabric swatches are free! So don't worry."
  2. A selection of such samples bound together.
  3. (figurative) A clump or portion of something.
    • 2013, Thomas Needham, Ronald Pratt, Helen Tse, Deb Watson, Nancy Wylie, “Introduction”, in The Art of Watercolor Painting: Master Techniques for Creating Stunning Works of Art in Watercolor, Irvine, Calif.: Walter Foster Publishing, →ISBN, page 11:
      Mix ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson in your palette until you get a rich purple, then paint a swatch on dry watercolor paper [...]. Next paint a swatch of ultramarine blue on dry watercolor paper. While this is still wet, add alizarin crimson to the lower part of the blue wash, and watch the colors connect and blend [...]. Compare the two swatches.
    • 2014, Gustavo S. Luengo, Anthony Galliano, Claude Dubief, “Aqueous Lubrication in Cosmetics”, in Nicholas D. Spencer, editor, Aqueous Lubrication: Natural and Biomimetic Approaches (IISc Research Monographs Series; 3), Singapore: World Scientific, →ISBN, page 123:
      A swatch of hair, cleaned with a cosmetic treatment (shampoo, conditioner, etc.), is wetted, combed and then tangled according to a standardized protocol. The combing forces on the swatch are measured with an extensometer.
  4. (figurative) A demonstration, an example, a proof.
    • 1717, anonymous [William Wright], The Comical History of the Marriage betwixt Fergusia and Heptarchus, Edinburgh: Printed by Robert Brown, →OCLC, page 15:
      Pray Sir, pay off the Old Debt, before I truſt you more New. This is a Swatch of Your Faith, and how much You are a Man of Your Word.
    • 1811, Thomas Boston, “Period XII”, in George Pritchard, editor, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Reverend Thomas Boston, A.M. Written by Himself. Abridged by George Pritchard, London: Printed by J. Barfield, Wardour-Street, and sold by Hamilton, Paternoster-Row; Murray, Princes-Street, Leicester-Square; and Palmer, Swallow-Street, Oxford-Street, →OCLC, pages 253–254:
      There were about nine score strangers in Midgehop; four score of them William Blaik entertained, [...]. And I believe their neighbour, Robert Bigger would be much the same. This I record once for all, for a swatch of the hospitality of the parish; for God has given this people a largeness of heart, to communicate of their substance, on these and other occasions also.
    • 1815, anonymous [Patrick Walker], “Follows a Short Vindication of Mr. Cameron's Name from the Many Foul Reproaches Cast upon It; as also of His Faithful Contendings for Substance and Circumstances of the Sworn to and Sealed Testimony of His Church, thorow All the Periods thereof”, in Some Remarkable Passages of the Life and Death of Mr. Alexander Peden, Late Minister of the Gospel at New Glenluce in Galloway. From the Fourth Aberdeen Edition, Pittsburgh, Pa.: Printed for Alexander M'Queen, by Robert Ferguson and Co., →OCLC, page 186:
      Their choosing such a moderator, so guilty of our national defections, of commissions and omissions, was a swatch of what members in the first assembly was made up of; men who had sinned away zeal and faithfulness, by wallowing in that sink and puddle of our national abominations of indulgences and toleration, and many otherwise guilty of sinful and shameful silence and unfaithfulness; [...]
  5. (Northern England, obsolete) A tag or other small object attached to another item as a means of identifying its owner; a tally; specifically the counterfoil of a tally.
    • c. 1512, “The Booke of All the Directions and Orders for Kepynge of My Lordes Hous Yerely. X. ITEM The Articles Howe the Clerks of the Kechinge and Clerks of the Brevements Shall Order Them aswell Conssernynge the Brevements as for Seynge to the Officers in their Officis to be Kept Daylye Weikely Monthely Quarterly Halff-Yerely and Yerely”, in The Regulations and Establishment of the Houshold of Henry Algernon Percy, the Fifth Earl of Northumberland, at His Castles of Wresill and Lekinfield in Yorkshire. Begun Anno Domini M.D. XII, London: [s.n.], published 1770, →OCLC; republished in Francis Grose, Thomas Astle, and other eminent antiquaries, compilers, The Antiquarian Repertory: A Miscellaneous Assemblage of Topography, History, Biography, Customs, and Manners. Intended to Illustrate and Preserve Several Valuable Remains of Old Times. [...] In Four Volumes, volume IV, London: Printed for and published by Edward Jeffery, No. 11, Pall-Mall, 1809, →OCLC, page 73:
      ITEM that the said Clerkis of the Brevements entre all the Taillis of the Furniunturs in the Jornall Booke in the Countynghous every day furthwith after the Brede be delyveret to the Pantre and then the Stoke [i.e., main part] of the Taill to by delyveret to the Baker and the Swache to the Pantler. [...] ITEM that the said Clerkis of the Brevements entre all the Taills of the Brasyantors in the Jornall Booke in the Countynghous at every tyme furthwith after the Bere be delyveret into the Buttry and then the Stoke of the Taill to be delyveret to the Brewar and the Swatche to the Butler.
    • [1721, N[athan] Bailey, “A SWACHE”, in An Universal Etymological English Dictionary: [], London: [] E. Bell, J. Darby, [], →OCLC:
      A SWACHE, A Tally. N[orth] C[ountry]]
    • [1829, John Trotter Brockett, A Glossary of North Country Words, in Use; with Their Etymology, and Affinity to Other Languages; and Occasional Notices of Local Customs and Popular Superstitions, Newcastle upon Tyne: Emerson Charnley, Bigg-Market; London: Baldwin and Cradock, →OCLC, page 297:
      Swatch, s[ubstantive] a pattern, a sample, a tally. V[ide] Ray [Collection of English Words (London, 1691)], swache.]
    • [1868, J. C. Atkinson, A Glossary of the Cleveland Dialect: Explanatory, Derivative, and Critical, London: John Russell Smith, Soho Square, →OCLC, page 512:
      Swatch, sb. [substantive] A wooden tally. / In the days of spinning-wheels and home-woven cloth, &c., it was customary to affix Swatches to the various rolls of cloth sent to the dyer's, which in this part of Cleveland were marked with the initials of the sender. According to the Wh. Gl. [A Glossary of Yorkshire Words and Phrases Collected in Whitby and the Neighbourhood, by an Inhabitant (London, 1855)] another mode of recognition was by cutting out a portion of the Swatch, and returning it to the bringer. This, when the dyeing was complete, on being fitted into the gap left, enabled the owner to recognise his own piece of cloth, or what not.]


swatch (third-person singular simple present swatches, present participle swatching, simple past and past participle swatched)

  1. To create a swatch, especially a sample of knitted fabric.
    Swatching is important in knitting to obtain the correct gauge.
    • 1976, Vogue, volume 166, London: Condé Nast Publications, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 482:
      This season, before you even think about the makeup you need, think about the beige/grey/rust/brown colors—and the clothes—you've been seeing on the preceding pages (to remind you, we've swatched some of them here).
    • 2010, Gail Callahan, “Show-off Patterns”, in Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques, North Adams, Mass.: Storey Publishing, →ISBN, page 159:
      Swatching may seem like a tedious chore when you're trying the gauge for a commercial yarn. But when you've just dyed your first skein of handpainted yarn, you'll be more than eager to see what it looks like worked up into a pattern.
    • 2014, Laura Nelkin, “Beaded Beauties”, in Knockout Knits: New Tricks for Scarves, Hats, Jewelry, and Other Accessories, Potter Craft, Crown Publishing Group, →ISBN, page 17:
      When I first learned how to knit, it didn't occur to me that beads could be incorporated into knitting. [] I swatched and ripped, then swatched and ripped again—until I figured out how to get the beads to lie exactly where I wanted them to be.

Etymology 2[edit]

Unknown; originally used chiefly in the East of England.


swatch (plural swatches)

  1. (UK) A channel or passage of water between sandbanks, or between a sandbank and a seashore.
    • 1801, John Ritchie, “Instructions for Sailing in the Northern Part of the Bay of Bengal. Part I. Survey of the Coast from Point Palmiras to the Braces; of the Outlets of the Ganges, and of the Interjacent Rivers from Hughly River to Roymongul”, in [Joseph Huddart], editor, The Oriental Navigator; or, New Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies, China, New Holland, &c. &c. &c. [...], 2nd edition, London: Printed and published by Robert Laurie and James Whittle, map, chart, & printsellers, No. 53, Fleet-Street, →OCLC, page 281:
      It muſt be obſerved, that the paſſages, called Cockerlees, are no other than ſwatches through the Long-Sand.
    • 1804, Captain Ritchie [i.e., John Ritchie], “Directions for Crossing the Head of the Bay of Bengal”, in William Herbert, William Nicholson, Samuel Dunn, Gabriel Wright, editors, A New Nautical Directory for the East-India and China Navigation: [...], 7th edition, London: Printed by S. Couchman, Throgmorton-Street, for and sold by William Gilbert, No. 148, Leadenhall-Street: Sold by A. Arrowsmith, Rathbone-Place; and Blacks and Parry, Leadenhall-Street, →OCLC, page 265:
      The Swatch, or Swatch of no ground, a chaſm in the bank, is ſituated between the latitudes of 21° and 21° 22′ North, and the middle of it lies about 50 leagues Weſt of the meridian of the White Cliffs.
    • 1853, Charles Lyell, chapter XVIII, in Principles of Geology [] , 9th edition, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., Book II, page 279:
      Opposite the middle of the delta, at the distance of thirty or forty miles from the coast, a deep submarine valley occurs, called the "swatch of no ground," about fifteen miles in diameter, where soundings of 180, and even 300, fathoms fail to reach the bottom. [] As the mud is known to extend for eighty miles farther into the gulf, an enormous thickness of matter must have been deposited in "the swatch."