I'm not a swatcher, at least not until recently. I always wanted to be. And, sometimes, I would swatch, at least sort of, in a small way. But I had never blocked a swatch. That turned out to be fatal a couple of times, like when I knit Tiny Owl's Fairy Lights Hat in Debbie Bliss Pure Cashmere, and the yarn bloomed and grew to half again it's original size when I blocked my beautiful, but now very large, hat.
Sometimes, I even pretended to myself that I was knitting a swatch, when my process wasn't sufficient and my count was haphazard. Recently, this resulted in an Agnes Sweater, which, although intended for me, didn't fit my 15 year old or even my 11 year old. A friend's 6 year old became the profoundly happy recipient of a gorgeous, but very small, sweater knit in Malabrigo Mecha.
My historical approach to swatching can only be called denial. It was obvious from pretty far out that no amount of blocking would make that teeny-tiny sweater fit my body!
Going forward, I'm committing to being a better swatcher. I recently discovered knitting podcasts, and one of the first ones I listened to was Kelley Petkun on the Knit Picks' Podcast. She made a compelling case for swatching. And, she made it sound fun. I'm glad I listened.
For example, one of the patterns in my queue is Gathered Pullover by Hanna Jason.
Her photo is gorgeous and I've wanted to knit this for a long time. If you look at the photo you can see you need a soft drapey yarn knit at a loose gauge. I swatched two different yarns I thought I wanted to use and I'm glad I did because even before I blocked them, it was apparent they were not going to be winners. Although I got gauge, neither was drapey or loose enough. Swatching here has caused me to pull out several finer yarns and saved me a lot of unhappiness.
This week, I've spent my time swatching for several new projects. I'm knitting generous swatches and carefully blocking them. I don't cut the yarn off of the skein -- instead I wash the swatch and block it still attached in case I need the yarn for the project. And, I've gone to knitting full swatches in the round because I know my gauge changes when I knit flat.
For a project in Malabrigo Rasta, I needed gauge in both stockinette and 2x2 rib. I turned my swatch into a pair of mittens.
I hope swatching will make me a much happier and more successful knitter. I feel like I'm finally on the way with swatching, although I may have gotten a little bit carried away with this one.