I knit a lot of socks and other small items, and for those I don't usually swatch. Some say this is now wise, but I have not had many gauge accidents so far. Not since I learned about gauge, anyway. I've learned to trust my instincts and knowledge about how I knit enough to be brave most of the time.
For bigger things, where gauge matters, I've learned to make the right preparations though. Last weekend was swatch weekend in the knitting corner of my living room. Out came yarn appropriate for a spring and summer sweater, pattern for said sweater, my set of Denise Interchangeables, measuring tape and a fair portion of patience.
Swatching, for me, goes something like this:
-Hmmm, how many stitches to cast on for a swatch?
-The pattern says 18 stithes in moss stitch per 10 cm. Cast on 40. 40 is a nice round number.
*I go to get some tea
-Wich needles do I pick first?
-That's harder. No real logic to this, is there... Pick the largest of the ones I think are in the ballpark of being right.
*Tea is ready to be drunk
*I cast on loosely and after about an inch or two, this happens
-Gah, seed stitch is kind of boring...
-Yes, but look how pretty it is! Look at the pattern picture. See how beautiful that sweater looks. Knit on, don't mind it's slower than garter or stockinette!
-But blimey, seed stitch is boring to knit! And there is that tiny pain in the left wrist already.
-Stop whining! KNIT ON!
-Shut up! ...I think fresh air is needed...
(sound of clicking needles)
-Pffffffft, stupid seed stitch! At least the sleeves are stockinette...
-Yes, but the pattern does not tell you to swatch stockinette does it? Knit that damn swatch, I say.
-I think this is long enough.
-Boloney, you need at least another inch.
(clickity, clackity, clickity, clackity and the occational sigh)
-Hey, that looks right. Do three rows of stockinette now, and then change to the other needles.
-Yay, does that mean I'm half done?
-Maybe, but smaller needles means more stitches to knit before the swatch is big enough to measure row gauge...
-Heyheyhey, I just bound off the swatch.
-Good, lets fondle it a little bit, then throw it in the washing machine.
-Yesssssss! Oooooo, this feels nice.
-And don't forget to measure it before washing now, OK? And remember where you write it all down this time, please.
-God, who do you think you are? My mom? You sure sound just like her.
*(laying down on laundry room floor, peeking into machine)
-Where is it? Do you see it in there?
-Yes. It's there, behind that sock and that pink sweater. Don't you see it?
-Ah yes, there it is. How long left of the program?
-I don't know. An hour maybe? Gawd, this floor is dusty! Someone should vacuum down here.
(repeat from * three times with 20 minute intervals)
-Howdsitlook? Huh? huh?
-It looks good. Calm down, no need to run to get the tape measure yet... Oh OK, go get it... Quick!
(next morning, swatch is dry)
-Feels a bit stiff, doesn't it?
-Maybe a bit. Must be one of the special quality of cotton. I'm not all that familiar with cotton.
-Hey, here's an idea; put the swatch inside your t-shirt and walk around with it for a while. Maybe that will soften it up a bit. It's kind of like wearing the sweater... Maybe?
-Mmmmm, are you sure this is not stupid? Whatever, give it here, I'll do it if that's what makes you happy.
(Guro walks around with swatch inside t-shirt all day)
-Ummmm, whatever happened to that swatch?
-Hang on a sec, here it is. Oh my, it feels much nicer now.
-Lets measure, give it here. I said give it here, no need for all that cheek rubbing. It's not like it's a face cloth or anything!
Wow, this thing has grown! But the gauge is just right on the smaller needles. This is great!
-You know, we should treat ourselves to something. Want a glass of port to go with that smug smile?
-Sure. But stay away from the good stuff, we'll save that for when we have an entire sweater.
-Awwwww, but I thought....
-I said stay away. You'll thank me later! God, that swatch looks good...
(What, you think I'm mad now? You don't have conversations like that in your head? At least it's only in my head...)