Knitters, this means you
CAUTION: Tiny little rant ahead. The forgiving nature of yarn and the use of blocking has given many knitters and crocheters the mistaken view that creating a gauge swatch is unnecessary. While I am at least as impulsive as the next guy (as long as he or she is a knitter), I rarely if ever attempt a project without first creating a gauge swatch.
Project planning and "rehearsal" is practiced by all types of artisans, whether they're painters creating "cartoons" before touching paint to precious and costly canvases, jewelry makers who lay out their strands on a board before stringing their gemstones or couturiers who build an entire dress out of muslin before cutting their silks.
Knitters and crocheters should treat our process and our materials with such respect. I find the process of swatching meditative and creative. This is no box to check by rote, but rather an essential element of the creative process.
My favorite description of swatching is finding out what the yarn wants to be. And this is a step no yarn crafter who wishes to raise their game should skip -- and I've learned this the hard way. Exhibit A at right is a sweater I knit completely -- front, back and arms -- before deciding that the yarn was completely unsuited to the pattern.
It took more than a year for me to find the courage to rip out more than $50 worth of yarn and try to re-think the project. Imagine if I had swatched carefully -- 'nuf said.