How did I get to be the Knit Nite Gauge Lady?
Maybe because everytime someone starts a project and says something like "I hope this will fit," or "I hope this yarn will work ok instead," I say, "Did you knit a swatch? Are you matching the gauge?"
We know we take our knitting sanity in our hands when we try to knit a worsted pattern with chunky yarn, or when we use handspun and aren't quite sure of the weight, and yet we blindly cast on the stitches specified in the pattern with the suggested needle size and knit forth.
Maybe it is all the Elizabeth Zimmermann and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee that I have read, but I constantly find myself asking that same questions. And the funny thing is, by swatch standards, I knit very inadequate swatches. I may knit a couple inches on about 25 stitches, and if it is on my circs, I slide the stitches to the cable, put them on a flat surface and measure in several places. If I have match stitch gauge, I call it good. Or if I am off, I calculate the desired size I want and then recalculate the stitches I need to cast on for my project. Occasionally I will try a smaller or larger needle, but mostly if I like the way the swatch looks, I jumble figures.
Of course since I am rather ample in size, I usually need to up-size a pattern, so I have to recalculate anyway. What is a little more figuring?
But once I have established what gauge I will be using, I check it repeatedly while knitting. Have you seen the little brass gauges, shaped like a sheep? You can check your needle size on them, and they have a 2 inch L shaped window cut-out to use for counting your stitches. But what I find most useful is the fact that the feet are exactly 1 inch apart. I can take the little sheep, lay its feet on the project and count the stitches between the feet at a glance, and over several areas.
So easy. So I guess in a way, my project is also my constant ever-growing swatch.