I know that many people don't get excited about swatching before they knit a project. I don't really enjoy it, I am usually anxious to begin on the "real" project. However, a big mistake in a new felted piece yesterday underscored the importance of this task for me. The bummer thing about felting after knitting is that the project is not really salvageable. I can't just frog it out and start over. I have to buy more yarn.
I usually make a small swatch, 10-12 stitches by about 12 rows. Then I measure the gauge, do the math for my new piece and get knitting. This method has 2 problems- the swatch is way too small to get an accurate measurement and I have to remember the gauge when working with the yarn again or find it scribbled in my notes. Two swatches shouldn't fit in my hand with room to spare-
I also have yarn labels and bits of yarn that end up in strange places: my kitchen utensil drawer, bike cargo bags and my kid's toy bins. It's hard to keep up with all the bits.
I'm ready to change my ways! When I begin working with a new yarn, I resolve to make a large swatch and measure (and record!) the pre-and post-felting measurements. I design mostly felted items and work with a half-dozen standard wools and only a couple knitting needle sizes. So if I do a good job recording this information, my design math will go much more smoothly.
I just made up some swatch cards for myself as a way to organize this information. I've got room to pin the swatch to the front of the card and can attach the yarn label to the back of the card. There are lines for relevant info, including "notes," where I can note the swatch pattern, where I bought the yarn or ideas for projects.
I know it's a simple project, but if you'd like to print off some swatch cards of your own, click here for a downloadable pdf so you can have organized swatches too! Hooray for thoughtful, careful work and finding stuff when you need it.