You've just bought the most delicious yarn to make the perfect pattern and you can't wait to cast on! You have cleared your schedule and have a few precious hours to spend on your beautiful new creation.Then a niggling thought comes to the forefront of your mind. It gets stronger. And stronger. You try to push it away but you know you must pay attention to that thought no matter how hard you fight it.Enter The Swatch.....You say to yourself, "But it's just a hat, it will fit!". And you remember the hat you made that was smaller than you intended and it looks not-quite-right to you when you put it on.Or you might say, "But it's just a shawl, shawls can be any size!". And you remember the two you made that turned out way too small and you can't wrap them around your neck like you wanted. Possibly there was also another one that ended up quite a bit larger than you wanted!Then there's the cardigan you made out of that lovely soft yarn. If you'd swatched, you'd have known that certain yarn grows quite a bit when washed and blocked. You wouldn't have ended up with a sweater that you can wear over a sweatshirt if the need ever arises!These are all real consequences of not swatching. Just ask Jenny!So before you start on that amazing project, heave a big sigh, resign yourself, and get out your needles! If it's truly a project where you don't mind what the finished size is, forge ahead. Otherwise, swatch!The making of a swatch.....Most of the designers and teachers now are suggesting a 6" swatch. However, if all you can bring yourself to do is a 4" one, then start with that.For our purposes, we're going to assume you will make a stockinette swatch. Use the needle size called for in the directions. Your pattern will most likely give you a gauge over 4 inches, some give the number of stitches per inch. Cast on at least that many plus about 6 extra stitches. Those extra stitches are for a 3 stitch garter border at each edge to prevent curling.First, knit a few rows of garter stitch. Then knit the first and last 3 stitches at each side on every row. Make it 4" long and knit another few rows of garter and bind off. Now comes the tedious overnight wait because, for the swatch to do any good, it must be blocked. When you lay it out to dry, pat it into shape but don't pin it to a certain size. Let the yarn do what it wants to as it dries.When it's dry, count your stitches over at least 2 inches and do the math to see how close you are to the pattern's gauge. You may need two or three swatches to get as close as possible to what the pattern calls for. If you know you're a loose or tight knitter, you may start out using a needle a size larger or smaller than called for in the pattern.Recently, Jenny swatched Blue Sky Fiber's Woolstok on three sizes of needles to get the correct gauge for a baby sweater and a baby hat. Both garments needed to be a certain size so the swatching was necessary even for baby items! A little bird whispered that she wasn't too happy with all that swatching but she was definitely happy with the result!If you need any help or encouragement with swatching, we're most happy to be of assistance!