About 1-1/2 weeks ago, I went to L.A. by myself to attend a seminar. I got to hang out for a day with a dear friend of mine who drove there to see me, but the rest of the time, I didn't do much. I would attend the seminar all day, and in the evening, I'd retreat to my hotel room. My very quiet, very peaceful hotel room. Close your eyes a minute and picture it. I tell you, it was lovely! With nothing but the Olympics to distract me, I got a LOT of knitting done! Here's how far along I am on Wisteria:
As long as we're being quiet, I will share with you a deep, dark secret: I hardly ever knit a swatch anymore. That's right. I confess the main reasons have to do with laziness and with impatience to start a project if I'm really excited about it. But it's also the case that the swatches I have made are not necessarily representative. I find that once I start a project in earnest, my knitting relaxes and my gauge gets a bit bigger, especially if I'm knitting in the round.
I get around the swatching issue by using a combination of blocking and a fair bit of math. To start, I carefully study the pattern schematics and decide how I want the garment to fit, adjusting any measurements that might be needed. Then, I look at the recommended needle size for the yarn and look at what gauge you are supposed to be able to get with that needle size. I calculate out how many stitches I need to cast on and get started! If in doubt, I err a bit on the side of making it larger because if I'm making a sweater (which I usually am), I want to make sure that the neck opening in a top-down sweater or the hips on a bottom-up sweater are wide enough. I knit on for awhile, until I get to some critical juncture in the shaping, and then I wet block the whole thing...right on the needle cords. I lay it out to dry and pat it down to smooth it out, but I do not stretch, scrunch, or manipulate it in any way. The yarn is allowed to do whatever it wants to. This gives much better information than a 4x4" swatch does. Once everything is nicely blocked, I measure the resultant gauge. After that, I recalculate the increases/decreases and adjust the stitch count in the pattern to match the measurements I want. Basically, this is a way to make the pattern conform to my gauge, rather than trying to make the gauge conform to the pattern. It's working so far, and I haven't had any really unpleasant surprises. (In case you're wondering, Wisteria was made without a swatch.)