When I first started knitting, I just wanted to get going, like, RIGHT NOW!!! So would just cast on and knit. When I finally admitted that swatching was sometimes necessary, I grudgingly made these teeny, miserly little swatches and didn't bother to wash or block them, or sometimes even bind off and take them off the needles before measuring. This may explain why my first half-dozen sweaters ended up in the frog pond.
I've gotten to the point now where I really like swatching. And I don't swatch just for gauge. I swatch to see how I like working with a certain yarn. I swatch up different stitch patterns just to see how it'll work in such-and-such a colour, or such-and-such a fibre. I swatch because a lace catches my eye when I flip through my stitch dictionaries. I swatch because I see a picture or scene and think, Hmm, I wonder if that could be captured in a knitted way? Basically, I swatch now just to play, and I consider this a welcome milestone in my development as a knitter and designer.
I swatched a lot this last week, because Jen of Fyberspates sent me some gorgeous gorgeous yarns to play and design with.
The red is her superwash British merino dk, which I really enjoyed working with. Knits up beeyoootifully. The big middle swatch is her Scrumptious chunky, a wool/silk blend. I couldn't adequately capture the colour (a springy-mossy green) and sheen of this yarn, or the great nubbly-woven texture of the stitch here. Take my word for it, it's just lovely. The Limey, who is not normally a fan of green, was bewitched by this yarn. He grabbed it as soon as I opened the package and I had to pull it away from him to knit with it.
I've got grand plans for these yarns, so watch this space!