I almost always make a gauge swatch. There are several different reasons that I do this, which I thought I would share here.
Sometimes I buy yarn without a specific project in mind. The yarn in this first swatch is some I purchased in Osaka. It was inexpensive and I like finer yarns. I thought I'd make myself a one-color sweater out of it. After getting home I started looking for patterns for sweaters using finer yarn. I didn't find a large selection, but did think that some of the ones in Ann McCauley's book, Together or Separate would work. So I bought the book, which I knew I liked and tried swatching the yarn for one of the sweaters. The twisted cable stitch was the pattern I thought would work. But it didn't. I'm not sure if it shows well in the photo, but the yarn was just too fine and hard for this stitch. I try to remember to add tags to my swatches so that when I go back to them later I will know what size needle I used.
I gave up and tried adding the teal yarn, which I had on hand and tried a stitch motif from another book. This I liked much better and so I kept looking for more 2 and 3-color patterns that I thought would work with this yarn and ended up designing my own sweater, which I blogged about earlier, so that's all I'm going to say about that here.
This next swatch is made from the yarn that was recommended in Ann McCauley's book for that twisted-rib sweater. It's Nature Spun sport. I made a swatch with that yarn to check the gauge, but also to practice the pattern. I'd never done the twisted or Bavarian rib stitch before and I wanted to get the hang of it before casting on for the sweater. I started with a #5 needle as called for in the pattern, but switched to a #6, because it was coming out a little small. After doing the sleeves I am still afraid they are coming out too small, but it's a rib stitch so will stretch. Maybe it will be okay. I haven't finished the sweater yet. This is in my Ravelry projects page.
The next photo shows two swatches made from the same ball, but in different patterns. I decided to do the Voyager Lace stole as a KAL and thought I'd use this yarn, but was not happy with the result, so I used the Louisa Harding cotton that I had on hand as well. That turned out nicely. This yarn was just too fine for that project. Then I did a swatch for an Estonian Lace stole. I may go back to that one some day. When I swatch for a shawl or stole it is more to practice the pattern than for the size, which doesn't matter much. It is helpful to me if the author gives a practice motif for a swatch.
The following swatch is made from the Louisa Harding cotton, that I ended up using for the stole. I think there is a photo of that one further back in the blog. I was much happier with the stitch in this yarn. I also undid the provisional cast-on (the blue yarn above) and worked the picot edging--again for practice as that was another technique I had never done before. This one is also in my
This next swatch was done for the Ivy League Vest I made from a pattern by Eunny Jang. This time I was working on checking the gauge, but also working out what colors I wanted. I had a grey in there, that I think doesn't show in the swatch, because it was actually stitched over. All the balls looked nice together, but in the stitch pattern, I didn't like the grey with the other colors, so changed it to a different color--more of a taupe-brown, which shows up on the right side of this photo.My vest on Ravelry.
And I have one more that is still unfinished. I am trying to decide what to do with this yarn. It is a cotton-Filatura di Crossa. I was planning to make a summer short-sleeved sweater for this summer, but the summer is gone and I haven't gotten around to it yet. I played around with patterns to see what would show up in this yarn. I also played around with knitting back wards on a small section of it, so that's the reason it has that separate 1" section.
And finally I have one I did years ago. I had bought this blue and white cotton yarn, which I think was a kit, in Holland. But when I got home and tried the motif in a swatch, it just didn't work for me. The single column of white stitches forming the stem got swallowed up by the blue. I then tried to see if I could do them by duplicate stitch, but didn't like that either. The whole thing is lumpy. I chose a different pattern for that yarn and made a completely different sweater with larger blocks of color.
So for me there are lots of reasons beside checking gauge to make a gauge swatch. Sometimes it's just fun to play with a new yarn even though I'm not ready to cast on for an actual project yet. You can also use the swatch to find out if you will have enough yarn to complete a project, but I haven't used one in that way yet. I do use them to check how the finished fabric will behave in the washer.
Boy that was wordy for me! The next post will be shorter, I promise.