I am sure everyone knows the importance of swatching...but I admit that I am still amazed when I hear people say that they don't swatch. It is such a small thing, that right off the bat, can determine the success or failure of a project. It is a lovely "first date" with your yarn (without all that awkwardness and sweaty palms!), where you get to know each other and can determine if you two will work well together in the long term. You get to learn what needles your yarn works well with and how well behaved it is after an introduction to water. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, or you may find that yarn is better suited to another project down the road.
Me, I love swatching, if you can't tell from that lead in! It wasn't always this way, but after many hours and a couple of ill-fitting sweaters in my early knitting career, lesson learned. Now, sometimes I am more excited about swatching than any other part of the project. I love trying new yarns and stitch patterns and also trying out different needles (bamboo, hardwood, stainless steel) to see which will be most comfortable and easiest to work with.
All of my designs are based off of the gauge on my swatch. Before I got into designing I didn't realize all the math involved and that the key numbers that rule everything are the stitches and rows per inch. All of the stitch counts, finished measurements and grading starts with those numbers, so it really is important! I can guarantee that in most instances, if you do not obtain pattern gauge, it will not come out the size stated in the pattern...size and gauge go hand in hand. By simply taking a little extra time before you start, you can ensure an awesome FO!
So after my little ode to swatching, I will try to offer a weekly piece wherein I feature a swatch that I am working on. Heck I could probably feature a swatch a day with the number I have hanging around here ;)