You know how patterns direct you to make a swatch before you begin your project? Do you actually do it? If you said "yes", here's another question for you: do you wash and block your swatch before you validate your gauge?
I'm not a purist, and if you are doing something like a blanket, a scarf, or even some unstructured wearable like a poncho - then close-enough is good-enough when it comes to gauge. But if you are making a fitted wearable, then gauge is CRITICAL and it will make or break your project. Think about it for a minute: At some point you will need to wash whatever you make and washing the fabric and drying it is going to change your gauge. Also: Please just block your projects when you finish them. It takes them from looking all crumply and "home-made" to something spectacular that others will assume you purchased in an expensive store. And blocking also changes your gauge. Thus: wash and block your swatches for a fitted wearable.
For those who know me or have taken my classes, then you know I'm a big believer in cheats and shortcuts and I love to share them. So here's my cheat for washing and blocking your swatch: fill up a mason jar (or any jar) with water and laundry soap, shake it up, massage your swatch slightly and let it soak for a while. (Take my new Craftsy class for an entire lesson on tips & tricks for swatching for a fitted wearable.) I LOVE Eucalan for my projects because you don't have to rinse it out and it smells good. That's right: you let it soak for 15 minutes or more and rinsing is optional. Rinsing is always the most tedious part of handwashing and using Eucalan helps you avoid the hassle.
Did I say that Eucalan smells good? It comes in a number of really lovely fragrances, including Eucalyptus and Lavender. And now it comes in a very heady sensual jasmine scent called Wrapture from designer Kristin Omdahl. I'm designing a set of free washcloths to be available very soon from the Stitch Diva site, and I have washed and blocked them in Wrapture using my Mason Jar trick. Imagine what a wonderfully-scented Christmas gift they will make: Fast, beautifully-scented hand-knitted gifts with minimal effort.
If this blog post didn't inspire you to start washing your swatches, maybe a free vial of Wrapture deliciousness will inspire you. I'm giving away a free 100mL bottle of Wrapture. For a chance to win, just comment on this blog post or the Facebook post for this giveaway. Bonus points for commentors who talk about their take on swatching and washing.
Winner selected on Tuesday 11/13. Good luck! If you don't win, don't despair, you can buy Eucalan online.