On the Ravelry Knitting at Large board, a participant asks the most-asked knitting question ever: do I really need to swatch? The admittedly novice knitter hates wasting her time making little squares that are good for absolutely nothing.
I understand her pain and countless knitters over the centuries have shared her sentiment. But I have to disagree. Those little squares make the difference between a sweater that fits and one that doesn't.
Webs, the world's favorite yarn store, yesterday posted a photograph that paints a thousand words. Using exactly the same yarn, stitch count, and needle size, two women knitted swatches - and got completely different gauges. If their cardigan pattern calls for a gauge of 4.5 inches, they'd both be wrong! And end up with sweaters that don't fit.
So yes, Virginia, if you want to make a sweater that matches a pattern, you must swatch. You will indeed end up with a bunch of little squares, but when you're done, you can turn them into Christmas ornaments. Here's an Interweave pattern that shows how.