Everybody knows that swatches are liars.
Much has been written on the subject in the knitting world. You knit a swatch--a small sample of fabric--and measure it to see if your measurements are the same as those called for in the pattern. If you don't pay attention, your knitting will screw you. The truth is that even if you DO pay attention, your knitting will screw you.
Yet, I continue knitting them as an offering to the Universe. It appeals to my sense of fair play: I make a swatch to show I'm serious. The Universe then rewards that action by allowing me to knit a product that actually fits someone. (I choose to ignore the fact that the Universe has a different perspective on fair play.)
Tonight I started swatching for this sweater (ravelry link). I faithfully knit a swatch larger than the 4" square required in the cabled pattern. I bound off. I prepared to measure. I checked the pattern for the number of stitches required for the 4" measurement.
The gauge swatch was supposed to be knit in stockinette. It was supposed to be flat, not in the cabled pattern in which the sweater is knit.
It's okay. I can take it. I didn't read carefully, and this is what happens when I don't read a pattern carefully. I just need to rip it out and reknit.
So I did.
Ready to measure, I checked the pattern for the correct number of stitches. I counted.
Not the same. Okay, well, that's certainly possible. Just because I'm using the needle size the pattern recommends and the exact yarn the pattern recommends doesn't mean I'll get gauge.
I take a more careful look at the pattern.
Stockinette, right. 4", right. 15 sts, right. 21 rows, right. Pattern #18.
I had knit the first gauge swatch correctly. When I went to check those measurements, I read the gauge instructions for the next pattern in the magazine, ripped out the correct work and reknit something that is completely wrong.
Even I underestimated the swatch's power and its inclination toward evil.
I'll start again tomorrow.