From the delightful wonderful TECHknitting blog:
You've read the blah, blah, blah advice a hundred times–make a gauge swatch before you start knitting your garment. Wash the gauge swatch. Dry the gauge swatch. Measure the number of stitches and number of rows per inch to be sure you're getting the same gauge as the pattern calls for. Adjust to smaller needles if you need to get more stitches per inch, larger needles for fewer stitches per inch. Blah, blah, blah.
If you do all that stuff, congratulations–you are a sober, mature person with whom it would be a honor to shake hands–a beacon, a knitting role model. You're all set–no need to read further–read a different blog for today.
Back here in the real world, there's a ball of yarn screeching to be knit, and a pattern demanding to be started NOW. You know you shouldn't, but sister, you know you're going to do it anyway–grab the needles recommended in the pattern, cast on, and hope for the best.
It's a classic in philosophy–what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? What happens when your irresistible desire to start NOW smacks up against the stone-cold fact that, without a gauge swatch, you're most unlikely to actually accomplish that flattering, graceful garment in which your imagination clothes you? Will you stop and reconsider? Will you actually make a gauge swatch? Maybe–but if you're still reading, I'm not laying money on it.
So, how shall you tame the mighty urge?
continues here . . . TECHknitting: Gauge-less gauge swatches, or \dating.