It turns out that I'm a very lazy swatcher. In my mind I'd always had myself pegged as quite conscientious about swatching but I realise now I was kidding myself. Although I'll often knit a gauge swatch that's normally been as far as things get. Wash it? Nope. Pin it out and measure it properly? Nope. Even though I know I should. And why not? This is where some knitting police would have come in handy - a firm word from them may have set me on the right path long ago. I mean really, either be a rebel and knit on without a swatch or having taken the trouble to knit the thing use it properly.
After starting my cushion swatching (probably smaller than the ones you're thinking of Rachel, update as soon as there's something pretty to take a picture of Bells) I realised I would have to steal some Rowanspun from a sweater's worth of that pretty soft purple you can see above. It had dreams of becoming Assemblage but it turns out I never had enough for that even before potential thieving. So then I swatched to see if I could make the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts (which would allow the stealing of a skein or two) work as a DK weight and thought hmmm not easily but I'm having that skein of Rowanspun anyway.
Then I decided I'd better swatch for my next prospective sweater project Francis Revisited to make sure it wouldn't turn out to be a no-goer too. So there I was quite in the swatching groove , feeling virtuous but unjustly so as it was a lazy groove. It was only the swatch for the cushion that I was going to wash - because obviously making it fit an inanimate cushion pad is so much trickier than making a jumper fit a real live human. Something about the fact of starting this project from scratch made me want to do it all properly and I'm just going to try and carry that feeling forwards. Having made the decision that a project warrants a swatch, the small amount of extra time to wash, dry and pin out for measuring must surely be worth it.
There's a lot of really useful info on gauge in this article from the Knitty archives. Any lazy swatchers take this as your warning from the knitting police: "It's only yourself you'll hurt if you don't swatch it out right (unless you attack someone close by with your just discarded knitting needles but that falls under the jurisdiction of the human police.) "
However this doing things properly is a bit of a can of worms - Francis is knit in the round with gauge measured as such. I knew this when I knit the flat swatch but you know, it was easier to knit it flat because I couldn't remember how to knit a swatch in the round and it's not like I have a world of knitting resources at my fingertips is it? (http://knitting.about.com/od/knittingskills/qt/circular_swatch.htm)
My swatches tell me I'm good to go on this project in my stitch gauge but I am out on row gauge and will have a small amount of maths to do. I'm so pleased to know that ahead of time as a bit of maths in and amongst my current crop of projects is bearable but if I had to recalculate while I was champing at the bit to cast on I think the lazy so and so in me would have tried to just get on with it and then wondered why my shaping was all odd.
So now I am officially the goodest behaved swatcher and preparer for projects ever. Do you want to know something ironic though? My row and stitch gauge in the Silk Tweed is the same both knit back and forth and in the round. I'll bet it wouldn't have been if I'd only done the one swatch!