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What’s a gauge swatch? It’s a knitting thing. The gauge of a piece of knitting is how many stitches per inch—horizontally and vertically—its fabric has. Obviously, this is an important matter related to size and fit, and it is a fundamental piece of information for any knitting pattern or plan. A gauge swatch is a small piece of knitting done to assess whether the knitter can knit a yarn to the gauge specified by a pattern using the needles called for, or whether something must be changed to make the project successful.

A gauge swatch is also an opportunity for the knitter to assess whether the chosen yarn, knitted to the gauge required in a pattern, creates a pleasing fabric. So a gauge swatch could potentially lead to a radical change in plans: a new yarn (to stick with the pattern) or a change of pattern (to stick with the yarn). Change of one kind or another, large or small, is always a possibility when a knitter is swatching.

One ignores gauge at one’s peril. Long ago, a friend whose husband is very tall, but not quite NBA size, neglected to verify her gauge when she made him a sweater. The “Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sweater” that resulted wasn’t much use to him even if he did like to play basketball. I made a couple of such sweaters for my significant other back then, too. Now I’m much older, and, at least as it pertains to knitting, considerably wiser. I’m careful about gauge. A gauge swatch indicates a respect not only for the fitness of the finished product for its purpose but for precious and finite time: the time that will be used in making the finished item instead of doing the myriad other things that could be done in that time, and the time that will be saved if nothing has to be redone. Experienced knitters are tough—when it’s time to ravel something they usually do it with no sniveling—but the best raveling is the raveling you don’t have to do.

You see the metaphors lurking here?

I’m imagining these small bits of writing as gauge swatches. A number of related idioms come to mind: “sizing things up” is probably the best one for my purposes. I intend to ponder multiple subjects, all of them the concerns of a retired community college English teacher, mother, and grandmother, a woman who knits and spins, perhaps just a bit too much (the word ‘obsessed’ does come to mind), but who is also permanently committed to reading and thinking and being with family and friends and trying to keep up with the news and the arts—and keeping a house, too, though you can probably imagine what impact the knitting and spinning and reading might have on that last one! My “swatches” will be attempts to take the measure of some of my thoughts, projects, and adventures.