After a discussion about tension/gauge, this question arose: "So even if I follow the pattern exactly, it still might not turn out?"
Well ...following the pattern means many things. Unfortunately, it's more than just getting the knits and purls in the right place. Perhaps the most important part of following the pattern is getting the same tension or gauge. Knitting a swatch and counting the stitches to check your tension is IMPORTANT.
Check out these examples:
- Imagine that you are knitting a sweater in the round. You have a pattern for a 40 inch sweater that has you cast on 200 stitches. The tension is 20 sts over 4 inches ...or 5 sts per inch. (200/5=40)
- But what if you choose a too-thick yarn, needles that are too big, or you knit loosely? If your tension is 16 sts over 4 inches ...or 4 sts per inch, you are about to create a 50 inch sweater! (200/4=50)
- On the other end of the spectrum, if you've chosen a fine yarn or small needles, or you are a tight knitter, you might get 24 sts over 4 inches ...or 6 sts per inch and end up with a 33 inch sweater. (200/6=33) Surprise!!!
Lastly, you could knit your tension swatch perfectly. Ahhhhh.
After making progress on the sweater and getting comfortable with the pattern, you might relax (or stress out about something) and cause your tension to change.
So, it really is a great idea to check your tension regularly - just get out your ruler and count those stitches.
Does this take the fun out of your knitting? Maybe a bit, but at least you will be following the pattern exactly, and you'll get the results that you want without the nasty surprises.