These words of wisdom are from the wonderful Lynne.
So, Ellen has finally converted you to the
Church of the Swatch. You're casting on, trying stitch patterns, checking gauge, making sure you like the knitting and the product. All good.
But you're not quite done. Like a kid after a fun day in the yard, that swatch needs A Little Bath. No big production, just a chance to get soft and sweet and lovely. Who among us doesn't need that? Grab your swatch, and a bit of super-mild soap (Soak and Woolwash, both available at the shop, are great-smelling, gentle-for-all-fibers options). Fill a basin (I use my bathroom sink) with barely-warm water. Add a tiny spritz of your chosen soap, swish around a little, and drop in your swatch. It may need a little encouragement to sink. Give it a few extremely tender squeezes, then leave it to bask in its bubble-bath for a little while. Five, ten minutes, maybe? Come back, lift the swatch gently from the bath, run some clear, barely-warm water into the basin (bowl, kitchen sink, whatever works for you), swish it a little. Repeat until the water is clear. Roll up your little swatch in a clean, dry towel (bath towel, dish towel, several paper towels--again, whatever is handy and works for you). Gently but firmly (you know, like that grimy little kid who needs a bath?), squeeze the water from the swatch. Toss over a towel rack, and leave the swatch to its own devices overnight.
Next day (Or whenever you're ready to think about it again. Don't worry, the swatch will wait.), come back. If you've knitted with a natural fiber, particularly wool, or with any yarn incorporating truly yummy fibers like cashmere or angora (Especially angora. The bunnies love the bath.), your swatch will be softer and drapier, and your stitches will look more even. It's called "bloom," and even the finest of yarns need a little bath to blossom fully. Your gauge may change a bit, and since you're eventually going to want to be able to clean whatever you knit, it's better to know now if the gentlest of cleaning methods will make your hat-mittens-sweater shrink or grow.
Think how much a nice warm bath or shower changes the way you feel. Same with knitting. That Noro Kureyon with the colors that call to you, but that feels maybe a little rough in the skein? Not sure you'd wear it? Knit a swatch. Give it A Little Bath. Transformative, I promise. Some experts call this "wet blocking." That seems a little dictatorial to me, in a soggy kind of way. Giving My Knitting A Little Bath sounds friendlier, lower tech, with lower stakes. But whatever you call the process, make it a regular part of your knitting routine. You'll be glad you did.