I love stripes, and I am not afraid to wear them -- even horizontal ones. It's a good thing that I like stripes, because I hate wasting yarn. As a result, I frequently test new knitting patterns by knitting them in stripes with scraps of yarn. Yes, other color patterns would work, too, but here I am going for speed because I want to move on to the "real" yarn and the "real" project.
Why test a pattern at all? After all, the people who write these patterns are hardly beginners, and presumably, their patterns have already been tested extensively by expert knitters. However, I do not consider myself an expert knitter, and I do not always have access to the same wonderful tools or the same glorious yarns as experts do. Moreover, the size that the designer considers "small" might not be the same "small" that I have in mind. Furthermore, my knitting gauge might be one stitch or one half a row off of the norm. Therefore, I always test a pattern before I get really serious about it.
The photo above is my test of the "Jewel" shell pattern from Custom Knits (by Wendy Bernard, 2008). The finished measurements for the shell for the three smallest sizes were given as 30.5, 34.5 and 38.5 inches, respectively. Well, I figured that the 34.5 inch size was a little small and the 38.5 inch size was a little big. To be on the safe side, I opted for the 38.5 inch size. Part of the way through the test, though, I discovered that the shell was going to be much too wide for me. I had already completed the yoke and I liked it, so I skipped some of the armhole increases, which made the shell more my size. Now I know that when I try it again "for real," I should make the small size.
The next photo shows my version of a striped skirt I saw in Kaffe Fasset's book, Glorious Knits (1985, pp. 15-16). His version is knitted from the bottom up, which means that I would have to make it a certain length. I wanted to decide on the length later, so I worked mine from the top down. Also, if I used the recommended size of needles, I thought it might turn out too airy (or require lining). I used smaller needles and a different yarn and calculated the number of stitches and increases by knitting a swatch and applying some algebra. Then I added in a little texture toward the bottom and a frilly hem.
Testing patterns is a great way to make sure that the final product will be one that I enjoy wearing -- that it will fit well and that the yarn will be appropriate for that particular garment. It also provides me with some fun and interesting clothes to wear!