I have a confession - I love doing a gauge swatch before starting a new project. Did I just hear a groan? But it is true. I find swatching relaxing and therapeutic. I know for a lot of knitters the excitement of a new knitting project is too much and they must start the project immediately. I see the gauge swatch as the start of the project. To me it is essential to the success of the final project. I firmly believe - No I KNOW - that the 3 essential elements of knitting - yarn, needles and hands - are different each time you use them. Let me explain. The excitement of a new project can make a usually tight knitter more loose and a usually loose knitter more tight. This can make for some interesting knitting. Also needles - wood, metal, or plastic - make a difference with the yarn. Knitting the gauge swatch is like a concert pianist practicing a new piece. Even if you have used that yarn before with those needles, the stitch pattern can throw you off. Swatching is my chance to get it right before I start the main event.
And I swatch big. Depending on the project, I usually knit a 5 to 6 inch square swatch. Even if the gauge only calls for a 1 inch swatch, I need to see the pattern over a larger area. I need to get the pattern in my fingers. But I never save my swatches. I live in fear of running out of yarn at the end of the project even though it has never happen. I frog the swatch after knitting it if I get the right gauge. So from this day forward, I'm going to save my swatches so I will have beautiful "catalog" of mini-projects!