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Crochet gauge is often overlooked but it is extremely important as it ensures that your crocheted accessories or garments actually fit.
Not all crochet stitches the same way – some tend to crochet loose stitches while others crochet tighter stitches. Therefore, there is no guarantee that your crocheted stitches will match the sizes of the pattern designer.
Now, there is nothing that dictates that you have to match the gauge given in the pattern. However, if you do not, you should be prepared for some of the consequences. They include ending up with oversized garments or hats you cannot pull down on your head!
Running out of yarn for your project might also be a consequence of not matching the gauge in your crochet pattern.
Of course, matching gauge is not important for all types of projects. For instances, it will probably not matter when you are crocheting a dishcloth or even a bag.
To sum up, not matching gauge can dramatically affect the look, feel, size and shape of your crochet projects!
What is crochet gauge?
Simply put, crochet gauge is how big your crocheted stiches are. In other words, it is how many stitches and rows you have per inch (or centimeter) in an area of crocheted fabric. So, we use gauge to measure both the width of your crochet stitches as well as the height of your stitches.
To get as accurate a measurement as possible, crochet gauge is usually measured over a 4 inch (or 10 cm) squared area.
Many crocheters prefer not to make a gauge swatch and just jump straight into their crochet project. This method may work if you are making smaller items such as mittens or hats. You can just start the project and then test the fit after a few rounds. However, you should be prepared to rip it out and start all over again if it does not fit.
How do you crochet a gauge swatch?
Gauge is normally measured over 4 inches by 4 inches. Or 10 cm by 10 cm if you are a metric user.
When crocheting your gauge swatch, make sure that you use the same yarn as you are planning to use for your project.
Start by chaining the number of stitches that you pattern calls for. Then chain some additional stitches, enough for your gauge swatch to be about 5 to 6 inches wide. That is about 12.5 to 15.25 cm.
Using the hook size recommended in the pattern and working in the same stich pattern as the gauge calls for, crochet enough rows to make a square and fasten off. This should give you a nice swatch you can measure.
How do you measure a gauge swatch?
To measure the gauge, you will need to measure both the stitch count and the row height. If you are planning to block your finished garment, you should wash and block your gauge swatch as well before measuring it.
For instance, with a lace pattern, you may find that you want to stretch your swatch when washed before carefully laying it (or pinning it) flat to dry.
Once completed, place the crochet gauge swatch on a flat surface.
Start by measuring the stitch count of your swatch:
- Place your ruler horizontally on the swatch.
- Count the number of stitches that fit into 4 inches (or 10 cm).
- This is your stitch count.
Then measure the row count of your swatch:
- Place your ruler vertically on the swatch.
- Count the number of rows that fit into 4 inches (or 10 cm).
- This is your row count.
Whereas best practice is to measure your crochet gauge over 4 inches (or 10 cm), some pattern gauges will call for 2 inches (5 cm) or even 1 inch (2.5 cm). This is quite common with finer yarn weights.
Remember to count half-stitches as well!
What do you do if your gauge is not correct?
There are a number of techniques you can use to troubleshoot when you do not meet gauge.
Changing the Hook Size
This is probably the easiest fix for adjusting the gauge, so try this one first.
Do you have more stitches per 4 inches (10 cm) than the gauge calls for?
Try using a larger size crochet hook. A larger hook will give you less stitches per inch or centimeter.
Do you have less stitches per 4 inches (10 cm) than the gauge calls for?
Try using a smaller size crochet hook. A smaller hook will give you more stitches per inch or centimeter.
Remember that changing the crochet hook will mainly just influence your stitch count. If you are having problems meeting the row count, you may want to adjust your tension as well (see below).
Changing the Hook Type
Fibers work differently with hooks made from different types of material. For instance, if you used a metal hook, try a bamboo hook instead.
A bamboo hook will give you more grip. In turn, this may change your tension and influence your gauge.
So, experiment with different hooks in different materials and see which one works the best for you and your project.
Some crochet patterns will recommend a specific yarn whereas others will just tell you to use a DK yarn for instance.
In addition, as you probably already have noticed, yarns within the same yarn weight category do not necessarily have the same gauge.
Or you may just want to use a different yarn altogether… So, your yarn weight may also mean that you will have to make adjustments to reach the correct gauge.
Are you using a thinner yarn than the recommended one?
Try going up one or two crochet hook sizes.
Are you using a thicker yarn than the recommended one?
Try going down one or two crochet hook sizes.
Stitches and Techniques
Are you trying out a new stitch pattern or a new technique?
This might also influence your gauge. Just as with other things in life, you may tense up when doing something outside your comfort zone.
So, when trying out new crochet stitches or techniques, you may find that you unintentionally tense up. This can influence you tension and thus your gauge.
However, once you have become familiar with a stitch pattern or a technique, you may relax a bit, and your crochet stitches become looser.
Your gauge swatch can be great for trying out new stitches and techniques, so you become familiar with them. This should help you avoid this issue.
Tension and Stitching Habits
Tension can be one of the more difficult things to change. Depending on how you learnt to crochet and how you tension your working yarn, you crochet stitches may vary in height from the designer’s.
Your stitching habits may also influence your row height.
If changing our hook size do not solve the problem, you may want to try a different method for holding and tensioning your yarn.
Addressing the Golden Loop is also a great way of fixing the row height problem.
Summary: Fixing Crochet Gauge Problems
Too many stitches and rows.
Your gauge is too tight.
Increase your hook size, use a slightly heavier yarn weight, or loosen your tension.
Too few stitches and rows.
Your gauge is too loose.
Decrease your hook size, use a slightly lighter yarn weight, or tighten your tension.
Stitch count is correct but there are too many rows.
Your stitch height is too short.
Try to tug less on your working yarn when stitching, check your yarn weight.
Stitch count is correct but there are too few rows.
Your stitch height is too high.
Try to lift your working yarn less when stitching, check your yarn weight.
Are there other uses for crochet gauge swatches?
Yes, recycle your gauge swatches once you do not need them anymore! You can combine them with other swatches to make all sorts of items, for instance, pillows, afghans, or bags.
Just keep in mind that when you combine the swatches, pair them up with others that have the same care instructions.
If you find some of the terms confusing because of differences between US and UK terms, then you will find this article helpful: Crochet Terms: The Differences Between US vs. UK Crochet Terms Explained.