Let’s talk about ‘gauge’ or ‘testing your tension’ and why it is important in crochet. I’m often asked “what is the gauge part of the pattern?” or “ where do I start the project?” When I first taught myself to crochet I had no idea what gauge was or that such a thing even existed. Simply put: gauge is a measurement of your tension.
Gauge is especially important when making things to meet specific sizes, such as garments or hats. Have you ever made a whole project just to find in the end it didn’t fit, or didn’t turn out the size the designer outlined in the pattern? When you crochet (or knit) you can tell that your work will turn out to the size the designer has specified, by testing your tension prior to starting a project.
You can measure gauge in width (stitches) and height (rows), or as a pattern or stitch repeat based on how the designer has laid out the gauge swatch portion of the pattern. When crocheting patterns designed by Sheepish Stitches, you will find if I provided a swatch, I place the swatch instructions as the first thing when starting the project. My patterns have been designed this way so as a maker, the pattern flows in order of how it should be followed.
You may find that different designers have different preferences of what their swatch may entail. Personally, my swatches general are not a part of the final project. The swatch will have instructions to complete a square to measure 4” x 4” and I personally prefer when swatches are counted by whole stitches (ie 12 STS by 5 rows VS 10.5 STS by 3.5 rows) but I understand halves happen. Again; different designers, different preferences.
You can easily measure your swatch with a tape measure or if your prefer a “swatch ruler” you will find your local craft store may carry them as well as online retailers. Either way, you will get the job done to ensure the size of your finished project.
So how does gauge influence the size of your work? The designer has determined the measurements of the project based on their own gauge. Some makers crochet tight while others may crochet loosely. Meaning, if the designer made a project where 10 stitches measure 4” and your work measures 14 stitches per 4” – your crochet piece will be smaller. This is because your stitches are tighter or smaller. Therefore, if you stick to the stitch counts and hook size specified, your finished project will end up smaller then the listed measurements of the pattern.
Gauge also influences the yardage of yarn needed. If your gauge is off, there’s a chance that you’re using a different amount of yarn than the designer listed in the materials, especially if you have to compensate for a size issue by making extra stitches. If you’re working from a yarn kit, this could mean you run out of yarn before your project is complete, and we definitely do not want that!
As I stated above, gauge isn’t crucial for every project. Some patterns may even state ‘gauge is not critical for this project‘. Things like dish cloths, doilies and amigurumi’s may not be crucial for a swatch unless you really want a specific finished size.
If you have any helpful gauge swatching ‘tips or tricks’ please feel free to share with the community! Happy hooking!