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How to: Gauge

Ever had a project come out much larger than the instructions said? Have you ever had a project come out the right size only to stretch out so much it’s completely useless? I can tell you your number one problem is probably your gauge. I know the word gauge may be a bit scary or you might think it’s a waste of time but believe me, it will save you time and frustration later. It’s really not as hard as you might think and is worth the little bit of extra work in the beginning.

What is gauge?

Gauge is the exact tension you should use to make sure your project comes out the correct size. In a pattern the gauge is usually listed towards the beginning under the heading “Gauge” (usually pretty easy to find ;)).  The pattern will list the gauge as a ratio of stitches and rows to a given measurement (12 sts by 15 rows = 4″). Sometimes a pattern will say what the stitches are (sc, hdc, dc…) but if it doesn’t chances are it is the stitch pattern used in the project so you may have to hunt for it. For example if your pattern uses single crochets chances are the gauge is measured in single crochets.

Now that you have found your gauge in you pattern you’ll want to do a gauge swatch. Gather your yarn (be sure to pick a yarn that is the weight listed in the pattern) and the appropriate hook and crochet a small square in the pattern listed.

How big do I make my swatch?

I like to make my swatch a bit bigger than listed in the pattern. That way, I have lots of places on my swatch to measure. If the pattern says 12 sts I might do 15-18 sts and a few extra rows as well. As you are working up the swatch be careful to keep your tension consistent.

I have my swatch so I’m done now, right? Nope!

Stop! Block that swatch!

Even if you’ve gotten the correct measurement at this point you are not done yet. Over time, crochet stitches will relax and stretch out. If you check you swatch now and make your sweater (or whatever it is) chances are after you wear it a few times or after you block it the sweater will be way too big.

How do I block my swatch?

Block your swatch like you’d block your project. For a lot of things I make this means just throwing it in the wash. You could also use steam from an iron (be sure not to put the iron directly on the swatch as some yarns might melt) to help the stitches relax.
*The steam from the iron actually makes most acrylic yarns feel much softer 😉

Now you can measure!

Now that your swatch is made and blocked grab your tape measure and check it. When you measure your swatch be sure to 1. NOT include the end or bottom stitches in your measurements 2. check a few different places on your swatch and 3. measure the whole stitch.

If your measurements are right on congratulations! You can now move on with your project! If it is off unfortunately, you will have to start all over but trust me, it’s worth it!

How do I adjust my gauge?

If your measurements are off you will now need to determine if you need to go up or down a hook size. Lets say you gauge states you need 12 sts in 4″ but you got more that 12 sts in 4″. That means you tension is too tight (it’s not a bad thing but not right for your project) so you will need to go up a hook size (or 2).

Hooded Scarves to Crochet

If you are getting less than 12 sts in 4″ (usually my problem :)) your tension is too loose and you’ll need to go down a hook size (or 2 or 3…).

I’m just not getting the right measurements. HELP!

This can be very frustrating. I know, I’ve been there. It sounds funny but what has always worked for me is trying a different type of hook. So if it’s just not working with your aluminum hook, try a wood one or a different brand. I can not tell you why but it works, haha!

That’s gauge in a nut shell. I highly recommended doing this process to check your gauge from now on. Your projects will come out nicer and your work will be more consistent. Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll know by looking at a gauge in a pattern whether you will need to adjust your hook size or not.

If you have any questions post them in the comments.

Katy

16 thoughts on “How to: Gauge

  1. Very informative!! Thanks for a well written piece on Gauge!!! I’m reblogging!

  2. Thankyou, thankyou thankyou! I am a beginner and never worried about the gauge because I really didn’t understand its importance. This article has helped!

    1. You’re so welcome! I was the same way as a beginner 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for this.

  4. Thank you

    1. You’re welcome 🙂

  5. Thank you SO much. Most of my work has been flatwork where gauge was not important. I’m about to begin a sweater for my husband and have been terrified of “gauge”. I am afraid I’ll use up my yarn working on the gauge and not have enough for the project! Maybe I should get an extra skein “just in case”?

    1. Yes! That’s a great point. I often buy one more skein than I think I will need just to work out gauge.

  6. Thank you for the best encouragement to NOT SKIP this! I’m an experienced crocheter with my share of disappointing projects. Thanks to you, no more laziness, no more wasted time and material$.

  7. What is wrong when your gauge is fine width wise but length wise it is too small , like instead of 4×4 I get 4×3? Help!

    1. Hi Beverly,
      This is a great question with several possible solutions. Basically, you’re not pulling the yarn up as loosely as the designer did which makes the stitches shorter. You’re not really doing anything wrong, just different than the designer. A simple solution would be to change your hook. Not the size hook but the brand or material hook or changing the yarn fiber type. Some hook materials (wood vs aluminum…) and yarn fibers are grabbier than others.
      A more complicated solution that takes practice would be to pull the yarn up just a little bit looser as you work the stitch. The problem is keeping an even tension throughout so that’s why it can take some practice.
      I’d love to post this question to my Facebook fans next week. There may be more solutions out there to help.
      Thanks!
      Katy

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