What is gauge? In every crochet pattern and on most yarn bands (the label that wraps around the yarn), you will see the word gauge mentioned. Simply put, if your project matches the gauge, it will come out to the size stated in the pattern. Determining gauge for your crochet project is easy. Just make a swatch.
Making the gauge swatch
To determine if you are crocheting according to the stated gauge on a pattern or skein of yarn you have to crochet a swatch or practice piece. If the pattern calls for a single stitch, then you will crochet a small swatch using the specified stitch. For complex patterns that call for multiple stitches, you will crochet the swatch using the main pattern or stitch.
For crochet patterns the gauge is based on a four-inch by four-inch square. Depending on the yarn type and size of the hook, a certain number of stitches lengthwise and widthwise are stated. If your crocheted swatch matches the gauge—you are ready to start on your project.
However, it is not a good idea to crochet the exact number of stitches for the gauge. Ideally, you should make a larger swatch; say six-inches by six inches, or even 10-inches by 10-inches. Then measure your gauge with a tape measure using the inside stitches. This gives you a more accurate gauge swatch. Interior stitches are closer to the way you will crochet in your project.
Another tip for making a gauge swatch is to make the swatch in the shape of the main pattern. For example if you are making granny squares, then your swatch should be a granny square. If you are crocheting a hat or basket, or some other round piece, then your swatch should be round. Most of us crochet differently for round pieces, so it is best to check the gauge of a round item with a round swatch.
Measuring the gauge swatch
To measure your gauge swatch, put a stitch marker on an inside stitch and count the number of stitches across and place another marker at that point. Then go back to the first marker and count up rows for the number of rows in the stated gauge. Place another marker at that point. With a tape measure--measure the distance between the row markers and the stitch markers. If the measurements match the pattern’s gauge, you are ready to start your project.
Adjusting to match the gauge
If your swatch is too large or too small—adjustments are needed. If your swatch is too small, you need to loosen your stitches or use a larger hook. If your swatch is too large, you need to crochet tighter stitches or use a smaller hook. Keep making adjustments until your swatch matches the stated gauge.
More gauge tips
To make certain that your project will come out the correct size, measure the gauge for flat objects like blankets on a flat surface. Measure the gauge for items like sweaters or scarves by hanging the swatch from a hanger and letting it sit for about an hour before measuring it. This will give you the most accurate measurement of your gauge. Taking the time to make an accurate gauge swatch will greatly improve the quality of your finished project.
Lynda Altman has been interested in needle work and crafts since she was a child. She learned to crochet and embroider before she reached high school. Crochet, beading and needlepoint are some of her favorite needle work pastimes. You can contact Lynda via email or @fusgeyer on Twitter.