Does gauge matter? Yes! If you're crocheting, or knitting, a project that is going to be worn you should be making a gauge swatch. The time, energy, and yarn spent are well worth your trouble. Let's look at why!
What is gauge?
A gauge swatch is a small piece of test fabric that is created to ensure that our tension and hook size are correct for the yarn and pattern that we are using.
Gauge is the number of stitches and/or rows in a set area. Gauge is determined by the crocheter's tension. Tension is how tightly we are working our stitches. Factors that influence tension can include: the yarn, how we hold the yarn, where on the hook we have the yarn while making stitches, the hook we use, our general crocheting style, and even our mood.
If gauge is ignored we risk the outcome of our finished object: it could be too big, too small, or may simply look off. If your gauge doesn't match the designer's, your project will not look like what you see in the promotional photographs.
As you can see, there are too many variables to leave your project up to chance.
I love making gauge swatches and find making them soothing and relaxing. They're also an excellent way to familiarize yourself with your project before diving in.
Why does gauge matter?
It's easy to forget that when we crochet we are making fabric. A lot of people tend to get caught up in what their finished project is going to be. Whether you're making a scarf or a dress, you're always making something out of crocheted fabric. Fabric that you create. You have control over how dense, lacy, thick, thin, and colorful the fabric is. This is the fun of crochet!
Gauge is a way for the designer to communicate to you what the crocheted fabric should be like to match their pattern's intent.
Not everyone crochets with the same tension. The purpose of the gauge swatch is to ensure that your tension matches the designers. If there's a noticeable discrepancy between the two, your project will not be the correct size.
The calculations of yardage needed for the yarn are based on the designer's finished project. If you're crocheting with a different gauge, you will be unable to calculate how much yarn you need.
Let's say you've tried but you are unable to find the yarn listed in a pattern. The best way to substitute yarn would be to match the yarn's weight and material. Yarnsub is hands down the best way to find an appropriate replacement.
Once you've got your substitution yarn, swatching is the key to success. When you've achieved gauge, you're good to go and should have no issues using your substitute yarn.
Is gauge always important?
Not always. If you don't intend on wearing your project, then I don't see a point in measuring gauge.
Let's say you're making an afghan. What difference is an inch or two going to make? As long as it looks the way you want it to.
Gauge is most important when you need the finished project to match the size that the designer has listed in the pattern.
See below for my notes on amigurumi gauge.
How do you make a gauge swatch?
Making a gauge swatch is easy! It's also a fantastic way to practice stitch patterns. Always refer to your pattern's gauge. Most often, it will list the number of stitches and the number of rows that you should have in a 4"x4" area.
Using my Learn to Crochet Scarf as an example, it should look something like this:
4”x4”: 14 hdc x 10 rows
This same gauge swatch could also be written out as:
14 sts and 10 rows = 4" in hdc
The gauge can also be measured by counting the number of pattern repeats in a given area. Other times it will be measured by a certain number of rounds.
You should make your swatches larger than the area you plan on measuring. This is because many stitches will slightly curl along the edges. Turning chains also present an additional challenge. It's best to not include those when you're measuring your gauge.
I always make my swatches 7" by 9".
Isn't this a waste of yarn?
Nope! If you're concerned about wasting yarn, always crochet your swatches to be 7” by 9”. At the end of the year, send them into Warm Up America!
When you make a gauge swatch with the intent of donating it, you can feel good about spending your time making it.
Should you block your gauge swatch?
Absolutely! If you're planning on blocking your finished project, then you should also block your swatch. This ensures an accurate reading.
Tools to measure gauge
I prefer to use a sewing gauge ruler with a slider, I adore mine and use it for more than just swatches. From rolling out bread and cookie dough to adding seam allowances for sewing patterns, my gauge ruler is always there for me.
I normally stay away from the cutesy wooden gauge rulers that craft stores and yarn dyers sell. Unless you can see it in person first to verify that it lies flat. Laser cutters tend to miss the mark with these. I've been burned a couple of times by trying to buy something cute but ends up not being functional because it won't lie completely flat (and therefore, measures incorrectly).
A tape measure or traditional ruler will also work well.
- Gauge ruler
- Tape measure
How do you measure gauge?
Gauge is measured by counting the number of rows and stitches in a given area. Almost all gauge swatches measure an area that is 4"x4".
Once our swatch is complete, we lay that fabric on an even and flat surface (like a table). Refer to your pattern to determine how many stitches and rows you should have in the area given.
Still using my Learn to Crochet Scarf as an example, let's take a look. The gauge for this pattern is:
4”x4”: 14 hdc x 10 rows
Hold a ruler up to your swatches to count the number of stitches across 4”.
Hold a ruler up to your swatch to count the number of rows across 4”.
What do you do if the gauge doesn't match?
Hook sizes listed within patterns and on yarn labels are merely suggestions. Ensuring that your gauge matches the pattern's overrules all hook suggestions within the pattern.
If you're finding that you have too many stitches, then it's likely that your stitches are too tight. Try going up one hook size.
If you have too few stitches, you could be crocheting too loosely. Try to go down one hook size.
If changing the hook size still isn't working, try to change the hook brand. Even though they will be the same millimeter, the design of the hook will likely be different. Crochet hook throats can be inline or tapered. While crochet hook heads can be pointed or rounded. These small variations could be preventing you from achieving gauge.
Another important point to check is to make sure you're crocheting from the correct part of the hook. The shaft of the hook is where the yarn should lie while you're completing your stitches. If you notice that your yarn is sitting in the throat of the hook, make sure to move it up farther towards the handle.
The gauge in the pattern doesn't match the yarn label
This is normal. What is listed on the yarn label is the manufacturer's recommendation. Occasionally, the two will match but more often than not the designer's intention will vary slightly from what the manufacturer had in mind.
How do you measure gauge for amigurumi?
Of course, most patterns will list a gauge for your amigurumi project. I personally don't care if my amigurumi project ends up being a little bit bigger or smaller than what the designer originally had in mind. I always use the recommended yarn and hook and have had no issues.
What I do care about is being able to see spaces in between stitches. For this reason, most of my amigurumi projects are made with the gauge suggestion of "amigurumi tight".
This means that you have to look for visual clues to see if your gauge is accurate. If you can't see space in between your stitches, you should be good!
I hope that this post has convinced you to have fun with your gauge swatches! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.