Knowing how gauge works is the first step to avoiding crochet gauge problems and getting predictable results with your projects!
Today, we’re going to go over a fundamental but often overlooked concept-gauge. Admittedly, gauge is not something that you have to understand perfectly to get started with crochet. In fact, as a beginner it is probably better to just focus on getting consistent stitches, enjoy the craft, and make things that you like.
However, gauge starts to become more relevant and important as soon as you start thinking of making things in a specific size- especially larger wearable projects like sweaters. Gauge can seem intimidating if you’ve never really understood it before or if you’ve gotten by fine without it, but it can really cut down on your trial and error with larger projects. In other words, getting your gauge right can save you a lot of time!
Below, we’re going over what gauge actually is, why it makes a difference, and how you can get comfortable with a few practice exercises.
You can take these concepts with you by grabbing my FREE guide: Understanding Gauge
Let’s dive in:
The Concept of Gauge in Crochet
What Exactly is Gauge?
Gauge is usually measured from a piece of work called a “swatch”. Gauge swatches show an individual crocheter’s work and are usually made to be a specific size(more on that later).
(Just as a side note, measuring Gauge and making gauge swatches is also very important for knitting, using knitting rows and stitches. If you are ever thinking of learning to knit or you already do, you can know that this is one concept that crochet and knitting have in common).
Since measurements are pretty important to knowing your gauge, it’s important to have some kind of a ruler handy. You can even get special gauge rulers, like the printable version that’s included when you get Engage with Gauge.
Why is Gauge so Important?
Making a gauge swatch even once takes extra time before you can start actually making a project. Is it really necessary?
Well, the short answer is yes. While you can “get away” with skipping this step sometimes(some people have better luck than others) Taking the time to check your gauge up front and crochet your own swatch is highly beneficial, and can actually save you a lot of time later on.
As mentioned before, gauge gives you a standard to meet for crocheting a specific pattern/project.
Since everyone crochets just a little bit differently, no two people will naturally crochet the same item in exactly the same way. This is part of the beauty of crochet, but it can also be frustrating when you want to follow a pattern that someone else wrote. This is where gauge comes in handy.
Gauge solves this problem by allowing one crocheter to give very specific instructions that provide consistency for other crocheters to follow.
Think of it this way- if a crochet pattern or tutorial is like a “recipe”, a gauge swatch is like the directions that tell you exactly how your “ingredients” (stitches and rows) should be measured out to be successful. The idea is that if you can match the gauge of another crocheter with a small swatch, you will be able to follow their entire pattern and get satisfactory results.
Gauge is also helpful to record if you are the one making up a design. You never know when you might want to replicate it or even share the pattern with others!
There are many different things that affect the natural gauge of a crocheter, Understanding some of the factors that make your gauge uniquely “you” can help you troubleshoot issues and also appreciate your own journey as a crocheter. For now though, let’s look at the basic formula for any gauge swatch you might want to do:
How a Gauge Swatch Works
Here’s a basic way that we can understand gauge directions(the blanks are where specific information would go depending on the pattern):
With ___ weight yarn, working in ___ stitch, work ___rows with ___stitches to make a ___inch/cm by ___ inch/cm piece.
Usually gauge swatches are done with a square, and the most common size is 4″ by 4″. Other sizes can be specified depending on what makes sense for the project, and patterns that are worked in the round may say to crochet a swatch in rounds rather than rows.
If you have a pattern that you want to make, a great way to set yourself up for success is to crochet your own gauge swatch and (hopefully) match the gauge that the designer has given for that pattern. That means starting with the same hook size, the same yarn weight, and crocheting with the same stitch pattern. In addition, you’ll also want to make sure that you crochet the same number of stitches and rows/rounds as the gauge swatch calls for, and that you measure with the same standard(inches or cm) as the designer did.
While matching all of these details can seem inconvenient at first, this effort pays off by providing you with reliable results. With a carefully done gauge swatch, it becomes clear how your crocheting compares to someone else’s(in this case, the designer of the pattern that you want to do) and how much tweaking you may need to do in order to make the whole pattern successfully.
If you’d like help with knowing how to tweak and adjust your gauge, be sure to check out my larger guide Engage with Gauge for lots of strategies and tips. There’s several things you can try that will still allow you to follow a pattern, even if your gauge is noticeably different!
Practice Gauge Exercises
Okay, so now that we have a solid understanding of what gauge is and why it’s important, here are a couple of gauge exercises for you to try. Both of the gauge instructions below come from actual published patterns, and use commonly available hook sizes and yarn weights.
Practice Swatch #1
- Gauge: 12 stitches and 9 rows of hdc(half double crochet) per 4” square (using aran yarn and a H/5.00mm hook).
To make this swatch, you can start by chaining 13-14 stitches with your H hook and aran yarn. Then, skip 1-2 stitches and hdc in every other chain(to get 12 stitches). Then, you can work 8 more rows of hdc to complete your gauge swatch, starting each row with 1 or 2 chains-whatever length of turning chain makes sense for you. When finished, measure your swatch sides with a ruler and see how close your work is to measuring 4” by 4”.
This gauge comes from the project 1 Hour Messy Bun Beanie.
Practice Swatch #2
- Gauge: 8 stitches and 10 rows of sc(single crochet) per 2” square( using dk or light worsted weight yarn and an E/3.50 hook.
To make this swatch, you can start by chaining 9 stitches. Then, skip 1 stitch and sc in every other chain(to get 8 stitches). Then, you can work 9 more rows of sc to complete your gauge swatch, starting each row with a chain stitch. When finished, measure your swatch sides with a ruler and see how close youcr work is to measuring 2” by 2”.
This gauge comes from the project Puffy Star Ornament. Gauge Swatches can be done with different stitch combinations and even in rounds.
Some Final Thoughts and More Help
Hopefully by now gauge seems like something that’s “doable”. Really, with just a little practice it’s not all that hard to pick up. Just like with anything else, you will get better at it the more that you work with the concept and check your own gauge with the projects that you are working on.
Don’t forget that you can take this information with you in a handy little download that I’ve put together:
For more practice, you can look into Engage with Gauge, which has 10 more gauge exercises for you. This is the more in-depth guide that I created to give you a very systematic way to practice your gauge so that you can confidently approach it in any other project you want to do.
Engage with Gauge also includes:
- The things that affect your individual gauge results
- Strategies for adjusting your gauge when you need to
- A handy chart of common hook sizes
- A printable gauge ruler
For more information on Engage with Gauge, you can check out it’s page HERE.
I hope this has all been helpful to you in the pursuit of getting better results with your work. Understanding gauge and being able to solve your own gauge issues means that you can go on to make more advanced projects, and have greater success. Enjoy the process!
And as always, keep the crafting delightful,
Understanding your gauge in crochet will help you get confident, consistent results with your work!
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