Learn to Crochet: Lesson 4 – What Is Gauge?

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We continue our Learn to Crochet series today with learning about gauge …

You picked out a great pattern, chose some beautiful yarn, and are all ready to start your project.  But what is this about gauge? Do you really need to work up a swatch to check your gauge? Well … if the pattern is for an item that needs to be sized properly – such as for hats, clothing, slippers – then the answer is yes. It may be tempting to just jump in and start the pattern, but if you don’t get the size you want in the end, it will have been a lot of your time and effort wasted … and maybe even yarn.

Using the same hook size and yarn weight indicated in your pattern won’t necessarily yield the same finished dimensions. Each person crochets with a different tension. Some people crochet looser, some people tighter. Sometimes someone’s tension will even change throughout a project as they get more comfortable with the stitch pattern. To complicate matters even further, each yarn, even in the same weight category, works up differently.

To illustrate this difference, I worked up three swatches from the same pattern, with the same hook size, on the same night, and each with worsted-weight yarn. The pink is Red Heart Super Saver, the gray is Bernat Satin, and the light blue is Caron Simply Soft. As you can see, there is about a three-quarter inch difference between the Red Heart yarn and the Caron yarn. This may not seem like a lot, but when worked over rows and rows of a pattern, the difference can be extreme and can completely make the difference between a finished item that fits and one that doesn’t.

So, what to do …

What Is Gauge? | www.petalstopicots.com | #crochet
Check your gauge!
Here’s how …

Patterns for sized items usually include a note about gauge, such as “12 scs and 15 rows = approx. 4 in.”

So your first step would be to work up a swatch a little over 4 inches, with the indicated hook size and the yarn you chose from the specified weight category.

What Is Gauge? | www.petalstopicots.com | #crochet

Once finished, use a ruler to count the number of stitches in the row within a 4-inch length. I counted 12 single crochets in my swatch below.

What Is Gauge? | www.petalstopicots.com | #crochet

Then, turn your ruler and count the number of rows within a 4-inch length. I counted 15 rows in my swatch below.

What Is Gauge? | www.petalstopicots.com | #crochet

Now what?

If your gauge includes more stitches or rows than what is specified in the pattern, your piece will come out too small.  Therefore, you should try again with a larger hook size or a thicker yarn.  If your gauge includes less, your piece will be too large. In that case, you should go down a hook size or use a thinner yarn.

This may seem like a tedious or time-consuming task, but it really is a quick and necessary step in the process of making a garment that really fits.  And it may even save you a ton of time in the end from having to rework your item.


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13 Responses to Learn to Crochet: Lesson 4 – What Is Gauge?

  1. Diana May 30, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    I enjoyed this post on gauge. I’m doing a dishcloth challenge right now so gauge is not as important for me yet, but I hope to make some hats, slippers, etc. soon. I’ve been following you on Facebook and I read your newsletter yesterday. Very nice! I’m a newbie myself but having a fun time creating my website/blog. Thanks for the tips and patterns!

  2. Kadie May 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    This is perfect for me! I always have a hard time with figuring out gauge. I want to make a sweater but….., a gauge is a must. You make it look pretty simple.:) I thing I’ll try it again.

    • Kadie June 7, 2012 at 3:59 am #

      I featuring this at our party tomorrow morning. Thanks for parting with us girlie.:)

  3. Cranberry Morning May 30, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    I think gauge is probably the most important thing in crochet or knitting – and yet I don’t know of anyone who likes to do it. It seems like it’s wasting time, but a few minutes at the beginning of a project is a lot better than making a sweater that is way too big or way too small!

    Thanks for stopping in at Cranberry Morning. Glad you liked my garden jeans. 🙂

  4. Cassidy May 31, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    WOW you have some gorgeous projects! I learned to to crochet once and made pot holders and slippers. Everyone told me it would be a stress reliever. I felt more stressed trying to figure it out! haha However I appreciate the work and love it when my mom makes beautiful crochet blankets and scarfs for me.

  5. Hilani - Handmade by Hilani May 31, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    This is great. I’m in the process of organizing a learning to sew series. 🙂

  6. Melanie @ bear rabbit bear June 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Great series!!

  7. Yao June 9, 2012 at 5:24 am #

    thank you very much for the tips! My crocheted hats and socks always turn to be too small…Because I am always too lasy to try first!

  8. Natasha SerenityYou July 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    thanks for this great tip!!

    would love it if you could share this on my link party – http://serenityyou.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/serenity-saturday-47.html

  9. Holly Williams August 16, 2014 at 6:00 am #

    Thank You!! This was EXTREMELY helpful!! I’m just learning to crochet and didn’t quite understand how to adjust things to get a swatch to match the pattern I was trying. I am very surprised with how many people don’t understand this. This makes perfect sense and cannot be said enough.

    • Kara August 16, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

      Thanks so much, Holly! So glad you found it helpful 🙂


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