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