You may have noticed that every crochet pattern includes gauge information in addition to materials (or at least it should), but you may be wondering why gauge is important? After all, the pattern indicates the yarn and hook to be used, isn’t that enough?
In a word NO!!
What is gauge?
Gauge is the number of stitches per inch and rows per inch that result from a specific yarn worked with a specific hook by a specific person.
Now let’s take this definition apart. Everyone has a different crochet style, some crochet more loosely than others, therefore everyone crochets differently and an individual’s crochet may even vary at different times. It stands to reason then, if your crochet style is different from that of the pattern designer, you will not achieve the same end result. (Have you ever followed a crochet pattern exactly, using the stated hook and yarn and still the finished sizing is off? In addition, slight variations in yarn and hook may contribute to differences in the finished project.
Gauge, is the great equalizer. It provides a formula to balance your crochet style, yarn and hook to that of the designer’s and achieve the same end result.
How do you test your gauge?
The only way to ensure a good end result is to test your gauge. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut that I’m aware of for this (if you find one, let me know please), you must make a test swatch! To make the gauge swatch start with the yarn you intend to use for the project (for best results you should always use the recommended yarn type for a particular pattern, i. e. worsted, DK, sport, etc.) and the hook size and stitch designated by the pattern. The typical gauge swatch is 4″ x 4″ but larger is even better because it gives you more places to check your stitch and row counts.
Once you have completed your swatch you should block it in whatever way you will block the final project, before you test the gauge. Measure the number of stitches and rows you have in a 4″ section. You should measure in more than one place for consistency as even within a test swatch there could be differences. If you have more stitches per inch than specified by the pattern, you will have to go up a hook size and try again. If you have fewer stitches per inch than specified by the pattern, you will have to go down a hook size and try again. I generally worry about getting the right stitch count first, then measure the number of rows. If you do not have the correct number of rows, but do have the correct number of stitches per inch, play with the height of your stitches. This takes a bit of practice, but you can draw up a little more yarn on your hook if your stitches are not tall enough or less yarn if your stitches are too tall.
Take a look at the swatches below made with the same brand/type hook and the same yarn by the same person. You may not think a 1 stitch difference makes a significant difference and you may be correct if the project is small or something like a scarf, dishcloth or other non-fitted garment. However, a 1 stitch different every 4″ could be several inches difference in a finished sweater, dress or other larger project.
Does the hook type/brand matter?
In addition to hook size, there are significant differences in the type of hook you use. There are two basic types (In-line and tapered) of hooks and manufacturers make one or the other (this is a topic for another blog post). The type of hook can play an important role in achieving the correct gauge, so if you are not getting the correct gauge even after adjusting hook size, try a different brand/type.
Here’s an example of how hook brand/type can effect the gauge. Look at the difference in stitch and row count using the same yarn and crocheted by the same person.
I hope you find these easy steps useful in checking your gauge and successfully completing future projects.