How to Find Your Gauge

February 22, 2017

Once in a while I talk to an experienced crocheter, who never did a gauge swatch. Because GAUGE sounds like something difficult. It's not.

Do you need to know your gauge? No. You can certainly crochet without knowing your gauge. But if you want to have just the slightest idea of what size your final work will be, you need it.

Very often the never-did-a-gauge-swatch-chat is followed by a funny story about extremely large or small hats.

It doesn't take long to learn to do a gauge swatch and it might save you hours of frogging for the rest of your life!

What to use Gauge For?

The most obvious reason, why you should do a gauge swatch, is to know what the final size of your work will be.

Besides that, a gauge swatch can also help you:
  • swap stitches in a pattern.
  • if you want to turn a photo or an image into a pillow or a blanket.
  • give you a general feeling of the final structure. Is the yarn fit for your work?
  • if you weigh your swatch, you'll also get an idea of how much yarn is needed for a certain amount of stitches.
And if you want to make your own designs, gauge swatches are crucial. In addition to all of the above, they'll help you figure out, how many stitches you need for a sleeve.

Find Your Gauge

Let's get to the practical part:
  1. Find or make a crocheted piece. Preferably it should be around 13x13 cm (5x5 inch) or larger.
  2. Don't stretch it, just smoothen it, if required. (If you stretched it already, shake it and try again.)
  3. Find and place a ruler in the middle of the work right below a row. Avoid edges.
  4. Count the amount of stitches you have within 10 cm (4 in). Write down that number.
Gauge counting stitches

  1. Place the ruler the other way, so you can count rows. Put it somewhere in the middle.
  2. Count the amount of rows within 10 cm (4 in). Remember, you have back and forward rows. Be sure to count all. Write down the amount of rows.
Gauge counting rows

Congratulations! You have measured your gauge!

What did you get? In my piece of single crochet I got 13 stitches x 17 rows. If I were to follow a pattern, where gauge should be 11 stitches and 14 rows, I would need a larger hook, as my tension is tighter than the designer's.

Once in a while you'll even find that you have the wrong yarn for the project. Wouldn't that be nice to know, before you start on a huge project?

Stitches are Different

Different stitches have different aspect ratio. Meaning, some stitches are relatively taller than other: A treble crochet stitch is much taller than a single crochet stitch. When you follow a crochet pattern, you should - in general - make a gauge swatch of the stitches used in the pattern.

Tiny Stitches

If you are about to work with tiny stitches, you might not want to make a huge sample. Make it half size, so you can count the stitches within 5x5 cm (2x2 inch) instead. Then multiply stitch- and row-count by 2. I would do that for a hook smaller than 4 mm (US: G-6, UK: 8).

Washing the Sample

Yes. Sometimes it is a good idea to also wash the swatch before measuring. And block it, if that is requested for the final product. The crochet pattern might tell you what to do. If it doesn't, then rule of thumb is to wash yarn made from natural fibers. Yarn like cotton yarn and wool yarn.

This washing part might sound cumbersome - I know! But in reality it doesn't take long to wash and put needles in a little piece of crochet. It is the waiting time, while it dries that kills you, right? If you are in a hurry, consider to measure the gauge - carefully - while the swatch is still wet.

And to be honest: Mostly I skip the washing part, but only if I have a very good idea, of how my yarn will behave when washed - else I would rather wash, than end up with a totally useless product.

- - -  
It is fun to crochet. And frogging might be alright once in a while. Still. Imagine how many hours you have spent frogging already :)

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