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Crochet Basics

Gauge–It’s Important!

November 9, 2019

I recently did a Crochet A Long (CAL) with a Facebook Group. It was my first CAL with hundreds of people participating in the same project as me. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but I knew CALs were popular within the crochet community.

In this CAL, there was a lot of discussion in regards to the gauge and/or that their project was too big/small for what was recommended in the pattern. That’s when I realized…not everyone does a gauge. Not only that, but some individuals may not know how to fix their gauge to match what’s recommended for the pattern they’re using. So, I thought, “Well, why not blog about it?”. So here it goes…

What is a “Gauge”?
Gauge means there is a number of stitches per in/cm and number of rows per in/cm while working with a specific yarn and hook size. On the back of a skein of yarn or within your crochet pattern, you may find a gauge listed for a 4 in x 4 in (10 cm x 10 cm) square block. This is essentially a swatch you create to ensure you’re able to crochet stitches similar to the designer of the pattern. Many individuals skip on doing a gauge and I’ll be the first to tell you that I was a victim of that for YEARS! Now, I always make sure I always do a gauge.

Why does Gauge Matter?
Well, your project or garment may:

  • Not fit as it should or as you would expect.
  • End up with too much or too little yarn–who wants to play yarn chicken?!
  • Not look anything like the final product that was pictured

Factors that Impact Your Gauge
There could be a variety of factors that could impact the size of someone’s gauge:

  • Tension. One person may crochet loosely with their stitches, while another person may crochet tightly. If you have a loose tension, your gauge may end up bigger than expected. If you have a tight tension, your gauge may end up smaller than expected.
  • Yarn Type. Some individuals may want to use a different brand of yarn than what’s called for in the pattern, so they opt for something of similar yarn weight and fiber type.
  • Hook Size. I mentioned this in a previous blog called, “Getting Hooked–Types of Crochet Hooks“, but the size of your hook matters. Not only that, but even the brand or style of the hook (i.e., Boye vs Susan Bates, ergonomic vs aluminum, etc.). Let’s say you use a 5.50 mm aluminum crochet hook and decide to switch to a 5.50 mm ergonomic crochet hook. You may find that your stitches look different in size (stitches and/or rows) because your hand grip changes your movements, ever so slightly. So be very cautious in switching hooks because it may cause your project to look “wonky”.

How to Make a Gauge Swatch & Troubleshooting Techniques
Let’s use the Yarnspirations Caron Simply Soft as an example for our tutorial.

Step 1, Find your Gauge:
Look at your pattern or the packaging of your skein of yarn. You should see a recommended gauge. Caron Simply Soft shows that a 4 in x 4 in gauge with a 5.00 mm hook should have 13 Single Crochets (SCs) and 14 Rows.

Caron Simply Soft Gauge

With that being said, you will typically start off with trying to match this gauge when you’re a beginner. With more experience, you may already know if you need to change the hook size to meet this gauge. For instance, I know I am a “tight” crocheter, so I typically go up 0.5 mm or 1.00 mm in crochet hook size. Although the gauge states 4 in x 4 in, I would recommend making your gauge slightly bigger (i.e., 5 in x 5 in, etc.) so you can get a more accurate measurement.

Step 2, Create the Gauge Swatch:

Grab your hook and yarn and get stitching! Remember, the Caron Simply Soft Yarn is recommending to use a 5.00 mm hook for a 13 SC x 14 row gauge. If you get this right the first time, then kudos to you! You are pretty much set to go. If not, then your gauge swatch may look a tad bit off.

Below, you will see gauge swatches that are 20 SCs x 20 rows to show you what happens when you use different hook sizes and/or that your tension is too tight/loose. This is important to note because if you decide to change your hook type in the middle of the project, you may find it getting a bit “wonky” and shape into something wider or smaller than you expected.

(Left to Right): (1) 5.00 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook; (2) 5.50 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook; (3) 5.50 mm Gauge Ergonomic Hook; (4) 6.50 mm Gauge Aluminum Hook

Step 3, Measure the Gauge Swatch:

This is the crucial step. Some individuals will have different tools to measure the gauge swatch. If you’re using a tape measure, keep in mind that this can stretch over time and so the measurement may not be the most accurate. Some individuals may use a standard ruler. My favorite measurement tool is the “swatch ruler” and you can find this in your local craft store (i.e., Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, etc.) or online. The one I use is from Clover and I found this on Amazon.

Take your ruler of choice and measure both the width and height of the swatch to see if you’re meeting the gauge for Caron Simply Soft Yarn. Don’t be that person that tries to stretch the gauge swatch to match what’s required. Let the gauge swatch lay flat in its natural form.

Hopefully, you were able to meet the gauge. If so, you’re pretty much golden and you’re able to compete the project with no problem! If not, well…looks like you need to follow the next steps.

Step 4, Adjust your Gauge Swatch–If Needed.

“My gauge swatch is too small/big! What do I do now?”

  • If your swatch is too small, it may be due to your tension being too tight. The best way to adjust for this is to loosen your tension–but that can be extremely difficult for some crocheters to sit and focus on their tension. If this is a struggle for you, then another option could be increasing the hook size. If neither of these work for you, then you could opt to change the yarn weight; however, I personally do not recommend this unless you’re not concerned with the drape of the material or the way the switches may look.
  • If your swatch is too big, it may be due to your tension being too loose. If this happens, you’ll do everything vice versa of having a swatch that’s too small (i.e., tighten your tension, decrease hook size, decrease yarn weight, etc.)

“My gauge swatch is too short/tall! What do I do now?

If you’re struggling with the height of your gauge, then one of the best methods I have seen is the “Golden Loop” through Knit and Crochet Ever After who has a video tutorial on “Fixing Gauge when Height is Incorrect AKA Golden Loop Method Tutorial“. She has a very in depth video tutorial that can help with this problem!

(1) 5.00 mm Gauge with Aluminum Hook
(2) 5.50 mm Gauge with Aluminum Hook
(3) 5.50 mm Gauge with Ergonomic Hook
(4) 6.50 mm Gauge with Aluminum Crochet Hook

Step 4, Start Your Project

Hopefully, this blog was able to help you understand gauge and how to make adjustments based on your individual crochet style. Remember, don’t get frustrated. It takes time and practice in the beginning stages of learning how to crochet, but practice makes perfect. The gauge is often an undervalued and overlooked portion of any pattern, so don’t skip out on it!

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