Gauge is a word you have probably heard if you crochet, even if you are just starting out.
In the crocheting world, gauge is a swatch of stitches that you measure to determine what hook size to use for a particular pattern. You want to get the exact same amount of stitches that the designer got within the specified measurements so your project comes out to be the same size as the original.
Why is gauge so important?
Gauge is important because, just like every person writes differently, every person crochets differently.
We hold our hook different and have different tension. Some of us use different kinds of yarn and crochet hooks that can make a huge difference in the size of our stitches.
If the size of our stitches are not the same as the designer’s stitches, our project is going to come out in a completely different size than the original measurements.
For example, if one of my garment designs has 16 stitches within 4″. But you get 15 stitches within 4″. That’s going to be a 10 stitch difference for every 4″! Your garment definitely will not fit the same way as mine does.
How do I check gauge?
Checking gauge is actually pretty simple. To start, look at the materials section of you pattern.
Find out what size yarn and what size crochet hook is recommended. You will also need a measuring tape.
Once you have the appropriate yarn and hook, check the gauge section.
I personally try to create a 4″ square for my gauge swatches. So in my gauge section it will usually say something like 14 dc x 8 rows= 4″.
Other designers might do a 2″ x 2″ square or also have measurements for in the round. It just depends on the designer.
So to start, work up the square and measure it. If you get a perfect 4″x4″ square, then you are using the correct hook!
Your square is most definitely NOT 4″x4″ you say? That’s ok! So here’s how I remember what to do:
If it’s too big, go down.
If it’s too small, go up.
Let me explain. If your square is bigger than 4″x4″ then you need to go down a hook size, maybe two! Try it with the next hook size down from what you just used. And continue to work your way down until you get that perfect 4″ square.
If the square is small than 4″x 4″ then you need to go up a hook size. Keep trying a hook size larger until you get that 4″ square.
What if I can’t seem to meet gauge?
Having trouble getting that exact 4″ square? That’s OK. Don’t panic.
In most cases, I find that width is going to be more important than height. So if you’re getting 4″ across but 5″ tall, go with that hook size.
You can always add or take away rows/rounds to get the length you want, but if the width is off, your project is going to be too big or too small around.
If you can’t seem to get exactly 4″ across no matter what hook size you use, I would suggest maybe trying another yarn.
If that’s not an option, use the hook that gets you the very closest to 4″.
Do I have to check gauge every single time?
In most cases, yes. Especially when making garments, hats, or specific sized blankets and scarves.
But in some cases, like when making a scarf, you can usually just get by with measuring at the beginning of your project to make sure you are getting the correct width or at least close to it.
A scarf usually isn’t going to look terrible if it comes out a little bigger or smaller than the original version.
Also, I’d recommend writing your hook size and yarn choice on the top of your pattern for when you come back to it or make it again.
Even then, I’d at least do a quick width check each time you make a new project because your tension often changes over time.
I used to crochet so tight when I was just beginning, but now I crochet much looser. So I often have to check gauge even if it is something I have made once before.
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve had to change my hook size from when I originally made it.
Check out my live show on Gauge and how to check it!
So as you can see, gauge is pretty important. Checking gauge may seem like a waste of time, especially when you are so ready to get started on a project, but in the long run it can really save time.
The most frustrating thing ever is to get well into a project and realize it’s 2 times too big!
If you have any questions about gauge please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer them to the best of my ability! For more great tips on making garments and getting the best fit check out this post: Crocheting Garments- Tips to a Great Fit!
Want to practice checking gauge? Check out my growing list of Free Crochet Patterns!
Michelle has been crocheting for over 8 years and has been designing crochet patterns for 6 of those years. She specializes in modern garments and accessories for your handmade wardrobe. Michelle has been featured in Happily Hooked Magazine, thehooknooklife.com, wecrochet.com, ourmakerlife.com, and several other websites. She is committed to providing the highest quality crochet information and patterns that instill a true feeling of pride, enjoyment, and accomplishment when completing a project.