The beginner crochet page is a practical advice how to avoid a bad surprise at the final point of your project. If you have intention to make a sweater for you husband, you shouldn't end up with a sweater that fits for your ten years old son only.
The solution is very simple. Every time you start a new project you need, to make a gauge swatch. Very often crochet or knitting patterns will recommend you the size of yarn and hook or needles you should use to make the gauge specified in your pattern. For example, "24 stitches and 18 rows will make 4 in x 4 in square."
You used recommended hook and yarn, followed their exact instruction. But 24 stitches and 18 rows of your swatch didn't make a 4x4 square. Now what? First of all one should not panic. Exact match happens very seldom. And second, don't try to follow their advice "change the hook or yarn brand until your stitch gauge is correct".
Certainly it was good advice, but not a universal one. Not always it helps to solve the problem. Here, is what you should do now. Look at your swatch first. Is it about 6x6 inches? Good! If it is not, you should make a bigger one. Why? Because the density of your pattern will never be the same at the edges and in the center of your swatch. To calculate gauge correctly, you need to make your measurements in the center of the swatch. Ready?
Step 1. Put the swatch on the ironing board and cover with damp fabric. Hold an iron ABOVE the ironing board for a few seconds. NEVER iron your crochet or knitting projects.
Step 2. Put your swatch on the flat surface. If this is your the only project you are going to make, take a ruler and put on the swatch. Count the number of rows in four inches. Count the number of stitches in four inches.
If you are more serious about the number of your future projects and would like to calculate correct gauge, spent a couple additional minutes and make a simple template (see the picture). It can be made of cardboard, plastic, metal, and etc. Put it in the center of your swatch and count the number of stitches and rows in that 4in x 4in window.
Step 3. Calculate gauge. What is gauge? Gauge determines the correct size of your finished project. It is composed of two parts:
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Now it's time to move from the beginner crochet level to a real project. How should we use gauge to calculate the correct size of sweater, for example. Let's find out. Go to Crocheting Basics Page.