Crochet Gauge Swatch by Janice Jones |Published 01-13-2021
Gauge is so important if you want your finished project to fit or resemble the project photo. In the US, we call it achieving gauge. In the UK it is called tension.
Gauge is a term that describes a set of measurements. The number of stitches per inch and the rows per inch that can be obtained by using a specified type of yarn and worked with a particular sized hook. Everyone crochets differently so determining some standardization is important if we want the the finished product to be the correct size. Some of us crochet loosely, others tightly and still others are somewhere in between.
The solution is very simple.
Every time you start a new project you need to make a gauge swatch. With that said, if the project you are making doesn't require a specific size, you may decide to overlook this step.
Very often crochet or knitting patterns will recommend 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 the recommended hook and yarn, and followed their exact instructions. But 24 stitches and 18 rows of your swatch didn't make a 4x4 square. Now what?
First of all, don't panic. An exact match happens rarely happens. 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. It doesn't always help to solve the problem.
Here is what you should do now.
The pattern will give you an approximate gauge for the finished product. For example:
14 dc = 4 inches
8 rows in pattern = 4 inches
Look at the pattern's materials list to locate the type of yarn and hook size for the pattern.
Here I am going to count the stitches (or posts) within a four inch square. I count 13 1/2 posts.
This crochet gauge swatch is done in double crochet stitches (dc) so in this case I'm counting rows. I counted 8 rows.
For this particular hypothetical pattern, the project is calling for worsted weight yarn (number 4) and a hook size of H/8 (5mm) crochet hook of size needed to obtain gauge.
You may look at that and make a four by four inch swatch, but that might work. Here's why.
To calculate gauge correctly, you need to make your measurements in the center of the swatch. This means that your swatch should be larger than the 4 x 4 square indicated in the pattern.
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 directly - just steam it.
Step 2. Put your swatch on the flat surface. If this is the only project you are going to make, take a ruler and put it 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, spend a couple of extra minutes and make a simple template (see the picture). It can be made of cardboard, plastic, metal, etc. Put it in the center of your swatch and count the number of stitches and rows in that 4 inch x 4 inch window.
A simple ruler will work as well.
Start by making a crochet gauge swatch using the size hook and type of yarn recommended by the pattern. Make at least a five inch square so you can make your measurements within the square. Don't worry about wasting yarn as you can always unravel your swatch if you need that extra yarn. But there are other things you may want to do with your swatch and we'll get to that in a minute.
Let's look at our example from above:
14 dc = 4 inches
8rows in pattern = 4 inches
Using your ruler, measure out four inches of stitches and then count each stitch. Turn the ruler, and measure the number of rows within the four inch space.
Does your measurements match that of the pattern? Great. You're ready to begin your project.
Don't worry. Everyone crochets a little different so we need to understand that gauge is not written in stone. We can make some alterations.
Too Many stitches per inch?
After you have made your sample swatch using the size of hook and the yarn weight mentioned in the pattern, you find you have more stitches per inch than specified, go up one hook size.
Too Fewer stitches per inch?
Switch to a smaller sized hook and try again.
As you do more projects you will discover that you tend to crochet loosely or tightly, and may want to adjust the hook size accordingly before you begin your swatch. Since each pattern is different, don't rely on making gauge with one pattern and hoping that all will follow suite.
Hook Size: Changing the hook size is one of the easiest way to achieve gauge. Remember if you have too many stitches, go up one hook size. Too few stitches, go down one hook size.
This is a bit more tricky. The most common yarn weight is the number 4 worsted weight yarn. But even within this one category of yarn, you may find some interesting differences. Here's where it pays to check labels. Sometimes switch between yarn manufacturers may help.
This is the most difficult as people tend to get into certain habits and they are not easy to change. Be sure when you are crocheting that you are bringing your yarn onto the hook and not leaving it down near the hook's tip or throat.
You may also experiment with pulling the yarn a bit tighter in your hands or hold it in a different way through your fingers to allow it to flow easier.
If you don't need the yarn in your swatch, consider a couple of other ideas for recycling it.
Practice blocking it and the make sure it launders well according to the instructions you found on the yarn label.
Use it in Different Projects:
Collect swatches from similar yarn types and then sew them into a pillow, placemat, or small blanket. For this you may want to label your swatches with the type of yarn used and weight, hook size and laundry instructions if necessary. If you make all of your swatches into a five inch square you will have no trouble combining them into a one of a kind creation.