Have you ever crocheted something marvelous and then been totally disappointed because it turned out the wrong size? This is usually because you have a problem with your crochet gauge.
What is Crochet Guage?
Gauge is actually another word for size. It is a measure of how big your crochet stitches are. Some people crochet more loosely, and some crochet with tight stitches.
You need to check that your crochet gauge is the same as the pattern designer’s gauge to create the same size garment or accessory. If it is not the same, you must make some adjustments! When measuring the crochet gauge, you need to measure both the width and the height of your stitches.
Why Is Crochet Gauge Important?
If your crochet gauge is not correct and does not match the designer’s gauge given in the pattern, you may have any of the following problems:
1. Your garment won’t fit:
Your pattern will have a range of sizes available. For example, small, medium, and large, or Size 34”; 36”; 38″. You would then choose the most suitable size for your requirements and underline or highlight the instructions for that size throughout the pattern.
If you match the crochet gauge given in the pattern, your garment will match the size you are choosing to work. If you crochet loosely, your gauge is looser, and your garment will be too large. If you work tightly, your gauge will be too tight, and your garment will be too small.
2. You may run out of yarn or have too much yarn:
Each pattern gives a suggested amount of yarn needed to complete that garment. This is a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears!
If you crochet fewer stitches per inch, you will run out of yarn before the project. You will have extra yarn left over if you crochet more stitches per inch. If you manage to match the crochet gauge perfectly, your yarn amount will be ‘just right’!
3. The dress may look different:
You will be wanting your garment to match the look of the photo on the pattern. You may create a stiff project with tiny, dense stitches if you are a tight crocheter. If you crochet loosely, your final result will be loose and sloppy and drape incorrectly.
Crochet Gauge Measurement Step by Step Tutorial
The best way to do this is to approach the project step by step, take your time, and don’t be in a rush to get started!
Step 1- Read the Pattern
Find the crochet gauge information on the pattern. The standard procedure is to measure gauge as a number of stitches per 4” or 10cm and number of rows per 4” or 10 cm.
Step 2 – Make a Tension Swatch
Make your foundation chain about an inch (2.5 cm) longer than the size given in the swatch. So if the pattern measures the gauge as 4×4” (10x10cm) your starting chain should be about 5” (13cm)
Having a swatch larger than the given measurement makes it easier and more accurate to count later on. Crochet a square using the stitch required for the garment. Your square should be larger than the swatch measurement.
Now lay your swatch flat. Block if necessary to keep it flat.
Step 3 – Measure the Swatch Horizontally (Stitch Gauge)
Line up your ruler or tape measure horizontally on the swatch. This will measure the ‘stitch crochet gauge.’
The stitch gauge measures width. Count how many stitches go across the 4” (10cm) next to your ruler. In this example, I have 12 stitches in my 4” space.
Step 4 – Measure the Swatch Vertically (Row Gauge)
Now line up the ruler or tape measure vertically on the swatch. You are now measuring the ‘row gauge’, which measures height. Count how many rows go up next to the 4” or 10cm on the ruler.
Here I have 7 single crochet rows in my 4″.
Step 5 – Compare Crochet Gauge to Pattern
Make a note of these measurements and compare them to the gauge information on the pattern. If your gauge matches up, you can start crocheting your project. Yippee!!
Troubleshooting Your Crochet Gauge
If your crochet swatch is not the correct size, here are some ways to get it right:
More stitches per 4” (10cm)
This means the gauge is too tight. Your garment will turn out too small! You can try using a larger crochet hook. This will make each stitch larger, so you will end up with fewer stitches per 4” (10cm).
Fewer stitches per 4” (10cm)
This means your crochet gauge is too loose, your garment will be too large, and you may not have enough yarn. For this, try a smaller crochet hook. This makes each stitch smaller, and you will end up with more stitches per 4” (10cm).
If this still doesn’t help, try using a hook made from a different material or made by a different manufacturer.
Different materials work differently with different fibres. For example, a metal hook may crochet more tightly than a plastic hook. Different hook manufacturers may also have minuscule differences in the size of their hooks, which makes a difference over a large garment.
Or try using a different yarn, which is the same weight. Some yarns are thicker than others, although they are given the same weight label. Sometimes you can see a huge difference between thicknesses, even though they are both called ‘chunky’ yarn, for example.
Correct stitch gauge, but wrong row gauge
This happens more often than you would think! The width of your crochet gauge swatch is correct, but not the height.
This is often regulated by how tightly you feed the yarn to your hook with your non-dominant hand. Also, by how tightly or loosely you pull your stitches through when making loops.
To correct this, you need to be consciously aware of the size of your ‘golden loop’. The golden loop is the loop on your hook closest to the actual hook part.
The tighter you pull the yarn, the smaller this golden loop, and the tighter your tension. If you lift that loop up high before continuing the stitch, your tension will be looser, and the stitch will be taller.
The best way of solving this is to change your tension consciously. Make sure you aren’t pulling the stitches too tight if you have too many rows per 4” (10cm). Make an effort to concentrate on drawing up more yarn for that golden loop if this is the case.
If you have a few rows per 4” (10cm), pull the yarn to make a smaller loop before too tight the stitch.
You have to keep remembering to change your natural style if this is your gauge problem. It requires more concentration until you have trained the muscles in your hands to work in the new way.
Row gauge seems to be more common and more difficult to fix! If your pattern simply says something like “crochet in pattern until garment measures 30cm” this is not as important as if your pattern says “crochet 60 rows in pattern” or something similar. If your pattern has a lot of shaping, you will definitely need to work to adjust the row gauge.
Crochet Gauge In The Round
If you are crocheting in the round it makes a difference to your tension compared to crocheting back and forth. This is because when working in the round, the right side of the fabric is always facing you. You will need to know the gauge when working on a “top down” garment, for example.
You will need to work your tension swatch in the round too, to get the exact measurement.
To do this, make your foundation chain more than twice as long as the swatch requires, then join it into a ring. The ring needs to be larger than the 4” (10cm) across when joined.
Make rounds in the required stitch for the pattern of the garment, until the swatch is at least 5” (13cm) high. Here I use double crochet stitches (dc).
“Round gauge” refers to the height of the rows, so you will need to count how many rounds you have in the 4” (10cm).
Measure just as you did when working with the square swatches, only now you will place your ruler or tape measure across the tube of rounds you have worked.
Crochet Gauge – In Conclusion
Crochet gauge is not as critical when working on something like a blanket, except to affect the amount of yarn needed for the project. It is very tempting to skip the effort of making a gauge swatch- you are all fired up with enthusiasm for your garment, and it will waste time and yarn! Don’t give in to that temptation!
In fact, making the crochet gauge swatch saves time, yarn, and enthusiasm, as it prevents large mistakes and a lot of pulling out! Working a gauge swatch also gives you a little practice run of the crochet stitch you will be working to get familiar with it before you start the actual garment. Take that little bit of time to make one, you will be glad that you did!