I could have titled this post “Everything You Need To Know About Crochet Gauge”, but you would’ve just skipped over it, the same way you skim past the gauge section in a pattern. 🙂
Crocheting a gauge swatch is painful. It’s graver than sewing in the ends. I hear ya!
You just want to dive into your project. I’m going to explain why you can’t skip this step and when it’s ok too.
What’s The Big Deal About Crochet Gauge?
Size matters. Making a sweater is a time commitment. That is the reason it took so long to make my first sweater. You spend hours crocheting, only to find it’s too big or fits your child.
The frustration can be overwhelming. But there’s a pretty simple solution, that no one wants to hear.
Crochet a gauge swatch first.
I know, it’s extra work. I spent a few years crocheting before I even knew what crochet gauge was. Now, I understand taking an extra 15 minutes before I start my project can save me hours of frogging, crying, or worse, quitting.
What Is A Crochet Gauge Swatch?
A gauge swatch is simply a small sample, usually a 4” square, you crochet before you start the actual project. Gauge is a measurement of your stitches. There are 2 parts, stitches and rows.
This means that gauge measures how wide and tall your stitches are.
Why Do I Need To Take This Extra Step?
The purpose of the swatch is to see if you crochet with the same tension as the designer. We all crochet a little differently. This makes it impossible to simply follow the recommended number of stitches and rows in a pattern and get the same size sweater as the designer.
Not matching gauge isn’t as important for something small like a dishcloth or bag.
But for sweaters and accessories you wear, the wrong gauge could mean your finished item could be too small to put on or fit for a giant.
12 sts by 7 rows = 4”
Above is an example of how gauge is written in a pattern. I’m going to save you the pain of all the nerdy calculations. But let’s say you start crocheting a sweater and have 11 sts per 4”. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, only 1 stitch short.
BUT after geeking out with the stitch numbers, I found your finished sweater would be 67″ around. The designer’s sweater was supposed to be 60″ around.
You now have a sweater that is 7” too big, all because you had 1 less stitch in the gauge swatch.
The correct gauge measurement affects more than just size. If your tension is tighter than the recommended gauge your fabric will be tighter. This will result in a firmer sweater that doesn’t have as nice of a drape (doesn’t lay correctly).
How Do You Make A Crochet Gauge Swatch?
Use the same yarn you’re using in the final sweater and the recommended hook size.
You’ll start with a chain 2” larger than the gauge pattern.
The standard crochet gauge measurement is 4” by 4” square, but it varies. Check your pattern to be sure.
For most patterns, you’ll want to start with a 6” long chain.
Work with the same stitch that the gauge calls for. If a stitch isn’t specified in the gauge, work in whatever stitch is used for the main part of the sweater.
Crochet patterns will have the gauge written like this:
12 sts & 7 rows = 4” or 12 dc x 7 rows = 4”
Here’s a sample pattern to make a swatch for the gauge example given above.
Row 1: work 1 dc in the second ch from the hook, work 1 dc in each ch across, turn
Row 2: ch 1, 1 dc in each st across, turn
Repeat row 2 until you have a 5”- 6” square.
If different gauges are given for different stitches make sure to create a separate gauge swatch for each stitch.
Ready to take your sweater making skills up a notch? This book is packed with helpful tutorials for a perfect fit and 14 sweater patterns.
How To Measure Your Swatch
After completing the swatch lay it on a hard, flat surface. Use a ruler or gauge measuring device to measure the number of stitches.
Place the ruler horizontally across the center of the swatch. Count the number of stitches that fit into 4”. This is your stitch gauge.
Place the ruler vertically across the swatch and count the number of rows that fit into 4”. This number is your row gauge.
- The swatch should be larger than the 4” you need to measure.
- You’ll only measure the interior stitches, not the stitches or rows along the edges of the swatch.
- Remember half stitches count too.
If you matched gauge on your first try you can start your project!
What If Your Gauge Doesn’t Match?
Unless your tension is a perfect match with the designer, your gauge swatch most likely won’t match either. The easiest way to adjust your gauge is to choose a different hook size.
Too Many Stitches
If you have more stitches and rows than the gauge pattern your finished sweater will be too small.
Use a larger hook and swatch again.
You can continue sizing up hooks until you have a perfect gauge match. Using a larger hook will make each stitch larger and spread out the number of stitches over the 4”. Don’t be discouraged. It can take as many as 3 hook changes to get the correct number of stitches.
Gauge Pattern: 12 dc x 7 rows = 4” (6.5 mm crochet hook)
When you measure the interior stitches you have 14 dc’s and 8 rows in the 4” square. Swatch again using an 8 mm crochet hook and the same pattern as above. Remeasure.
Not Enough Stitches
If you have fewer stitches and rows than the gauge pattern your finished sweater will be too big.
Use a smaller hook and swatch again.
The smaller hook will make each stitch smaller, giving you more stitches per inch. Continue sizing down hooks until you have a perfect gauge match.
Gauge Pattern: 12 dc x 7 rows = 4” (6.5 mm crochet hook.)
When you measure the interior stitches you have 11 dc’s and 6 rows in the 4” square. Swatch again using a 6 mm crochet hook and the same pattern as above. Remeasure.
Remember to be conscious of your tension throughout the entire project. When working on a large sweater you most likely won’t be able to finish it in one sitting. Your tension can fluctuate throughout the piece.
It’s a good idea to keep checking your gauge periodically as you work. After I finish a panel of a sweater I go back and measure the gauge in the middle of the panel. This keeps my tension equal throughout.
Ready to start a crochet sweater pattern? The Bell Crop Sweater Pattern is perfect for beginner crocheters.