Saturday 29 August 2015

Gauge: Tips from a Reluctant Convert

Hi everyone! 

This week I've been madly trying to get a new pattern worked up and written down, so I am not up to date on my CALs to share with you *blushes* 

However, over my designing work the last few months I have dealt with gauge for the first time. This is my story about how I discovered that not only is gauge important, but you need to trust what it tells you! 

What is Gauge? Why is it useful?

Testing your gauge is finding out how many stitches and rows you make to fit specific dimensions. It's used a lot in clothing (to make sure that you end up with the correct size) and in projects where you have a limited yarn supply (to make sure that your yarn usage will match the usage in the pattern).

There are often little gauge pictures on yarn bands as well, to show how the manufacturer thinks the yarn will work up using the recommended hook/needle size. 

Your own personal tension and style will also affect gauge.

I have never, ever before in my life bothered with gauge. I'm rarely using the recommended yarn or hook, and as long as I am consistent in my style and tension across the piece, it'll work out fine, right? Plus I don't make a lot of clothing where size is important, which helps me get away without it!

How do you work out the Gauge for a project?

There are a million and one tutorials online for how to check your gauge and fix any problems. I thoroughly recommend Googling "Crochet Gauge" if you need more detailed assistance.

Normally, to check gauge you make a swatch using the same yarn and hook as for your project, at least 6 inches wide and 6 inches tall. Then, you measure the middle 4 inches (i.e. 1 inch in from each side), and count how many stitches across make up 4 inches, and how many rows up make 4 inches. 

If this doesn't match the gauge given in the pattern, then you might need to change your hook size up or down, or pull your stitches taller or shorter. 


Here's my big lesson in gauge/swatch making - trust the answers it gives you!! 

In the last two projects I have been designing (both will be released in the next few weeks!), I decided to start with a gauge swatch to calculate how many pattern repeats/squares I would need to make the size I was aiming for. Careful measuring, enough mathematics to give me a headache, and I had an outline of the pattern to start with.

After 1 row of the first design, my piece was way too big. I frogged back and made it shorter, so the row was the same size as the finished size.

After 3 rows, the piece was way too small!! By not trusting my gauge on the first go round, I had made a lot of extra work for myself! 

In the second design, which is made up of squares, I decided after the first 2 rows of squares that it was two squares too wide, so I undid the extra squares and went on my merry way to make a square afghan. Got to the end and... you guessed it... it's too short and too narrow! By EXACTLY TWO SQUARES. After thinking I was finished, I had to go back and add in an extra 60 squares.

So! Long story short - if you are going to bother making gauge swatches, trust them!!

Have you bothered making gauge swatches? Have you ever used them in designing?


  1. Nice picture, hahaha. And indeed, very useful what you're telling!

  2. I haven't ever swatched, but I can see how it would be very important in making clothes especially! xx

    1. I don't plan on doing it regularly - so much extra time!

    2. I wouldn't embark on a garment without making tension squares first.

    3. Agreed Jodie! I am going to avoid making tension squares by avoiding making fitted clothing :P

    4. LOL! Well, you got me there, Michelle :-)

  3. Years ago before I knew about what making a gauge swatch was I crocheted a sweater which would fit an orangutan perfectly. LOL. :)
    I have no idea what happened to that sweater....i probably ripped it out or something.

    1. Hahaha!! What a nightmare... I've tried to stay away from making clothes for just that reason!

  4. That's a new angle, Michelle - this is the first time I have ever heard of someone not believing their tension square! Even when you are playing around you are breaking new ground, hehehe ;-)
    We are total opposites on the subject of 'gauge swatches'. You don't plan on making too many but I will always make a sample nowadays, the bigger the better - it is more accurate the larger you go. There's so much more it can tell you than the finished size alone like how your finished product will wash, whether it will shrink or stretch, etc.
    So much extra time, you say. I say it is an investment in time - invest a little time at the beginning to save a lot of time later on.
    It all depends on the project, doesn't it? :-)

    1. Oh, absolutely! I agree that for clothing it's an investment of time rather than a waste, but, I am so impatient and just want to get going, if swatching can be avoided :P

  5. Funniest photo. I would make a tension square for clothing but not for a blanket.

    1. I had to find something REALLY funny for this post!