I’m doing the A to Z Challenge for the month of April with the theme “Learn to Crochet A to Z.” For more details, and to see previous posts, click here!
Gauge. If you’ve crocheted before, this word is probably enough to make you gnash your teeth and close the pattern book or webpage. I know, because I have a similar reaction. But, like it or not, gauge is an essential part of crochet if you want to progress beyond toys and small squares.
What is gauge, anyway? Basically, it’s a measure of how tightly or loosely you crochet. Your gauge affects how big your finished project will be. So if you’re a tight crocheter, you might end up with a really small sweater, and if you’re a loose crocheter, it might look more like a tent. Not exactly the result you want all of your hard work to yield.
Since everyone crochets differently, it’s important to check your gauge before you start making something that’s gauge-critical. Things that fall under that category are things where size matters: hats, sweaters, gloves, socks, and any clothes, for sure, but you might also want to have an approximate finished size for other projects. Otherwise your cute little narwhal amigurumi might turn into a two-foot whale ready to devour you and your family. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but my point is that it never hurts to check your gauge. It just takes a little extra time.
Most patterns will tell you to make a “gauge swatch.” What they won’t tell you is how you go about doing that. Let’s say you’re making a sweater and they say the gauge is “15 dc over 4″. Don’t panic! (We’ll be talking about crochet abbreviations later, but dc stands for double crochet.) This is basically telling you that 15 double crochets should measure about 4 inches, using the yarn and hook size recommended in the pattern.
What I like to do is make a small square that’s about 15 stitches long. Experts will tell you to make it 20 stitches long because your edges will be a little uneven, so you’ll want to measure in the middle, but I’m too lazy to spare any extra effort. Don’t follow my example; I’m just telling you my method in the interest of full disclosure. Then you’ll make a couple rows in the stitch pattern – in this case it’s just plain double crochet. After you’re done, measure to see how many stitches are in 4 inches.
- If you have less stitches than required, you’re crocheting more loosely. That means you’ll need to go down a hook size.
- If you have more stitches than required, you’re crocheting more tightly. That means you’ll need to go up a hook size.
It’s important to remember to use the same yarn weight and hook size that are recommended in the pattern. If you’re using bulky weight yarn and the pattern calls for sock weight yarn, of course your gauge is going to come up too large. We’ll talk more about yarn later, but that’s something to keep in mind. Use the recommended hook size as a starting point, but follow the guidelines above for going up or down a hook size as necessary.
If you meet gauge, your finished object should come to the same measurements as in the pattern. It’s always worth taking time to check your gauge. (I say that, but the number of times I’ve crocheted a hat that doesn’t fit just because I was too lazy to check gauge proves that I don’t take my own advice.)
Have you had any gauge misadventures? I think every crocheter has a story like that…I sure do! Once I attempted to knit a Katniss Cowl, resulting in a garment that was American Girl-doll size, because apparently I knit SUPER tightly. I ended up crocheting it instead. :}