Now that you have learned the keys to making a good swatch (if you missed it, check out that post here), let’s talk about how to measure that bad boy.
You will want a good measuring tool. I used to use my sewing tape measure that was plastic and rolled up. But then I learned that those can stretch out over time and then you no longer get an accurate reading. So you want to use something sturdy and non-stretchy to measure. A super nice ruler to try is the Annie’s Needle & Hook Gauge with Yarn Cutter. This baby has it all. You can measure your gauge, double check your hook size AND cut your yarn ends as you work. Super nice 3-in-1 tool!
In our April 2022 issue, we did a product review over the gauge rulers from Katrinkles. All you have to do is lay the square over your swatch and count inside the square much like the Annie’s one. Makes things nice and simple.
Now that you have your perfect tool and you have followed all the advice from the previous gauge post about making a swatch, you are ready to start measuring the stitch gauge. This is the number of stitches across a certain measurement. Hitting the number stated in the pattern ensures your finished piece will fit correctly or be the same size as the one in the pattern.
Lay your ruler over your swatch. Try to place the ruler at the start of a stitch (along the stitch’s left side) and then count your stitches across to the 4 inch mark (or to the number of inches your pattern is telling you to count across).
Does the number match what the pattern says it should?
Now let’s check row gauge. Align the ruler along the base of a row of stitches. Now count each row up to the measurement given in the pattern. Again does it match what the pattern states?
It does! Great! Start working on your project.
If it doesn’t, what are your next steps? You will need to make a new gauge swatch but try a different hook size. Sometimes it is just a matter of going up or down one hook size but other times it may be several. I have had to go up 4 hook sizes before to get the gauge in the given pattern. It just means your tension is a lot different than the designer’s.
- If you have more stitches than the pattern tells you gauge should be, you will need to go UP a hook size or more.
- Example: Pattern’s gauge is 14 sc = 4 inches.
- Your swatch reads: 16 sc = 4 inches.
- You need to use a larger hook to make fewer stitches over 4 inches.
- If you have fewer stitches than the pattern tells you gauge should be, you will need to go DOWN a hook size or more.
- Example: Pattern’s gauge is 14 sc= 4 inches.
- Your swatch reads: 11 sc = 4 inches.
- You need to use a smaller hook to create more stitches in that amount of space.
But what if your row gauge is off? This one is tougher because it means the height of your stitches is different than the designer’s. Height of stitches is harder to accommodate. Your stitches will get a little taller or shorter with a different hook size but not a lot. This is more of a matter of how high you are pulling up your loops as you create stitches and the angle you hold your hook at while creating stitches. Check out this video for more info on this tricky topic.
If you still have trouble getting gauge, you may need to switch up what material your hooks is made of. Like if you made your swatch with a wood hook and can’t get gauge, try a metal one. I know, sounds weird but it’s true. The yarn moves across the hook material differently. It will stick a bit on a wood hook and glide quickly across a slick metal hook. You may also just have to try a different yarn with your hook. Though a yarn may read that it is worsted, there are still lots of variation in the actual thickness from one worsted weight yarn to the next. But that is a whole different discussion.
—Britt Schmiesing, editor