I have worked with patterns a lot of years and I am constantly helping people with gauge issues. That’s why I started this series of posts about gauge. (You can check out the other posts by clicking the category, Gauge, in the right hand column). Today I wanted to go over some common statements that I have heard about gauge over the years and why they are not so true.
#1. If you are using the same yarn and hook that the pattern states, you are getting gauge.
This is by far the most common statement I have seen and it is a resounding so-not-true statement. Gauge, as stated before, is the measurement given over a particular set of stitches. You get that measurement over those stitches, you are getting gauge. EVERYONE crochets differently. You may hold your hook differently, your yarn differently or you may hang to that yarn as you work with a different tension. These differences mean that you may not necessarily meet gauge even if you are using the same yarn and hook as the designer.
#2. Gauge stays uniform across all pattern stitches in a project.
Again, unfortunately, nope. You may be lucky and that works but it isn’t super common. For example, I crochet more tightly on a smaller circumference so I know I need to use a larger hook when working sleeves to accommodate for that. I also know that I seem to chain tightly. To compensate for that I will use a larger hook on my starting chain. Or I know that a stitch pattern with a lot of chain spaces, I may have trouble getting gauge with the same hook as the pattern states. For this reason, it is super nice when patterns give gauge information for each stitch pattern in the design….if those patterns produce a different gauge.
#3. Gauge doesn’t matter on a non-wearable project.
Sort of true and not true all at once. Designers use the gauge and measurements to figure the amount of yarn needed for a project. If your gauge is off, then you may need more or less yarn than the designer determined. On a small project, that isn’t a big deal. On a large afghan, it could mean that you run out of yarn if you are not on gauge. And that isn’t the designer’s fault because what the designer figured was correct if you were on the stated gauge.
#4. It’s okay if my gauge is off by a stitch or two.
Again sort of true and not true. On a small project, not a big deal. On a large project, like a sweater it could be a big deal. Let’s say the gauge on the sweater you are making is 16 sc = 4 inches. That means 4 sc = 1 inch. Your gauge is 17 sc = 4 inches, which is 4.25 sc per inch. Time for math. On gauge, your sweater should measure 38 inches in circumference with 4 sc per inch. With your gauge of 4.25 sc per inch, your sweater would measure 35.76 inches in circumference. That’s almost 3 inches smaller! That could make your sweater much tighter than you intended and that was just 1 stitch off from the gauge measurement!
#5. The pattern’s gauge is wrong so I am just going to work it on my own gauge.
Ummm…rather presumptuous to automatically assume the designer goofed. You could ask them politely to confirm. Everyone is human and does make mistakes but generally speaking the gauge is right most of the time. Just because you have a hard time meeting that gauge measurement doesn’t mean it is wrong. Just means you might have to try some more hook and yarn combinations to find what works. But by all means, if you have the knowledge to rework the pattern with your own gauge, go for it! But keep in mind, you have then changed the pattern from what the designer had and that means that if you have problems later on in the pattern, they may not be able to help because you are no longer working with their version of the pattern.
#6. I don’t need to block my gauge swatch; that just wastes precious time.
Eeek…pretend that statement is true at your own risk. Blocking evens out stitching and loosens things up even with acrylic yarn. It is much more subtle with a non-natural fiber but it still does make a difference. I once made a sweater with a silk blend yarn. Beautiful stuff. Quite expensive. Didn’t want to follow proper procedure and wash and block my swatch. Made the sweater. It looked great. Fit great. Until I decided it needed a wash. Then it would have fit King Kong’s brother. (Insert tear soaked face here). All that time and money down the drain!! There was no getting that sweater back to its prewashed state. I highly suggest you do not risk putting yourself through that!
—Britt Schmiesing, editor