Pattern Basics: Part 2 – Getting Gauge

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Last week, we began talking about how to read a crochet pattern, gleaning the important information needed to make a successful project. You can read Part 1 here. This week, we’ll cover getting gauge, another area crocheters tend to rush past in their excitement to get going on a new project.

I have often referred to gauge as a 4-letter word and indeed you may find yourself using a few if you ignore the work of getting the correct gauge!

When you take the time to make sure your gauge matches the gauge given in the pattern, you’ll save yourself hours of frustration and ripping. I repeat: It’s always worth the time it takes to do your gauge swatch. And the reality is, you may have to do more than one.

In addition to getting the right gauge your swatch can tell you so much about your project. Don’t think of making the gauge swatch as a waste of time. Think of it as a time to “play” with the pattern, to see if you like the stitch and the yarn together. Making your gauge swatch is like a small glimpse of your project. This is the time to decide if you like the yarn you have chosen for your project. Does it drape well if it is a garment? Is it sturdy enough for a placemat or a rug? If you are using more than one color, do you like the colors you have put together? Do you understand the pattern stitch or do you need more practice before you start the actual project?

Here are a few guidelines to remember as you work your swatch:

  • Start with the crochet hook recommended in the pattern. As you gain experience you may notice you are a “loose crocheter” or a “tight crocheter” which means you can begin with a hook one size larger if you crochet tightly or one size smaller if you crochet loosely. You still need to do your gauge swatch, but this may save you some time.
  • Make your swatch big enough. You are creating a fabric, which means it needs to be big enough to take into account the slight variations that happen when you make a fabric “by hand.” Even if the gauge is measured over 2 inches, your swatch needs to be at least 4 inches square. Crocheting a 6-inch square swatch is even better.

gauge 3

  • Make sure to block your gauge swatch before measuring if it states to do so.
  • Use a good quality tape measure or metal ruler to measure your swatch. Don’t use grandma’s old cloth tape measure or your kid’s ruler – this needs to be the most accurate measurement you can get.
  • Measure over the largest possible area. Even if your gauge states: 4 sc = 1 inch. Measure over at least 4 inches and then divide by 4 to get the gauge per inch.
  • Measure both the stitch and row gauge.

gauge 6

If your gauge matches the gauge in the pattern you are ready to proceed! If your swatch has more stitches than the stated gauge, use a larger hook and try again. If your swatch has fewer stitches, use a smaller hook. Keep making swatches adjusting the hook size until your stitch and row gauge match the gauge given in the pattern.

You are now ready to begin crocheting! Remember to keep measuring your project as you proceed. Your gauge swatch is your best “educated guess”. You may find you need to make adjustments once you begin the actual project. Working this way may seem tedious at first, but in the long run, you’ll end up with beautiful crochet projects that you will be proud to share!

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