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If you want to be a serious crocheter, you MUST know what is gauge, what it does and why it’s so important.
What is gauge?
It is the number of rows per inch and stitches per inch that are reached by the use of a specific yarn and crochet hook. People generally crochet with varying tension, so the gauge can vary – therefore making some crochets tighter or looser than others.
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Determining and Understanding Gauge Instructions
You will always find instructions for the gauge you need to match in most knit or crochet patterns, so don’t worry. These instructions are usually abbreviated depending on the pattern. For example:
If the pattern calls for a gauge of “15 sts and 10 rows measure 10 x 10cm (4 x 4 in) over tr using 4.5mm crochet hooks”. By reading these instructions one should know:
- The number of stitches that should be in your piece: In our example above 15 stitches and 10 rows
- The size to use when measuring the stitches: 10 x 10 cm (4 x4 in) – this is a standard size meaning sometimes you might be required to measure 5x 5 cm (2×2 in).
- The hook size: 4.5mm
- Tr: means the stitch you need to measure over (in this case treble crochet)
Some patterns might state that ‘gauge is not critical for this project’ meaning the pattern designer answered the ‘does the exact size matter’ question with a ‘no’. By understanding these instructions, you should be able to complete the project easily.
photo from jennyandteddy.com
Making and measuring a swatch
When crocheting a gauge swatch, you should always work with the exact yarn being used for the main item. Making a gauge swatch before starting a project helps you determine whether the correct size will be met. Usually, gauge-making instructions are not always included in the pattern but you can use the steps below to make one.
- Check the number of stitches in your gauge instructions: For example, 15 stitches and 10 rows. Since the stitches push or pull outwards slightly on the edges it is better if you make your gauge swatch bigger to get an accurate measurement. In this case, one may decide to crochet 20 stitches and 14 rows which will give plenty of stitches in the middle of your gauge swatch to measure.
- Check the stitch that you measure the gauge on: That is if it’s double or treble crochet.
- By using the stated hook size, crochet your swatch. You should not cut the thread so that you can be able to re-use the yarn later.
- Measure your swatch in the middle. This will help you if you are on a tight yarn. With this, you can easily rip out your gauge square and re-use your yarn.
- After you have followed the steps, compare your gauge with the designer’s gauge to see if it matches. If you have more stitches (or rows) per 10cm, it means your work will be smaller. Otherwise, if you have less stitches (or rows) per 10cm, your work will be larger than the designer’s.
Making Adjustments and Maintaining the right gauge for your project
To come up with the desired item, make sure to add adjustments to get the right gauge and that you maintain it throughout the project.
Some of the adjustments that need to be made to get the right gauge are:
- Change of hook material – Since different materials have different traction on your yarn and your tension might differ with the materials thus a few material adjustments will ensure that you achieve the right gauge.
- Change the hook sizes – If the size is big reduce it. Additionally, if it is small, increase it. While doing this, you should keep a check on the item to ensure it is not too loose or too stiff.
If you are not able to match the gauge then you can work with a certain range depending on the item.
After you have matched or settled on a gauge range, you need to maintain the gauge throughout your project. This is usually hard when one is working on large projects, because there are many factors that can make the gauge differ. Some of the things you can do to ensure that the gauge is consistent while knitting or crocheting are:
- Make sure that you are relaxed, because your stress levels greatly influence your work. This means that you might make tighter crochet than the desired one.
- Make sure you don’t stretch the yarn too much.
- Check on the way you hold your yarn, so that the tension won’t affect the height.
- Ensure that you finish a row or segment before you break or put your work away. This helps to do away with gauge differences which are much more likely to be seen in rounds or rows.
- To make sure you are on the right track, measure the gauge once in a while!
photo from nickishomemadecrafts.com
Why Gauge is Important in Crochet
Gauge is important in crochet, because by making sure you have the right gauge your crochet items will be the right size. Not having the right gauge in crochet can lead to some problems such as:
- You might get a project that looks different from the original, because other than the size and fit gauge has other effects while crocheting.
- Having crochet accessories or garments that are not fitting
- You might have a lot of left-over yarn / run out of yarn before the project is over.
As we have learned, gauge can make or break a project, so be sure to make your swatches! Known as the ‘measurement of tension’ it is important to create a swatch for all new projects. This way you will make sure you are able to complete your projects correctly and without stress.
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