Updated: Jun 13
The gauge required for crochet could arguably be considered the most important part of any crochet project while simultaneously also being the part crocheters procrastinate over or simply miss all together.
So what is the gauge?
The gauge is a measurement of the main stitches of a crochet project. These measurements ensure the project you end up with, is the same as the intended outcome. The gauge has two parts - the number of stitches across the project (horizontal measurement) and the number of rows down the project (the vertical measurement).
Gauge can also be measured by a certain number of repeating patterns i.e. 3 repeats of the pattern may be equal to 4 inches (10cm).
Why is gauge so important?
There are several reasons gauge is important, with the most common being that if you are crocheting a garment, you’ll want to ensure that the garment comes out in the intended size to fit the recipient.
Also, the designer may crochet in a different way to yourself. They may crochet with a much looser technique so therefore their gauge might end up bigger than someone who has purchased their pattern.
On any given day, depending on whether you’ve had a stressful day or a relaxing day, your own crochet tension may change. It is always good to be able to warm up your hands by crocheting a gauge swatch before starting in on your project again.
The amount of yarn needed for a project will be based on the gauge of the pattern. If you crochet bigger than the gauge swatch you may run out of yarn - which is every crocheter’s worst nightmare!
The look and feel of the project may not be the same as the pattern.
How to measure your gauge.
First create your swatch using the required yarn and hook size. The swatch should be larger than the gauge that has been advised i.e. if your gauge is 4 inches (10 cm) square, then make sure your swatch is at least 5inches (12.7cm) square.
Lie your swatch flat and using a suitable measuring tool like a gauge ruler, measure the number of stitches (horizontal measure) within the gauge length i.e. 4 inches. Then measure the number of rows (vertical measure) within this same area. The two together will give you the gauge of your swatch.
Note: Ensure your swatch has been completed in the same way as the designer’s i.e. they may advise the swatch needs to be blocked or that the gauge measurement is before blocking has happened.
How to adjust for incorrect gauge
Example - too many stitches, too many rows
Your tension is tight and your project will be smaller than intended.
If you have too many stitches and too many rows within your gauge then try adjusting your hook. If the gauge is just slightly off, go up a half size. If the gauge is way off, go up a full hook size or more depending on how far off the gauge is.
Example - not enough stitches, not enough rows
Your tension is loose, your project will be bigger than intended and you may run out of yarn.
If you don't have enough stitches or rows within your gauge then the easiest thing to try is to adjust your hook. If the gauge is just slightly off, go down in a half size. If the gauge is way off, go down a full hook size or more depending on how far off the gauge is.
Here’s where things start to get more complicated
Example - right number of stitches, not enough rows / or right number of stitches, too many rows
To adjust for the right number of stitches, but there are either too many or too few rows takes a bit more work.
If you are a beginner, I would suggest just trying to get your gauge as close as possible using different hook sizes, or even different types of hooks. For example, if you tried your swatch using a simple metal hook, try a hook made out of wood or bamboo, or try using an ergonomic hook - this may change your technique slightly and get you closer to the gauge. You may also want to try a different yarn as the different fibres or weights could help adjust your gauge.
If you are a more experienced crocheter, adjust your stitches. You can sometimes adjust the style of your stitches to help achieve the right row height. You may want to try the extended single crochet, half double crochet or double crochet etc. to gain a little more height if this is your main stitch for the gauge. This may alter the look/feel of the project though so can only be used in some circumstances.
The next option is to look at your crochet style or tension - this is probably the hardest thing to adjust, but with a bit of practice, it can be done. If you crochet too tight, you will need to look at loosening your stitches, if you crochet too loose you will need to tighten up.
Check out my blog post on Understanding your Crochet Style to see how you can adjust your work further to achieve gauge.