Learn to Measure Gauge
In this post you will learn how to measure gauge. Have you ever wondered what gauge was and why you should care? I get a lot of people that say they never make a gauge swatch and that they really don’t understand gauge. If you have been fortunate enough to create garments that fit without making a gauge swatch let me say that one day your luck may run out. What probably happened is that you were working very close to the gauge indicated on the pattern. Lucky you!
Gauge refers to the number of stitches and rows a knitter or crocheter makes per inch using a certain yarn and needles or hook. Since not everyone crochet or knits with the same tension (this affects gauge), it is a very good idea to make a gauge swatch before beginning a new project. There are items that you can crochet or knit in which gauge isn’t critical. However if you are working on certain items like garments it is important to be able to match the gauge that is specified in the pattern instructions. This will ensure that your item/garment is the same size as the size the designer intended when designing the item and that the amount of yarn required (as specified in pattern) is sufficient to complete your project.
There is nothing worse than putting in a lot of time and effort only to find that a garment doesn’t fit. It can also be a nightmare to discover you don’t have enough yarn to complete your project. So there you go back to your yarn store just hoping and praying they still have the yarn you need. Plus, you still have to meet the color lot. That is not always possible. It’s better to have too much yarn than not enough. There are plenty of things you can use up little yarn scraps. For example you can make flowers or other embellishments.
There are different types of tools that are used to measure gauge. In the photo above you can see a gauge measuring tool that is very popular. This one is from Susan Bates but these tools are available from many manufacturers. You can even use a regular ruler. I do not recommend the measuring tapes used to measure your body as these can stretch and cause an inaccurate measurements. You can also use a regular ruler but use one made out of a ridgid material such as wool or hard plastic.
To make a swatch gauge: Using the yarn and hook specific in the pattern work the stitch indicated (single crochet, double crochet, etc.) until you reach the number of inches required. For example if a gauge swatch reads: 16 dc = 4″ You would work dc until you reach 4 inches. The second part of the instructions usually give you the number of rows you will need to reach a certain height. For this example let’s suppose that the height of you work read as follows; 6 rows = 4 inches. This is indicating that you should be working 6 rows in the stitch indicated to reach a measurement of 4 inches.
Many times people will only work a 2 inch square. I prefer to work at least a 4 inch square at the minimum. I usually will work at least a 6 or 8 inch square. This allows me to be able to measure my piece in several places. This gives a more accurate reading. I will usually measure the stitches in 4 inches across and divide by 4 this gives me the total number of stitches per inch. For the example above of 16 dc = 4″ my total number of dc stitches per inch should be 4. If I am getting to 1 inch with less stitches this means I crochet with a looser tension and should try again with a smaller hook. If it takes me more stitches to get a 1 inch measurement it indicates that I crochet with a tighter tension than the designer and that I should go ahead and try a larger size hook. Many times taking a measurement after you have been working for a while may affect your tension as your hands tend to get tired. (At least for myself) I tend to crochet a little looser when my hands are tired.
I usually just go up or down 1 hook size until I reach the desired gauge. Below is an example of how different hook and yarn weights can affect gauge.
In this photo I used a medium weight yarn (acrylic) and a J/10 6.0 mm hook. As you can see it only takes me 4 dc to reach 1 inch and only 2 rows to reach 1 inch. Compare that to the photo above in which I used a weight 3 yarn and a G hook (4.25mm).
Some things to consider BEFORE taking your measurements;
* Type of fiber – Natural fibers such as wool can shrink and therefore I recommend washing and blocking your swatch BEFORE measuring. Acrylics don’t tend to shrink but I would still block before measuring.
* Blocking – I always recommend blocking your square before measuring if you don’t your measurement may not be accurate
* Is this just a basic stitch or a pattern repeat. Below is a photo of a pattern. Your pattern might indicate the number of pattern repeats you will need to achieve the gauge. You would still put your measuring tool on the beginning of a pattern and count the number of times the pattern repeats for the number of inches indicated on your pattern.
* Did you use the correct hook size and type of yarn called for in pattern. Not all yarns can be substituted.
* You may want to check how a yarn drapes. Sometimes after blocking my swatch I will hang it on a clothesline overnight and then check the measurements again. This may help me determine if I need to adjust if the fiber sags a lot.
* Take the measurement in several places on your swatch. This will help with checking the accuracy of your tension.
Gauge varies from person to person, so it is very important to make sure you are achieving the gauge of your pattern. In the beginning it may seem like it takes a lot of extra time to create a gauge swatch. In the end you will be happy you took the extra time to ensure that you have items that fit correctly and that you never run out of yarn mid-project again. Sometimes no matter how much you try your gauge might not be exact. Try to get as close as possible.
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Are you more of a visual learner and prefer to watch a video? Well here is a video I did on gauge. Click on the video and enjoy.