What the Heck is a Gauge?

By Rachel Choi – 12 Comments
I’m asked this all the time and yes, gauge is important in crochet and knitting alike.

So what is a gauge?
A gauge is a small swatch of work, typically made up of a small piece of the pattern or a stitch that is used in the pattern. The purpose of making a gauge is to ensure that the tension and size of your stitches match the designer’s. This way your finished item will be the same size as the size indicated in the pattern.

crochet gauge

How do you make a gauge swatch?
In all of my patterns, there are pattern instructions for you to follow to make your gauge. Some patterns will tell you to repeat certain rows in the pattern. After creating your gauge swatch, be sure that the finished size is the same as dimensions indicated for the gauge. If you find that your swatch is too big or too small, try using a smaller or bigger sized hook.

Is gauge really important?
Sometimes. Depending on what you’re making, you might not care if your work turns out the proper size. I don’t care if my refrigerator magnet turns out a little too big, but if I’m making a sweater, it better fit me. It’s up to you to determine when you think it’s important, but when in doubt make the gauge anyway.

Do you always make gauge swatches or are you guilt of skipping it?

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12 Comments

  1. Cecelia says:

    I used to think working up a gauge swatch was waste of time, but I forced myself to get into the habit to check gauge. Now I can’t imagine working up a project without first checking gauge.

  2. Bookworm says:

    I make mostly Amigurumi, so gauge isn’t really important.

  3. Juli says:

    I’m guilty of skipping this step. I think I’ve only checked a few times when I was first starting out.

  4. Maria says:

    This is one of the biggest problems I have “Guage”. I’ve gone to the extent of making 5 swatches with different size hooks in order to get my guage to match the pattern. My problem is that sometimes the length comes out right but the depth does not so, after making so many swatches, I pick the one that is closer to the guage size they call for. I don’t know if this is the correct thing to do. I also don’t throw away the guage swatches I make. Instead I pin a lable on them with the size and type of yarn that the pattern calls for and whatever material I used in order to obtain the guage that the pattern calls for. The next time I need to work up a guage swatch, I’ll look to see if I’ve got one already made up that calls for the same measurements.

  5. Melissa says:

    The few things I’ve made where gauge mattered it was a “create as your along” pattern, so I didn’t do gauge. I just did fittings to the person it was for. But, I do get the importance. I see how different size hooks and yarn can make a difference even in the blankets and stuffed animals I make.

  6. Jamie Hatch says:

    I’m with Maria. My gauge swatches usually end up being too wide and too short. I don’t know how to fix that, or whether to go up a hook size or down.

  7. Brenda says:

    I’m quilty. I hardly ever check the gauge. But if I’m making a dress or something to wear I always check it. :)

  8. Judy Serrio says:

    I would like to make this baby pattern but I have no idea how to start a gauge. The pattern says
    gauge is;: 2 clusters=1 inch; 3 cluster and 2 sc rows=2 inches. Do you chain what the pattern
    says which is 51 and do you do the first row of the pattern which is ch 51, dc in 4th ch from hook
    and in each ch across, turn and then do you do what it says for the cluster?

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Judy, try to make a small swatch of the stitch pattern that the pattern is using by working a few rows. It doesn’t have to be the full 51 chains, just enough chains so that you can eventually measure the size of the “2 clusters” and the “3 cluster and 2 sc rows”.

  9. Lila J. says:

    Oh, I need help with this. I’m “trying” to do a project which uses a mesh stitch. For the gauge, it says: “In stitch pattern, 4 (sc, ch-3 spaces) and 8 rows = 4 inches”. I’m sort of confused on how to do this.

    First of all, does the gauge include the foundation chain? Like, “foundation + 8 rows”, or “foundation + 7 rows”?

    Secondly, the whole “4 (sc, ch-3 spaces)” thing: How does one do/interpret that? Is that 4 single crochets in 3 chain spaces?? So, like make 4 chain spaces and then do…? I can’t even type it. I’m totally lost on that. Please help. I’ll include part of the pattern below.

    –Row 1: Beg in sixth chain from hook, sc in sixth ch, *ch 3, skip 2 ch, sc in next ch; rep from * to across, end in last ch; turn.
    –Row 2: Ch 5 (counts as sc, ch 3), sc in first ch-3 space, * ch 3, sc in next ch-3 space; rep from * across; turn.

    One last question: In my book, for Row 1, it didn’t have that first star (*), only the 2nd one. It seemed like a typo; and based on some other patterns that I saw, I assumed that the first star would go there. Does that seem right for a mesh pattern (to you)?

    Thanks a MILLION!

    • Candace says:

      Lila, for your first question, the foundation chain rarely counts as its own row (I won’t say never in case someone does write their patterns that way). So 8 rows generally means the 8 rows you complete after the chain has been made. Notice your pattern does not use the foundation chain as Row 1.

      As for your second question, parentheses in patterns should be interpreted much like the ones in math. In this case you’re doing (sc, ch 3) four times, and finishing off with another sc for stability.

      Lastly, it does look like the asterisk is placed well. Does it work with your stitch count?

      • Lila J. says:

        Hi Candace:

        (1) The row part makes enough sense :)

        (2) Regarding the asterisk, yes, it seems like it’s working. The numbers seems fine, although, the patterns seems a little too tight but I may just be heavy-handed, lol. I’m a beginner at this thing, so I’m unsure of a lot.

        (3) Going back to the parentheses, I’m still confused :( I understand what you wrote, but “sc, ch 3″ seems different from “sc, ch-3 spaces”. If I were to sc and then ch 3 repeatedly, I’d have a different pattern than the one they gave which was basically “sc, ch 3, sk 2 ch” on repeat. So, I guess my main point of confusion is the “ch-3 spaces” (vs “ch 3″ – because aren’t those different?) and what is meant by “ch-3 spaces” in the formula: 4 (sc, ch-3 spaces). This is a time when I wish patterns where written in plain English :/

        Thank you for your help! :o)

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