What is Gauge in Crochet and How Do I Set It Correctly?

Have you finished a project with delight only to realize the sizing is WAY off?

Maybe your scarf is nine feet long, or your large sweater is actually extra small?

When crocheters don’t make gauge, sizing issues are eventually inevitable.

In this article, we will discuss

  • What gauge is
  • Why it is important
  • How to make sure your projects come out the size you want them to

What is Gauge?

The term gauge refers to the tension of your crochet stitches. Tighter tension will make smaller stitches. Looser tension will result in larger stitches. In U.K. crochet terms, gauge is referred to as tension.

Find the recommended gauge

A well-written crochet pattern will include a recommended gauge. This information is usually at the very beginning of the pattern right after the materials. Gauge is written as an equation, i.e. 16 rows x 16 stitches = 4”. 

Get “Gauge”

The gauge equation in your pattern tells you how much tension the designer of the pattern used to get the sizes listed in the pattern.

To “get gauge”, make a square using the gauge instructions. Once your square is finished, measure the height and width of the square, then count the stitches and rows.

If you have the same number of rows and stitches in the gauge measurement (usually 4”), then you are ready to make the pattern!

This process is called “making a gauge swatch.”

Typical swatch

Why is Gauge Important?

The tension or gauge of your project will determine the finished size of your item.

While some projects don’t require gauge – like blankets, wall hangings, stuffed animals, etc., many patterns depend heavily on the gauge for a good outcome – like sweaters, hats, socks, etc. 

Understanding Gauge

Many crocheters find the concept of gauge and “getting gauge” overwhelming and confusing. But the entire concept is simple once you understand the basics. 

What affects tension/gauge?

Several factors will change the tension of your project: your hook size, how you hold the yarn and hook, how you pull up loops.

Hook size

Most crochet patterns include a recommended hook size in the materials needed.

This is the hook size the designer used to get the final result in the pattern. When you make your gauge swatch, start with the size the designer recommends. If you use a bigger hook, your stitches will be wider and taller. If you use a smaller hook, your stitches will be shorter and tighter. 

How you hold the yarn/hook

As with many art forms, crocheting comes in a wide variety of techniques.

Each crocheter seems to develop their own way of holding the yarn and hook – and none of them are wrong!

However, each method will influence the tightness or looseness of your stitches. To be clear, none of the methods are wrong, but if you chronically crochet tightly or loosely, you may need to make more adjustments than other crocheters. 

How you pull up a loop

Each crochet stitch starts with the same basic technique: pull up a loop. That pulled-up loop is called “The Golden Loop.” The three basic methods of pulling up a loop will greatly influence the height of the stitches. 

Yanker

Crocheters who “yank” their yarn as they pull up the golden loop tend to have shorter stitches. They pull the golden loop tightly, keeping it close to their work, and the loops stay small. 

Rider

Some crocheters “ride” their golden loop – neither yanking it down tightly nor pulling it up high and loose. These crocheters tend to ride the middle road of tension. 

Lifter

When a crocheter “lifts” their golden loop, they pull it up a little higher than average. This lifting results in taller, looser stitches. 

When you are aware of your preferred golden loop method, you can make subtle adjustments to the height of your stitches by incorporating different techniques. 

How to get Gauge?

To “get gauge” start by making a gauge swatch. Follow the gauge instruction in the pattern, but make your swatch a little bigger than recommended.

If your pattern lists a four-inch gauge, make a six-inch swatch. By making your swatch bigger, you will get a more accurate measurement. 

Measure and count height

Lay your swatch out flat and place your gauge ruler or measuring tape on top.

Mark the bottom and top rows of your measurement. Try to exclude the edge stitches from your measurement. Count how many rows are in the 4 inches. This will tell you the height of your swatch. If it is correct, then no adjustments are needed! 

crochet gauge

Measure and count width

The method to measure and count the width is the same as the height, except you will count how many stitches or stitch repeats are included in the recommended measurement. If you have the same number of stitches as the designer did, you can continue with no adjustments!

crochet gauge

Adjust your gauge

If your gauge swatch does not match the patterns, you may need to adjust the height or width of your stitches. In some cases, you need to adjust just one or both. 

Adjust both height and width

The simplest way to adjust your gauge is by changing the hook. If your swatch is too small, select a larger hook. If your swatch is VERY small, go up at least a full mm size (i.e. 4mm to a 5mm hook).

If your swatch is off just a little, try going up a half size (i.e. 4 mm to 4.5 mm hook). If your swatch is too big, choose a smaller hook going down incrementally in size. 

Adjust the width

The only way to adjust the width of your stitches is to go up or down a hook size. You can also try loosening your hold on the working yarn. But generally, your best bet is to try a different hook. 

Adjust height

If your width is correct, but the height is still too small or big, try a different golden loop technique to adjust the height of your stitches. If your stitches are too short, try lifting your golden loop. If your stitches are too tall, try yanking your golden loop tighter. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Q6kCAn2UE

What to do with all those swatches?

If you are making a swatch for every project, you may end up with many little squares of stitches. How can you repurpose them?

Save your swatch

You can save your swatches to reference in future projects that might have a similar stitch and yarn. If you often make patterns by the same designer, you can usually make one or two swatches to reference for many of that designer’s patterns. 

Use your swatch

If you aren’t confident you have enough yarn for your project, save your swatch to unravel and use if you run out of yarn. 

Repurpose your swatch

Some crocheters like to use their swatches as decor. They pin them up on the wall in a collage of color and texture. Others like to collect their swatches. Once they have enough, they stitch them together to make a unique blanket. 

Conclusion

When you make a gauge swatch, you can confidently dive into a new, exciting project with the knowledge that the finished item will be the right size. The information in this article will help you get the correct gauge, so you can stitch with confidence.