— Elizabeth Zimmerman, Knitting Without Tears
While Ms. Zimmerman references knitting above, gauge is just as critical in crochet if you want to construct a piece that is the size and shape you want as you follow a particular pattern. Most fiber crafters who complete a project after weeks of work only to find that the finished project is either too small or two large did not take time to complete a gauge swatch and are not knitting or crocheting to the same gauge that their chosen pattern asked.
Gauge is stated in a pattern as a certain number of stitches and rows per 4 inches knit or crocheted in the predominant pattern of the finished piece. For example a pattern can say: “Gauge: 22 sts/32 rows = 4”/10cm using a US 8 needles in stockinette stitch, after blocking.” This means that in a 4”x4” area of swatched fabric, you should be able to count 22 stitches horizontally and 32 rows vertically within the swatch area.
Why knit a gauge swatch?
- To see what size needles you will need to accurately achieve the stitches/rows per inch the pattern calls for.
- To make sure your finished project will actually fit properly.
- To see what your finished fabric will look and feel like -- is it too tight and stiff or too loose and floppy?
Is one more important, stitch or row gauge?
Other things to keep in mind when checking gauge:
- A different gauge can have an impact on the yardage required for a project. This is directly related to the fact that you'll be knitting more (or less) stitches or rows than the pattern calls for to create the same amount of fabric.
- Selvedge stitches and cast on/bind off stitches are NEVER included in measuring gauge as they are not the same size as the other stitches and rows.
- You need to have a large enough swatch so that you can get a good average over four or more inches. Never just cast on the number of stitches stated in the gauge. Always cast on at least 10 extra stitches.
- ALWAYS block your swatch and let it dry completely before measuring. Block your swatch as you will your finished garment. Do not over-manipulate your swatch; let it be 'natural.'
Steps for Making a Gauge Swatch:
"Gauge: 22 sts/32 rows = 4"/10cm in stockinette stitch using US 8 needle, after blocking."
- Cast on the number of stitches stated in the gauge using the recommended needle or hook size PLUS at least 10 MORE stitches. Knit or crochet your swatch in the pattern stated for the gauge.
- ALWAYS add at least 10 rows onto the row length specified in the gauge before you bind off.
- BLOCK your swatch as you will your project. Allow to dry completely before measuring. Do not over-manipulate your swatch.
- Using a flat ruler, count the number of stitches and rows in 4".
- NOTE: Simply placing a ruler on top of the swatch and counting the number of stitches and rows does not always provide accurate results. To get a truly accurate measurement, do the following:
- Using contrasting yarn, weave a line along the outside of a row of stitches a few stitches in from both selvage edges. Similarly, weave a line a few rows in, above and below rows along the top and bottom of your piece. Using a flat ruler, measure between the markers to the nearest eighth of an inch. Convert this number to a decimal (1/8 = .125, 1/4 = .25, 3/8 = .375, 1/2 = .5, 5/8 = .625, 3/4 = .75, 7/8= .875). For example 5 and 3/8” = 5.375"
- Count the number of stitches between the markers.
- Divide the number of stitches by the inches. DO NOT ROUND UP OR DOWN. This will give you the exact number of stitches per inch.
- Multiply the number of stitches per inch by 4 to get the exact number of stitches per 4". This number you can round up or down.
- Repeat steps 7 through 8 for your rows to get the number of rows per 4"
Gauge Swatch for Working In the Round
If you are going to construct your project in the round then you must construct a gauge swatch in the round too. Unlike flat work, where you work across the public side of your project and then across the private side, when working in the round you only work on the public side of your work. Your gauge swatch must be the same.
One can accomplish this in one of three ways:
- You may knit a small tube in the stitch pattern of the project.
- You may construct something useful in the stitch pattern such as a hat. Some folks will begin constructing the sleeve of their garment. If gauge is accurate then they can just keep on working.
- You can construct a gauge swatch in knitting using the float method:
- Using a circular needle cast on your stitches for the swatch.
- Do not turn your work; slide your stitches back to the right.
- Pull your working yarn across the back of your work very loosely -- similar to an i-cord -- without pulling tight.
- Work across the front of your work again.
- Repeat the previous 3 steps until your swatch is formed.
- Block and measure as a flat swatch.
How to adjust if your gauge is different from your pattern:
Assuming you are using yarn similar in weight to what is called for in your chosen pattern, when you need to adjust your gauge to match that of the pattern, you do so by changing your knitting needle or crochet hook size.
If you have FEWER stitches per inch in your gauge swatch than what is called for in the pattern, you need to use a SMALLER needle, which will give you more stitches per inch.
Conversely, if you have MORE stitches in your gauge swatch than what is called for in the pattern, you need to use a LARGER needle, which will give you fewer stitches per inch.
Always knit your swatch again, using the new needle size, to check if you have 'gotten gauge'.
22/3.875 = 5.67 You have 5.67 stitches per inch
5.67 x 4 = 22.7, rounding up to 23
You have a stitch gauge of 23 stitches per 4”
37/4.5 = 8.22 You have 8.22 rows per inch
8.22 x 4 = 32.8, rounding up to 33
You have a row gauge of 33 rows per 4”