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Hi! I’m continuing my series of posts about gauge in crochet and knitting. Many people find gauge frustrating, and there are quite a few who claim that “gauge” is actually a 4-letter word. Over my years teaching crochet, I’ve spotted frequent mistakes that people make when they’re trying to measure gauge. Save yourself the heartache of lying gauge swatches by avoiding these common blunders:
Miss Treating Your Swatch
The first mistake stitchers make is not treating the swatch the way they’re going to treat the finished item. You make your swatch, take it right off the hook, and start measuring. Well, are you going to use you’re finished item right off the hook? Let’s say it’s a blanket, and you plan on machine washing it. Take your swatch and machine wash it. That’ll give you a better idea of what size your stitches will be in the finished item. If you’re planning on steam blocking your shawl, steam block your swatch before you measure your gauge. That’s going to give you your most accurate measurements.
Another mistake people make is measuring gauge over only an inch or two. You want to measure over four inches, five inches, or more to get an accurate gauge. One of the first pieces I ever designed was a filet crochet matzah cover for Crochet World Magazine. It’s a beautiful piece. I’m very proud of it. It’s a rectangle. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually told anyone this, but when I designed it, I designed it to be a square. It wound up too long by the time I finished, because I didn’t measure gauge properly. I measured my row gauge over one inch. It looked like a certain number of rows in one inch, but there was really a tiny amount of a row past that inch mark. If I had measured it over four inches, I would have realized that I had fewer rows in an inch than I thought.
Fractions are Evil
At least that’s what my math students say. Okay, fractions aren’t totally evil, but in crochet, never measure your gauge in terms of half stitches. It drives me batty when I see something like 3 ½ double crochet = 1 inch. In crochet you can’t accurately measure half of a stitch! Keep the number of stitches a whole number. It’s fine to measure in half inches, or even ¼ inches, because those are very clear lines on the tape measure.
You can measure half a stitch if you’re knitting in stockinette stitch. In that case the stitches form regular little V’s. Half stitches are fine for knitting, but they aren’t kosher for crochet gauge swatches.
All Yarns are Not Created Equal
Just because you get a gauge with a certain worsted weight yarn doesn’t mean you will get that exact gauge with a different worsted weight yarn. You would think worsted weight is worsted weight, what’s the difference? But the way the yarn is made, the twist and plies, will affect your gauge. Make sure to make your gauge swatch with the same yarn you plan on using in your finished project.
Finally, the last mistake that I commonly see people make with gauge is they make their gauge swatch when they’re first practicing the pattern stitch. When you’re first practicing a new stitch pattern, you’re very focused in on the instructions. Consequently, you’ll find you are crocheting a tiny bit tighter. Then, when you’re making the actual sweater or blanket, you get used to the stitch pattern. You’re more relaxed, and your gauge changes. So as annoying as it might be, make one swatch just to practice the stitch pattern. Then, once you’re comfortable with it, make your gauge swatch.
Do you have more questions about gauge? Watch how I actually measure gauge on swatches here, or read my fiction short story on why gauge swatches lie.