I’m so excited to share with you how to crochet the best gauge swatch! Once I started gauge swatching – remember, I didn’t even know it was a thing when I started – I dove right in with what I thought was best. Turns out, it was a bit more complex than I assumed. That is why I am thrilled to share my knowledge and experience so that you can gauge swatch with confidence!
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The first step to gauge is often making a yarn substitution. Whether you don’t have access to the yarn used by the designer or just don’t wish to use that yarn, choosing the right yarn for a project is an important step. This is another complex topic, but don’t worry, I’ve laid out all the information in this video and this blog post! Be sure to get your free Yarn Substitution Cheat Sheet in that blog post too!
Where to Start
Once you’ve made your yarn substitution, the next thing you do is start your gauge swatch! Be sure to read the listed gauge carefully. Missing out on details can cause you to end up with a swatch that gives you all the wrong information. Go ahead and get your chosen yarn, and grab the hook listed on the pattern. Then find where the gauge is listed on the pattern.
Things to Watch Out For
I want to emphasize again, do not overlook these details! An incorrectly worked gauge swatch will not give you the information you need and can cause disappointment in your final project.
If gauge is listed in rows, the gauge swatch is worked flat. If gauge is listed in rounds, the gauge swatch is worked in the round. Because working in the round versus working flat can change the size of your stitches, it’s important to work your swatch in the same manner as the listed gauge. It can be super tempting to “save time” by working a gauge swatch flat when rounds are listed. While it will make working your swatch quicker, it may give you inaccurate information and you may end up ripping back the finished project. So, not really a time saver.
The next thing to watch for is that gauge can be measured either blocked or unblocked. Usually, the swatch is measured unblocked unless blocking is specifically noted. Keep in mind that if you plan to block your final item, whether indicated by the pattern or not, blocking your swatch will give you a more accurate idea of the look, feel and size of your finished item. Different yarns behave differently when blocked so having an idea of the final result is always preferable.
Making Your Swatch
With all those details in mind, you’re ready to start crocheting your swatch! One of the biggest mistakes people make when crocheting a gauge swatch is making their swatch too small. It can be super tempting to make your swatch as small as possible to save time. However, the larger your swatch, the more accurately it will mimic your final project.
Another reason it is important to make a larger swatch is because you always want to measure gauge in the center of your swatch. To do this, work a few more stitches and rows. Add four or more stitches to the gauge listed on the pattern when working flat. When the gauge is worked in the round, double the stitches and add eight. Again, remember that while a small swatch may be quick, a bigger swatch will give you a better idea of what your final project will be like. It’s worth the extra time to make a bigger swatch, I promise!
I must confess that one of the things I’m worst at is trusting my instincts. Don’t be like me! Trust your gut; you do not need to make an entire swatch before you measure. Many times, if you’re off by a lot, you’ll be able to tell after a few rows. There is no need to work 5 or 6 inches of a swatch if you can easily tell that you’re far off the mark.
On the flip side, don’t change course too quickly. The first row or two of your swatch is not representative of your final gauge. Work 4 or 5 rows before changing course.
Measuring Your Swatch
After you’ve made your nice big swatch – wink, wink – next your ready to measure it! Measuring your swatch can be a bit tricky. I cannot more highly recommend getting a gauge ruler. They are fairly inexpensive and make accurately measuring your gauge so much easier. I have one similar to this one and use it all the time!
If you don’t have a gauge ruler, a hard ruler is the next best thing. Since it holds its own shape, it will help hold your swatch flat too!
While a tape measure can be used, I always find it hard to hold onto my tape measure and my swatch while counting my stitches and rows. When I first started gauge swatching measuring was one of my biggest frustrations, mostly because I was using a tape measure. Trying to hold my swatch flat, while holding the tape measure AND counting stitches was so awkward!
If you don’t need to block your swatch, lay it on a hard surface, like a table. The couch is tempting, but it allows your swatch to stretch and will give you an inaccurate measurement. Lay your swatch as flat as possible, without stretching it. This can be a challenge especially if your swatch tends to curl. If you’ve made a nice big swatch, you could try pinning it to a blocking mat. Be extra careful not to stretch out the swatch or you won’t get an accurate measurement.
Measure your stitches and rows in the center of your swatch, counting carefully. I recommend writing down your count, along with the hook and yarn you used, on the Gauge Swatch Info Sheet, enter your email below to get this sent to your inbox. This way, if you have to make several swatches, you don’t have to remember all the numbers.
If you need to block your swatch, block it according to the type of yarn. When you pin it to the blocking board, try not to distort it too much unless you plan to aggressively block your final project. Blocking your swatch as closely as possible to how you will block your finished project will give you a more accurate idea of what your final fabric will look like. Pin it in place, and allow it to dry fully. Once your swatch is dry, unpin it, and measure as described above.
My Gauge Doesn’t Match! Now What?
It can feel super defeating when you’ve put the time in to make a great gauge swatch only to find out that your gauge doesn’t match. Try not to feel discouraged. Meeting gauge can take several tries. This has nothing to do with you and your abilities. It just means that you do not crochet exactly like the designer. Since we’re all human, that is totally to be expected! I may not even meet my own gauge right away if I got back and work a past pattern. There are LOTS of factors that affect gauge. Don’t give up!
The thing to remember is if you have too many stitches when you measure your gauge swatch, go up a hook size. Since more stitches fit within the measurement it means that your stitches are too small. Using a larger hook will make each stitch bigger, getting you closer to the pattern’s gauge. Of course the opposite is true too! If you have too few stitches when you measure your gauge swatch, go down a hook size. Since fewer stitches fit within the measurement it means that your stitches are too big. Using a smaller hook will make each stitch smaller, getting you closer to the pattern’s gauge.
Use your discretion to divide if you want to go down one or a couple hook sizes. If you’re off by a lot, you may want to change your hook 1 or 1.5 mm, if you’re pretty close, a change of 0.5mm may be perfect!
If you swatch and swatch and still never hit the gauge right, you’re not alone. There are lots of things that can affect gauge. Read on to my next post to see what other adjustments you can make! Read What Affects Crochet Gauge here !
For a more in depth understanding of what gauge is and when it’s important to swatch and when you can skip it; read What is Gauge and Why is it Important here!
Practice makes perfect! Learn more about swatching and how it can be the most powerful tool to improve your crochet skills here.
Watch Why You Hate Your Handmade Garments for some other ideas about why you might be disappointed by your handmade items.