Matching Gauge and Why it is Important
I used to think that gauge was just a couple of numbers at the top of a pattern. I mean, my gauge MUST be close to the pattern writer’s two inches if I’m using the same size hook, right? Just how differently does Caron Simply Soft vs Red Heart Super Saver vs Red Heart Soft vs Bernat vs Vanna’s Choice work up? They’re all worsted weight after all. Here, we will explore gauge and why it is SO VERY imperative to you and your crochet projects.
The first few months that I crocheted, I never took a second glance at gauge. I skipped it. Just totally didn’t even look at it. I just got lucky that most things fit well. (And some things didn’t.) When I began checking my gauge I realized that I was WAY off on some of them. A lot of my problem then was technique. I wrote a blog on technique, how it affects gauge and how to fix it. I have come to realize that MANY people have a flaw in their technique even if they don’t see it at first glace.
Learn about that technique here
So let’s move on to gauge shall we?
After I figured out my own flaws on technique, which were many I moved on to hook and yarn. There are SO many different brands that manufacture worsted weight yarn. Guess what? They are NOT all equal. You can pretty much use any similar weighted yarn though and come to the same measurements for your project by measuring gauge.
So let’s talk about these mysterious numbers at the top of the pattern. Don’t sweat about it but DEFINITELY give it the respect it deserves and DON’T SKIP IT!
Gauge is usually written something like this:
With H hook:
2″ X 2″ square: 7 dc X 3 rows
What the heck does that mean anyway!? This means that the yarn you select will need to measure a 2 inch by 2 inch square after having crocheted 3 rows of dc, 7 dc across. A written out pattern for this would look something like this:
Row 1: Ch 8, dc in third ch from the hook and across to beginning (7)
Row 2: Ch 2, turn, dc in next st and across (7)
Row 3: Repeat Row 2
Once you have finished your swatch, take a ruler or measuring tape and see how it came out. It should measure 2 inches from top to bottom, and 2 inches from side to side.
What if it doesn’t?
If it’s a little bit smaller than 2” X 2”, then your yarn is a little thinner than the yarn used by the pattern writer and you will need to go up a hook size and try again.
If it’s a little bit bigger than 2” X 2”, then your yarn is a little thicker than the yarn used by the pattern writer and you will need to go down a hook size and try again.
Rinse and repeat. You may have to go up or down TWO hook sizes to obtain gauge. And there is NO SHAME in doing this! I am queen of using Red Heart Soft and just using my regular old Red Heart Super Saver white with it. I go down a hook size when I start the Super Saver because it’s a little thicker than the other. No one can tell the difference.
The only thing that WILL change:
You need to look at your gauge swatch when you’re finished obtaining gauge. If you are using thinner yarn, you probably had to go up a hook size. If that’s the case, then thinner yarn + a bigger hook sometimes means that the piece will be airier than the original in the pattern. For bags, purses, or sweaters this might not be ideal. You may want to find a more comparable yarn.
Likewise, if you’re using a thicker yarn, you probably had to go down a hook size. If that’s the case then thicker yarn + a smaller hook sometimes means that the piece will be tightly crocheted with no airiness to it at all. Lacy patterns such as some lacy scarves, baby dresses, etc done in a 3 weight or Red Heart Soft or Caron Simply Soft probably won’t look the same if using Red Heart Super Saver and you may want to find a more comparable yarn.
Caron Simply Soft: is weird. lol There is no other way to say it. It says it is a worsted weight yarn, but it works up the same as a 3 weight yarn. In my personal opinion, it is NOT interchangeable with most other worsted weight yarns. (It also snags like crazy!) For things like lacy scarves though and baby dresses done in a 3 though, this would do lovely Just match gauge!
What if I want to use a thinner/thicker yarn on purpose?
There are quite a few reasons you might want to do this. It might be that this particular yarn that you want to use is just what you have on hand. It might be that you WANT to change the look of an item to be more airy. I say go for it! There is no way to know unless you try it. As a matter of fact, a project looks completely different if done in thicker/thinner yarn sometimes. Just match gauge. I have actually done this more recently for my amigurumi that I want to come out a tad smaller. Instead of Red Heart Super Saver, I use Red Heart Soft. Or if I want it a lot smaller, I have been using Caron Simply Soft. For ami’s gauge doesn’t matter as much because it’s not a fitted item. Just note that your safety eye to full body ratio may change slightly. You want the eyes to look normal, not out of place, you may also need to go down a size on eyes.
More Misc Notes on Gauge
Gauge can be written in the round or in rows and is usually 1, 2, or 4 inches square or round depending on the pattern you’re completing.
Do not crochet tighter or more loosely to match gauge unless you plan to crochet that way for the entire piece. The yarn should slide effortlessly on the hook neck but tension should be moderately tight. Just crochet how you feel comfortable crocheting, because trust me, you’re going to revert back to what feels normal to you, especially if you put down and pick up your project. Save yourself the headache and go up or down a hook size.
Gauge is not the same after finishing one row of the swatch as it is after finishing all three rows required. Do not crochet one row, measure across, get a height measurement and do math and guess that it will be the right size when it comes out. As a matter of fact, if you’re getting 2 inches across after the first row, once you get to the third row, your gauge across will be too small. Gauge swatches are not the big and don’t take that long and they are worth checking.
What if your gauge swatch matches 2 inches across, but not 2 inches up and down, or visa versa?
You may not EVEN realize that you do it. But the method that you hold, use and maneuver the yarn may be altering your gauge swatch. You would benefit greatly from my other blog post about technique. I myself had a technique problem that I recently corrected and it changed the way I crocheted forever! Take a moment and explore technique with me, even if you don’t think you are doing it wrong: Technique Blog
I would be happy to help anyone in need of it. If you have a problem with gauge or technique, I can try to help you pinpoint the areas that need work. I wish I had someone to ask questions to when I first started. And while I’m by no means advanced and I may not know the answer to your question, I’ll find someone who does. Happy hooking you marvelous ladies!
Finished? Return to Lesson 6 – Gauge