THE IM­POR­TANCE OF GAUGE By An­nie’s

Crochet! - - Contents - BY AN­NIE’S

Gauge is the num­ber of stitches per inch and the num­ber of rows per inch you need to get when stitch­ing with a par­tic­u­lar weight of yarn and a spe­cific cro­chet hook.

Be­cause the hook size stated in the pat­tern in­struc­tions is just a sug­ges­tion, and be­cause each cro­cheter han­dles the yarn slightly dif­fer­ently, gauge can vary from per­son to per­son even when they are us­ing iden­ti­cal hooks and yarns. Mak­ing a proper gauge swatch at the be­gin­ning of a project saves both time and money. Learn­ing why and how to make a proper swatch is a cru­cial step to­ward en­hanc­ing a cro­cheter’s con­fi­dence and abil­ity to make a suc­cess­ful project ev­ery time.

What Is a Swatch?

A swatch is a small sam­ple of cro­cheted fab­ric made in the same yarn and stitch pat­tern you in­tend to use for your project. Learn­ing how to make a proper swatch is a cru­cial step to­ward en­hanc­ing both your con­fi­dence as a cro­cheter and abil­ity to make a suc­cess­ful project ev­ery time. If done prop­erly, it can pro­vide a wealth of in­for­ma­tion and save you time and money. “Swatch­ing” is the verb that de­scribes the process of mak­ing the swatch. “Gauge swatch” and “swatch” are of­ten used syn­ony­mously, but it is im­por­tant to think of a swatch as more than just a way to mea­sure gauge. So, this ar­ti­cle uses the term “swatch” ex­clu­sively to get you in the right frame of mind.

Why Bother?

Why bother do­ing a swatch at all? Why not just start stitch­ing and see what hap­pens? A swatch can give you a lot of use­ful in­for­ma­tion be­fore you start your project. Some­times the in­for­ma­tion you get from a swatch will de­ter­mine whether or not you will con­tinue with the project as writ­ten, make ad­just­ments or even aban­don the project for some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent. Learn­ing the pit­falls of a project from a 4- to 6- inch square swatch can save time and money in com­par­i­son to find­ing the same hazards af­ter work­ing a much larger piece.

Here’s What You’ll Learn

The stan­dard way to write the gauge in­for­ma­tion is as fol­lows: 20 sts = 4 inches; 20 rows = 4 inches The part of the gauge state­ment that is im­por­tant to you is the mea­sure­ment of 20 sts and 20 rows over four inches, or five sin­gle cro­chet stitches and five rows per inch. If a pat­tern calls for more than one hook size, only one of the hooks will be used to get the stated gauge. If this is the case, the gauge will be writ­ten as fol­lows:

Size H hook: 20 sts = 4 inches; 20 rows = 4 inches

In­cor­rect Gauge

Let’s look at an ex­am­ple of what may hap­pen when you work to a dif­fer­ent gauge than that given in the pat­tern. Let’s say that you are us­ing a sweater pat­tern that calls for a gauge of 12 sin­gle cro­chets = 4 inches, or 3 sin­gle cro­chets per inch, and you want to make a sweater with a fin­ished bust mea­sure­ment of 44 inches. If you start stitch­ing and you get 31/2 sin­gle cro­chets per inch, your fin­ished sweater will be 371/2 inches around, or 61/2 inches too small! If you worked the same sweater with a gauge of 21/2 sin­gle cro­chets per inch, the fin­ished sweater would be 523/4 inches around, or 83/4 inches too large! You can see that be­ing just half a stitch off per inch can make a huge dif­fer­ence.

Can you see that it makes much more sense to take the time and ef­fort nec­es­sary to match the gauge at the be­gin­ning of a project than to find out your gauge is off af­ter hun­dreds of stitches have been worked? See Swatch How-Tos on page 61 for more in­for­ma­tion on mea­sur­ing gauge.

Clean­ing

If you plan to wash your fin­ished project, it is best to wash your swatch too, as gauge can change dra­mat­i­cally af­ter wash­ing. Some yarns will shrink or stretch out of shape af­ter wash­ing, and some col­ors will run. Many cro­cheters have been dis­ap­pointed to find that their red-and- white striped afghan turned into a red-and- pink striped afghan af­ter its first wash.

Yarn Char­ac­ter­is­tics/ Dura­bil­ity

Make ob­ser­va­tions as you stitch and af­ter you wash the swatch. Does the color rub off on your hands? Does the yarn make you sneeze or break out? Does it shed? Does it pill or stretch?

Try abus­ing the swatch a bit. Put it in the bot­tom of your pock­et­book or your child’s back­pack. Take it out af­ter a week and ex­am­ine it. Is the fab­ric go­ing to stand up to its in­tended use?

Fab­ric

The fab­ric that is pro­duced when the yarn is stitched to the gauge given in the pat­tern is what the de­signer con­sid­ers to be the per­fect ten­sion for that par­tic­u­lar yarn for that par­tic­u­lar project. The fab­ric will have a cer­tain “hand” and

“drape,” which are char­ac­ter­is­tics that de­scribe how the stitch­ing feels and how it hangs.

For ex­am­ple, a stuffed an­i­mal is usu­ally worked to a tighter gauge than a sweater since the an­i­mal’s fab­ric needs to be tight enough so that the stuff­ing will not show through or fall out. A sweater worked with the same yarn at the same gauge would prob­a­bly be so stiff as to be un­wear­able.

Com­fort

If you are plan­ning to make a gar­ment that will be worn next to the skin, do the “un­der­wear test.” Wear the swatch next to your skin for a day.

Stitch Com­pat­i­bil­ity

There is more than one type of stitch com­pat­i­bil­ity. In this case, stitch com­pat­i­bil­ity has to do with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the stitch and the stitcher. When you’re try­ing out a newto- you stitch pat­tern, a swatch can help you de­cide if you want to com­plete the project. Is the stitch pat­tern too dif­fi­cult? Is it too bor­ing? Is it nei­ther, but just annoying to work?

Fin­ish­ing Tech­niques

Even though you are just be­gin­ning a project, you need to be­gin think­ing of fin­ish­ing. What kind of edg­ing will this project have? Where will the edg­ing be worked? How will the project be put to­gether? What size but­tons do I need? Work out bugs and prac­tice seam­ing and edg­ing on the swatch be­fore mov­ing on to the fin­ished prod­uct. Work the but­ton bands on the swatch, then take the swatch with you to pur­chase the per­fect but­ton.

Yarn Amounts

If you do not work to the same gauge as the in­struc­tions, you may find your­self run­ning out of yarn. Pat­tern in­struc­tions give the amount of yarn used for that project in a cer­tain size in the given gauge, so while you may not be wor­ried about fin­ished size, you should be con­cerned about hav­ing ad­e­quate yarn to com­plete the project.

Some Tips

Don’t be dis­cour­aged if a swatch turns out to be a dis­as­ter. Swatch­ing can be a trial-and- er­ror process. If your swatch doesn’t turn out well, don’t think of it as a mis­take. Think of it as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

When Swatch­ing Does Not Mat­ter

You’ve read this far, hop­ing for a hint that swatch­ing re­ally doesn’t mat­ter. You’re in luck. There ac­tu­ally are a few in­stances when a swatch won’t help. A swatch wouldn’t help in the fol­low­ing in­stances:

When mak­ing small ob­jects with rel­a­tively large yarn— a swatch would be as big or big­ger than the ac­tual fin­ished project. Ex­am­ples: Christ­mas or­na­ments, small home decor items.

When you have plenty of yarn, you don’t an­tic­i­pate laun­der­ing the item, and when the fin­ished size doesn’t mat­ter.

A Fi­nal Word of Ad­vice

A swatch is im­por­tant, but don’t make the mis­take of re­ly­ing on it com­pletely. Some­times stitches will be­come more re­laxed as the stitcher learns the pat­tern. Mea­sure your work as you progress in case the gauge on a larger piece changes. Also, weight and grav­ity may do their work on a larger piece, re­sult­ing in a dif­fer­ent gauge.

Swatch How- tos Get­ting Started

• Swatch in the stitch pat­tern called for in the gauge in­for­ma­tion. Don’t as­sume that plain dou­ble cro­chet will yield the same gauge as a dou­ble­cro­chet- based stitch pat­tern.

• Whether or not you de­cide to use the yarn sug­gested in the ma­te­ri­als list, you need to swatch us­ing the ex­act yarn in the same color that you plan to use for your project. Dif­fer­ent col­ors of the same yarn may work up dif­fer­ently. Use all the col­ors to­gether in the same pro­por­tion that the project re­quires.

• Use the same hook that you plan to use for you project. Hook styles and sizes vary, even within a par­tic­u­lar size. Don’t as­sume that your gauge is the same with a size G Su­san Bates hook as with a size G Boye hook, as shown in the pho­tos be­low.

• Af­ter you have worked a few rows, mea­sure over at least 2 inches to see if you are in the ball­park. If you re­al­ize your gauge is way off, you’ll prob­a­bly need to change hook sizes. Start over with a dif­fer­ent size hook and a new swatch— don’t change hook sizes mid- swatch.

• Make an ad­e­quate- size swatch. The thicker the yarn, the big­ger the

swatch must be. Your swatch should be a min­i­mum of 4 inches square for any fiber but the thinnest cot­ton thread. For cot­ton threads, a 6- inch square is more ac­cu­rate.

• Work in the same di­rec­tion re­quired by the project whether you are work­ing in the round or back and forth in rows. Most peo­ple get a dif­fer­ent gauge when work­ing in the round.

• As you work, make sure to jot down notes of how many stitches were on your be­gin­ning chain, how many stitches are in the width of your swatch and how many rows or rounds you have worked. Note yarn name, color and hook size and brand.

• La­bel your swatch with this in­for­ma­tion, even if you have a fan­tas­tic mem­ory. Small hang tags are great for this purpose.

• Re­lax! Your gauge may change as you be­come more com­fort­able with the stitch pat­tern. Just stitch at a com­fort­able ten­sion— don’t try to change the ten­sion to match a given gauge.

• Pay at­ten­tion to your be­gin­ning edge. Some­times you will need to work the foun­da­tion chain with a larger hook. Prac­tice on your swatch un­til you are happy with the re­sult. It is much eas­ier to cor­rect the prob­lem on your swatch than to try to fix a too- tight chain on a fin­ished project.

• Al­low the swatch to rest for a half an hour, and then mea­sure and take note of your “be­fore” gauge. Some­times gauge changes af­ter wash­ing and block­ing. Mak­ing a note of the gauge right off the hook al­lows you to com­pare the “be­fore” and “af­ter” ef­fect of block­ing. The “af­ter” gauge is the one that mat­ters for the fi­nal fit­ting, but if it is sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from your “work­ing” or “be­fore” gauge, you may be ner­vous about the fin­ished size of your piece. If you have made note of the changes that will take place, you can re­as­sure your­self as you work that the work­ing gauge is in­deed cor­rect.

• Treat the swatch the same way you plan to treat your fin­ished item. If you plan to wash your project, wash your swatch. Use the same wash­ing and dry­ing method on the swatch that you plan to use on the fin­ished prod­uct.

• Block the swatch.

Mea­sur­ing

• Use a ruler, yard­stick or tape mea­sure.

• Place the blocked swatch on a ta­ble and place the ruler on top of the swatch. Al­low the swatch to lie as is. Do not rear­range it to make it fit the gauge you want.

• Do not mea­sure edge stitches as they can be dis­torted.

• Mea­sure at least 4 inches worth of stitches. Some rulers are not ac­cu­rate be­tween the end and the 1 inch mark, and it’s bet­ter to be safe than sorry.

• Mea­sure across as many stitches as pos­si­ble. Count the num­ber of stitches and di­vide by the num­ber of inches for your “per inch gauge.” Round to the near­est hun­dredth of an inch. For ex­am­ple, if you count 17 stitches over 6 inches, your gauge is ap­prox­i­mately 2.83 stitches per inch (17 ÷ 6 = ap­prox­i­mately 2.83). If pos­si­ble, take the same mea­sure­ment else­where on the same swatch and com­pare the two. If they are dif­fer­ent, take an av­er­age. Note your find­ings.

• If a row gauge is given, re­peat the above step, mea­sur­ing in the other di­rec­tion.

• Now look at your notes. If you have too few stitches per inch, make a swatch us­ing a smaller hook size. If you have too many stitches per inch com­pared to the in­struc­tions, make an­other swatch us­ing a larger hook size. For ex­am­ple, if the pat­tern calls for 12 sc = 4 inches (3 sc per inch) and your swatch mea­sures 31/2 stitches per inch, in­crease one hook size and make a sec­ond swatch fol­low­ing all the rules out­lined above.

• If you have trou­ble get­ting the right gauge be­cause it seems to be be­tween two hook sizes, try switch­ing hook brands rather than sizes.

• Once you are sat­is­fied that you have de­ter­mined the cor­rect hook size to give you the gauge in your yarn, make a note of it. If you need to put down the project for a while or need to use the hook for a dif­fer­ent project, you don’t want to have to go through this process again! C!

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