Is Gauge Important?

Have you had trouble getting gauge with knit and crochet? Is getting gauge with knit and crochet even important? Read on and let me help!

An adventure in swatching- Getting Gauge with knit and crochet

The short answer: Yes. Getting gauge in knit and crochet *IS* important. This is true especially if you are unsure about sizing, or the pattern uses a technique that is new to you. Doubly so if your math skills are not up to snuff, or you have a specific amount of yarn with which to work. Basically, there are many good reasons why you’ll want to pay attention to gauge. Read on and see how you can make gauge work for you.

These swatches are all the exact same yarn, worked with different sized hooks.

Gauge? Huh?

So what is gauge, exactly? Well, to put it simply, gauge is how many stitches and/or rows you have per unit of measurement, usually 1″ or 4″ squared. If you’re looking at a pattern and it tells you that gauge is 20 sts x 24 rows = 4″ then you know two things. First, that 20 stitches needs to be 4″ across. Which also mean you’ll need 24 rows to be 4″ tall. Here’s where you need to swatch.

A gauge swatch is simply knitting or crocheting a small, square piece of fabric using the yarn and hook or needles specified in the pattern. Work your swatch before you do anything else so that you can see how close (or far off) you are from the intended gauge. If you’re getting less stitches per inch than the pattern calls for (for example you only get 12 stitches in 4″,) then you’ll need to go down a hook or needle size and try again. Same goes the other direction: if you’re getting too many stitches in your measured section, then your hook or needles are too small and you’ll need to go up a size.

Tell me why!

What happens if your gauge is close but not quite? What happens if you decide not to swatch and just hope for the best? Well…. maybe everything will be okay, but more than likely, you’re going to deal a with a good bit of frogging (rip-it, rip-it) and a whole lot of wasted time. Here’s why:

Say your gauge is too small, but not by much. Maybe you’re supposed to get 10 stitches per inch, but you’re  getting 11. Seems like not a huge deal, so you just go with it. Close enough is close enough, right? Well, maybe. If you’re just making a washcloth, or a scarf, then you may not mind one bit if it’s just slightly wider or longer that the pattern says it will be. In fact, you may never even notice! 

But what if it’s a sweater? Or mittens? You must remember that you’re not going to be just one stitch too many in the finished item, but rather one stitch PER INCH too many. If your item is supposed to be 10 inches long, then at 11 stitches per inch, it’s going to be 11 inches long. For a mitten, that’s a good bit more than you bargained for. What if your finished item is supposed to be 30 inches long? Now it’s going to be 33. 

Think about that. That’s a BIG difference, especially in something like sleeve length, or bust circumference! This is how being just slightly off in gauge can result in a hat or sweater that is completely unwearable. Look what happened when I tried to knit an adult hat and didn’t swatch:

Great, but is it ALWAYS necessary?

It is absolutely possible to turn this whole idea on its head though, if you’re good at math and know what you’re doing. One of my preferred methods of creating “my own” item out of someone else’s pattern is to swatch for fabric, rather than for gauge. Especially if the yarn contains any silk (swoooooon.) I will look at the recommended hook or needle size and start there, just to have a jumping-off point. Then I will make 3-4 swatches with hook/needle sizes close to the stated size .

For example, if a pattern calls for a 4mm hook, I may make swatches using 3.5, 4, 5, and maybe even 6. This is so that I can see how the fabric feels and drapes. I’ll pick the swatch that looks and feels the best to me, and then rework the math in the pattern to make it match my gauge. 

This is fairly time consuming, and math isn’t something I’m great at, only passable. Therefore, I tend not to do this for a customer’s order as it takes an ample amount of extra time and effort, and I have to charge extra for that. As I progress in my journey, I hope to one day be good enough at it to start making most of my items this way.

Show us your gauge!

I’d love to see your pictures of gauges gone wrong! Send them to Sati@rowsandroses.com or post them on the facebook page with hashtag #GaugeGoneWrong and share your horror story with the world. Show everyone why getting gauge with knit and crochet is so important! 

If you have any questions about what you’ve read, you can always contact me. And please, if you found value in this post, take just a second or two to hit some buttons for me. Like, tweet, pin, comment, and mostly SHARE SHARE SHARE!

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