How to Crochet a Gauge Swatch
Size matters in crochet. Do you want your crocheted project to turn out like the picture? Do you want your garment to fit? Crochet patterns provide the final measurements of projects, and if you want to make a specific size, you need to know how to crochet a gauge swatch.
I didn’t crochet a gauge swatch before I started making the Bed Head Slouchy Hat that I was planning on wearing on my first hunting trip, and it turned out too small. It’s a great baby hat, except for the fact that it’s bright orange. Don’t be like me: crochet a gauge swatch so your project ends up the size you’re expecting it to be.
What is a crochet gauge swatch?
A crochet gauge swatch is a square piece of fabric you crochet in the main stitch pattern of a project you want to crochet. For instance, if you want to make the Bed Head Slouchy Hat (like I did) from Love of Crochet Fall 2017, which is worked in half double crochet in the back loops only, you should crochet a 5” (12.7 cm) x 5” (12.7 cm) swatch in that stitch.
What is gauge?
Gauge is a measurement in stitches and rows (or rounds), usually 4” (10 cm) wide and 4” (10 cm) tall, that is taken off of a 5” x 5” crochet gauge swatch. A written pattern generally specifies the number and type of stitches used to calculate gauge.
To find your gauge, place a ruler on the crocheted fabric and count how many stitches and rows are in 4”. In the Bed Head Slouchy Hat, for instance, the pattern states that the gauge should be “20 sts and 12 rows = 4” in hdc blo.” That means there are 20 half double crochets worked in the back loop only and 12 rows in 4”.
Why should you crochet a gauge swatch?
Everyone crochets with different tension, or at a different gauge, meaning some people crochet more tightly while others crochet more loosely. This is important to know if you are following a pattern because you need to figure out if you crochet tighter, looser, or about the same as the person who designed the project.
In the case of the Bed Head Slouchy Hat, I crochet tighter than designer Brenda K. B. Anderson, so I got more stitches per 4” than she did and my hat was smaller than I thought it was going to be. I needed to crochet my hat with a larger hook than the pattern specifies. (If I had crocheted a gauge swatch, I would have figured this out before finishing my hat).
How do you crochet a gauge swatch?
Look at the pattern to see if it specifies a gauge pattern. Some patterns will provide step-by-step instructions for a gauge swatch; others will specify a stitch that you’ll crochet into a 5” x 5” gauge swatch.
For the Bed Head Slouchy Hat, simply crochet half double crochet in the back loops only in turned rows until you make a square piece of fabric that is 5” x 5”.
How does your gauge compare to the pattern?
After you crochet your gauge swatch, it’s time to see how similar or different your gauge is to that in the pattern. Lay a ruler across the work and count how many stitches you have in 4” (or the number specified in the pattern), then count how many rows or rounds you have in 4” (or in the number specified in the pattern). Take this measurement in a couple of different spots if possible.
More stitches: If you have more stitches and rows than the gauge listed in the pattern, you crochet more tightly than the designer of the pattern and you need to use a larger hook.
Fewer stitches: If you have fewer stitches and rows, you crochet looser than the designer and you need to use a smaller hook.
Same number of stitches: If you have the same number of stitches and rows, your gauge matches the designer’s and you’re ready to start crocheting the project.
If your gauge is different than the designer’s, then you need to change your hook size and crochet another gauge swatch. Why? Because you need to determine if you should adjust your hook size by one or more levels. I crocheted the Bed Head Slouchy Hat in a size F hook, as per the pattern, but I need a larger hook to get gauge. At this point, though, I don’t know if I need a G, a 7, or even an H hook. Therefore, I will have to crochet a gauge swatch in each hook size until I match the gauge in the pattern.
There are more tips and tricks to gauge.
There are little nuances to crochet gauge swatches. If I haven’t convinced you of their importance, or even if I have, check out what internationally famous knitter and crocheter Lily Chin has to say about gauge. She’s been designing garments and fashion items for over 30 years and has plenty of information on crochet gauge swatches in her article “Lily Chin’s Crochet Tricks and Tips.”
Here’s to getting correct gauge and to making projects the exact size you want!