Lily Chin's Crochet Tricks and Tips

Crochet swatches–every crocheter I have met will extol the virtues of the crochet swatch. They will insist you have to begin with one. But despite our words, many of us skip this step. We see gauge swatches as a waste of time, or as used to happen frequently to me, the gauge swatch doesn't match the gauge of the project once we get started.

  Designer Lily Chin

When I asked recently, several of you expressed interest in crocheting sweaters. For garments especially, that swatch, if done right, will ensure that you don't have to rip out a half finished sweater or gift the finished piece to a smaller relative.

After crocheting for over forty years, Lily Chin has learned a trick or two-how to manage loose ends, create the perfect beginning chain, and speed up your crochet just to name a few. And in her new workshop, she shares over seventy of her best tips and tricks. She'll even teach you a new thing or two about the simple gauge swatch. Here are four of my favorite swatch tips from Lily Chin.

Remembering Your Hook Size

Have you ever finished your gauge swatch, then been sidetracked by another project or event in your life? I know I have. Remembering which size I used to create that perfect gauge swatch, if I used a size other than the one specified in the pattern, can be a futile task, and I have to begin again. But Lily has created an ingenious and simple way to remember what hook size she used. She simply works a series of picot stitches, corresponding to the hook size used, along the edge of the gauge swatch. So if you use a size F hook, work five picots along the edge of the work (B, C, D, E, F = 5).

Argosy Top by Lily Chin  

Gauge Swatch Size

When you are crocheting your gauge swatch, always make it bigger than the given gauge. So if the gauge for your project is 20 double crochet stitches and 12 rows equals 4 inches, work a gauge swatch that is at least 6 inches by 6 inches. This larger swatch allows you to measure your four inches across an area of interior stitches and does not include the edge stitches or turning chains that can be messy and alter your measurements.

Work Your Gauge Swatch Over a Couple of Evenings

We all know that our crochet gauge can change with our moods. After a stressful day at work, our gauge might be a little tight, but after a hot cup of tea that gauge can tend to run a bit loose. This might be the reason why you swatch to the exact pattern specifications but your finished garment turns out too large or too small.

Try spreading your swatching over a couple of evenings. This will more accurately replicate your true crochet a gauge.

  Ingot Shell by Lily Chin

Measuring a Hung Swatch

Laying your swatch flat on a table and measuring gauge works great for afghans and home décor items that will lie flat when finished, but crochet garments spend most of their time being worn vertical. Gravity can alter the gauge measurements in a way that is not predictable when the swatch is measured flat. So try measuring your swatch vertically. Simply hang your swatch from a wall or corkboard using tape or pins. You can also clip clothespins to the bottom of the swatch to emulate the weight of more fabric.

A gauge swatch is also a great way to practice an intricate stitch pattern and determine if you will enjoy crocheting it for an entire project. And don't toss the swatch. One of my favorite tips from Lily is to save the swatch and wash it with your garment. The swatch then becomes a great resource for matching yarn in case you ever need to make repairs.

I will never look at crocheting a gauge swatch the same way again. Download or order The Crocheter's Toolbox: Lily Chin's Techniques and Tricks for Savvy Crocheters today and add a few more tools to your crochet toolbox.

Best wishes,

P.S. Do you crochet gauge swatches?

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