One of the first things you’ll need to learn about as a crocheter is stitch gauge, especially if you have moved on from simple beginner projects to trying to read and replicate patterns. If you are trying to make anything a specific size, especially wearable items like hats, booties or clothing, you NEED to know your gauge.
Stitch gauge is the number of stitches per inch. It will vary greatly due to hook size, yarn weight, and from person to person. It can even vary for yourself depending on what mood you’re in! The tighter you crochet, the smaller the stitches, and the greater number of stitches per inch; the looser you crochet, the bigger the stitches, and the fewer number of stitches per inch.
To measure gauge, you will need to make a sample swatch. You’ve probably seen these swatches at the store where you bought your yarn. This is kind of annoying and I can understand why you would want to skip it and just jump right into your project. However, spending the extra 5-10 minutes to make sure you have the correct gauge can prevent you from spending hours working on something that will be unusable when you’re finished, which would be tragic!
Start by creating a chain approximately 4-5 inches long. Then double crochet across, chain up, double crochet across, and repeat until you’ve crochet 5 or 6 rows. DO NOT STRETCH YOUR SWATCH!!! Next you will measure, in the center of your swatch, how many stitches you have per two inches. Be sure to measure from the same part of the first stitch, to the same part of the last stitch. This is your stitch gauge! Just for an example, with Caron Simply Soft yarn and a J hook, I typically have 6 stitches per 2 inches.
NOTE: There is a handy little crochet and knitting measuring tool called a stitch check. These are wonderful tools, but not totally necessary. I often use a measuring tape app on my iPad just for convenience. You can usually find a stitch check anywhere you would buy yarn.
If you’re working with a pattern and the stitch gauge doesn’t match with yours, you can do two things: change your hook or change your yarn. Typically you will have picked out and bought the yarn you want to use for your project by the time you are checking your gauge, so changing your hook is the more likely option.
If you have MORE stitches per inch than your pattern, try a BIGGER hook or BIGGER yarn.
If you have FEWER stitches per inch than your pattern, try a SMALLER hook or SMALLER yarn.
Keep making gauge swatches until you get as close as possible to the gauge in the pattern. Once you’ve been crocheting a while, you won’t have to do this as much, at least not with your go-to yarns, because you will have done it enough to know what your personal gauge is with each hook.
- Adjusting a pattern to fit your gauge
Something else you can do is adjust a pattern to fit your gauge. Maybe you want to make a blanket a certain size, but with super bulky yarn. Or maybe you don’t have a full set of hooks to try to adjust it. All you have to do is… math! Crochet patterns are all about math.
Here’s an example of how to do this:
Say you have a pattern for a blanket which calls for a gauge of 8 stitches per 2 inches and a total of 144 stitches across and you would like to keep the same dimensions, but your stitch gauge with the yarn and hook you want to use is 6 stitches per 2 inches. Divide the 8 stitches by the 2 inches of the pattern’s gauge to get 4 stitches per 1 inch. Divide the 144 stitches by 4 to get 36 inches (which should be the measurement of the blanket across, if the measurements are included in the pattern). Now, divide your 6 stitches by the 2 inches to get 3 stitches per 1 inch. Multiply the 36 inches by 3 stitches per inch and you will get 108 stitches, which is how many stitches you should make per row to achieve a blanket the same size as the pattern.