Why Gauge is Always Important 4

Lately, I’ve noticed that gauge is getting tossed out of patterns, a lot. It’s being tossed out even in national magazines and books. I think this does us a disservice. I also think it shows a distinct lack of understanding of what gauge is and why it’s important.

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Gauge is always important.  I intuited that information years ago, I may not have known what the term meant, but I met the gauge or not and then had to redo the piece.

Let me explain why gauge is important.

When you crochet, you are creating fabric. All fabric has a certain kind of stitch count that gives it integrity, density, and the qualities necessary to meet the objective of the fabric. Gauge made a lot more sense to me when I learned to weave. Let me pass on the understanding of why you need to list the gauge when you write a pattern and why you want to meet gauge when you use a pattern.

For example: The wash cloth pattern to the left is one of my teaching patterns. I walk beginning students through working in rows and rounds, changing colors and making both squared and rounded corners. I also teach them about gauge. They might not meet gauge during the class, but I explain that if they want their wash cloth to be exactly the same size as the example then they need to crochet x amount of stitches by x amount rows to equal x amount of inches (centimeters). If you crocheted more loosely and it was larger, it would also have more holes. If you crocheted more tightly, then it might warp the fabric and it would curl and not lay flat.

We talk about gauge glibly and many experts tell you to swatch. They tell you why you want to swatch! You want to swatch to know you will have the desired out come.

If you are writing a pattern or using a pattern gauge is always important. Even when making amigurumi or lace, think about it, you want to have the finished dimensions match up, you don’t want holes unless you’re intentionally placing them in the piece (lace) and you really want the fabric to lay flat or drape acording to the needs of the finished item.

On the right, is a lace piece i made.  This photo was taken before blocking, yes blocking can fix a multitude of issues, but if I didn’t maintain tension, or switched crochet hooks, it would have been hard to meet my gauge. In a mesh pattern, I keep the gauge using the simple method of making sure the “holes” in the mesh are roughly the same size.  You can see in this piece that I chained tighter in some areas and looser in other spots. it wasn’t a huge difference, and it blocked nicely. But, had the difference been remarkable I would have started over, because you can block all you want, but if the size differential is too great then you will not have the desired outcome.

For you free formers: On the left you will see a free form sock I made, it’s an artistic experiment. I used many different yarns to achieve a funky foot product. Gauge nightmare? Well, it is if you are trying to keep the stitch count the same. In this case, in order to allow my fabric to have the same feel, density and relative integrity through out the sock, I had to adjust my tension and stitches to allow the fabric to develop somewhat uniformly.

Uniformly? With all of those yarns? How can it be uniform? The stitches all vary, of course, but the fabric itself flows almost seamlessly because I ensured the density of the stitches matched up. Now, I did this one intuitively as well. But I can tell you that I know that if one sock yarn produced 22 stitches an inch and I was going to change up to a yarn that was approximately double it’s width, that I will have close to 11 stitches per inch. Trust me, I’m no great mathematician, but I can figure out if something will be close to half or double in size.  So can you.

The whole point of this article, is that when you put your mind to your crochet, things turn out better. Whether you are consciously meeting gauge or intuiting gauge, it is ALWAYS there and it is ALWAYS important. It’s part of making fabric. That is what we do when we crochet, we make fabric.[/private_Free] [/private_Supporter][/private_Indie-Pro] [/private_Indie-Pro-Plus]

About Laurie A. Wheeler

Laurie A. Wheeler is a blogger, crochet addict, yarn designer and champion for independant artisans and crafters. She is also known as Fearless Leader of the Crochet Liberation Front.

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4 thoughts on “Why Gauge is Always Important

  • Sandra Roarty

    Laurie, I have had people disagree with me, but I honestly believe that the style of hook also affects gauge. I think that you get a different gauge with a tapered hook compared with an inline hook and also the surface of the hook….some have different surface properties…..some are very smooth, others tend to hold the yarn back. All this can affect how you crochet and therefore, affect gauge. I still believe that there is NO harm in designers saying whose hook they used.

    • Laurie A. Wheeler Post author

      I also believe hook style affects gauge. Where I think it would be good for a designer to mention the style of hook in-line or rounded, I would reserve bringing up brands without sponsorship attached. Just as I think we shouldn’t give yarn companies free advertising for using their brands when we purchase their yarn to design our projects. If a yarn or hook company sponsors us, then yes, by all means mention their brand of hook.