WIPs 'N Chains

Kim Guzman, Crochet and Knit Design

Group Project: Gauge Experiment


While browsing lots and lots of different patterns and projects on Ravelry, I have noticed a great deal of notes saying the crocheter’s gauge was correct, but the finished project seems a little small or a little big.

This gauge issue has been bothering me a long time. And, I’ve been trying to work out a way to communicate how to match gauge to the designer with as much ease as possible.

A common problem that will certainly affect finished garment size is that many people will choose their bra size when choosing a garment size, which is incorrect. Your bra size is actually your underbust size. If you choose that garment size, your finished garment will certainly be too tight.

To be safe, take out your tape measure and measure around the fullest part of your bust, wearing the garments (undergarments or under shirt) you intend to wear with your crocheted garment.

Now, take a look at the finished sizes in your pattern. For most patterns, you’ll want to have at least two inches more across the chest. In some cases you may want more. Three or four inches is common, except in something you want to be tight-fitting. In some rare instances, the finished garment is stretchy and is actually less than your actual chest size. This is called negative ease. But, it’s not as common. You can stick with positive ease most of the time.

Now, we’ve covered one reason for something fitting a little differently. And, you now know that it’s crucial to actually measure yourself.

But, let’s take a look at something that’s a little less obvious.

You have completed a gauge swatch. You are rocking along because you measured perfectly and you have 4 stitches to every inch as stated in the pattern. Perfect! Carry on.

Now, you’ve crocheted along the entire hem of the garment. You’re about 4 or 5 inches into it. It’s time to measure that garment! Don’t take it for granted that your gauge is still spot on.

Okay, you measure and, according to your schematic, your goal is 48″. But, wait! Your gauge was perfect and you’ve got 50″! What happened?

The reason why this happens can be seen using mathematical calculations.

First, your foundation row has, say, 196 single crochet. Your finished garment should be 48. 196 divided by 48 is 4.08333 stitches per inch. Multiplied by 4, the 4″ gauge swatch is 16.3333 and the pattern will state 16 stitches, rounding it off.

Now, you have your finished piece which is 50″. Taking the same 196 stitches and dividing by 50″, gives you 3.92 stitches per inch,15.68, rounded to 16 stitches per 4″.

Yep! The same thing!

This is just a difference of about .16 per inch. A mere 4% difference in the size of your single crochet from the designer’s single crochet is causing a two-inch difference in the finished hem!

You can see how easily this can happen even when making something as small as a hat.

But, you can determine this information ahead of time. Take your foundation stitches and divide the finished garment measurement and you will be able to find out, before you get started. You will be able to quickly discover whether the actual gauge is just a tad more or a tad less than the stated gauge so that you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking at before you start. (And, you can even make slight adjustments if you need a bit less or a bit more.)

Though, like I said, I’ve been battling over this for a long time. How can I quickly and easily let you know how tightly or loosely I crochet? After all, I’ve told you before…. gauge is nothing more than how tightly or loosely the designer crochets. And, the suggested crochet hook is simply the one the designer used. It’s just a suggestion and clue about it. Nothing more.

But, is there a way I can actually show you how tightly or loosely I crochet? Can I tell you that ahead of time? Is it possible for me to somehow let you know so that you have an idea whether you need to automatically go up or down in hook size when you’re trying to match my gauge?

And, yes! The solution is to have you join me in a gauge experiment!

Here is a swatch worked in Caron Simply Soft. I used an I hook. I started with a chain of 14 and worked 13 single crochet for a total of 15 rows.

This swatch is 4″ square.

Now you can try it. Take an I hook and readily-available Caron Simply Soft. Make a swatch just like I did. Is it exactly 4″? If your swatch is too small, use the next size hook up. If your swatch is too big, use the next size hook down and try it again. Continue trying, if necessary, until you have a 4″ square.

And, there you have it! If you achieved a 4″ square with an I hook, you are crocheting at the same gauge I am. Theoretically, you would be able to use the same size hook I suggest in my patterns.

Following this same theory, if you had to use a K hook, you will know automatically to start off with a larger hook when using my patterns. And, if you had to use an H hook, you will know to go straight to a smaller hook when using my patterns.

I really do encourage anyone and everyone to try this experiment. (Remember that it will only work with exactly the same yarn I used.) Post your results here. Post your results in my Ravelry Group. Or, on Facebook. I’m curious to know your findings in this experiment.

While this is all theoretical, I am hopeful that it will give you a pretty good idea of how your crocheting tension varies from mine and will, in the end, save some time for you.

Always remember, though, that no one crochets exactly the same as the next person. It’s just not possible. The key is, of course, to get as close as possible, realizing that everyone is going to be different. My goal here is to simply give you a little clue, in the easiest way possible, so you have a bit more “ammunition” before you get started on one of my designs. :-)

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Author: crochetkim

Artist: Crochet and Knit Pattern Designer

12 thoughts on “Group Project: Gauge Experiment

  1. Another issue with fit is yarn choice. One might use a thicker yarn, work it tightly to conform to stated gauge, and end up with a stiff, un-stretchy, “bulletproof” garment. Even with proper gauge and minal measurements, it could be unwearable.

  2. Kim–I did a couple of swatches and posted to your Ravelry group. Interesting experiment–thanks for challenging us to this!!!

  3. Mine was 3 3/4″. I’ve always wondered how I compared to others, particularly after working the swatches for the CGOA course. The gauge swatch was one of the hardest for me as I apparently make “short” dcs. :-)

  4. What happens when your gauge matches in one direction, but not the other? For instance, using a H hook, I got the same measurement across, but I was almost an inch more in height.

    • When you are off in height by that much, I think I would be more inclined to follow the schematic in a pattern. So, I would start off with the right amount of stitches, then work until I was at the measurements stated, rather than try to follow too closely to the rows. I would also be curious about what happens when you use a G-7 hook. A swatch with a G-7 hook could end up giving you exactly what you’re after. G-7 is 4.5mm, rather than the more common 4.0mm.

  5. I know this post happened a long time ago, but I just wanted to add one more issue about gauge. Maybe you will have some comment Kim or maybe some readers will have encountered the same problem and come up with a solution.

    I have been crocheting a lot of garments the last couple of years and no matter how carefully I check the gauge before starting a project, the finished garment always seems to grow during the final stages.

    I do several swatches. I use Lily Chin’s weighted swatching to account for stretch. I check the gauge at several stages during the process and even lightly steam the garment and try it on when I have enough finished to do a first fitting.

    But somewhere between the last few rows and the completed border rows, the thing just seems to grow. I am a size 14 and I am wondering if this size is just too large to work properly with most garments. There must be a solution.

    Here are some ideas I have so far, which are, as yet untested.

    1.Given the size of the final garment, maybe I should buy extra thread and do 8″ swatches instead of 4″. Maybe with the larger square and weighting the blocked piece over night I can get closer to what the finished gauge will be.

    2. Hang the unblocked and unbound garment overnight as you would a bias cut garment before hemming.

    3. This one would me a lot of trouble and it might be easier to just design my own garments (which might be a good thing), but maybe I should do a major alteration to my patterns and crochet the entire garment on a smaller hook to get a tighter fabric. Or would this just make the garment heavier, thereby making my problem worse.

    Have you or any of your readers had a similar problem? Has anyone used any of these solutions or found another way that works fairly reliably?

    I realize part of the problem is that I have been working mainly on summer garments and thread stretches, but is not really elastic. I used a bamboo/cotton for my last project, but again had the same problem with the garment just growing in the final stages. Maybe the weight of the bound edge is just too heavy when it is a larger garment.

    Comments or suggestions welcome!

    • You have such a well thought-out comment that I thought I would answer your questions in a blog post rather than in a reply. I hope to be able to do this by the weekend. Just finishing up a project to get it mailed out to the publisher and I’ll be able to do it. :-)

    • I have posted some more gauge information as a new post in my blog and wanted to let you know that it’s now available: http://kimguzman.wordpress.com

  6. Pingback: Problems with Gauge « WIPs ‘N Chains

  7. Three of us tried making the elegant hat…one with G, one with H and one with I. The look of the hat wasn’t near the picture. We all used simply soft/same color etc. One, I won’t use this yarn again…very stringy, and when you crochet to gauge…it still is not correct. The hat looks like it was really made with worsted yarn, as none of the hats look that defined. This was disappointing, as we all love this pattern.

    • I’m so sorry the yarn didn’t work out for you. It’s isn’t tightly-plied and can catch when stitching. I haven’t used the yarn in years, though, and since the sale to the Canadian company, I can’t be absolutely certain that it’s the same exact yarn as when it was distributed in the US. But, at the time of my designing the hat, I definitely used Caron Simply Soft and a G-7 (4.5mm) hook. I crochet loosely and, tension being as individual as handwriting, I’ve seen some very tight crocheters having to go up to a size K in order to meet gauge.

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