I hear so often from people that they’re afraid to make garments. I think a lot of the fear comes from the gauge swatch. Repeatedly trying to meet the gauge of the stated swatch is disheartening. Trying to get a proper gauge swatch is very difficult in crochet. It’s a breeze for knitting or even Tunisian crochet. But, regular crochet? If it wasn’t so difficult, you wouldn’t see the hashtag of #swatchfire created on Twitter by crochet pattern designers. Crochet simply doesn’t behave in a way that makes accurate swatches.
The biggest problem I see is that swatches are made too small. If the stated gauge is on a 4-inch measurement, then the swatch is usually mistakenly made to four inches. But, you’re never going to get accuracy like that. You have to make a BIG swatch. Then, you have to measure in the center. But, even then, it’s difficult. If your stated gauge should be 4 stitches to an inch, you don’t know whether it’s really 3.6 stitches to an inch or 4.4 stitches to an inch. That’s a .8 stitch range, which doesn’t mean a whole lot until you apply to a 36″ circumference of a garment.
Many people have a problem with not meeting the row gauge when the stitch gauge is met. Try going up again in hook size to see if this meets the criteria. But, do remember that most stated gauge swatches are the total project gauge and not the literal swatch gauge. Try to imagine the difference in row gauge between a little swatch and a big sweater. The sweater, even while stitching it, is going to stretch out. Your gauge swatch is going to grow in row gauge the moment you start putting weight on it. It could be that your row gauge is accurate, but you can’t tell because it’s too small.
I don’t want to diminish the importance of a gauge swatch. You still want to know whether that swatch is going to grow from 8″ to 12″ in washing. Truly, you don’t want your sweater to grow to your knees by days’ end. But, I think people may be getting too wound up in the swatch and getting too frustrated with the project.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a baby sweater. You spend hours trying to get a gauge swatch. But, wait a minute. Those sleeves on the baby sweater aren’t much bigger than a swatch should be. Why not use the sleeve as your gauge swatch? Stitch it up according to the instructions and see if it meets the schematic. It’s the schematic that you’re trying to reach, not the gauge swatch. Don’t put so much effort into the gauge swatch that you give up. What’s the worst that can happen? You have to take out the sleeve and start again. That’s it.
And, are you one of those people who think that a garment pattern is way too difficult? You’ll just stick to afghans or shawls? I’ve seen some afghan squares that were 10 times more difficult than stitching up a sweater. Seriously, what is a sweater other than a mostly straight piece (like an afghan) and then a bit of decreasing at the armholes and then straight up again. That is not difficult. And, my goodness, if you’ve done a doily, you can certainly do the decreasing of a sweater.
The last thing that I see that may hinder people from making a garment is the seaming. I’ve heard people say “But, my seaming always shows.” Well, take a look in your closet. Look at just about every piece of clothing you own. The seams show. Really. Go look. I’ll wait. You see that? Your seams are supposed to show. If they don’t, fabulous. But, if they do? Well, so does everything else you own.
I encourage you to try out one of those garment patterns you’ve been admiring to see just how easy it can be. I find that baby clothing is a great way to start. They’re so small and quick-to-stitch that you can learn a lot from making them. Adult tank tops or shell patterns are also good places to start. Not a lot of shaping going on for a tank top. And, some of them don’t have a lot of seaming either.
Don’t be shy about trying a garment. It’s really a lot easier than it sounds. And, it could be an entirely new and wonderful way to add to your wardrobe.