YDKWYDK: Gauge and why it's important

Written by Demetra Bogri, www.4Elli.com

There are hundreds of articles on the Internet talking about gauge, but do you really understand it? I remember a few years ago when I was trying to learn crochet and knitting, I had a hard time understanding gauge and it's weird because the theory is so simple!

The theory says that gauge is the number of stitches and rows in each inch and you must achieve the gauge specified in a pattern if you want your project to turn out right! So simple right? Now let’s talk about what gauge actually is!

Gauge is how I can be sure that my finished project ends up being the right size. And why must my finished project be the right size? Let’s say I see a lovely sweater pattern, buy the right yarn and I'm ready to start making it! I make the sweater following the pattern for my size but oops...the sweater doesn’t fit me and I end up really mad because I spent money on the yarn and time to make it and I believe the pattern doesn't work!

But why does the sweater not fit me? I am sure I followed the instructions step by step!

The pattern says to use specific yarn and hook or needles but every person has different hands and that means different tension. That’s why every pattern gives us how many stitches we need to have per inch and how many rows. So, the best thing to do is to make a sample swatch first before we start working on a pattern.

Gauge swatches are generally 4”x 4”, unless you’re working in rounds. Don’t worry if it’s different than 4”x 4” - the pattern will specify exactly what stitches and how many to work for the correct swatch for that piece.


Gauge swatch examples (source: Warm Up America!)


If your swatch ends up the same size as the pattern then you are good to go and make your project! If not then you need to make some changes in order to get that size. But what changes do you need to make?

  1. You can change the size of you crochet hook or knitting needles. For example: if your swatch is smaller than the pattern’s size, try to redo it with a hook or needles that are one or two sizes bigger. If it is bigger than the pattern’s size, try to use a hook or needles that are one or two sizes smaller.
  2. You can add or reduce the the number of stitches you start with. For example: if the pattern says that you need to have four stitches per inch but the final swatch is bigger, then you can keep the same size hook or needles and try to redo it with three stitches per inch instead! Or if it is smaller, keep the same size hook or needles and try to redo it with five or six stitches per inch.
  3. You can change your yarn: if your swatch ends up bigger then you can try to redo it with the same crochet hook or knitting needles but with a lighter weight yarn. And if it is smaller, try to redo it with the same crochet hook or knitting needles but with a thicker weight yarn.

When you decide to follow a pattern for the first time you will need to make more than one swatch to get the right gauge but after a while you will know your tension and it will be easier for you!

Okay I get it! Gauge is important when I want to make a sweater but what about other projects?

Well, gauge is important for pretty much everything: hats, shawls, clothes, home decor, etc.! You probably think gauge is not so important when you want to make a dish cloth but imagine that you want to follow a pattern and make three dish cloths to give as a gift. If you don’t have the right gauge the dish cloths will end up being different sizes!

Here is an example to work with:


  • Medium weight yarn
  • Crochet hook size I (5.5 mm) or size needed for gauge

Gauge: 13 sc and 16 rows = 4” (10cm)

Gauge swatch:  4” (10cm) square

Ch 14

Row 1: sc in second ch from hook and in each ch across. 13 sc

Row 2-16:  ch 1, turn, sc in each sc across.

Finish off.

If your finished swatch doesn't measure 4”x4,” try steps 1, 2 and 3 again!