Friday, June 17, 2011

Crochet Friday Series 9: Gauge/Understanding Written Patterns

Oh no, here comes the Gauge.
Don't worry, there's nothing to be afraid of when talking about Gauge. Only that I, personally, don't feel too comfortable with it. But that's just my personal point of view. I guess I am not so traditional when it comes to creating stuff. I always have to break the rules, otherwise I'd feel like I'm just following, instead of leading.

But this is not the moment for political insights in the world of crocheting, but the time to explain you what Gauge is about, so you don't fear it the way I do. This is, by the way, a great way of teaching myself to go deeper in the levels of learning my craft of preference. 

The term "gauge" refers to the number of stitches and rows contained in a given width and length of crochet fabric, usually 4" (10 cm) square. 
Everybody has their own personal gauge when working a crochet fabric. It varies from person to person, even when the same yarn and hook size are used. Crochet patterns are written using a specific gauge in mind, and if your gauge differs from the one given, the finished piece could come out either too big or too small. That is why it is important to check your gauge before starting a pattern. 
I found this on a learn-to-crochet book. And I am going to be honest with you. I never ever check on gauge. Bad? Maybe. But I find it very boring to be completely anal retentive when I throw myself to a dreamy comfortable crocheting time. I am not discrediting the use and importance of gauge, it is very important if you're following a pattern for a garment of specific measurements. It is just that I love experimenting more than following a text book. 

Have I made mistakes? Hell yes. Does not checking on the gauge make my creations inconsistent? No, it makes them unique. I have a few Granny Square tote bags that were made with different yarn brands, weights and gauge, and I love how each one of them is so different from the others. But hey, they're not hats or skirts. So, I leave it up to you. If your project requires zero experimentation and you're beginning to learn how to hook the yarn up, ending up with an oversized or too small item can lead you to disappointment and giving up. If this might sound like what happens to you often, dismiss my advice on experimenting and stick to the rules, at least while you pick it up. If you wanna break the rules, you must know first how the system works. Or be able to compensate it with something else. You better be able to justify what you do.

How do you know if you got the right gauge?
Make a test. Using the recommended hook size and yarn, make a crochet piece approx 6-8" (15-20 cm) square, taking to account the number of stitches and rows in the stitch pattern. Fasten off the yarn and then block the gauge sample. Some stitch patterns have the effect of reducing or expanding the crochet widthwise and others have the same effect lengthwise, so it is important that you work the gauge sample in the exact pattern you will use for the main piece.

Don't get confused, this photo shows a gauge testing in a 2" area.

  1. Lay the sample right side up on a flat surface. Using a ruler or tape measure, measure 4" (10 cm) horizontally across a row of stitches. Insert pins exactly 4" (10 cm) apart and count the number of stitches between the pins.
  2. Turn the fabric on its side. Do the same: using a ruler or tape measure, measure 4" (10 cm) horizontally across the rows. Insert pins exactly 4" (10 cm) apart and count the number of rows between the pins.

If the number of stitches, rows, or pattern repeats to 4" (10 cm) match the pattern, you can get started. If you have too many stitches or rows or a smaller pattern repeat to 4" (10 cm), your crochet is too tight. Work another gauge sample using a larger hook, or if the opposite happens, that you end up with a too loose crochet, try a smaller hook. Block and measure the new gauge sample as before. Repeat until your gauge matches your pattern's. 

Easy peasy. But boring. :p Hope this helped you! Happy hooking.

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