Got Gauge?

Gauge swatch

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you knew this one was coming. I tweeted last weekend that a rant was coming on gauge after doing some pattern searching. Well, here it is. Buckle up folks, this one is for everyone.

Gauge. That word that many hate. And I don’t understand why.

Well, okay, there’s the issue with doing swatches. For some reason, a lot of people would rather poke their eyes out with a rusty crochet hook than take the time to do a swatch. Now, I’ll admit, I was one of these people, too, back in the beginning. Know what cured me of that? Spending hours working on a project that I hated, but was too invested in to stop or rip out. Oh, that’s right, it wasn’t a garment (I was smart enough to know I needed to do swatches for those). It was an afghan.

What would I have learned by doing a swatch?

  • That while the pattern called for an I hook, I was still too tight of a crocheter and what should have been a twin sized blanket was coming out as a lapghan.
  • Because I was a tight crocheter, this was not going to be a wonderfully drapy blanket. It instead was going to mimic wet cardboard.
  • The colorway I was using made the nifty stitch pattern just disappear
  • The stitch pattern was really hard on my hands and wrist.

Yes, all those things I could have learned by taking an hour to make a simple swatch. Now I swatch. Maybe not always, especially in cases where I’m making something for a second or third time in the same yarn. But even if I just spend a few minutes doodling with the yarn and hook to see if I like the way the stitch pattern is working with the yarn and hook, it helps.

But honestly, that’s not what I was going to rant about. No, my rant goes much further.

Patterns. Patterns should (nearly) always have gauge listed. Look, I get it, some things gauge just isn’t vital. But you know what, gauge isn’t for making something fit. It’s for making sure that if I use the hook you tell me to use and the yarn weight you tell me to use, I’m going to get a finished object the right size. How does that happen? By checking gauge.

It’s okay to put “Gauge not critical to this project”. I do it in some of my designs. But gauge is a jumping off point. What if you, dear designer, crochet tighter than I do? What if you crochet looser? What if I want to use a slightly different yarn? I have no way to replicate the finished size if I don’t know the number of stitches and rows you got in that magic four inch measurement.

It’s even okay for some patterns to say, “Rows 1-5 = 4″, gauge not critical”. At least then I’m not completing the whole thing before finding out if it’s going to be the right finished size.

I saw (and passed on) at least five patterns in the course of an hour on Ravelry because they had some variation of the following listed in the pattern description: “I didn’t check gauge or mark it down. It’s not necessary.” Considering the items I was looking at were fingerless gloves, slippers and hats, they were very much necessary.

Look, I understand that not everyone who posts a pattern on Ravelry is or desires to be a professional designer. I’m not here rallying for charts and standards and pretty formatting (that’s another discussion for another day). But, take five minutes, slap down a ruler and count your stitches. Give us something to work with.

My fear is that there are new baby crocheters who will gravitate toward free patterns while they learn their skill, and then give up because things don’t work out. Maybe they crochet tightly and the fingerless gloves that should fit everyone end up fitting baby dolls only. Maybe they’re still pretty loose and that hat will fit two heads. And maybe they give up and walk away. That makes me sad.

So please, take a few minutes if you’re writing a pattern and mark what your gauge is. And if it’s a project that will need to be blocked, let us know if that’s blocked or unblocked gauge. You have a better chance of people being successful with your designs.

And if you’re a crocheter, trust me, take the time to check gauge. You’ll be happier with your final product.