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Garments, Gauge and Getting it right...

One of my crochet goals for this year is to make more crochet garments for myself. As crochet has come back into fashion, there are more and more independent designers producing gorgeous contemporary designs. See Baa's selection of crochet books here.

It's a huge investment of time and money to make a garment, and there's always a worry about whether the finished project will fit...

Some problems with fit may be down to the actual pattern, which is hard to account for. If you're new to crochet garments my best advice is to chose a pattern by a respected designer or one that has been made many times and is well tested by the crochet community. Visit the pattern page on, and log in so you see all the tabs along the top of the page. There is a tab for projects, where people who've made the pattern upload their results.

The more projects that have been uploaded the better! Visit these project pages and see what people have said about the pattern in their notes, and see how the garment fits on people with a similar body shape to you. For example, check out the Huldra Sweater by Lilla Bjorn Crochet. This popular crochet garment has more than 200 projects uploaded to Ravelry and you can see it made in various yarns and in various sizes. You can also see how highly users have rated the pattern on the main pattern page. This one has great reviews!

Log into to see the projects tab. The more projects, blogs and posts there are, the more informed your decision can be.

Sometimes you'll see a pattern you love, and you just have to give it a go!

Ensuring your finished project is just like the example in the pattern depends on you crocheting it in exactly the same way as the designer. As we all know everyone crochets differently, some looser, some tighter.

The way we quantify this is by measuring gauge.


Gauge is a measure of how many stitches you crochet over a set area. You need to match your personal gauge to the gauge of the designer so your item works up exactly the same size as the designer intended.

An individual's gauge is determined by 3 factors, your hook size, your yarn weight and your personal tension. We won't talk about yarn weight, as that's usually set for any given pattern.

Many of you will have seen (and ignored!) the gauge instructions on a crochet pattern! They usually appears in the pattern notes between the materials list and the beginning of the actual instructions.

Working up a gauge swatch can seem bothersome when you just want to get going with your project... but it can be the difference between a cushion cover that doesn't fit the pad, a mandala that doesn't fit the mounting ring, a top that won't go over your head or a cardigan that won't close!

But I don't know how to measure the gauge...

Usually on a pattern you will see a mini-pattern for gauge, where the designer tells you to e.g. chain 20 and work 18 rows in a certain stitch and a certain hook size. Sometimes they will give you the measurements that this whole little swatch rectangle should be, or sometimes they ask you to count how many stitches and rows you have in e.g. a 10cm x 10cm square in the middle of the swatch.

Counting in the centre of a swatch can be awkward but a gauge square makes it a little easier. You can buy a gauge square or make your own! Make sure your square is the right size for the pattern's gauge instructions. Most designers use a 10 cm (4 inch) square. Here's one I made out of a piece of card using a craft knife.

Lay the gauge square over your work and count how many stitches you can see across the row, and how many rows you can see from top to bottom. Laying the square in the middle of your swatch means that you don't incorporate any edge effects that might affect the stitch count, like row turns or the starting chain. If you don't have a gauge square, just use a ruler, counting the stitches along a set distance, and then the rows.

In this example the swatch is worked in half trebles in the back loop. Each horizontal ridge marks 2 rows, so this 10 cm x 10 cm swatch is 12 rows high and 15 stitches across.

Sometimes your stitch gauge (the width) will be off, and sometimes it will be the row gauge (the height) of the swatch. The two problems are fixed in different ways.

Problem 1a: My swatch is too wide, so I don't have enough stitches in the given distance along my row.

In this case the designer might expect you to fit 15 stitches in 10 cm along a row, but you can only fit 12. This just means you are a looser crocheter than the designer, and this can be fixed by going down a hook size. Go down 0.5 mm at a time, until your stitch count is correct. The smaller the hook, the more stitches you will fit in a given width.

Working on without fixing this problem will mean your item will be much too wide.

Changing hook size easily changes the width of your stitches, and consequently how many stitches fit in 10cm along a row, so it is useful to have a range of hook sizes in your project bag. Check out Baa's selection here.

Problem 1b: My swatch is too narrow, so I have too many stitches in the given distance along my row.

Gauge swatches. From top to bottom, 2.5 mm, 3 mm and 3.5 mm hooks. Note how the swatches don't change significantly in height, just in width.

In this case the designer might have expected 15 stitches in your 10 cm, but you've got 18! This means you are a tighter crochet than the designer. You can adjust for this by moving up a hook size.

Again, go up hook sizes by 0.5 mm at a time until you get the right amount of stitches in the given dimensions. The larger the hook, the fewer stitches you will fit in a given width. For 6 mm hooks and above, just go up 1 mm at a time, as half sizes are rare in the bigger hooks.

Working on without fixing this problem will mean your item will be much too narrow... a big problem for a garment! You may also find that your finished item doesn't have the desired drape as the stitches are too tight.

Remember, it's not that you're doing anything wrong or that there's anything wrong with the way you crochet. You're really just comparing your personal crochet tension to that of the designer. You might have beautiful tension and they might be a particularly tight crocheter or a particularly loose crocheter. Doing a gauge swatch allows you to adjust as best you can, ensuring the item you make comes out as close to the designer's version as possible.

Problem 2: I have the right number of stitches along the row, but my swatch is too tall or too short in height.

This is probably the most annoying of all the gauge problems you could come across, but there are solutions!

This might sound overly simplistic, but first double check that you have done the correct stitch in the swatch. A UK double crochet is much shorter than a US double crochet! Make sure you're using the correct terms, as this can throw everything off!

If everything is in order and you are still not getting the right amount of rows in your swatch, you need to change the way you crochet. The looser the first first loop of your stitch, the taller your stitch will be. This is known as the "golden loop". Adjusting your golden loop allows you to change the height of your rows without changing the width.

How to adjust the golden loop is beautifully explained in this video by Esther from It's all in a Nutshell. She classifies crocheters as either "yankers", "riders" or "lifters"!! Check out her brilliant technical blogs here too.

Working on without fixing your row gauge means that your garment will be too long or too short. Changing hook size won't affect the height of the rows significantly, and you likely won't want to if you have already achieved the horizontal stitch gauge.

Your project can also be adjusted by adding more rows to the pattern but be very aware that this can have major implications for the shaping, fit and construction of garments, and for the appearance of colourwork motifs. This is best attempted if you're very confident in your ability to adjust a pattern as you go. Make sure you take notes if you go down this route! You'll need them for the corresponding pieces of the garment.

Now anyone who has been to one of my beginner's classes knows that I hate a crochet stitch with a "saggy foot"... and always encourage my learners to keep the loops of their stitches nice and snug to the hook (but not too tight!).

This means I'm a "rider". What sort of crocheter are you? Let me know in the comments!!

Chat soon,



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