This week on Tips from a Tech Editor, let’s talk about gauge.
It’s a vitally important aspect of both crochet and knit design. However there can be confusion in how to best express it for your readers.
What is gauge? Check this other post with a great video that explains how to measure your gauge to get the most accurate result. Gauge is the measure of how many stitches and rows/rounds of your pattern take up a certain amount of space. Gauge is also your safety net as a designer. I explain more of that in A Simple Guide to Grading Crochet.
Typically, gauge is expressed as stitches and rows in a 4 inch square (or 10cm for our Metric friends). It must have BOTH the X and Y value for a specified area. If you only list stitches without rows or rounds, your maker will never know if their stitches are too high or too short. If their stitches are shorter than yours, they might run out of the recommended yarn before the project is finished, or the finished item will be too small.
Examples of Gauge
Here are some examples of how to write your gauge taken from patterns I’ve edited, all with the designer’s permission.
Example of written out completely with words: 12 Double Crochet stitches worked over 8 rows measures an approximate 4 inch square using a size 5.0mm crochet hook. by Tomeka Wray
Gauge- 4” x 4” equals 18 rows of sc x 14 stitches by Stephanie Ware
Using US G/6 (4 mm) and yarn (A) 7 shells and 15 rows = 4”/10 cm by Mary Beth Cryan
Gauge in the round?
Now you’re probably saying, “What about projects in the round like a hat or doilie? What about when gauge doesn’t matter? What about amigurumi?” Let’s take these one at a time.
For patterns in the round, you can write your gauge as:
After X number of rounds, diameter is Y inches (cm)
This could also be written as: Rounds 1-4 = 4″ diameter
The reader or maker won’t be able to get too far ahead in the pattern before knowing if their stitching is correct.
You might think, “amigurumi is so small, I’m not making a gauge swatch!” Yes, you’re correct. But the reader still needs to know if they’re on the right track or not.
Jennifer Percival at Crochet to Play has a great description that she modifies depending on the type of pattern that she’s writing. The beginning of it came from my suggestion, but the remainder is her own. I advise to still tell your reader the size of your piece before it takes on a 3 dimensional shape.
Although gauge is not essential when making amigurumi, it is important to have tight, even stitches. [Item] measures about 6.75″/17cm from top to bottom.
Although gauge is not essential when making amigurumi, it is important to have tight, even stitches. For a gauge reference, when flat, rounds 1-5 of head = 1.5″ across. With this tension, [item] measures about 7.5″/19cm high.
“Gauge Doesn’t Matter”
Oh, the dreaded “gauge doesn’t matter” line? As a type A, detail oriented, mathematically minded person, this drives me bonkers. Yes, in very very rare circumstances, gauge might not matter very much to the finished product. However, most of the time, it is still nice to give your reader some general idea that they are on the right or wrong track when making the item. Therefore, come up with something! Use the examples for items in the round or amigurumi as an example.
After working ___ rows/rounds/pattern repeats, my item was _____ inches across.
That’s all you need. Pam Grice did a great job with this on a recent pattern that used super bulky yarn. Let’s be real, you could make sometimes only 2 stitches with some yarns and it’s already 4 inches across. Here’s what Pam said:
Round 1, when complete, should measure approximately 20″ (51 cm) in length when laid flat, 40″ (102 cm) circumference.
That wasn’t so hard, right? The reader isn’t going to get too deep into the pattern before discovering that something’s off.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth the effort to create a gauge swatch for a small item. In these cases, the finished size is the same as the gauge. You can simply write “Finished item measures ____” and be done with it.
Stitch Pattern Gauge
What if you have a repeated stitch pattern in your design. Perhaps it’s a string of V-Stitches [(dc, ch1, dc) in next st, sk 2 sts]. Or it’s a series of fans (5 dc in one stitch, sk 3 sts), or some other combination like [(sc, dc) in same st, sk 1 st].
When writing your gauge, put it in terms of repeated patterns and write the entire pattern that is repeated. Within your pattern, you can name the pattern whatever you wish. Yes, some stitch patterns have accepted names in the industry. (I’m not going to get into a debate about fan vs. shell.) But, so long as you define it within your pattern, you can call it that name.
Example: Working pattern [(sc, dc) in one st, sk 1 st] 5 times, ch 1, turn. Then describe your gauge as for a flat item. # sts and # rows = 4″/10cm
If it were v-stitches or fans, you could actually count the number of V’s or fans within the measured space. 6 V-sts = 4″, 8 rows of v-sts = 4″
Row Pattern Gauge
What if you change stitch type row after row to create a pattern? Again, define the repeated pattern and describe it, measure it, and report it. When it’s a stitch and row alternation, you can report it as “in pattern” when you write the gauge. But you must be clear as to what is being counted as stitches.
Example: In pattern alternating 1 sc row, 1 dc row: Gauge is ___sts x ___rows = ___”/cm
What do you do if your pattern is just too complicated to describe? Create a gauge swatch. I think this is a great idea, because it familiarizes your reader with the pattern repeat before they start off with 137 foundation chains. To do this, after all the notes of the pattern, you would have a new section for Gauge Swatch Pattern. Then write out the pattern row by row for only enough stitches and rows to create a swatch about 4 or 5 inches square. Instruct the reader to make the swatch and state the measurements that it should be. When all else fails, this is a great option.
Could there be any other option? I’m sure there is. Crochet is infinitely creative. If I haven’t addressed your particular type of stitching to measure gauge in this article, please comment or contact me. I love a challenge.