I'll admit, I used to be one of those crocheters that never made a gauge swatch or checked my gauge in any way, shape, or form before, during, or after working up a project. However, as I started to design garments, I realized the vastness of my mistake. 🤦🏼♀️ So, to start, let me strongly state...
GAUGE IS SO IMPORTANT!
I also want to emphasize upfront that, although gauge is a small note of guidance by a designer in a pattern to help you more accurately work up a project, it is more importantly a skill that requires practice and development by anyone who crochets - just like any other crochet skill.
Gauge is quite a loaded topic, so I just hope I can do this topic some justice, and provide you with some helpful information around it. There's a lot to cover here, so let's get going.
What is gauge?
Gauge is essentially just a reference of measure. It contains the measure of 2 things: stitches and rows. Stitches measure the width of the gauge and rows measure the height of it, and those 2 things together typically equate to a square swatch of a particular size in inches. So...
# of stitches x # of rows = size of gauge swatch in inches
20 sts x 22 rows = 4"
Why is gauge important?
Because items that require gauge are handmade, and the maker of that item varies from person to person, a number of variables can impact the final result of the item. So, it is important to have some form of standard of measure to help each person's project turn out as close to the designer's sample as possible.
Factors That Impact Gauge
As I just mentioned, there are a number of different variables that impact a person's gauge. This can include:
yarn fiber content (wool, cotton, acrylic, etc.)
yarn weight (fingering, worsted, bulky, etc.)
maker's tension (how loosely/tightly they hold the yarn)
maker's geological location
how long a maker has been crocheting
maker's comfort level with a pattern's techniques or stitches
time of day
how the maker holds a hook
shape and/or size of a maker's hands/fingers
how the maker is sitting (or standing) while crocheting