Sunday, October 21, 2007

Crochet gauge, a tutorial

There was a question from a new crocheter on the Knittyboard asking about how one measures the gauge on their crocheted fabric. And in searching about, it occurred to me there there wasn't a tutorial anywhere I could find with good, clear, close up pictures. So, I broke out my faithful Canon with its spiffy new lens to get photos of several crocheted swatches. NOTE: I use American crochet terminology. I don't know the names for these stitches in the UK terminology or I'd add them here. Sorry about that.

* Every photo in this tutorial is a clickable link to a gigantic version of the image so you can get a REALLY close look....but only if you really really want to.

Measuring gauge on single crochet:

Here is a swatch of all single crochets. The fabric is pretty well uniform and it's difficult to tell one row from the next by the way it lays. But if I take a closer look, I can see the individual stitches, which helps me determine where to set my ruler for measuring. At first glance, the crocheted fabric looks like a bunch of tiny sideways bowties, but as I look closer still I can see that the 'center' of each bowtie is the distinctive bar across the back side of each single crochet stitch. The front sides of the single crochets have a distinct lean to them, as if they're stretching to their right. The back sides of the single crochets remind me of teeny tiny greek Pi symbols, or maybe little Spinal Tap Stonehenge shapes. Knowing that, the Vs of the 'front' side of each single crochet suddenly reveals itself, standing on top of each back bar of the stitch below it. (Hee, pardon the difference in photo quality there. I realized AS I WAS TYPING THIS that I'd photographed my single crochet swatch UPSIDE DOWN. Duh. So if I ever try to proclaim myself flawless, please swat me upside the head and point me back here. Thanks.) I lined up my ruler with the left edge of one stitch, and now I can count how many stitches are in 2 inches (as per this sample image. The 4 inch images were too far away for the stitch definition to be clear.) I count about 7 and 1/2 single crochet stitches in 2 inches.

Now, for row gauge it's pretty much the same thing, except that you line the ruler up with a vertical column of stitches -- the horizontal bars from the back sides of the single crochet stitches are very useful here. Counting on my image, I see about 9 and a little more rows for 2 inches. The nice thing is, if your gauge is really really tiny and you can't quite tell where the individual rows are, you can count the lines that are visible above each front side row.

Measuring on half-double crochet:

Here is a swatch of all half-double crochets. First things first, why the heck is this poor stitch carrying around an oxymoron for a name? Well, when making this stitch, you start it off like a double crochet but then finish it like a single crochet. Hence, it's only half of a double crochet. Couldn't we call it a super-single? Hm, no. A single plus? Now that sounds like it should be a real stitch for real women with real curves. Heh. I guess I'll just go with it and move on. ;) Taking a closer look at the swatch, the telltale pillar effect of taller crochet stitches is starting to become apparent, but this stitch still tries to be like its short single crochet cousin. It's got that pretty diagonal swirly effect going on on the front side of the stitch that is reminding me of Hebrew characters the more I look at it, and a little post holding up a horizontal swirly shape for the back side of the stitch. More Hebrew? I'm liking this poor misnamed little stitch more and more. It's got a uniqueness to it. Anyway, back to measuring. On this image, I count the tiniest smidge less than 8 stitches per 2 inches.

Again, now we have row gauge. Thsi one isn't quite as easy to line up vertically, but really, as long as your ruler isn't all crooked on the fabric it should be okay. Again, if your stitches are way teeny tiny, you've got horizontal visual cues to make it easier. This time, it's the pretty swirly effect from the back sides of the stitches. On my image here, I see that my row gauge is a teeny bit more than 6 rows for two inches. Man, what's up with my gauge measurements all being a teeny bit more or less than whole numbers? Hmph. Oh well. This IS just for display purposes. ;)

Measuring gauge on double crochet:

Hey, now this is really starting to resemble what everyone thinks of as crochet. You've got wide rows of very pillar-like stitches, but they still have that distinct horizontal bar across the tops of their back sides like single crochets do. So they're still related. Cool, huh? And, more so than the singles or half-doubles, the lean in the stitches is visible on both the right sides and wrong sides, so you get this faintly zig-zaggy effect going on.

Looking closer, the pillar appearance of the double crochets is apparent, and there's a bit of a visible gap between each one. The front sides still have that tendency to lean to their right, and the back sides have two layers of vertical lines and two horizontal lines, one more prominent than the other. The gaps that are now much easier to see make counting the individual stitches easy. In that image, I count a little less than eight stitches for 2 inches.

Back to row gauge. Since the double crochet stitches are so easy to distinguish, measuring row gauge is as easy as measuring stitch gauge. Like the half double crochets, you really only need to make sure that your ruler isn't set against the fabric crooked and then you count the pillars. In this image, I see about 4 and 1/4th rows per 2 inches.

All subsequent taller stitches than the double crochet are measured in exactly the same way, though it's not common to see pieces of fabric made entirely of anything taller than a double crochet. I guess the gaps are just too big at that point.

Measuring gauge over a pattern stitch:

Sometimes a knitting pattern will ask you to measure gauge over a specific pattern stitch and not plain single or double crochet. In that case, it's easier to make a swatch with the number of stitches they want for the gauge (example: 20 stitches = 4 inches) or as close as you can get without using less than that number. (example: 1 repeat of the pattern stitch is 11 stitches, so 2 repeats would be 22. 20 would mean having to fudge the pattern stitch to make it fit, and that's a can of worms for another day.)

Let's say that the above pattern wanted a gauge measured in pattern stitch. You've made your swatch, now lay your ruler on it and estimate the gauge as best you can. Some patterns make it easy to count stitches and rows, some don't. This example is one of the 'not cooperative' patterns as it has stuff leaning different directions and different numbers of stitches in every row. Give it your best shot, and if all else fails, you can start your project and measure the total size after an inch or two to compare against the pattern's given dimensions.

I hope this helps you with determining gauge on your crocheted fabrics. And if not, let me know. I'll see what I can else I can do. :)

entrelac at 11:33 PM :: |