Gauge. Many knitters and crocheters cringe when they hear or read that word. But it really is one of the most important parts of our crafts. It can make or break your finished object.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines gauge as “a measurement (as of linear dimension) according to some standard or system.” Ummm…ok. But what does that mean for us?
In knitting and crocheting, gauge means how many stitches and rows per inch you are achieving with a particular yarn and needle/hook size. I can't emphasis the word YOU enough in that statement. Because knitting and crocheting are done by hand, everyone’s gauge is personal. For example, I happen to be a really loose knitter and usually have to go down two needle sizes from what is recommended on a yarn label. Whereas someone else that “knits to gauge” will probably use the recommended needle size. And a third person can be different still and knit tighter than the recommended gauge and have to go up a needle size or two.
Ok, so now that we know what gauge is, we need to understand why it is important. When you are going to knit something (especially something that is meant to be worn – whether it is fitted or oversized), you need to know how big to make it, right? If you are not getting the required gauge for a particular pattern, and you go ahead and knit the sweater in the size you would normally make, when you are done with alllllll that hard work, your sweater won't fit, which would be really frustrating!
There are a few times when gauge isn't as important. Such as things that can be flexible on size - scarfs, shawls, rugs, blankets, etc. However, I still recommend doing a gauge swatch to get an idea of how big your item is going to be. You wouldn't want to start an afghan, work a few rows only to find out you have only cast on enough stitches for a baby blanket, or vice versa.
It is important to check your gauge with every project you do, even if you use the same yarn for a different project or you use the yarn that the pattern calls for. There are many things that affect our gauge…needle size, needle construction (straight vs. circular, wood vs. metal), stress, how we hold our yarn and much more. And not to mention your gauge can change over time.
In upcoming posts I will talk about how to measure your gauge and how to adjust your needle size to get the proper gauge.