Hello! If you're new to crochet and not sure what swatching is, it's the process of crocheting a small sample to test your gauge. It's a valuable step at the start of any crochet project, but it's extremely important for projects that require a specific fit, such as garments.
So, what is gauge?
Gauge, also known as tension, is the number of stitches and rows (usually per 10cm) in any piece of crochet. The gauge for each project is determined by the designer and should be found near the top of the pattern instructions.
Why is swatching so important?
I know, I know! It's a step we often want to skip, but there are several reasons why swatching is important.
- To ensure that your finished piece of crochet will be similar to the designer's finished piece. If it's a jumper for example, this is important - even a small difference in tension can make a BIG difference in the size of your finished project.
- To make sure that your crochet work will look the way you want it to. Different hook sizes can produce different textures and drapes. The process of swatching allows you to experiment with different hook sizes to find the hook and yarn that produces the results you want.
- To help stop you running out of yarn. When you swatch and your tension matches up with the designer's tension you can be confident that your yarn use will be more or less the same.
Ok, I'm listening, how do I swatch?
To make a swatch; crochet a square using the yarn, hook size and stitch pattern that you plan to use for your project.
Most patterns will specify the size of swatch that is required and the stitch pattern you should use for them. I recommend making your swatch at least 12cm x 12cm so that you are well clear of the edges when you take your reading.
Once you have crocheted your swatch, measure the number of stitches and rows per 10cm. If your gauge does not match the gauge specified in the pattern, you can adjust your tension or change the hook size until you get the desired gauge. If you have less stitches/ rows per 10cm you need to move down to a smaller hook. If you have more stitches/ rows per 10cm you need to move up to a bigger hook.
My 6 top tips for swatching ...
- When making your swatch, use the same yarn and hook size that you plan to use for your crochet project.
- Swatch in the same stitch pattern that you will be using for your project.
- Swatch a large enough square so that you can accurately measure the number of stitches and rows per 10cm. As I suggested above, I recommend 12cm x 12cm minimum.
- Once you have found a gauge that you're happy with, write it down somewhere so that you can refer to it when needed.
- Pay attention to whether you should be swatching in the round or in rows.
- If your pattern tells you that the swatch is blocked, you're going to have to block your swatch too.
A few of final points
Swatching may seem like a frustrating extra step, especially when all we want to do is dive in and get properly started (I hear you!), but it's a worthwhile step that can save you time and frustration in the long run.
By taking time to swatch, you can go ahead and crochet with confidence, knowing that your crochet project will turn out the way you want it to.
If it's a small item it's arguable that the project itself is the swatch and it's not worth it because you can crochet a second one so quickly if need be - fair enough!
At the end of the day, it's up to you whether you swatch or not - I'm not about to come over there and make you! What I will tell you is that I'm now converted to swatching and I hope this article has given you some insight into swatching too.
Leave me a comment and let me know if you're a swatcher or not. Or maybe there was a time you wish you had? Or if you have any questions about swatching, I'll happily get back to you.
Until next time, happy crocheting,
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