I’ve discussed the importance of starting your knitting projects with swatching in the past and although it’s never our favourite part of the fibre journey, it’s equally important when you’re crocheting. If you’re knitting something like an afghan or shawl you might not mind some give or take in the size of your finished project but if you’ve spent hours crocheting a sweater or garment with too tight or too loose of a gauge, you’ll be sad to discover a couple stitches difference in your swatch can turn into the difference between a 36” bust on your lovely sweater and a 40” bust. Not an “oops” you’ll want to experience!
How to create your swatch
- Crochet a large square in the stitch that your gauge calls for. Typically it’s a good idea to crochet a larger swatch than the stitch count calls.
- Measure your tension - you’ll want to count how many stitches there are in your swatch (for example, how many stitches fit into 4”) and then measure how many rows fit into the same measurement. You’ll want to keep this information so you can easily refer to your gauge midproject.
- Block your project the way you would with the finished piece. Do you plan to hand wash and lay flat to dry? Do that. Planning to machine wash in cold water and tumble dry? Give your swatch that treatment.
- Once your swatch is completely dry, do the same set of measurements and compare to your pre-blocked measurements.
How to use your swatch
- If you have more stitches or rows than the pattern called for your project will end up too small; repeat the process with a larger hook.
If you have fewer stitches or rows than the pattern, repeat with a smaller hook.
If you repeat the process and can only get either the rows or the stitches to match the gauge, prioritize correct stitch number, especially if you’re crocheting a garment. Stitches will control the sizing and you can always add extra rows if it’s shorter than you would like.
Remember that patterns list a hook size based on the designer’s guess at what the average crocheter’s gauge will be - everyone handles their stitches and tension differently, so you might need a different size and that’s normal!
Remember, swatching has value beyond just ensuring your sizing will turn out properly - it’s also a great way to take a look at how the colourway looks in the stitch you’re going to use, feel the drape of the finished textile, and more.
If you start to think about swatching as another enjoyable part of your process you’ll come to appreciate all the information it can tell you!