Oh, crochet gauge swatches. Don’t we all have mixed feelings about them? They can be annoying. They can feel like a waste of time and yarn. But are they really? In this post I’m going to break down how to make a gauge swatch, why they’re important, and lots more!
What is a Gauge Swatch in Crochet?
A gauge swatch is a small square of crocheted fabric that you make in order to test out a pattern before making it. Most often, people think of a swatch as a necessary evil that is only used in order to meet gauge in a pattern. (Wondering what gauge is? Check out this blog post!)
However, did you know there are actually more purposes for a gauge swatch? You can use it to test out a yarn to see if you like it combined with the stitch pattern. You can also use it to test out the drape and weight of your yarn/hook combo.
Why Swatching is So Important
Of course, the main reason making a crochet swatch is SO important is because of gauge. When you make a swatch, you’re able to measure it and make sure that your gauge matches the gauge of a pattern.
I know swatching can seem tiresome. Most crocheters want to skip right to the project because it takes extra time to make a swatch. But the reality is, crocheting a swatch is actually a good thing. Here’s why:
- It can save you from having to REDO a crochet sweater that doesn’t fit
- It can save you from ruining a project by using a yarn that doesn’t look right
So overall, making a swatch actually SAVES you time and yarn, since those two previous points won’t happen to you!
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How Big Should a gauge swatch be?
Contrary to common thought, a gauge swatch should generally be larger than 4″ square. A lot of people think that 4″ is the correct size, since patterns write gauge to be stitches and rows in 4″. However, the trouble with a 4″ swatch is you likely won’t get an accurate stitch count if you measure the edges.
The whole point of a swatch is to measure in the center of it, with the fabric that looks and feels just like the finished item. Therefore, the ideal gauge swatch should measure 5″ or 6″.
Do you block a gauge swatch?
Oh, this is a great question! The answer is, it depends on the pattern. Here is the main rule to keep in mind: you should only block a gauge swatch if the finished item will also be blocked.
Remember, the whole point of a swatch in the first place is to make a sample of the finished project. If you don’t block your swatch, but the pattern calls for blocking, you’re going to be in trouble when you block the finished item. Why? Because blocking stretches your crocheting. Therefore, your project will probably turn out too large.
Pay attention to the notes on blocking in whatever pattern you’re making! If a pattern doesn’t specify whether or not to block your swatch, make sure to check the finishing section to see if the designer recommends blocking the entire project.
All this to say – if you’re planning to block the finished item, block your swatch – and vice versa.
How to make a Crochet Gauge Swatch
Okay, so now that we’ve answered a lot of common questions about gauge swatches, let’s go over some simple steps to actually MAKING one!
Single Crochet Swatch Tutorial
In this gauge swatch tutorial, I will show you how to make a single crochet swatch and measure it! It’s super easy, I promise! Just a few notes as we get started:
- This tutorial is meant to be for a beginner who has never made a swatch before. Even if you don’t have a specific pattern with a gauge, you can still make this easy square for practice!
- If you’re wondering how to make a swatch from a more complicated pattern, still keep reading, because I address that question further down!
Step 1: Make a Foundation Row.
Let’s get started! The first step you’ll always have to do when making a swatch is your foundation row. This can be a row of chains, or a row of foundation single crochet. Personally, I prefer fsc because it is much stretchier. If you’re unsure what fsc is, check out this tutorial.
Now, before we make our foundation row, let’s do something a little different. Just for fun, let’s create an imaginary gauge. Let’s say this swatch is for a pattern with a gauge that looks like this: “14 sc and 16 rows = 4 inches”.
With that information, I can glean a few things:
- My swatch is going to be made entirely from single crochet
- I’m going to need to make a starting row that will give me MORE than 14 sc (because our swatch should always be larger than 4 inches!)
Below you can see the foundation single crochet row that I made. I decided to start with 18 single crochet.
Step 2: Single crochet across the foundation row.
Once you make a decision on your starting row, the rest is pretty easy! To start Row 1 of your swatch, just turn and begin to make single crochets in each stitch.
This is what Row 2 looks like finished:
Step 3: Continue working single crochet rows until you have a square.
Once you finish the first row, chain 1 and turn. Just continue doing single crochet all across for each row. Keep going until you have a square!
How to Measure Your Crochet Swatch
Once your swatch is a square, it is time to grab your measuring tape or ruler. I will note that a ruler can be a bit easier since it is a stiffer material. I specifically had trouble taking the photo below because I was trying to hold the measuring tape with just one hand while taking a photo😂😂
Anyhow, lay your chosen measurement tool across the swatch. Remember your goal is to measure WITHIN the swatch, not on the edges. My swatch is right on target, because I can measure 4″ worth of stitches without including the edge.
So go ahead – count how many stitches are inside the 4″. Did I make my target number of 14 sc in 4″?
Next, you need to measure your rows! Lay out your measuring tape vertically this time, so you can measure the length of all the rows you made.
My goal was to get 16 rows in 4″ – but I wasn’t quite on target for this measurement. I had about 17.5 rows, which is too long!
Row gauge can be a tricky thing. If it ends up that your row gauge is off like mine was in this swatch, there are a few helpful things you can do to fix it. Find out what those things are in this article.
Measuring a double crochet gauge swatch
So you’ve made a single crochet swatch and measured it – great! Thankfully, double crochet swatches work the exact same way. Just for the fun of it though, I thought I would show you an example of me measuring a double crochet swatch.
Here is the stitch gauge – I have 14 dc in 4″.
And here is the row gauge – I have 7 rows in 4″! The main difference between single and double crochet swatches will be the row gauge. Double crochet stitches are obviously MUCH taller, so you usually have to do less rows than you do with single crochet!
What if I need to make a swatch from a tricky crochet stitch and there aren’t instructions?
This question is huge. I remember when I first started crocheting garments, this was one of my biggest struggles. The sad truth is that some patterns just don’t give you specific instructions for your swatch, even if it is made from a tricky stitch pattern!
The remedy for this will vary depending on a few things about your pattern. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios so you see what I mean.
Scenario #1: Pattern provides a “swatch instructions” section.
Of course, this is the most IDEAL scenario because it means that the designer spells out for you exactly how to make the swatch. I make sure to do this in all of my crochet patterns that don’t use a simple stitch like double crochet or single crochet.
(Because, just a side note – this really is only an issue if you need to make a more complex swatch. For simple stitches, it’s as easy as doing what I showed you in the tutorial above!)
Scenario #1: Pattern provides a “stitch pattern” section.
This scenario isn’t as easy, but it is still a valid way to write a pattern. You can still potentially make a great swatch from it. Let me show you what I mean.
In this scenario, this is what the gauge section generally looks like:
Gauge: 14 stitches and 8 rows in stitch pattern = 4″
I bolded the words “in stitch pattern” because this is important. They are telling you that you need to crochet your swatch in the same stitch pattern of the finished item.
How do you know what that stitch is? Well, your next step is to look for another section in the pattern where the stitch pattern is specified.
To illustrate this, let me show you an example.
Okay, so here I want to show you a few screenshots from The Becky Cardigan Pattern so you see what I mean.
Below is a screenshot of the gauge section. As you can see, I specify that the stitches and rows of gauge should be worked in the stitch pattern of the cardigan – the modified lemon peel stitch.
However, I don’t leave the maker there, expecting them to know WHAT that stitch is.
Instead, I created another heading in the pattern that shows you how to make the modified lemon peel stitch:
Here’s what I’m trying to get at:
If the gauge in a pattern isn’t super specific about the stitch, don’t freak out. First check to see if they have a “special stitches” section that clarifies.
Scenario #3: Pattern doesn’t provide any clarification.
This, of course, is the worst scenario. Honestly, when I see a pattern like this, I cringe.
Here, the gauge looks the same as the previous scenario…except there is no clarification given on the stitch pattern in another section. You are instead expected to extrapolate the stitch from the actual pattern instructions.
If you’re looking at a pattern like this, don’t give up right away. Here’s what I recommend doing:
- Scour the pattern for any type of section that looks like it would be easy to make a swatch from. For example, if there is any section of the pattern that is rectangular, that would be an easy part to pair down into a 4″ swatch.
- Another thing you can do is look for a stitch multiple so you know how many chains/fsc to do for the foundation row. If the pattern doesn’t provide one, you’ll have to look at the photos and try to figure it out.
Again, I know this situation is less than ideal. But if you find yourself in it, hopefully these tips help!
Make a Gauge Swatch in the Round
If you thought you were getting close being done with learning about swatching…think again! Another important issue to address is the idea of making swatches in the round.
I think this is a very misunderstood part of swatching.
Did you know that, if a pattern is made in continuous rounds (like a top-down garment where you never turn for example) you’re supposed to also make your swatch in the round?
I didn’t know this for a long time. I had only seen square swatches, not round ones.
If you think about it, it totally makes sense. A swatch made from rows shows both the wrong side and right side of the stitch. But a pattern worked in continuous rounds never turns at all.
Since our goal is to create a sample of the finished item, there will be times we need to make crochet gauge swatches in the round.
Round Crochet Swatch Tutorial
Let’s go through this step by step so you know exactly how to make a crochet swatch in the round. It isn’t as difficult as it seems, trust me!
Step 1: Make another foundation row, but this time join it to form a ring.
Here you can see my foundation single crochet row just like before. However, this time I am doing a slip stitch in the first fsc to form it into my round swatch!
One key here is to make sure your swatch is still big enough. With a round crochet swatch, you still need to be able to measure 4″ across. So unfortunately, round swatches do take up more yarn since you’re making a large tube. Here you can see me measuring to confirm my tube is large enough (shoot for 5-6″ across!)
Step 2: Work in even single crochet rounds.
To make a round single crochet swatch, you would then proceed to make even rounds of single crochet. Just sc in each stitch around and then join to the first one! In the photo below I’ve done 5 rounds. You’ll want to keep going until your swatch is 5-6″ high.
What is Round Gauge?
Now, once you’ve finished your round crochet swatch, you need to measure it very similarly to the way you measure a square swatch.
One term specifically important to talk about is “Round gauge.” If you’re wondering what round gauge is, it is basically the same as row gauge. It refers to the height of your rounds (just like row gauge refers to the height of your rows!)
To measure round gauge, simply lay your measuring tape up your swatch and count how many rounds are in 4″.
Hopefully this helps clarify the topic of gauge in the round, since I know this can be confusing! You can do the same thing with any stitch that a pattern uses. Just make it into a tube and then measure it just as you would any other swatch. 🙂
How do you use a gauge swatch?
I can think of just one more topic when it comes to gauge swatches…how do you use them once you’re done? Oftentimes, swatches can feel like a waste of yarn. Instead of throwing them out or never using them again, here are some creative use ideas for leftover gauge swatches you may have lying around:
- Make a blanket of 4″ squares! If you have a lot of gauge swatches, this is often the perfect use for them. The only thing that would make this difficult is if your swatches are in different weights of yarn. But if they are close in weight (like DK and worsted, for example) you should be fine!)
- Use them as a trivet. Crocheted squares often work great as a hot pad for your pots and pans on the table. If you find that 4″ is too small, you can even add a border!
- Make a scarf! By sewing your 4″ squares together into a long line, you could end up with a cool patchwork-type scarf!
- Unfortunately, I’m having trouble thinking of uses for round swatches. If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments!
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about swatches! To continue learning about this topic, I would invite you to download my FREE gauge checklist!