Thursday, 30 May 2013

How to Crochet a Gauge/Tension Swatch

What is a swatch?

A swatch is :  

  1. a sample of cloth or fabric (or other material);
  2. a characteristic specimen of anything.
Therefore, in crochet or knitting, a swatch is a sample of the fabric used in the finished garment. 

Why is a swatch needed?

A swatch is used in crochet or knitting, to measure and match the gauge/tension used in a pattern, so the end result is a crochet/knit garment made to the right size and measurements.

What is gauge?

Gauge is: 

  1. A standard or scale of measurement.
  2. A standard dimension, quantity, or capacity.
Therefore, in crochet or knitting, gauge measures the number of stitches per X number of inches.

Where to find Gauge/Tension:

All patterns: knit or crochet, mention the gauge/tension used in the pattern, to get the desired result.  

Some patterns: are not reliant on gauge, these can be simple items such as embellishments or motifs, crochet or knit, using any yarn and recommended hook/needle size for the yarn; and will mention that  "Gauge/tension is not critical".  
However, always check to see whether you use a hook/needle size smaller or larger than recommended to achieve desired effect.

Gauge/tension is determined by a designer, designing a garment with specific stitches in the pattern, and deciding which yarn and hook size will give the desired result.  

Stitch and Row Gauge/Tension:
Garment patterns usually mention both a stitch and a row gauge; to achieve exact fit, in width and length, both the stitch and row gauge/tension are important for the perfect fit.

Pattern repeats:  some patterns count a set of different stitches as a repeat across a row; resulting in X number of pattern repeats per X number of inches.

Gauge/Tension is also found on yarn labels, indicating X number of stitches and X number of rows to 4in (10cm), and recommending hook/needle size.  Use this information as a guide only, your gauge/tension swatch may result in a slightly different count.

Gauge/Tension Swatch: Make and Measure 

  • Are your stitches the right size?: when following a crochet pattern it is important your stitches are consistent in size and match the Gauge/Tension provided in the pattern.
  • Size and Shape:  with the correct stitch gauge/tension your  crochet garment will match the shape and size mentioned in the pattern.
  • Gauge/Tension:  is the ratio of a given number of stitches or rows to inches.  For example, ten (10) stitches per inch or five (5) rows per inch. 

Gauge/Tension Swatch: How to Make

  • Use the same yarn and hook size recommended in the pattern. 
  • Make a swatch approximately 6in (15cm) wide X 6in (15cm) long; so you can get an accurate 4in (10cm) measurement across the centre of the swatch.

Gauge/Tension Swatch: How to Measure

  • Counting stitches: use a rigid ruler,  place along row of stitches, use two pins, and mark the beginning and end of 4in (10cm). 
  • Do not stretch fabric: keep fabric flat, do not manipulate to fit whole stitches into the 4in (10cm) measure.  Always pin exactly where 4in ends, even if it means you have half a stitch. 
  • Count: how many stitches? across 4in (10cm), (include the half).
  • Counting rows: use a rigid ruler, place along a vertical line of stitches.
  • Line up: edge of ruler with bottom of row or stitch.
  • Pin it: one pin, to show first stitch (first row); second pin, at end of 4in (10cm) up.
  • How many rows? count the stitches/rows.
  • Check the gauge/tension: match? is it the same as pattern?

Points to Consider:

  • Accuracy counts: when measuring your gauge swatch. 
  • Wash and Block: ? only if recommended for pattern, before you measure your gauge/tension swatch. 
  • Flat surface: Lay the swatch on a flat surface. 
  • Pin down (if necessary), DO NOT stretch: if edges are curling pin down, careful not to stretch the fabric.
  • Gauge/Tension swatch match:  same as pattern? YES, proceed with pattern.  NO, change hook size. If swatch is too small? use larger hook; if swatch is too big? use smaller hook.
  • Swatch again:  if your first swatch does not match, use a smaller/larger hook and swatch again; until you match the gauge/tension in the pattern.