When you just start to crochet, don’t worry about gauge and tension, but there comes a point when it’s important, for example when making clothing or working with a yarn kit containing a specific amount of yarn. In this tips and tricks post as part of my TLC Blanket I discuss what tension and gauge are and how the two are related.
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Simply put, gauge is the size of a certain number of stitches and/or rows, usually measured in 10cm/4inch. Stitch gauge is the number of stitches that make up 10cm. Row gauge is the number of rows that are needed to get 10cm. In the case of a specific pattern repeat, gauge might also be given in terms of the pattern, for example one repeat measures 5cm. Gauge is sometimes also given after a certain number of rounds, for example when working a mandala gauge might be specified as after round 5, the mandala measures 10cm.
Tension is how tight you make your stitches. Primarily tension is determined by how tightly you pull your working yarn, but it is also influenced by your hook size and your overall style of crocheting. Tension directly influences gauge. If you have a tight tension, it means that you pull your yarn tight and hence your fabric will be smaller than someone who has a loose tension.
When working crochet items you want to have a steady tension. This means that you always work your stitches with the same tightness. However, we are humans and not robots, so some variation is tension is normal. For example, some people work really tight when they are angry, and some work really loose when it’s warm.
The beauty of tension is that you can influence it, in other words, you can change how you work your stitches and in the process achieve a certain gauge.
Relation between tension and gauge
This might sound a bit complicated, yet again. Sorry! I have made a short video in which I explain what gauge is and how to measure gauge, I explain what tension is, and how the two are related.
Influencing gauge with tension
Gauge is influenced by hook size and by the way you work your stitches, and to a certain degree these are interrelated. I tend to work tighter with a smaller hook than with a larger hook because I hold on to thin yarns more tightly than I do thicker yarns.
In general, the width of your fabric is given by the stitch gauge, which in turn is influenced by hook size. Going up a hook size will make your fabric wider, dropping a hook size will make your fabric narrower.
Similarly, the height of your fabric is given by the row gauge, which in turn is influenced by your stitch height and the so-called golden loop. If you want to influence row gauge, in other words how many rows there are in 10cm, you need to look at the height of your stitches and the way you work them. I will illustrate what I mean with 3 swatches. Here a comparison of 3 swatches, all 28 stitches and 22 rows, but definitely not the same height. These swatches are all about the same width because I used the same hook size for all 3, but because I worked the golden loop as either a “yanker”, “rider” or “lifter” you get significant differences in size.
A “yanker” pulls the working yarn back after every stitch, making really tight and short stitches. A “rider” has the hook right on top of the working level and is usually reasonably on gauge. A “lifter” pulls the working loop up high after every yarn-over, making longer than average stitches. I show you how these 3 techniques work and affect gauge in the following video.
That was quite a long story again, but I do hope that it helps you to master your gauge and tension.
Susan from Peppergoose Design has a series of very detailed posts about row and stitch gauge. She goes into more details than I do in this post, and particularly the influence of the position of the loops on your hook on gauge. You can find here post about gauge HERE and a post about the effect of hook size HERE.
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