A lot of patterns will tell you the gauge for the pattern. It is important to get the right gauge if you want your project to turn out the same size at theirs. For things like toys and blankets, it might not be as essential. But when you’re making clothing it is often going to determine the size of the garment that you end up with.
So, how the heck do you check the gauge for a pattern?!
A pattern will give you something like this:
Crochet Gauge: 14 sts and 16 rows = 4 ins [10 cm] in pat.
What you need to do is crochet a square that is a little bigger than 4 inches [10cm] in what ever stitch the pattern is using and with the yarn you are going to use. Start out with what ever hook they recommend or your best guess if you are using a yarn very different then what the pattern suggests. Then lay your square down flat and measure it.
I used a straight pin to hold the tape measure down and I measure from 1 to 5 inches. I skip the first inch because it is easier to hold the measure down if you start at the 1 inch mark. I’ve put in stitch markers to make it easier for you to see. I have 14.5 stitches in the 4 inches, which is 0.5 too many per the gauge requirements. It’s really hard to see in this picture but the pin for the 5 inch actually goes through a stitch.
You do the same thing with the rows. I’ve got the 16 rows that is required by the gauge of the pattern.
There is no reason that you can’t do the counts at the same time, if that works for you. There is no need to pin down the measure or to use the stitch markers either. It’s about what works for you. But for the purposes of these pictures, it is easier to have the measure pinned and the markers in place.
If you have more stitches then the gauge calls for, you need to use a bigger hook. If you have less stitches then the gauge calls for, use a smaller hook. There will be cases like in this example, where you are super close to the gauge and it is unlikely that you will be able to get the stitch count to match and keep the row count matching. In those cases, you just have to go with the closest you can get it.
To be honest, I almost never check gauge. I usually make toys where the gauge doesn’t matter. When I’m making clothing I prefer to use or make patterns that have you make the pieces on measurements rather then stitch counts. I think that I end up with a more accurate sizing for the finished piece that way. But using gauging works for a lot of people.