Explaining Crochet Tension

In Episode 3 of The Crochet Circle Podcast (link is here), we chat about Crochet Tension, so I thought it would be helpful to follow this up with a dedicated blog post, as it's something that I'm often asked about when I'm teaching crochet.
Crochet tension, (sometimes referred to as gauge) is the number of stitches and rows using a particular stitch or stitch pattern in a defined square of crochet fabric, usually 10cm (4in). It is determined by the size of hook and yarn you are using, and can even be influenced by the way you are sitting, or by your mood. So if you're feeling stressed for example, you're more likely to crochet tightly which can affect the size of your stitches.
The tension required for a pattern will be listed at the beginning of the pattern, and you need to match it to get the correct size. It's important to remember that every crocheter works to their own tension, so there's no guarantee that yours will match that of the pattern.
It's essential therefore to check your tension before you start your project – otherwise your finished item may be too large or too small and you will have to unravel your work and start again. However, for accessories, tension isn't crucial as it doesn't matter too much if a flower or a bag isn't quite the right size.
A tension square should be slightly larger than the area you are going to measure. So, for a 10cm (4in) square you should make a square measuring at least 15cm (6in).
To make a square, make a foundation chain of the length required and then work in the specified stitch or pattern until your crochet piece measures 15cm (6in). Fasten off the yarn, then block the square. Blocking the square will relax the stitches for more accurate measurements.
To measure tension:
On a flat surface, with the right side facing you, and using a hard ruler or metal tape measure, measure 10cm (4in) across a row of stitches. Mark each end with a pin.

Next, measure 10cm against the vertical rows, and mark each end with a pin.

Now count the number of stitches (and half stitches) between the two sets of pins to obtain the number of stitches and rows within the 10cm square.
The tension of some patterns is measured by the number of pattern repeats in a 10cm (4in) square. In this case, count the number of repeats, not the number of stitches and rows.
To amend your tension:
If you have too many stitches and rows then your tension is too tight (and your stitches are too small). Make a new tension square using a hook one size larger than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 4mm hook, try 4.5mm instead.
If you have too few stitches and rows then your tension is too loose (and your stitches are too big). Make a new tension square using a hook one size smaller than recommended in the pattern. So if the pattern recommends a 3.75mm hook, try using 3.5mm.

The main thing now is to keep your tension square and label it so that you can use if for reference in the future - this is really useful if you use the same type of yarn regularly. I bought my tags from Knit it-Hook it-Craft-it  and you can find all the details here: Stash Tags

I hope that helps and you have any tips I'd love to hear them.

Happy crafting,
Lynne xx


  1. What stitch do you use in a swatch please (UK terms)

    1. It's a simple double crochet stitch worked in rows. The yarn is Rowan Big Wool which is super chunky weight and gives a lovely stitch definition.


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