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Some unimportant things, or Who cares what sized needles you use?

January 30, 2013

Good morning! How have you been? Are you knitting today? I have some baby knitting to do, and for once I am excited about it. I started a blanket using Yarn Love’s Elizabeth Bennet a while back, and it has been hibernating, although technically done, because I wasn’t happy with the icord bind off that I used. I blocked it last night and it turns out that I was unhappy for a reason, the BO is way too tight. The fix will have to wait though, as those needles are currently in my new blanket project, the Pi shawl with the lace pattern from the cover of The Knitters Almanac.

We need to have a serious talk though, you and I, so why don’t you do what I have done,  grab a steaming cup of tea to go with a toasted everything bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, and pull up a chair. This is going to be a tough conversation. I want to tell you something that most knitters seem unable, or unwilling, to accept. It’s important that you know this, though, and I promise that once you accept it, you will be free! Are you ready? Sitting down? Put down your tea, I don’t want you to get burnt when you read this next part. Ok. Here we go.

Needle size doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

We’ve all heard that size doesn’t matter, when it comes to other… pointy sticks. It’s the motion of the ocean, right? Ok. The same is true here. It truly and honestly does not matter what size needles you use, what matters is the effect that you get with the tools. In this case, and walking away from the less appropriate but still hilarious metaphor, the gauge. Gauge matters. Even row gauge matters more than needle size. If you want to exactly replicate the sweater you see in the pattern photo, or the socks that your friend is wearing, you will get closer to that perfect match by 1) using the same yarn, 2) getting the same gauge and 3) being the same size as the model or your friend. If you chose to use the exact needle size because it is the one that the pattern mentions, chances are extremely good that your FO won’t match the one you loved to begin with. Even if, by some amazing change, your stitch gauge matches and stays matched even after blocking, your row gauge won’t be the same. This WILL affect the look of your FO. How do we compensate for that? Most patterns will tell you a length to knit to, not a number of rows, so that it won’t matter if your row gauge is off, you can still match the pattern.

Ah ha, you are saying, but the pattern will also say or size needed to get gauge after it lists the suggested needle size. Yes. Yes it will, and that is exactly my point. Does it say or size needed to get gauge as long as you don’t go up or down by more than 3 needle sizes? Why do so many people have this magic number of 3 needle sizes in their minds? Where did this come from? It’s not true. You can use any sized needle you want, as long as you get a fabric you like, meaning that the gauge is appropriate.

Or size needed to get gauge. Please note the absense of the words if you cannot get gauge with the same sized needle as the designer used, or at least with a needle within 3 sizes of the one the designer used, you are a terrible knitter. Your knitting will be wrong and stupid and terrible and you won’t enjoy it. I have never seen those words in a pattern, have you? There is enough to worry about in life, and in knitting, without adding this to the list. The designer won’t hate you, or refuse to sell you another pattern, if you use the size of needle that you need to get gauge. I promise. Why do people assume that the needle size they need is wrong and that the designer fits some exact knitterly profile where their needle size is the end all and be all? Trust me, that is not true. Look at us at TAAT. Allison and Tesia knit tightly. I have seen Allison’s needles when she is done a pair of socks, all curved around like fish hooks. Tesia can knit socks so tightly with such short stitches that they almost look store bought, but in a good way. Abi and I knit much more loosely, but her stitches are shorter than mine so even if we use the same needles and get the same gauge, which we can do at times, my fabric is looser. So. Is one of us wrong? Or are we all distinct individuals who love to knit and can use whatever needle size we want?

Now, repeat after me. Size doesn’t matter.  The needles can be any size at all, as long as I am happy with the fabric that I get, because gauge is important and needle size is not.

Take a deep breath, sip your tea, and think about that for a minute. You will know that it is true. Now get ready to tell it to every other knitter you know, because once you see the truth in this, you will realize how many others do not know it yet. So get out there, spread the word and set knitters free.



One Comment leave one →
  1. loraine permalink
    January 30, 2013 5:34 pm

    Good article. I am one of the lucky ones who understood this concept early in my knitting career. Gauge matters, needle size does not.

    Now, if I could only want to do an actual gauge swatch for everything…

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