And Then There’s The Needles!

 An interesting problem presented itself when Barb and I were learning Brioche knitting.  We both grabbed size 9 knitting needles, cast on and started knitting.  After 6 rows it became very apparent that I was knitting a scarf for Big Foot or Sasquash!  Keep in mind, we were making-up the size we wanted for a scarf, we were not following a pattern, just following instructions on how to knit brioche. Since we were knitting scarves the gauge did not matter very  much so we didn’t not bother with swatches. Looking at the needles, mine seemed larger than hers.  We both whipped our our needle gauges to measure the size of my  needles, my gauge said US 9 her’s said US 10. Hum…… She had an extra US 8 so I ripped out what I had knit and restarted with US 8.  Perfect!

This brought the idea of knitting a swatch foremost to my mind.  All knitters know that gauge is the number of stitches and rows per inch of knitting that the “average knitter” will knit.  Now there’s the crux, what is an “average” knitter?  Articles always talk about “tight”, “average”, or “loose knitters”, I’ve checked a few and none mention the uneven sizing for needles.

My researcher brain kicked into gear and I started testing needle sizes and gauges.  These are my results.

I used five different needle gauges (I couldn’t find my other two gauges):

  • The Knitter’s Companion
  • Boye
  • Prym – White card
  • Debra’ Garden  – Spiral
  • Puiccomitta’s Hand

The needles that started it all are Knit Picks circular US 9:

Here are the results of the Knit Picks circular US 9, notice that Boye sizes the needles as US 10.


Next, I tested a circular needle labeled US 8 that I picked up in Okinawa, Japan.

Knitter’s Companion and Boye measured them as US 8

Prym, Debra’s Garden and Puiccomitta’s Hand measured them as US 7


Now I decided to test three of my US 4 needles: Clover, KA and Knitter’s Pride

All five of my needle gauges measured Clover US 4 as US 4









Notice that Puiccomitta’s Hand and Prym measured the Knitter’s Pride as US 5









These gave the same results as Knitter’s Pride.


Conclusion? Not only do you have to worry about being a “tight”, “average” or  “loose” knitter, the needle brand you choose also affects the gauge.  The needles you purchased that are labeled US 8, might really be a US 7.  Either bring a bunch of needle gauges with you when you purchase needles, OR make sure you gauge swatch when you knit a project where gauge is important!  But, then there is the question: Which one of the needle gauges is most accurate 😎 Just knit the swatch! 😎

I am curious, I HATE knitting swatches!  Are you a swatch knitter?





13 thoughts on “And Then There’s The Needles!

  1. So far I’ve been very lucky in my swatch knitting. I’m almost always right on target or pretty close. Caveat…I usually swatch with my Addis, and you know what they say about German manufacturing. I’ve heard other people complain about the accurate sizing of Knit Picks needles and other needles made in China. Allegedly they employ less exacting quality standards. I can’t speak to the truth of this.


  2. Whoa!! You may have awaken a sleeping giant with this one, lol! It depends whether I swatch or not. Once upon a time, never! But these days, I do it more. If I’m making something small, square or rectangular, and flat (ex: scarves, washcloths, coasters), not really. However, even with these, if I notice that the item is larger than I want as I’m knitting it, then I take the gauge on it, rip it out and start over. But, if it is something in the round or something more complex, I have to check my gauge first or I’m normally well enough off to cost myself in the long run! Years ago I knit a baby jacket that looked like it’d be more for a child! You live and you learn. 🙂


  3. I dislike making swatches too, but sometimes I will, such as if I’m following a pattern that isn’t forgiving.

    If I’m coming up with an idea out of my head (which is what I normally do) I don’t swatch. Ever! I know, I know, I really need to change that, but I most likely won’t. 😉


    • Curls is better about making swatches, Q really hates swatting. She’s working on a project now in which she spends half the time frogging. 😎 An she agrees with you “but I most likely won’t”! Love your comments, thanks! 😎


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