25 Jul 2019

Are you using the right needle?

In my last blogpost, you'll have seen that I am currently knitting a lacy cardigan and for this I am using a 3.5mm Knitters Pride interchangeable needle set I purchased recently. These needle tips are from their Nova Platina range of chrome-plated needles and I am loving the sharp tips and the easy flow of the knitting.

However, here's something I noticed when I went to find a matching set of dpn's (double pointed needles) to work the sleeves: the size isn't exactly 3.5mm! Or rather, it wasn't using the gauge I was using at the time. I had grabbed my needle gauge from Nancy's KnitKnacks which tends to be my go-to gauge as it is fits very nicely inside the needle holder I have. 

When I measured the needle using that, it wouldn't fit into the 3.5mm space! If it hadn't had the "US 4 – 3.5mm" marking on the side of the needle, I might have thought that it was a 3.75mm. So I dived into my needle box where I have a slight embarrassment of needle gauges. I hadn't quite realised how many I had collected over the years!

I tried the needle with my oldest gauge made by an old UK company, Aero Knitting, and it was a perfect fit for 3.5mm. Ditto for the bright green Knitters Pride gauge I purchased about a month ago and a rather fun KnitPro elephant gauge that my daughter Anna found for me at the Knitting and Stitching show in Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace, London) last year. They all agreed the needle was, indeed, a 3.5mm size. Now, these are all gauges made for the UK market so I am presuming they are all milled in metric.

However, the needle only just squeezed into a KnitPicks gauge and would not fit into the 3.5mm hole in the Nancy's KnitKnacks sizer or my Lion Brand ruler. All three of those are US-based gauges and I expect they are milled in imperial measures. Usually, this wouldn't make the slightest difference, but in this particular case it did.

I went on to check with the two needle gauges I have from Japan. The needle sizes are different there as they measure them in 0.3mm increments instead of 0.25-0.5mm here. So in Japan the needles include 3.0mm, 3.3mm, 3.6mm, 3.9mm, 4.2mm and so on. Here, the same range would be 3.0mm, 3.25mm, 3.5mm, 3.75mm and 4.0mm. 

My Knitters Pride needles did fit into the 3.6mm measure, as you'd expect, but with only a small amount of extra ease as compared with the Japanese 3.6mm dpn's I have.

I then went to my collection of needles and found a set of KnitPicks 3.5mm dpn's. They fitted easily into all the US gauges and were quite loose in the Japanese 3.6mm measure. Interesting variation, eh? 

I tried the various needles out with my knitting and my gauge swatch was noticeably tighter if I used the KnitPicks needles when compared with the original Knitters Pride ones. I then tried the Japanese dpn's and they were much closer, especially if I just tightened my knitting slightly. 

If you're a long-time follower of this blog, you'll know that I'm always advocating checking your tension with a gauge swatch. For example, in my BYOB Market Bag knit-along series, you'll find me chatting about swatches herehere and here. Of course, we knitters know that there are many factors that will alter your gauge: the yarn used, the tension the yarn is held at, even how the ball is wound and whether the yarn was washed before or after knitting.

But who would have guessed that there would be such a difference between apparently identical sizes of needles... So if you are struggling to get the gauge for your current piece of knitting, it might not be you – it might be the needle! 

And of course this is a wonderful justification for acquiring a good collection of needles, gauges and other equipment! For me, I am now patiently waiting for a set of Knitters Pride dpn's so my gauge will be exactly the same on the sleeves as on the rest of the cardi. I ordered them today and they should be here next week.

Oh and please no-one tell my husband... he thinks I have enough needles already!

Until next time – Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: My WIP - Working in pink

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