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Knitting Needle Size Tool, Good Tool to Have

Updated on June 22, 2019
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Denise was taught to knit by her grandmother, age10. She has been knitting and creating her own patterns ever since, and loving it.


My hands knitting Fair Isle pattern.
My hands knitting Fair Isle pattern. | Source

I have been knitting a long time and one of the biggest problems has been reading the size of the needles. On the bamboo circular needles (my personal favorite) the numbers are printed in very small print on the side of the needles. Also, the sizes are in Metric and American sizing which can be very confusing for the newbie.

The history behind the sizing goes back to the 1600s when most women could not read. Sad but mostly true. However, these creative, crafty women were not devoid of intelligence. They mostly memorized patterns passed down from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter. There where knitting guilds but those were exclusively for men. Also as immigrants came to America and brought their knitting craft with them, and the sizing began to develop independently on the separate continents. So as women became better educated, they began writing patterns down and including the sizing of the needles used. In Europe, these were sizes that were based on the metric system, but in America, women used the U.S. standard inch measurements. We never really got together on these, so if your pattern calls for US 9/5.5mm, you will know that means a size 9 needle or 5.5 metric needles are the same size.

Knitting Resources

You may or may not have heard of The Manly Art of Knitting by Dave Fougner, published in 1972. This isn’t a novel but worth looking for nonetheless. The cover of this book is of a cowboy on horseback knitting. Don’t laugh ladies, in his book he describes how knitting was always a male-dominated craft until as late as the 19th century when factories made men’s skills and strength needed elsewhere. Afterward, it became an evening home hobby mostly for women. His book describes knitting in very technical details including how to knit a rope hammock using shovel handles and a hose for circular knitting needles. He even includes a pattern for knitting a horse blanket. However, don’t get your checkbooks out so fast. This out-of-print book is currently for sale on Amazon as a used book, but the price keeps going up and down. At one point you could only get a copy for no less than $175, however, the price has recently come down and some kind possessors are willing to part with their copies for less than $20. If you have one, hang onto it. It could go even higher in price as a collector’s item.

Red Wool


Knitting Resources

Lion Brand website has yarns, free patterns, and offers a free weekly newsletter sent to your email, featuring patterns, announcements, tips and special offers, and more. The free patterns are mostly beginners level. Free to sign up.

Do you bother to check your gauge?

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This little handy tool has the added benefit of helping to measure the gauge too. Gauge is a great thing to watch if you want your project to come out like the pattern. I used to be a little on the arrogant side and didn't want to bother with gauge. I mean, really, I knew what I was doing. I followed the pattern exactly, used the needle size the pattern called for and started the sweater to fit a medium girl (my daughter) maybe a size 12. If I had been paying better attention, I would have noticed that the sweater was looking a bit large, but I wasn't paying attention to anything but counting the rows. So when I bound off the front of the sweater and held it up, I discovered that it could easily fit a size 22 girl not a 12. How could I get so far off? I didn't knit a small gauge to test the yarn and my knitting style. I tend to knit a little loose. Knowing that I could have used a smaller size needle or knitted the smaller size pattern option (for size 8 or 10). Instead I created a size XXL that I couldn't use. The photo is below. For the newbie, a gauge is a small swatch using the needles and yarn called for in the pattern. You cast on maybe 10 or 20 stitches and knit 5 to 10 rows, then measure. If it matches the gauge called for in the pattern, you are fine. If it is too large, adjust by using smaller needles or the smaller size pattern. If it is too small, adjust by using larger needles or the larger size in the pattern. I learned my lesson. I always check the gauge now. Never underestimate the importance of gauge.

I keep one of these tools in my knitting bag and you should too. They are inexpensive and indispensable.

“I feel sorry for men who don’t knit, they lead empty lives.”

— -J. Pierpont Finch, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Knitting Resources

In Creative Knitting Magazine and website, you can see the current magazine or old copies. Also, subscribe to the magazine online or sign up for the free email newsletter. Like them on Facebook and you will get free patterns sent to your Facebook page. Want to knit for charity? This webpage has a Charity Giving page that includes everything from Angels5Premies to Warm up America!

Knitting in Novels

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is a knitter and has time to knit in between solving murder mysteries, sometimes solving the mystery by taking her mind off while knitting.

Photo Reference: myself knitting Fair Isle pattern
Photo Reference: myself knitting Fair Isle pattern

Knitting Resource

Etsy claims to be the Ebay of hand-crafted items. For a very small fee, you can place your hand-crafted items for sale on Etsy. They feature, sewn, knitted, crochets and woven items of all kinds and from all over the world. Nothing machine manufactured can be sold on Etsy. If you wish to sell your handcrafted goods on Etsy, it is free to open a "store site" and only 20 cents per item load on your for sale items. This seems perfectly reasonable.


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