I don’t know
Published On: August 29, 2022

Let’s continue last week’s discussion on needles. The needle question I get most often (actually, the knitting question I get most often) is…what size needles should I use.⁠

And some of you are totally going to get mad about it, but…I don’t know. ⁠

⁠I’m sorry. I’m not being mean. I’m not messing with you. I’m not refusing to tell you as part of some weird power play. I really truly don’t know. The only way to know your needle size for sure is to swatch.⁠

But here’s the thing, getting a specific gauge (like 5 stitches per inch or 8 stitches per inch) generally only matters if you’re trying to end up with a finished object of a specific size.⁠

For the tiny things, getting a specific finished size isn’t usually the goal. That star or heart or snowman is going to be adorable whether it’s 4 inches tall or 5 inches tall. So getting a particular gauge isn’t important, and you don’t need to swatch with the intent of hitting a specific gauge. Instead, you want to create a firm, dense fabric that will give your project structure and keep whatever you fill it with from showing between your stitches.⁠

The best way to get that kind of fabric is generally to use the smallest needle you can comfortably manage with your chosen yarn. For me, that often means using a 2-2.25 mm (US size 0-1) needles with thinner yarn and very slightly larger needles for thicker yarn. But you should use the smallest needles you can without hurting yourself.⁠

For the tiny things, if you don’t want to make a proper swatch, you can often just cast on with the smallest needles you think you can use with your chosen yarn, work for a bit, and see if you like your fabric. You may have to rip it out and change needle sizes! But you can often get away with not working a gauge swatch if you’re willing to risk it.⁠

For wearable things, you generally do need to get a specific finished size, so you have to be a bit more precise. We’ll talk about that next time.

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