Why Gauge Matters and Needle Size Doesn’t

Yarn and Needles
It is up to you to understand gauge!

For your continuing education in becoming a master at understanding knitting patterns, let's clear up any confusion about the "needle size" section of your pattern.

In order for your garment to come out the right size, your knitting must match the designer's knitting.

To this end, he or she will specify how many stitches to the inch you will need to achieve in a certain pattern, most often Stockinette Stitch (abbreviated St st).

This measurement is called the gauge, and it is very important for every garment whose size and fit is important.

Scarves, dishcloths, and teddy bears do not need to conform to any exact gauge.

The designer will also suggest a certain needle size that you might use to achieve this gauge, often giving the US needle size (a whole number from 000 to 35, with the most common falling between 1 and 17) as well as a metric size (like 4.5 mm).

Do not confuse these sizes: a 7mm needle is not a SIZE 7 needle - it is a US size 10 and it will be too big for your project.

Why You Should Ignore The Recommended Needle Size In Your Pattern

Swatches knitted by different people
Different people, same needles

In knitting as in so many other pursuits, results matter.

Whether you use the suggested needle size or not, if your gauge is off, your garment won't fit.

The reason for this is because different people knit differently given the same needles.

 
 

If we both used size 7 needles and made a swatch (a small square of knitting designed to be used to measure our gauge), odds are that I would knit looser than you, that is, my gauge would be bigger.

In order to make our gauges match (so that your sock comes out the same size as mine did when I designed the pattern you're going to use), you would adjust your needle size until you got the correct gauge.

Watch the video below to learn how to make a swatch and to measure your gauge, in which I tell you a scary fact that will make you always want to check your gauge.

How to Measure Your Gauge
How many stitches per inch? Click to learn how to measure gauge

Oh, and one more thing: if you are more than halfway through your project and discover your gauge is a little too small, it's okay.

Knitting will stretch, and I show you how to take advantage of this in my video on blocking your work.

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If you liked this article on why gauge matters and needle size doesn't, please add a comment!

15 thoughts on “Why Gauge Matters and Needle Size Doesn’t”

  1. I had trouble seeing where on the knitting you began and ended the counting of V stitches. Part of it was not shown on the video and the picture was bumpy.

    1. Hi Linda!

      I’ve fixed the video and also added a graphic illustrating the stitches for you! I hope this one is much clearer.

  2. I am on my second pair of legwarmers and have gotten lots of compliments so far. I did figure out that the free pattern I downloaded was a little big for my knitting style so made changes and will start a 3rd pair soon. Thanks so much
    Warmer in Chicago now.

  3. Many thanks Liat for another gem of information.

    In the film you are shown using a Stixyarn.com gauge/ruler. Can these be bought? I have tried many ways of searching for one without success, so any help will be great. (PS – I know I can use a normal ruler, but I am a ‘gadget’ person, and I just love the one you are using)

    1. I know, I love that ruler! Stix has tried to make more like that, but the company that made them just doesn’t produce them anymore. The closest thing you can find is a regular metal Susan Bates gauge checker, which you can get at any knitting store or craft store.

      1. Thanks for the reply Liat. What a shame about the ruler is no longer produced. I have looked at the Susan Bates gauge checker and this one looks quite good as well – so many thanks for that.

  4. I love your free videos and instructions. But I have a hard time finding things, help on stitches or a pattern, without searching everywhere. I wish you had an index so a person could get around alot faster, and not spending a lot of time searching. When I look for help it is usually a question about stitch and how to do it or pattern and I want to get started right away. But it seems to me a can’t find what I am looking for. For instance, don’t you have a stitch explanation page, without have to download it? It takes too long. Thanks again.

    1. Johna, you are right, there are definitely difficulties with the current set up of the site. I know it can be frustrating to find things, but we are working on a major upgrade right now that is going to make everything so much easier to navigate and find.

      I really appreciate your comments and am definitely taking them into consideration as we develop the new site. Thank you!

  5. Just wanted to say that there was a lot of publicity a few years back in the UK when a young baby died as a result of strangulation from a sweater it was sleeping in. It was found that the gauge was too small and the neck did not have enough ‘give’. I would say that gauge is really important when knitting the necks of tops/sweaters for babies and young children.

  6. Michaelina Samargo

    My swatch is made and my gauge is smaller than called for (on the needles. I have not put it in water, etc.) What do I do now? How do you adjust with needles?

  7. Hello
    I’ve just started knitting. The pattern asks for a size 7 needle. Is this the same as a 7mm needle? If not, please could you tell me know many mm a size 7 needle is as many needles just have the mm at the top of the needles. Many thanks,

    Mirjana

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