Pondering Gauge

October 27, 2009

Over the past year I’ve been working on a theory of gauge, specifically mine and how it relates to the rest of the knitters out there.  This theory is becoming useful to me, as it is helping me pick the right needles for specific yarn right off the bat, without going through numerous iterations of needle sizes or yarn for particular projects.  As always, what I’m about to hypothesize only pertains to my knitting, and is not a detriment to other peoples knitting styles.  Everyone knits their own way, in their own time, and exactly how they want to, and each and every one of them is right, okee dokee?

I begin by saying that I knit english style, and am a thrower.  Adding to that I don’t wrap the yarn around any fingers, I kinda hold it loosely between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand.  I knit this way simply because that’s the way my Mum taught me, and even if I’m a bit slower I do have nice even tension.  My theory has to do with knitters who knit with their left hand, continental style, or wrap the yarn tightly around their finger in order to maintain tension. 

Theory 1: As a result of putting the tension on the yarn from wrapping the yarn, larger needles are needed in order to achieve proper gauge, whilst I need smaller needles.  I’ve been noticing a trend that in certain patterns, and with certain designers now, I go down 1-2 mm in needle size and achieve the same tension. 

Theory 2: I don’t have a problem with the Noro sock yarns breaking on me, or really any yarns breaking on me, because I’m not  pre-tensioning the yarn as I knit it, just holding it.  I still love my Noro socks, a year after I made them.  (I also still need to sew some elastic in the tops, but that’s a whole other problem). 

Back to theory 1.  I first noticed this when I wanted to knit some Brooklyntweed patterns, and could not get over how big the needle sizes were.  Why did I need such small needles I wondered?  But now that I’ve noticed the trend I can mentally substitute the smaller needle and start my gauge swatch.  Also with the Ann Budd socks I recently completed, the interlocking cables.  The pattern calls for 3 mm needles, I instead cast on with my trusty size 1 needles (2.25 mm I believe) and went to town.  And by town I mean sock town. 

I would like to conclude this presentation of random theories on gauge with a shout out to Nancy Bush.  Mrs. Bush is also a thrower, and with every single pattern of hers I have ever attempted ( and by now that is a few) the needle size is right on for the gauge that I get.  Yet another reason to love her patterns!


4 Responses to “Pondering Gauge”

  1. Heather Joins The Round said


  2. Cheryl S. said

    Hmmm. Well, I knit Continental style and wrap my yarn to tension it. But I usually also have to go down one or two needle sizes too, especially with British patterns. But interestingly, I rarely have to change needle sizes for Drops patterns, which are Norwegian.

    My personal theory was that knitting Continental style is generally looser than English style, so I can use the same needle size on patterns that were designed by Continental-style knitters, but have to go down a needle size or two for patterns designed by English-style knitters.

    I’ve never had a problem with yarns breaking as I knit, but I’ve also never used Noro sock yarn.

  3. Auntie K said

    I have the same situation as you do, Ms. Banana. Must be a family thing. Glad to see you overthink everything as well. That’s my girl! 😉

    Now send me Mr. J’s measurements or I’ll have to get tough with you. The man needs a sweater!

  4. Monica said

    I think you are on to something there… I am a picker, and generally go up a needle size for gauge. Not always, though. Only about 50% of the time. The other 50% I seem to be spot-on. I never have to go down a needle size, however.

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