When you’re a new knitter, the symbols and words on a yarn label can be confusing. The good news is, it doesn’t have to stump you or prevent you from moving forward in your knitting journey.
In this blog series, I wanted to break down and explain what the different symbols mean and what it means when starting a new knitting project.
Part 2: Gauge & Needles (Source: Craftsy – How to Measure Your Gauge in Knitting)
The next important image on the yarn label deals with needle size and gauge. The label will tell you the recommended needle size to use for that yarn based on knitting gauge (you will also notice that there is a gauge indicator for crochet as well).
Basically, depending on your tension when knitting, a swatch of a certain umber of stitches of a certain number of rows using a certain size of needle, will produce a piece of knitted fabric of this size. For the yarn in the photo above, using 5 mm needles (U.S size 8), if you cast on 18 stitches and knit for 24 rows, you should create a swatch that is 4 inches by 4 inches. If not, you need to change your needle size.
There are two different measurements for knitting needles – metric and U.S. In the metric system, the size is referred to in millimeters and in the U.S system the size is given a number. Often yarn labels and patterns will give both sizes. For example, it will say 5 mm (U.S 8) or U.S 8 (5 mm).
If you knit a swatch and you end up with a larger piece than the recommended size, you need to change to larger needles and try again. If your swatch ends up smaller, you need smaller needles.
Both the yarn you use and the pattern you follow, will recommend a needle size. However, because all knitters have different natural knitting tension, it is important to measure gauge before you start to ensure you end up with the correct size for your knitted item, especially if it is a garment you plan to wear.
I hope that helps you understand how needle size and yarn weight go together! Next up we will look at how to care for your knitting garment and how to select yarn for your next knitting project.