I'm a pretty new knitter (basically started in Dec. after about 25 yrs of not knitting--and I was a beginner then too). In the latest flurry of projects I have knit 5 scarves and 9 hats (ribbed or roll-brim) and now have embarked on two bigger projects: an afghan in which every block has a different texture pattern (I'm on block 2 now), and my first attempt at a sweater (not started yet). For both of these I am using Plymouth acrylic/wool mix washable worsted.
I knit a swatch to check gauge and discovered that I knit very loosely. In fact, I did this at a yarn store where they give lessons, and one of the owner/teachers watched what I was doing and measured my swatch to determine gauge. Somehow I end up with knitting that is at least 30% wider than the goal gauge, so I have to go to needles 2 or 3 sizes smaller.
Is there anything I should do to my knitting technique to make it less loose, or should I just live with having to use thinner needles? I don't want my projects to be very "holey" and loose; on the other hand, if I knit with thinner needles for a long time my hands become sore. The woman at the yarn store said not to worry--just pick needles that get the right gauge. Is this the best (or only) solution?
Thanks for your help!