Simple question about needle size

Hey everyone!

I’m new here and relatively new to knitting, so I have a simple quesiton about knitting size. I want to start on a pattern for a scarf this weekend, but it calls for size 8 knitting needles. My sister is constantly yelling at me because I knit very tightly and prefer to use much smaller needles, usually a 5. The gauge for the pattern says that 18 stitches + 22 rows = 4 inches. Obviously, if I use my size 5’s, I would need a lot more to make the 4 inches. How do I figure out how many more stitches I need to cast on to get it to the correct size? I’m wondering if I’m confusing myself by thinking about this too much. When measuring the 4 inches, which way do you measure on the piece? Down from the needle, or horizontal (parallel) to the needle? I’m assuming it’s parallel to the needle.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I plan on making a scarf/hat/mittens matching set, and it’s my first real project, so don’t want to mess this up! Thank you so much!

When I do a gauge swatch, I knit about 20 stitches and then I pick a set of stitches in the middle and measure one inch and count the number of stitches in that inch. I don’t really know if that’s how others do it though. Then I just calculate the number of stitches I need to get the width that I want.

The best thing is to do a gauge swatch. Cast on about 24-28 sts and knit in whatever stitch the pattern says to give you 18sts per 4 inches. When you have knit several inches, measure how many sts you’re actually getting in 4 inches (that’s parallel to the needle). The best way is to measure 4 inches in the middle of the swatch, avoiding the edge sts which are usually narrower. Don’t worry about how many rows to 4 inches. Most patterns tell you to work a certain length, not a number of rows.
The swatch will also give you an idea of what the knitted fabric will be like with your yarn on your needles. If it’s too stiff, you can go to larger needles. If it should happen to be too loose, go to smaller needles.

You can start out knitting a swatch with your size 5 needles, but if you’re not getting the same number of stitches that the instructions tell you to, the project isn’t going to be the correct size.

If you end up getting MORE than 18 stitches in 4 inches, then you need to start over again with a larger pair of needles. If you end up with LESS than 18 stitches in 4 inches, you will need to use needles that are smaller.

hth, knitcindy

Obviously, if I use my size 5’s, I would need a lot more to make the 4 inches. How do I figure out how many more stitches I need to cast on to get it to the correct size?

If you want to use a tighter gauge than the one given you can do that. Make a gauge swatch with the size needles you want to use and then measure the stitches over 4 inches, 2 inches or even 1 inch and see what you are getting. If the fabric you are creating at your gauge is satisfying to you then you are ready to figure out how many stitches you need for your scarf in the new gauge.

If the pattern is very basic it is easy. Say if you are getting 24 stitches in 4 inches (that would be 12sts for 2" and 6st for 1"). Take the width you want your scarf and multiply it by the number of inches you are using to figure with. Like if you want your scarf 8 inches wide and you measured over 4" then you would multiply 24X2 because you would only need 2 groups of 4" to get your 8" width. If you measured across 2" you would multiply 12X4 because you would need 4 groups 2 inches wide (and each 2" would have 12sts) to make an 8" scarf. If you measured across 1" you would multiply 8X6 because each of the 8 inches would have 6 stitches. You would get the same answer in each case. You would need 48sts to make an 8" scarf.

If your pattern has instructions that tell you that you need a multiple of something + some number, for instance a multiple of 10+3. Then you need to figure out your gauge and how wide you want your scarf and then adjust your final number to fit those perimeters. If you wanted the 8" scarf you would need 48 stitches like we figured above. 48 divided by 10 (because you must have a multiple of 10) would be 4 tens and 8 more stitches. If you add 2 to the 8 extra you would have another 10, then you need to add 3 because it said +3. So you would need 48+2=50 (a multiple of 10) and 3 more. So you’d need 53 stitches. If that seemed too wide you could go with a 4X10=40+3 for 43sts. Your choice 43 for a little narrower scarf or 53 for a little wider one.

If your scarf has a pattern stitch with a repeat section you have to figure out how many stitches are in the repeat and how many are before and after the repeat and figure out your own multiple of +? numbers and do the same thing as above to figure out how many stitches you need. If you have a repeat but don’t know how to figure out how many stitches it is over, give us the repeat and we can tell you.

That’s just for the swatch, which should have more than just 4" worth of sts in it. CO about 24 sts or so and knit a few inches, then measure how many sts over 3" or whatever. The idea is to find out how many sts per inch you get, not get a 4" square. Then if the pattern says to CO 30 sts, you know that the original is meant to be about 6½" wide, so you multiply your sts per inch times that to get the number of sts that will work out to the same width.

All of us have our favorite size needle(s) that we like to use. I generally knit with sport or worsted weight yarn, so I just know how many stitches per inch I knit and can easily figure it out if I want to knit with a different size than the pattern calls for. You’ll get that way, too, with a little more experience. The weight of the yarn has a lot to do with it, too. I have to cast on more stitches with baby sport and sport weights than I do with worsted or bulky weights. Just keep that in mind as you’re knitting.

The nice thing about knitting is that you can change the type of yarn, needle size, color, and details of a pattern. If you don’t like something about the pattern, leave it out. If you want some detail, like adding pockets, you can do that. Make it your own and be creative. You’ll have a beautiful project that no one else has, not just some cookie cutter item from Walmart.

And tell your sister to go jump in the lake. I think you’re doing just fine.

I tend to do a gauge swatch of 5 - 6 inches, that way I can see both my row count and my stitch count. I would recommend one of the gauge finder tools available just about anywhere you can find yarn. I will estimate on some things, but having a tool designed for the purpose gives me an added layer of trust in my gauge when dimensions matter.

Ladypjs has the creativity aspect right. Do what feels and looks right to you, you’ll love the result… or get to knit some more. Either way, you win.