Standard way to work out needle size?

[SIZE=“4”][COLOR=“DarkSlateBlue”]Hello! I am new to knitting and I knitted a hat, which turned out to be far too big for me. I have a small head and want to try another pattern. This pattern says “fits average lady” and states size 5mm (US size 8) needles. What size of needles should I use to get a smaller fit? Is there a standard way to work out the size of needles required or is it simply a guess? Thanks in advance.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

You may or may not at this point have heard people talking about “swatching”. Swatching is making a sample knit piece - usually about the size of a wash cloth - and then checking you stitches per inch and rows per inch with that yarn and needle size. The results are your personal gauge. How that differs from the gauge of the pattern will tell you if your item will be larger, smaller or the same size.

You can try 6s and see if that works, or you can try 6s and thinner yarn. That should do it. But it’s a good idea to always figure out how many sts/inch you get for every project, that way you can make your own hat patterns to fit. Take your head measurement less 2" and multiply it times the sts/inch. That should give you the number of stitches to cast on.

The original pattern probably said something about Tension or Gauge. It would say Tension [or Gauge]: 26 X 32 = 10cm/4". The first number is the amount of stitches across, and the 2nd number is the amount of rows up and down to equal a 10cm X 10cm square (which is also 4" X 4"). Often they leave out the 2nd number, and even if it’s there, it usually doesn’t matter too much. The first number however, is very important.

They probably also gave you the needle size to use, which apparently was 5mm. But the needle size is only a recommendation-- you use whichever size gives you the correct gauge. To swatch, you cast on more than you need, in order to get a good measurement. So I’d cast on 26 plus 4 sts on each side, which would be 34. Then knit for about 4", and then measure 26 sts in the center of the piece, while it’s laying flat. That should be 4" across. If it’s too big, then reduce your needle size and try again. If it’s too small, use bigger needles. Keep doing this until you get the 26 sts equalling 4". (I just picked 26 sts out of the blue-- your hat probably had some other number, which is what you should use.)

[SIZE=“4”][COLOR=“DarkSlateBlue”]Thank you all so much for your input. That certainly makes sense. I will do a swatch first. BTW I asked the same question on anther forum first, saw that 288 people have read my question, but not even one person gave me a reply!!! That was totally shocking. Well, I will be staying with you guys now. Thanks again.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

Are you using the suggested yarn or something else? Using a different weight yarn can have a big effect on a pattern, too.

They may not have known how to answer your question, as there’s no ‘standard’ for figuring out which needle size to use other than just knitting with a couple. Or they were newbies who also wanted to know…

Sue, is there a magic number for how many inches long to make the hat befoe starting decreases … by measuring someone’s head. I’ve used the hat calculator Jan suggested and sometimes they are way to long/tall for the person’s head.

Since everyone’s head size and shape is different - not really standard. Most patterns suggest 7-8" for an adult; I usually just try on the ones I make for me. I made one for my younger son, making it a little larger than for me and he said it was too big. It was only a little bigger too. If it has ribbing, you can always turn it up to make a cuff if it’s too long.