Choosing the right needle size

All I can say is WOW! Your response to the Downton Abby KAL is astounding!  We all, especially Kristen, are thrilled by how much interest there is from all of you!  I'm so looking forward to starting my mystery project too. I adore mysteries so this will be lots of fun!!!  Like many of you I don't have TV so I've watched season one of Downton Abbey online and will be purchasing season two this weekend so I can be ready to start watching season three next week!

With the KAL in mind, I thought today that I would talk a little about needles and needle sizing to help you get your gauge and be all set to start knitting on Sunday.

 I don't know how many of you know but US needle sizes can vary in actual metric size depending on the brand and country of the manufacturer.  Now that the knitting and crochet world has become so international, in a large part due to, you can't always assume the pattern you are about to knit, lists needles in your country's size scale. The surest way to know if you are using the correct needle for a pattern is to look at what the metric size is of the needle called for in the pattern and compare it to the metric size of the needle you're intending to use.  A great example of this discrepancy can be seen in comparing US size 2 needles.

Addi Turbo US 2 needle measures 3.0 millimeters (mm) in diameter
Clover US 2 is 2.75 mm
Crystal Palace US 2 is 2.75 mm
Knitter's Pride US 2 is 2.75

So the question to answer by looking at your pattern is: do you need a 2.75 mm needle or a 3 mm needle?  If you need a 2.75mm and want an Addi needle you will need to buy the needle that they label as 2.75.  If you need a 3.0mm needle and want a brand other than Addi you will need to buy a US 2.5 (3mm).

Of course not all sizes are different, other sizes that can cause a problem are:
US 6 can be 4.0 mm or 4.25 mm especially if they are older needles. Most brands except Crystal Palace are now 4.0 mm
US 17 is usually 12.0 mm but in Clover needles a US 17 measures 12.75 mm
US 19 is usually 15.0 mm but in Crystal Palace needle a it measures 15.6 mm

And be aware that the needle gauges made by each of the companies reflects these size differences!

I understand from our IT people that they are working to improve the search engine for needles on our website to show both US & metric sizes.  In the meantime, here's a quick reference chart that I hope helps.

US Size Metric (mm) Addi US Size Clover Exceptions Crystal Palace Exceptions
000 1.5 0

00 1.75 0

0 2 0

1 2.25

1 1/2 2.5 1

2 2.75

2 1/2 3 2

3 3.25 3

4 3.5 4

5 3.75 5

6 4 6
7 4.5 7

8 5 8

9 5.5 9

10 6 10

10.5 6.5 10.5

7 10.75

11 8 11

13 9 13

15 10 15

17 12 17      12.75 mm
19 15 19
       15.6 mm

20 36

50 25

If you usually get gauge and are having trouble, then double checking your needle size is a good first step in figuring out what may be going wrong.

Another good thing to pay attention to is how slippery your needle is and how tightly or loosely you normally knit.  I find that having tight knitters switch to slippery needles like the nickle plated Addi Turbos help them to loosen up.  Conversely, if someone habitually knits too loosely then switching to wooden or bamboo needles helps them to tighten up their stitches.

Don't be afraid to change you needles size up or down to get gauge, this is what you're supposed to do.  The pattern gauge is what you need to get and it doesn't matter what size needle you use to achieve it if you're using the correct weight of yarn.  It can matter if you are substituting yarns but that is another subject for another day.

For a thorough explanation of gauge please see the video I did with Diane Soucy!

How to Measure Your Gauge Correctly and the video Jeanne did How to Adjust Your Needle Size to Get Gauge .

I hope these suggestions help and if you still find you have questions or need help I will be happy to help, just drop an email to

And I'm John Bates (see Kristen's blog for the link to find out which Downton character you are)

Happy Mystery Knitting!

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needle gauge


  1. How important is gauge with this pattern? Accessories don't need to fit specifically, do they?

  2. Hi Jeanne,

    How important is gauge with this pattern? Well, you are correct that for many but not all accessories gauge is not super important. Since we don't know what this project is we should assume that the gauge is important and swatch accordingly. At the very least then you will get swatching practice.

    I didn't used to be such a firm believer in swatching as I am now and I had items that fit but could have fit better. Now that I do swatch I'm much happier with my projects. It is never a waste of time to swatch because you always learn something new. Not wearing you new item because of poor fit is a waste of time.

    I hope this helps!


  3. I couldn't get the yarn and will have to substitute... I have something that I would love to use, but closer to 200 yards rather than 270. Any hints on how many yards the final project actually uses?

    Thanks! Meredith

  4. Wow Terry what a great read and thanks for reminding me of the hard won swatching rule. I too have been a bit of a lazy swatcher in the past, but find that it's such a time saver in the long run and you have hit the swatch on the needle here...thanks!! I swatched for the KAL last night and am ready to go, as I got gauge on first try.

    Happy swatching everyone!! Jeanne

  5. Hi Meredith,

    I have asked Kristen and she says the project, including swatching will pretty much use close to the 270 yards. You will be able to adjust to use less yarn but maybe not the full 70 yards difference. Best to have a hank in reserve if possible. She will be giving instructions on how to adapt the pattern to a fingering weight yarn.


  6. Thanks for this info. I am using Knitter's Pride Dreamz needle. I swatched with a 3 and it was too big. I moved down to a 2 and am spot on! Yay! Can't wait to start tomorrow night. :-) Thanks again for all the great info!

  7. Another addition to the sizing of needles -- in ordering my dpn's online I didn't notice that the US 3 equivalency wasn't the 3.25mm I'm accustomed to. Imagine my distress when my Hiya Hiya needles, US 3 arrived with an equivalency of 1.5 mm! The least the web site could have done was to note this major discrepancy.

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