Sizing them up

A needle's size is determined by its diameter. The smaller the size, the narrower the needle and the smaller the stitch it makes. Figure 2-8 shows needle sizes and their U.S. and metric equivalents.

The perfect match

Yarn labels suggest appropriate needle sizes, but the best needle size for your project is dictated by your yarn, your gauge, and/or the hand (the way the knitted fabric feels in your hand) you want your final project to have. In general, medium- or worsted-weight yarn is knit on needles anywhere from size US 6 (4 mm) to size US 9 (5/2 mm) depending on how tightly you knit and how you want the final fabric to look and feel.

After knitting a sample with the suggested needle size, you may feel that the fabric is more open than you'd like (needle too large) or too stiff (needle too small). In that case, try another needle size. Keep in mind that if you're making a garment or project and you want to achieve the finished measurements given in the pattern, you need to meet the gauge and live with the "hand" of the sample. If you're making a scarf or project where getting the exact number of stitches per inch isn't important, you can experiment to your heart's content with different needle sizes until you produce a fabric you like.

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