Suggested Size: Choosing the Right Needles or Hook to Get Gauge

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Suggested Size: Choosing the Right Needles or Hook to Get Gauge

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Yarn Decorative ImageIt’s easy to get so caught up in following pattern instructions that you lose sight of what’s really important: gauge. You’ve probably already purchased the yarn for your project (or decided which of your stash yarns you’d like to use) by the time you sit down to work your gauge swatch, and you’ve probably just grabbed the needles or hook suggested by the pattern.

That’s a great place to start, BUT the important thing to remember is that the needle/hook size given in a pattern is just that: a suggestion. All it means is that the designer (or possibly the pattern tester) got the gauge specified in the pattern using that particular combination of yarn and needle. Don’t forget that everyone knits or crochets a little differently, and you may need to go up or down a hook size or two — or even more! — to get the correct gauge.

For more on how to make a gauge swatch (and why), please see this FAQ.

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  • I crochet mostly for charity, so I usually go with whatever hook size feels right, or what is recommended by the yarn/pattern. Since I do a lot of afghans, hook size isn’t usually a big issue, so chooing my own is easy.

  • Just last week I pulled out a bag of sport weight yarn which had been purchased on Clearance many months ago. The wrapper said 4mm would be a good size, so I started with one.
    Didn’t like the grip to use for all the time it would take to make the baby blankie.
    Went to a same size, different brand. Very tight and stiff stitches.
    Moved up to a 4.5mm. Decided the pattern wouldn’t do. Found a different pattern. Wouldn’t drape loosely enough.
    6 sample squares before I decided I could keep going. Now the 18″ done on the actual blankie, and looking lovely so far, I’m using a 5.5mm
    Yep, I take those words on the band to be starting suggestions 🙂

  • Whatever I’m knitting or crocheting, I’ll always start the swatch with the recommended needle size, then switch up or down by how the swatch measures. Sometimes it the way you knit or crochet and sometimes it’s the yarn.

  • What can/do you do when the gauge is correct for the width but not the height or vice versa? For example, say the gauge is 4 rows x 8 rows = 4″ and your piece is 4″ x 3″ or the other way around. Do you change the needle? Increase the number of rows or stitches?

    Zontee says: Hi Sandy, please see my answer to Karen’s question above. It’s best to match your stitch gauge, since generally speaking, most patterns will tell you to work to a specific length (height) of your piece and not a number of rows. Be sure to read my explanation of how to address the exception above.

  • I recently started an afghan kit of seven different motifs of sunflowers. After checking the general gauge, I decided to make one of each to insure they would all finish out at the 8 inches described in the pattern. I discovered one flower exceeded that measurement. I dropped back one size on the crochet hook for the flower and finished the edging with the regular hook to insure a match when sewing the motif together. Perfect!

  • I know this is off subject, but when did crochet hook naming change? I grew up using hooks by letter name, e.g. F, K, etc. Now I notice they are by millimeter, e.g. 4.5, 7, etc. New hooks occasionally still carry a letter, but it’s really hard to see. Does someone have a conversion chart for those of us who occasionally need to buy a new hook to fill in our collection?”

    Zontee says: Hi Diane, in the US, we still go by letter for the larger hooks, but most hooks include the millimeter to be more friendly to people who many not have grown up with the convention. Also, sizing isn’t perfectly standards–some companies may call a hook thickness an “M” while others call it an “N.” Smaller steel hooks are usually by number or millimeter. Click here for a chart to help.

  • for a crochet hook conversion chart, use your computer search engine to look up
    Crochet Hook Size Comparison

    I found 3 within a minute, for US and UK differences, also able to print

  • If you have differing width and height on your knitted swatch, sometimes using different sizes for knit and for purl will work.

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