Monday, March 07, 2016

Old Gauge

I have long used the needle size chart at the Fiber Gypsy ( as my standard for knitting needle sizes and conversions. It worked for new needles that I bought in the US, Canada, Great Britain, Europe, and Hong Kong.

However, the 'UK' sizing never quite gave me gauge for patterns from Gladys Thompson's, Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans or for patterns from the old Weldon's Practical Knitter.  I found this very strange as a long time ago, I put a lot of effort into learning to "knit to gauge".

There are a lot of images of old knitting gauges on the internet, however few show the actual dimensions, or provide the diameters of needles as gauged.  See for example .

At this time for knitting patterns written prior to WWI, I am using American Wire Gauge (AWG) to size my steel needles.  I find this a better starting point for swatching than either the Old US or UK needle sizing systems.  For knitting patterns written after WW1, I find the UK needle sizing as given by Fiber Gypsy's chart to be better.

Conversion is as follows:

AWG  =>    metric / mm

8       ~ 3.26
10     ~ 2.50
12     ~ 2.05
14     ~ 1.63
16     ~ 1.29
18     ~ 1.02

There are detailed conversion tables all over the internet.

Good AWG gauges are available at hardware stores, Cheaper ones at hobby shops and over the internet.  The one on the desk in front of me cost $2  The good gauge in the top drawer of the needle stash was $25.

Sure enough, when I swatch Gladys Thompson's, A Channel Island's Guernsey (recommended needle size 12 or 13) with commercial worsted 5-ply, and needles that are AWG 12, I get the chest sizes in the pattern.  I do not get gauge with UK12 (2.75 mm) needles. More surprising is that the Norfolk II Sheringham pattern suggests a 15 or 16 needle size.  For me, this pattern swatches out perfectly with a yarn of the grist of the Paton's 4-ply Beehive ( ~ 2,500 ypp) when using AWG size 15. I do not get gauge when using the UK needle sizing given by the Fiber Gypsy (e.g., 15 is stated as 1.75 mm, 16 is not given an equivalent, and UK 17 is given as 1.5 mm.  I got gauge on 1.5 mm needles which would be Old US 15 or AGW 15.

Likewise, swatching some patterns form Weldon's Practical Knitter, convinces me that AWG gauge numbers work better for their steel needle numbers given than do the UK needle sizes.  This clue into Weldon's makes it much more friendly, and make it possible to effortlessly get gauge with the suggested needles.

Bottom line, knitting needle standards have changed over the last 150 years in ways that are poorly documented.  Our only recourse is to swatch like crazy.

1 comment:

Chingachgook said...

Yaay! Thank you, Aaron for your work.