Have you been confused by the concept of gauge? If you could not get the right gauge, do you know whether to go up a needle size or down a needle size? To help me understand it, I knitted a swatch of 20 stitches (sts) using three different needles sizes. The photo at the bottom of this article shows the differences.
From my swatch:
#10 gives me 3.5 sts per inch; #7 gives me 4.5 sts per inch and #2 gives me 6 sts per inch.
So, if the pattern calls for 5 sts per inch and my swatch gives me 4 sts per inch, I can immediately decide that to get more stitches to the inch, I must use smaller needles. To get less stitches to the inch, use a bigger needle.
However, if I am using a fancy stitch like herring bone stitch or if the yarn is fancy and knobbly, it is impossible to measure the number of stitches per inch.
So, what I would do is measure the swatch to see if I could get 4 inches for the amount of stitches the swatch calls for.
How to decide whether to go up a needle or down a needle if the swatch is more than 4 inches? I found that out last week when I was helping someone. Her swatch was 5.5 inches to 14 sts using a #10 needle.
To help me decide which way to go, I converted the swatch to sts per inch and it made a lot of sense for me. It immediately made me see which needle I should be using.
So I wrote it all down:
Pattern calls for 14 sts to 4 inches
Which is : 3.5 sts to an inch
Swatch: 14 sts to 5.5 inches
Which is: 2.5 sts to an inch
Now I can see that I need more stitches to an inch so I should use a smaller needle! I hope this exercise will help someone out!
Posted by Dot Ferneyhough of Jimmy Beans Wool
Here is the photo of the swatch with three different needle sizes: