If you’ve heard knitting terms that you don’t understand, you’re not alone. To help you navigate through the world of knitting, we put together some Knitting FAQs below.
How do I know which needles and yarn will work together?
To watch our knitting skills video on this, CLICK HERE.
Generally, you use thick yarn with thick needles and vice versa - they should “match.” To “match” your yarn and needles, look at the label on the yarn you want to use. The label will show a needle or needles on it that has a needle size (or range of sizes) right near it. This is what the yarn producer thinks is the best size of needles for the yarn.
Needle sizes are given two different ways, in metric and US sizes. For example, a US size 1 needle is a 2.25 mm needle. Here’s a chart showing the equivalent of metric and US needle sizing:
|Metric Needle Sizes
|US Needle Sizes
|No equivalent size
The needle sizes on the yarn label are usually the best needle sizes to use with that yarn, unless you want to achieve a particular effect by using significantly larger needles (which will create a more lacy effect) or smaller needles (which will create a much denser and tighter fabric).
I have a pattern that I want to knit - how do I know which yarn and needles to buy?
The pattern will tell you what yarn/needles the designer used to create the pattern. It will also tell you how much yarn to buy.
You have two options:
- You can use the yarn/needles specified in the pattern - just pick your color and do your test swatch to make sure you are getting the correct tension (see the Gauge discussion below).
- You can choose a different yarn, so long as that yarn gives you the same gauge. Check out our ‘yarns by weight’ section in the shop - we’ve organized the yarns by their Gauge so that you can find yarns that will work.
What if the yarn I want to use doesn't tell me what size needles to use?
The labels do tell you what weight of yarn it is (and we also tell you this in our description of the yarns we carry). We use the Craft Yarn Council's standard yarn measuring system - you can see the symbols below in the Gauge section. Here is how the less formal categories that knitters and yarn makers use fit into the Craft Yarn Council system:
Yarn Weight Symbol & Category Names
|Type of Yarns in Category
|Sock, Fingering, Baby
|Knit Gauge Range* in Stockinette Stitch to 4 inches
|6 sts and fewer
|Recommended Needle in Metric Size Range
|12.75 mm and larger
|Recommended Needle U.S. Size Range
|1 to 3
|3 to 5
|5 to 7
|7 to 9
|9 to 11
So, using the 1st photo above as an example, it states that it is "Worsted" weight. Using the chart, that means it is a "Medium" Category 4 yarn. 4.5 mm to 5.5 mm (or US 7 to 9) needles are the recommended needles for that category.
Take needles in one of those sizes and do a test swatch (see below) to see whether you are getting the correct gauge for your pattern. You can move up or down a needle size or two to adjust
Gauge (sometimes called tension)
Gauge is how big the stitches will be when you knit with a particular yarn/needle combination. This is measured by how many stitches fit into an inch. Sometimes the height of the stitches (i.e. number of rows) are measured as well as the width of the stitches, though sometimes only the width of the stitches really matter.
There are some standard categories that people typically use to indicate how big or small a yarn is. Yarns fall into each category based upon the gauge of the yarn. Below are the categories of yarn from the Craft Yarn Council. http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/weight.html You’ll see these symbols on each of our yarns at the bottom of the descriptions.
They are (from thin to thick): Lace, SuperFine, Fine, Light, Medium, Bulky, Super Bulky
If you look at the label on the yarn, it will tell you how many stitches to the inch the manufacturer expects you to get when you it to knit with it in stockinette stitch, using the size of the needles indicated on the label. That is the expected gauge.
The way to test if you’re getting the right gauge is to knit a test swatch & measure it. See ‘test swatch’ below.
What’s a test swatch? Do I have to make one?
A test swatch is a small sample of knitting using the yarn you want to use. You are testing how many stitches you get in a 10 cm/4 in wide and 10 cm/4 in high swatch if you use a particular needle/yarn/stitch combination. It is used to make sure that you’re getting the gauge or tension in your knitting that is necessary for the pattern that you want to knit.
You won’t use the swatch after you knit it, but it can be important to make sure that the knitted fabric will look the way you expect it to. It is also important to make sure that you end up with the size of garment or other item that you want. An extra stitch repeated over an entire body of a sweater could mean that the sweater is an inch (or more) too big.
However, if you’re knitting something where the precise dimensions don’t matter, like a blanket or scarf, the gauge won’t matter as much and it's up to you whether you want to knit a test swatch.
We recommend knitting a test swatch until you are comfortable that your knitting is roughly in line with the recommended needle size and gauges in designs you knit.
How do I make a test swatch?
To make a test swatch, cast on the number of stitches indicated in the gauge section of the pattern. We often will add 2 stitches so that you can measure the correct number of stitches in between the edge stitches.
Knit for the number of rows indicated, plus a few extra and then bind off. Then, count how many stitches are in 4 inches, checking in a few places to get an average. Row gauge is often not as important, but check it to make sure you're at least close. If you have the same number of stitches and rows in 4 inches as stated on the pattern, you’re good to go.
If you have too many stitches in 4 inches, try again with a larger needle. If you have too few, try with a smaller needle. Some projects take a few swatches, but it's worth it to have a finished product that fits correctly.
For lace and other stitch patterns, you should consider blocking your swatch before measuring it because blocking may have a big effect on the knitted fabric. It really depends upon how much “fit” matters for a particular project - for a baby blanket, it won’t matter that much, but for a fitted sweater, it will matter quite a bit.
If I’m using a different yarn than a pattern calls for, how much do I buy?
First, look and see how much yarn does the pattern call for?
In our example, the pattern calls for 6 50g/1.75 balls of gossypium cotton that is DK weight (if it doesn't tell you, you can usually search online and find the weight of the yarn).
How many meters/yards does that mean you need?
The pattern tells you that each ball contains 100 m (109 yds).
Multiply 100 m (190 yds) by the number of balls, here 6 - which results in total yards needed of: 600 m (654 yds)
Now, find the yarn with a similar gauge that you want to use. Here we will substitute another DK weight yarn, Erika Knight’s Studio Linen.
It has 120 m/131 yds per skein.
Next, divide the total meters needed in the pattern by the number of meters per skein for your chosen yarn:
This means you need 5 skeins* of Erika Knight’s Studio Linen to complete the project.
* some yarn is sold as balls, some as skeins. Skeins are simply loosely tied yarn that needs to be wound into a ball once purchased.
What is a 'Dye Lot'?
To watch our knitting skills video on this topic, CLICK HERE.
All yarn is dyed in batches. With each batch the Artisan must mix a new set of chemicals to replicate the color. This results in slight variations each time. When you are working on a large item, such as a sweater or blanket you will require several balls of yarn it is best practice to get all your skeins from the same 'dye lot' if possible. This is listed on the yarn label.
If you cannot obtain all the yarn you need for a project from the same dye lot you can simply alternate the dye lots as you work through your project. The effect is usually not that noticeable.
How do I wind this into a ball?
Many of our yarns come directly from the Artisan dyers in the form of skeins instead of balls. A skein looks like this:
Before you begin your project you will want to wind the yarn into a ball. This can either be done with a ball winder or by hand. At some point, you may decide to buy a ball winder and swift to wind balls more quickly and easily.
What if I think I made a mistake?
You have a few options:
- Sign up for a lesson to have a knitting teacher take a look at it. It may not even be a mistake! Schedule a 15 minute video-chat lesson by CLICKING HERE.
- Sign up for OfficeHours. This may help if it is a quick check-in that you need. OfficeHours is a group video chat lead by an advanced knitter to help answer quick questions and give general guidance on your projects.
- Unpick the stitches to the point where you think you made a mistake and begin knitting from there. CLICK HERE to watch a tutorial on unpicking stitches.
- Send us an email! Sometimes all you need is a bit of guidance. For quick questions you can send an email to email@example.com.
- Let it go - if it isn't a fundamental problem (i.e. the whole item won't all apart if you leave it alone), you can just appreciate that it is an early project and that the little mistakes show that you are learning.
Knitting is about creativity, relaxation and fun, so don't let a little mistake here or there get you down!