I’ve mislaid my knitting needle gauge (I’m reasonably sure it’s about the place somewhere but I truly cannot track it down). I could probably get by without it for a while but, as I have a lot of old needles and some of them aren’t obviously marked with a size, it’s something I would eventually need (assuming continued absence of original, etc; and it’s been missing for a while).
Cue present situation with scarves on size UK 8/US 6/4 mm needles. I thought the pair I picked up to start on mark II of Eldest Son’s scarf (Dr B and Boy both reckoned Eldest Son unlikely to wear what I was busy with; in fact, Dr B said categorically that he wouldn’t) were about the same size, but to both eye and feel, they were a little thicker than the metal needles I’d been using for the other scarf. That’s perfectly possible, too, as knitting needle gauge can vary somewhat especially with older needles and different countries; my lovely long, pink Italian needles that I pretended were UK 10, and which claimed to be UK 10, actually aren’t (discussion below). They’re somewhere between sizes but it didn’t matter. I used them anyway and I absolutely loved, and still love, how l-o-n-g they are (15 ins/39 mm or so of good workable space and a bit to spare). That they’re pink is an added bonus because it means they’re extra easy to find.
So, anxious to get started on the next version of the scarf and absent the gauge, I went with the flow. I mean, it’s a scarf. No biggie. Instead of Silk Garden which was decreed too bright for Eldest Son’s austere taste, the scarf is now in two close shades of Cleckheaton Country Tartan (both with a blue base). It’s looking good and it’s lovely and soft and will be very warm. It’s quietly understated and my colleagues think it should be just the shot for A Man (any man). Boy and Dr B, I can tell you now, are less convinced of its appropriateness for Eldest Son although they think it’s perhaps more his style than the Silk Garden scarf.
Long pink metal and short aqua plastic needles
However, I thought I’d better replace the needle gauge because I might need to be more precise about something in the future (near or distant). The last one accompanied some magazine or other that I bought when I was living in England. I don’t suppose the magazine was expensive and I probably bought it for the gauge (perhaps it was an English Women’s Weekly, given their fabulous knitting patterns one of which could well have caught my eye) rather than specifically the content.
I tracked down a sturdier gauge (it’s a pack of two for the wider range of today’s readily available size of needles) whose appropriate slot tells me my old needles, instead of being “maybe UK 8/US 6/4 mm” are actually nearer “maybe UK 7/US 7/4.5 mm”. In fact, they are a size somewhere between UK 7/US 7/4.5 mm and UK 6/US8/5 mm. However, the gauge is confusing, too, setting out equivalents that tells me precision in needle sizes is not a firm concept at all.
It states that 3.5 mm needles are UK 9/US 4. Then it assures me that UK 9 are also equivalent to US 5 and 3.75 mm. My 3.5 mm needles say they’re UK 10, which the gauge recognises as 3.25 mm/US 3. Who’s right? I suppose you pays your money and takes your choice but there is an extent to which it doesn’t matter, so long as you use the correct size to obtain the correct tension/gauge (more confusion around terminology). I’m not giving up on my old needles just because they don’t fit the gauge because the scarf is looking nice.
You might say the scarf likes the old needles and I here admit that so do I. As I said, I do love my pink Italian numbers but the very length that makes me love them means I couldn’t use them on the bus. Those I’m using now are short, which means I can knit on the bus without fear of stabbing anyone or having to adopt a cramped style to avoid annoying someone sitting in the next seat. They’re plastic. Actually, they’re probably bakelite, I don’t know; I believe they’re what might be called vintage (they once belonged to my mother). They’re soft, anyway, and don’t hurt my hands or make them ache. They’re quiet (mind you, I don’t make that much racket when I knit anyway). They fit into my handbag. And what is more, they’re aqua. (Excuse the quality of the photo, my phone was handy and the real camera was not.)