Beginner's Guide to Understanding Knitting Needle Size

July 13, 2020 3 min read

Understanding Knitting Needles

As a beginner knitter, you may have stood in the knitting needle aisle staring wide eyed at the options. Or maybe you scrolled through page after page of knitting needles in your favorite online knitting store without a clue about which one to purchase. We have all been there and we hope to clear things up for you now. 

Why Do Knitting Needles Have Different Sizes?

Every knitting needle size has a purpose. The project, the yarn, and the stitch all factor into which needle is best. Luckily, knitting needles are labeled with sizes. Once you understand the sizes, you will crack the code for which needle is best. 

Knitting Needle Sizing

Most knitting needles are labeled with both US and metric sizes. It is important to pay attention to which size you reference because a US 5 and 5mm are very different sizes. In US measurement, the smaller the number, the smaller the needle. In UK sizes, the higher the number, the smaller the needle. Smaller needles are used with thinner yarn. For purposes of clarity, the sizes referenced here will refer to US size. 

Knitting Needle Sizes Explained

Once you select a pattern, the size of the recommended knitting needle is specified. If you are creating your own project or substituting a different yarn, you may need to adjust your needle. 

Knitting Needle Sizes 17 and Up

Bulky yarns are great for weighted blankets and other large projects. Projects using jumbo yarn will use these giant needles. Knitting with needles this big is a serious arm workout. When shopping for needles this size, opt for plastic since they will be lighter.

Knitting Needle Sizes 11-17

Cable yarn and other bulky fiber yarn will call for needles in this size range. The great news about projects that call for big yarn and big needles is that they are typically quick knit projects. After size 11, there are only odd sizes, so don't look for a size 12 or 14, because you won't find it. 

Knitting Needle Sizes 9-11

These needles are still pretty large and work well for large projects with big yarn. US sizes are a bit strange in this size bracket. There is a 10, 10.5, and 11. 

Knitting Needle Sizes 7-9

Knitting Needle Size for Sweaters

This size range is usually the size that beginner knitters learn to use first. These needles are very manageable and great for worsted weight yarn. Many sweater and hat patterns call for knitting needles in this size range.

Knitting Needle Sizes 5-7

Another common size for knitting sweaters, scarves, and gloves, these needles go hand in hand with DK weight yarn

Knitting Needle Sizes 3-5

Knitters who enjoy knitting garments for babies typically use these needles. Sport weight yarn pairs well with these needles to craft socks, sweaters, baby blankets and baby layettes. As we head down in needle size, you may experience some hand discomfort. Take a few moments to stretch your fingers a bit.

Knitting Needle Sizes 1-3

Known as the sock knitting needles, this size range is ideal for sock weight yarn. Socks, shawls, and any light weight garment pattern will require this range of needle size.

Knitting Needle Sizes 000-1

Knitting Needle Size for Knitted Lace

If you are just starting out, you won't need this size needle until you gain some experience. These tiny needles are for lace patterns and other very tiny and precise stitching. These needles are considered to be specialized and require dexterity and lots of patience. 

Now that you are an expert on knitting needle sizes, it is time to pick up a new knitting kit and reach outside of your comfort zone.


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