I usually knit to a gauge that is similar to most of the patterns I have knit. Seldom, when using the recommended yarn weight, have I had to change more than a needle size. Recently, I knit patterns by 2 different designers in which my gauge was way off. For each of these patterns I went up 3 needle sizes from the recommended needle size in the pattern. That process started me thinking about the effects on your final fabric and yardage requirement when making such a significant change in needle size. There are 3 main points to consider when adjusting needle size to get gauge.
- Changing the needle size will change the appearance of your knitted fabric. A larger needle size results in larger stitches with more open space in the stitches. The resulting fabric will be less dense and more airy. If the recommended needle is too small to get gauge, but you don’t like the more open appearance of the fabric with a larger needle, you may need to undertake the more complicated process of using the smaller needle and adding additional stitches to make up for the difference in gauge. This process can be simple for a cowl or a blanket, but becomes more complicated for a piece knit in parts (like a sweater).
- Changing the needle size may impact your yardage requirement. If you go up in needle size, you may need less yardage. That’s because the fabric will be less dense. More importantly, if you go down in needle size, you may need more yardage. Make sure to account for yardage adjustments when changing needle sizes.
- Sometimes gauge doesn’t matter. If you are making a baby blanket, and the exact size of the finished blanket is not critical, it may not be necessary to knit to a specific gauge. Some patterns will actually note that gauge is not important, but final yardage requirement may need to be adjusted to attain the stated size of the finished piece if your gauge is off.