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Knitting needle sizes tend to be measure the diameter of the needles and range from 2.0 mm right up to 25.0 mm. Just to make it a bit more complicated, not all countries use the same 'names' for needle sizes.
There are three main measurement schemes for needles sizes (US, Canadian/UK and Metric) and the measurement scheme you are familiar with will depend on where you are located.
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As a beginner, unless you are familiar with how the sizing schemes compare, it is sometimes difficult to work out which size knitting needle you should use. Perhaps, a knitting needle conversion chart make things a bit clearer for you?
These days with the ease of sourcing patterns from all over the world, the sizing could use any of these sizes schemes, depending on which country the pattern was printed in. Most will tell you which sizing scheme is being used but if in doubt you can do a quick check on my yarn comparison chart to find which is most likely (i.e. a US 9 is a 5.50 mm needle, whereas a Canadian/UK 9 is a 3.75 mm needle.
So according to the yarn comparison chart a pattern using a US 9 will be used to knit a worsted or heavy weight yarn and a Canadian/Uk 9 is more likely to be used to knit with a finer yarn (probably a fingering).
I tend to use metric sizes as no matter where you are 2.0mm is still 2.0mm, and here in Australia most of the patterns you buy will list both the metric size and the equivalent United Kingdom and/or Canadian size.
As a general guide for selecting your needle size if your yarn is:
If you need to work out what size you should use for to knit a particular item, I recommend that you knit yourself a tension square or two.
A tension square is a piece of knitting that you do before you begin knitting your garment that allows you to measure the tension of your knitting to determine which size of needle you should use.
When you have worked out what knitting needle sizes you need for your project, you may be in the position of having to purchase new needles, particularly if you are a beginner.
If you spend a little more upfront, you may not need to buy knitting needles ever again. My needles of choice are KnitPro Zing. I tend to use mainly circular needles (for pretty much everything as they are much more travel friendly than single pointed needles) and I love the colour coding for each size. I never pick up the wrong needle!
But we each have our own preference when it comes to our knitting needles. If you are planning to purchase new needles, please do check out the range on offer in my store. If you can find what you are looking for, flick me an email and I will see what I can do to source them for you.
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