Knitting tool: Debra’s Garden needle gauge

posted in: Knitting | 5

Have I sung the praises of Debra's Garden needle gauges yet? Even if I have, they're worth multiple mentions. (Finding the gauges on the website is slightly challenging; start with this page and go on to the next page as well. If you're budget-conscious, don't be daunted by the pricing on the gold and silver versions that appear first.

I'm on the road with my knitting. Once again, I brought the WRONG size needles with me, because I used a non-Debra's Garden needle gauge as I was preparing to leave. I was in a hurry and just grabbed the gauge that came to hand first.* The good part of this is that I'll have an excuse to visit a knitting shop. Not that I really have time, but fortunately I do have access to a car and I know where there are a couple of good shops in this area. The bad part is that I couldn't keep going with the socks I started night before last. (And do I really need more 1.75-mm needles once I'm home? I probably have enough. Then again, I do break them occasionally, so acquiring extras is not such a bad idea in the long run.)

* No, getting a set of interchangeable needles won't help prevent this problem. They don't come in the sizes that I use most often. And I prefer not to pack my suitcase full of all the needles I might need.

Here are some of the needle gauges I use:


Gauges_3284-2

The one that led me astray this week was yet another. It's plastic, like numbers 1 and 2 above. It's from Nancy's Knit Knacks, and it has some advantages, including a 5-inch ruler (no metric equivalents noted) and a wider range of sizes.

Here's an overview of the problems with most needle gauges:

Durability.

Over time, the holes in the plastic ones loosen up and you can fit a larger needle through a nominally smaller hole. Which means you get a wrong answer to the sizing question. This is mostly a problem with the smallest sizes (where I need the most help . . . it's far easier to accurately guess or gauge the size of a larger needle). I use a lot of small needles, because I knit loosely and often with fairly fine yarns (the afghan for the Dorothy Reade book being one of the exceptions that proves the rule).

Range of sizes.

The range of sizes on a gauge needs to fit the range the knitter normally needs. This will be different for each knitter, and Debra's Garden gauges get around this by making different types of gauges to fit a variety of knitterly preferences.

Mine is the

  • sock-and-lace gauge (goes from .75mm/US 6-0, also known as 000000,** to 4mm/US 6)

It covers 99 percent of my knitting range.

** I list sizes 0000 and smaller with a number-0 marking, which is easier to interpret than counting zeroes. So 0000 is US 4-0, and so on.

Debra's Garden also has

  • metric (2mm to 12 mm)
  • US sizing (0 to 17) (also in a special Animal Rescue edition)
  • crochet (2mm to size N)

By comparison, the ranges of the other gauges are:

  • 1, Skacel Turbo—1.5mm to 10mm (US 000 to US 15)
  • 2, Inox—2mm to 10mm (as I recall, the US sizes are on the flip side and should be US 0 to US 15)
  • 3, Susan Bates—2mm to (probably about 11mm, not marked in metric) (US 0 to US 16)
  • 4, bronze sheep—1.25mm to 10mm (US 4-0 to US 15)
  • Not pictured—Nancy's Knit Knacks, 1.5mm to 19mm (US 000 to US 35)

I routinely need sizing as small as 1.5mm (US 000), and my needle selection goes down to .5mm (US 8-0). (The only needle gauge I have seen that goes that small comes from Lacis, the same place the needles did. But it's plastic, about which I hesitate these days.)

Complete set of size intervals.

I check needle sizes in millimeters because that's the only way to be
consistent.*** In the smallest sizes, needles change by .25mm at a time.**** This generally affects sizes .25mm (US 8-0) through 5mm. Then they change by .5mm at a time, up to 8mm, and then 1mm or more at a time in the sizes over 8mm.

*** A US size 1 can be either 2.25mm or 2.5mm; a US size 2 can be 2.75mm or 3mm; and there are no US sizes for a number of the quarter-millimeter increments in other parts of the range.

**** A few needles, not in general circulation in North America, hit some of
the .125mm intervals in the finer end of the range or fit into the
.25mm intervals between 5mm and 6mm, but for most of my purposes a needle
gauge doesn't have to accommodate those.

Here are the sizes that are MISSING from the gauges that I have:

  • 1, Skacel Turbo—does not have 2.25mm, 2.75mm,4.25mm, 7.5mm
  • 2, Inox—does not have 4.25mm, 4.75mm
  • 3, Susan Bates—does not have 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 7mm, 7.5mm
  • 4, bronze sheep—does not have 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 4.75mm, 7mm, 7.5mm
  • Not pictured, Nancy's Knit Knacks—does not have 4.75mm, 7.5mm
  • Debra's Garden—none missing; every interval is included in the range that the gauge
    covers

Summary.

For me, the most important qualities of a good needle gauge are that it:

  • measures accurately, especially for the fine needles I use most often; this eliminates the plastic gauges (1/Skacel Turbo, 2/Inox, and 5/Nancy's Knit Knacks). For larger-size needles, these gauges are probably perfectly adequate. But they routinely cause problems for me.
  • can handle all the sizes that I need to measure; this eliminates all of the gauges except Debra's Garden (although to meet all my needs, I should have both a sock-and-lace gauge and a regular-range metric gauge).

Essentially, the only gauge left standing at the end of the day is the Debra's Garden version.

One drawback is a relatively minor one that can also be seen as a plus: its small size. Although I took the photo as soon as I obtained this new gauge (which was several months ago), I bought an inexpensive chain for it immediately so I can keep track of it more easily. The chain is long enough that I can wear it around my neck, but it's also substantial enough that it makes it possible to find the gauge in my knitting accessories pouch.

Although it's substantially more expensive than the other gauges ($16 for the regular version—not the gold or silver, but available in a dozen pretty colors), that's less than the price of replacement needles for someone who ends up taking the wrong size on a trip, even after having used one of the less precise tools.

Conclusion.

So I've been to the knitting shop and I have the needle I need and my socks can continue.

Some day I may just invest in a whole flock of Debra's Garden needle gauges so I can't possibly pick up anything else when I'm in a hurry.

There's a whole lot to be said in favor of tools that do their jobs thoroughly and accurately and are aesthetically pleasing as well.

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5 Responses

  1. Hear, hear! (On the tools that do their job accurately and easily and are aesthetically pleasing as well.) As always, you’ve elucidated the subject in a way that shows me elegantly and economically what I didn’t know I needed to know, and I enjoyed the journey into the light of new knowledge!

  2. Kris Paige

    Sigh. You’ve added another addiction to my tiny collection of good tools! Will have to order a couple, maybe one at a time, and eliminate those old gauges that no longer work.
    FWIW, years ago my dad suggested using a drill-bit sizer for my needles. They also go to very fine measure!

  3. Susan, some of my favorite tools are weaving-related. One of the reasons to want to have time for weaving in my life is simply to use them.

    Kristi, you will enjoy this particular item a lot.

    And Kris, think of these gauges as nice-looking, portable drill-bit sizers.

    I want the animal rescue one, but it's only in US sizing, which I find (as I've mentioned) not terribly helpful for what I do most often.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you Deb. 😀 This info. is exactly what I need. I have a number of needle gauges and not one of them measures the same as the others. Most of them don’t have all the metric sizes and all leave me frustrated.

    Years ago I overheard someone say something like this – using the right tool for the right job (is essential) and “if you want to do the job right you must use the proper tools.” I buy good needles and yarn so I will now buy a good needle gauge.

    Lindy – 112 degrees in the Sonoran Desert

  5. You're most welcome, Lindy. I have almost every needle gauge out there. This is the winner.

    The desert is gorgeous, but that's *hot.*

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