# How to measure your knitting needles without a gauge

Seriously, I need a room for my yarn. My knitting projects, yarn stash and assorted implements are starting to take over. Today I officially decided that my knitting needle gauge is thoroughly lost. I have sort of thought that it might be lost for a few months now, but I’ve been in denial and as a substitute have just been measuring one needle against another. However, after tossing my bedroom tonight I’m convinced that it’s missing in action.

The reason this is a problem is because I’ve got a random set of vintage needles that cannot be categorized. They defy logic. They say they are one size, but many moons ago when I needed them for a project I discovered that they didn’t work because they were too fat. But they also don’t quite appear to be the next size up. They may, in fact, be something in between. I thought I could solve this problem by heading over to The Fiber Gypsy, which has a great comparison chart of all of the knitting needle sizes, past and present, but that didn’t work because the old, vintage size is supposedly the same as the new size. Ha.

So here I am, without a handy knitting gauge, and with a pair of needles that don’t match any damn thing. What’s a girl to do? Well, get back to basics, that’s what a girl does.

It occurred to me that every knitting needle has both random numbers assigned to it as a “size” as well as the actual millimeter size. Now, here in the U.S. we don’t pay much attention to millimeters, and even when we do, it might not occur to to us to actually think of those in terms of a physical ruler. But that little mm does have a connection!

Ok, here’s the deal. Knitting needles are measured by their diameter – that’s the width of a circle, or, to put it in more mathy terms, the diameter is the line segment that goes through the center of a circle, like so:

Parts of a Circle

So, to measure your knitting needles all you need is a ruler that has the metric system on one side of it and this handy dandy chart below. Simply measure the diameter of your needle by placing it between the hash marks on your ruler. Count how many lines it falls between. Remember that the metric system works in 10s. So one centimeter is equal to ten millimeters. Remember, this isn’t an exact science, especially once you get down to those pesky quarter millimeters, but it’ll do in a jiffy.

Craft Yarn Council, Yarn Standards Needle Chart

For me, those pesky needles measured 5 millimeters, meaning they are size 8s, or something darn close to it. Without my needle gauge it’ll be hard to tell if that’s correct, but for the moment I’m content with that assessment. Off to go cast on!

# An epic cat’s paw lace sampler (and review thereof)

Well, tonight I watched the Count of Monte Cristo (2002 version) and knit myself a handy-dandy lace sampler, featuring the ubiquitous cat’s paw lace stitch, which apparently can be made out of anything and everything (stitch-wise). Or just about. I only chose to look up and knit eight variations of the pattern, so this sampler can be considered expansive but certainly not all-encompassing. For the fibery freaks out there, this sampler was knit using KnitPicks Telemark in the Drift colorway on a nice pair of vintage size 4 US 10″ aluminum needles.

Cat's Paw Lace Sampler

The top two stitches (which were the last two I knit, naturally) both feature a k2togtbl stitch. The left one is from Jennifer Jones’ blog,  The Knit Monster, and has a stitch called a double decrease, which I’d never done before. The double dec was interesting in general, as it creates a very straight bar running through the center between the yarnover. However, for the purposes of the cat’s paw motif itself, I thought it made the yarnovers below it look uneven.

The right one is Elizabeth Lovick’s version, from her website Northern Lace, which has, in addition to the k2togtbl, a k3tog in place of the double dec. I think this stitch, while it created an even-looking design, was not my favorite. The k2togtbl made one side look a bit “wonky” (there’s your techy term for the night) and the k3tog was quite simply, just a pain to do.

The bottom six cat’s paws were all knit directly from the chart compiled by Wendy Knits, as I have cited previously:

Courtesy Wendy Knits

The top two motifs on the chart, as well as the bottom-most right one, all feature a sl1, k2tog, psso stitch between the final two yarnovers, and I rather like the way this stitch creates a nice roundness to the center knitted portion of the design. The top right one seemed to be most effective at this, in part because of the alternating k2tog and ssk stitches around the yarnovers. Every motif that used the mirror design of the ssk stitch (symbolized in this chart by the “\ ” mark leaning to the left) created a more round, even appearance in the final lace.

The second stitch down on the left side in the chart had a unique center yarnover, which I thought was interesting. However, it did not create the appearance of either a cat’s paw or a flower, but rather a simply honeycomb design. The two stitches that I found looked the most like cat’s paws were the bottom left design and the right motif in the second row up. The placement of the k2tog and ssk stitches caused the yarnovers to stretch toward the highest point, making the midle yarnovers so small they are almost nonexistant and creating very large holes at the base. They look like the arching, flexing claws of a cat.

Even as I begin to finish cataloguing and describing the different traditional cat’s paw lace motifs I’ve knit, I am seeing where I could have tried other variations of the stitch. For example, you could substitute the k3tog with any of the other patterns, or moved the k2tog to the other side of the “honeycomb”-looking one for a more even appearance. Really, the combinations and possibilities therein are nearly endless. I shall leave that for others to take on, however, as I am quite satisfied with my own results. Enjoy!