# 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!

# Workin’ The Yardage Maths

Math has never been my strong suit, and therefore I know that what I just learned today will fly right out the window of my brain if I don’t write it down somewhere. Hopefully it will help someone else in the future, too.

I received this gorgeous skein of laceweight recently. It was a test base for the yarn company Dream in Color, when they were trying to pick out a good laceweight for their future Baby yarn.

Wouldn’t it be fun to be a yarn buyer? I imagine someone getting a box full of creamy white skeins of yarn and lying them all out on a table and then having everyone walk around and pet different skeins until they pick which one they like. Mmm, maybe they even roll in the yarn. Secretly, of course. When everyone else is off dying test skeins. π

Anyways, enough of my fantasies. So this test base I acquired is, as you can imagine, absolutely divine. Dream in Color doesn’t do shoddy yarns, yo. it’s a blend of 75 percent merino wool and 25 percent silk, and it’s a very traditional laceweight, probably coming in at around 2/18 (which is a typical laceweight gauge). There was just one problem with this yarn. I had no clue what the yardage was! There are all of these mysterious numbers on its tag (which I’m sure, dear readers, you will be able to figure out) but they had me totally and completely stumped. As you can see, this was clearly mill language, not end user writing on the tag:

SPH 5169
STH (?) 1596
75 – sw merino wool
25 – silk
2/12.86 wc. (or 2112.86 wrc. it’s a total tossup. really.)

So what was a girl to do? Figure it out the slow way. I started by unwrapping the skein and picking a point on the hank where the yarn seemed untangled and pretty straight. I began counting each strand, in groups of 100, eventually counting out loud so that I didn’t lose track. That total came to 368 strands of yarn. But now I needed to find out how long my actual skein was. I started by trying to simply shake it out and measure it, but that was an effort in futility. Then I remembered that professionally spun skeins are typically done in specific lengths. I grabbed by yardstick and sure enough, the skein was the full length of the yardstick when pulled taut, meaning that this was a 2-yard skein. A quick bit of math (one yard, or 36 inches, doubled equals 72 inches) and then I took 72 inches and times’d it by the 368 strands. That gave me the number 26496 – as in 26,496 inches. Right. So now I have to get that number of inches down to a manageable size. So, how many yards are in 26,496 inches? If I divide that number by 36 inches (aka a yard) I get 736 exactly. Ah ha! Therefore I have 736 yards in this skein!

So essentially the formula is this:

strand count X skein length doubled = total inches / 36 inches = number of yards

For metric measurements, it’s the same system except:

strand count X skein length doubled = total centimeters / 100 centimeters = number of meters

Yey! I figured out how to measure large amounts of yarn! Now, granted, this is just a rough gauge. And if I was trying to figure out the yardage for a skein of yarn with less yardage I’d reskein it around a niddy noddy to get to my yardage. However, for large amounts of yardage, like laceweight, where it’s just sort of inconceivable to spend your day fighting hundreds of yards, this is a great formula to use.