MKG Cable Gram - Volume 18, Number 1
This winter I cast-on some Regia sock yarn, intending to make myself some colorful socks. To avoid SSS ("second sock syndrome") a sad disorder which prevents completion of the second sock in a pair after finishing the first, resulting in the production of many lonely, single socks), I typically work socks in tandem. I knit the first sock to the ankle, then cast on the second sock using another set of needles, complete it to the ankle and finish the heel. Then pick up sock #1, complete heel and the foot. On sock#2 complete foot and toes, and finally complete the toe of sock #1. Both done at the same time!
So I knit Regia sock #1 to the ankle using Crystal Palace bamboo size-0needles, then cast on for Regia #2 with size 0 Brittany Birch needles. Completed my tandem Regia socks and happily shoved them onto my feet. Ack! The first sock (knit on Crystal Palace needles) fit perfectly, while the second sock (knit on Brittany Birches) sagged and bagged on ankle and foot.
"What did I do wrong", I sobbed. The mystery was solved when I stuck both brands of needles into my handy Susan Bates needle gauge. Aha! The Crystal Palace needle was size 0, while the Brittany (labeled as size 0) was closer to a size 1. As a scientist I am compelled to collect and over-analyze data. I picked up my Skacel needle gauge, and found that the Crystal Palace was now a size 1, and the Brittany was a size 1.5. I maniacally shoved every needle in my abundant collection through the gauges, and found few needles were the advertised size. And my two gauges did not correspond to each other ¬- each gave a different measurement for the same needle.
About that time, I read a posting on the Sock knitters email newslist from Dawn Brocco, a New York State knit designer, reporting the great variation in needle sizes of different manufacturers. Dawn also observed the variation between different brands of needles gauges. She must be even more of a dataphile than I am, as she conducted an extensive investigation of needle size and needle gauge using drill bits from her husband’s tool chest (See "Heels and Toes Gazette, Issue #3, Spring 2001. Ordering information is included in the newsletter review).
Dawn's findings: ALWAYS measure your needles before knitting to check the true size. And the needle gauge to use? The Inox brand gauge was most accurate.