How to Compare English & U.S. Knitting Needle Sizes

Written by susan brockett
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How to Compare English & U.S. Knitting Needle Sizes
You can get knitting needles in a lot of sizes. (knitting image by Alison Bowden from

Knitting needles come in an array of sizes from a thin toothpick diameter to pencil-width to the diameter of a wooden spoon. How they are labelled depends on what country they were manufactured in.

U.S. Sizes

The knitting needle labelling scheme in the United States has a number assigned to a particular size of needle, with 0 being the smallest needle. This system is unique to the U.S.

Metric Sizes

In the metric system, the label indicates the actual diameter of the needle in millimetres. This system is used everywhere but the United States.

English Sizes

Although the origin of the English sizing scheme is not documented, it appears to be based on standard wire gauge. In this scheme, the smaller the number, the larger the knitting needle. This scheme is not widely used in contemporary knitting patterns, as most designers designate a metric or U.S. size needle. But you will find this scheme used in vintage English knitting patterns.

Needle Gauges

You use tool called a needle gauge to compare needle sizes. The gauge is a flat piece of metal or plastic with a range of holes punched into it. Each hole is labelled with U.S. and metric sizes, and some have the English sizes also. To determine the size of your needle in all numbering schemes, insert it into the holes until you find one that fits comfortably.

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