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Does Needle Material Affect Gauge?

Obviously the size of needle you use determines the gauge of your knitted fabric. But other factors come into play, such as how relaxed or tense you are while knitting or the fiber content of your yarn. But what about what your knitting needle is made out of? Can that affect your gauge?

Knitting needles are available in quite a few different materials, such as metal, wood, or plastic. Those basic categories can be divided even further into nickel, aluminium, steel, ebony, rosewood, laminated wood, bamboo, casein, carbon fiber, and many more. Most knitters gravitate toward a particular type of needle, always using that material. Other knitters have different types of needles and use them based upon the yarn (whether the yarn needs a smoother or more "grabby" needle, for example).

But what happens to your gauge when you use different needle types? I decided to try an experiment to find out.

Set Up

Yarn

I used Round Table Yarns Lancelot in Tintagel (and then Lanval toward the end of the final swatch because I ran out of Tintagel)

Swatch

Cast on 30 stitches, knit 4 rows garter, knit 36 rows stockinette (with 2-stitch garter edge), knit 4 rows garter.

Blocking

Soaked for 1 hour (all swatches together); laid out to dry (not stretched or pinned)

Needle size

US 7 (4.5 mm) needles
Swatches measured using Akerworks Swatch Gauge

Needles used

1. Hiya Hiya (bamboo)
2. Signature (aluminum)
3. DyakCraft Darn Pretty (laminated wood)

Results

Based upon this limited experiment, my stitch gauge didn't change very much between the three different needle materials. However, my row gauge was significantly different with the DyakCraft needle, to the point where it affected the final measurements of the swatch.

So what does this tell me? If I'm trying to match gauge in a pattern and I'm spot on for stitch gauge but off for row gauge (and row gauge matters for that particular pattern), I might do well to change my needle type to see if that helps me better match the row gauge.

Of course this is just my own personal experience with three different needles. If I broadened the experiment to try other types of needles and also got results from other knitters, I would have a lot more data to work from and might be able to come up with some generalizations.

So what should you make of this? Honestly, I found the results in the effect for row gauge rather eye-opening for my own knitting. Why don't you try a similar experiment yourself to see your own results? Or at the very least, if you're having trouble matching a pattern's gauge even though you've tried multiple needle sizes, maybe instead of changing the needle size, you should try changing the needle material to see what happens.

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