I’m Knitting a Sweater on Size 2 Needles

By Kay Gardiner
March 13, 2019
Isabell Kraemesr's designs in Field Guide No. 10 might give you an irresistible desire to cast on three new projects.

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67 Comments
  • takes a while no matter the needle size, Kay, be prepared! especially in a beautiful but brownish color, there is a lot of stockinette stitches to get through. It is worth it!

  • I am tapping my foot waiting for the mail so I can start my own Bottom Line in that beautiful Black Cherry color. Thanks for the “turn off the podcast” tip!

  • Thank God for this. I am on my third swatch for a Beckett sweater and it’s very much looking like I’m using a 1. I’m a very loose knitter and probably should have just started swatching two sizes down but I’m always hopeful that a miracle will happen and I’ve become a tidy knitter.

    • We kissed knitters are ever the optimists, aren’t we? I finally have learned how to knit Norwegian style, with the hope of tightening my tension.

      • Sorry; I have no idea how “kissed” got into the message.

        • Because all knitters are loved.

      • You should watch the latest Kristy Glass podcast with Patty Lyons showing techniques to tighten up your loose stitches. https://youtu.be/EEuBWV5faWc The first part is about swatching, also very useful. But what she shows about loose stitches was so helpful

      • Oh good luck! I have used the Norwegian purl on a few things but if faced with a long row of purls I’m using the reverse purl. That does help with the rowing out.

  • I am a very loose knitter and often go down 3 needle sizes. I’ve knit many a sweater with size 2 but you’re right, it doesn’t really matter, it’s still the same number of stitches. Fortunately I knit a bit less loose in the round so I’m hoping to get gauge with size 2 for this sweater which I hope to cast on soon. Will definitely turn off the podcast.

  • Like you, my natural gauge is quite relaxed when compared to the mythical “average knitter”. My last two sweaters were both knit in fingering weight on 2.5mm (which I think is in between 1 & 2 for you). Each one took forever as they had to cover my size 2X self, but I’d do it all over again because the fabric is divine. In fact, I cast on a pullover last night on the same needles.

    • Knitting a fabric you don’t like and won’t wear is a much bigger time waster than knitting on tiny needles. Took me a while—years actually—to learn that!

    • I am an ‘average knitter’ who usually knits to gauge. So not completely mythical.

  • I recently made such a sweater on those size needles. I simply love it ! Wore it every day till it needed to be washed. Then I cast on another. The fabric is wonderful. Very light yet warm. It is the best sweater. Enjoy the knit and be prepared to knit another !

  • Just watching the glory of that yarn unspool as you knit (on your admittedly tiny needles) should spur you on!

  • I also have spring-induced CAT! That evening daylight… yes! I am a loose knitter too. I’m relatively new to sweater making and I’ve only made four so far – but size 2 needles are the largest size I’ve used to complete my sweaters. Same number of stitches, yes… but it seems like our fabric grows so slowly on these tiny needles.

  • Thanks for diagnosing my hitherto unnamed ailment! I’m currently working on a sweater on size 3’s, and the cast on a Mt. Katahdin Cowl yesterday to have something a little more instant gratification-y. That was supposed to be my project while on the plane to Edinburgh next week, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

  • Yarn is yummy. I used to have a minimum needle size rule for prospective projects. A sweater on size 2 would be beyond the limit but since knowing Anne I threw that rule out. Y’all continue to inspire!

  • My standard swatch starts 2 sizes down. I developing an impressive collection of traditionally lace needles for regular knitting.

  • I just finished knitting a dense color work sweater body on size 1.5 needles. I’m currently knitting the sleeves in stockinette for said sweater on a size 2. You can do this. No prob.

  • There should be a support group for us loose (and very loose) knitters! I generally have to go down 3 sizes to get gauge! I recently finished a Fair Isle cardigan (steeked) in fingering weight on 00s! Just to make you feel a bit better. Current project I’m in size 2s and they look so big! It’s all relative.

  • Your sweater Kay, is already beautiful!

  • Thank you for this timely blog post! I’m swatching and just had to go down 2 needle sizes to get gauge. I was not happy about this until I opened my email this morning to find your post. You’re exactly right, it’s the same work on different tools. Thanks so much, I will now go and happily cast on.

  • I bought a skein of Dark Roast at Jill’s open house last year… and knew this would be the color for this sweater… lo and behold, she had 3 skeins left in her shop! I snatched them right up. I can’t believe I’m going to make another brown sweater after my own Double Espresso Calligraphy cardi! And I don’t even drink coffee! Lolol

    What you said about needle size makes so incredibly much sense. It’s still the same number of stitches as everybody else is working.

  • That yarn is gorgeous! Can’t wait to see your finished sweater.

  • I am definitely feeling CAT coming on, but being out of town and away from an LYS or my stash has kept it at bay. I am home now, and the symptoms are much worse!

  • As with the other comments, I also had to go down a needle size to get gauge for a sweater I am working on.
    Thank you for the post.

  • I am a ‘loose knitter’ as well. I was torn between Bottom Line and Petula and I went for Petula as I wanted to do that yoke (yarn is in the mail!) I really like Bottom Line too and I’ll probably gird my loins, get out those itty bitty needles, order some lucious yarn, and jump.

  • Kay makes a very good, very interesting point about needle size.

  • That color is lovely! I, too, am a loose knitter. Since there are so many of us it makes me wonder, are there any tight knitters??

    • Yes there are! And they are always the ones I’m trying to teach to knit!

      • I endorse comedy in class and the suggestion of a beer or glass of wine when the stitches squeek or no longer fall off the needles. Cheers!

    • I admit up-front that I could knit rocks. I am a tight knitter, but have found that a bit of meditative breathing and watching Father Brown mysteries can get me to loosen up to a reasonable degree for this sweater I have on the needles now. But since most of my knitting is in the world of amigurumi, tight knitting is actually a blessing.

    • My daughter is a tight knitter. Her first project was afghan squares and the yarn squeaked on the needles as she knitted. I don’t think her stitches have loosened up much since.

    • I am a tight knitter but a loose purler. Once I figured that out it made it much easier to understand why I usually need to go up a size when knitting in the round, but not when knitting flat. Even for socks the smallest needle i use regularly is a 2.

    • My late mother-in-law was a tight knitter, and I learned the hard way. She knit Christmas stockings for everyone in the family, including her grandkids. We had a “caboose baby” seven years after the last grandkid, and by this point she had moderate dementia and couldn’t knit anymore, so she gave me her yarn (ancient, extruded solid petroleum product—no plies, just solid Aran-weight heft) and recipe (not really a pattern.). I had to knit on like size 2 needles to get her gauge…with what appears to be 1970s Red Heart Super Saver. I had to stop every two rows because my hands were killing me, but my little guy did wind up with a stocking like those of the big kids. 🙂

  • I feel your pain. I’m knitting a top down sweater on 2’s and it is taking FOREVER (really just a week) to get to the 5 inch mark of the underarm, where I get to increase!! the color work yoke is done, the fun part, and now it’s just miles of navy blue. I’m hoping to be done by my April school break so that I can start something else. If I stop now I won’t ever finish it!

  • There is a designer I love, but she is a TIGHT knitter and I always have to drop down 2-3 size needles. I don’t like knitting sweaters on 1s, 2s, or 3s! I’ve had to stop buying her patterns because it just isn’t enjoyable to knit on teeny needles. 🙁

  • What the heck. All this time I’ve been feeling overworked, even less worthy, as a loose, “size down” knitter, and never thought about “it’s the same number of stitches”. I have been reborn.

    • I have to go look up the Elizabeth Zimmermann piece where she praises loose knitting as the best way, and loosening one’s gauge as something to aspire to. Tight knitting is…uptight. I have it on the highest authority!

    • Ann and Kay you are both awesome!

  • I am a loose knitter myself. To get over the sticker shock of the tiny needle size, think of the gauge. Because 26 sts to 4 inches is a nice reasonable number, a cakewalk even, while sizes two needle sounds like a vengeful VIctorian ancestor is making you knit.

  • Ah….CAT. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s just seasonal!

  • If you want the sweater, and you do, it doesn’t matter the needle size or the number of stitches. You do it on your way to creating a beautiful sweater. I used to steer away from sweaters knit in anything but worsted weight or higher, but now I turn more and more to lighter weights, because the sweaters are more versatile and season straddling. This is beautiful, Kay.

  • Your well-timed article had me giggling! The same number of stitches! Of course! Duh! And here I — a VERY loose knitter — have been avoiding anything to be knitted on needles smaller than a 4.

    Alas, the other message in the article — about CAT — made me less than happy. Ordinarily, I have at least three projects going, and yes, spring is the best time to get them going. But I am in the middle of a major house move, and my yarn (and current projects, in a separate bag) are long since packed. And I have no time to knit anyway.

    Sigh. One more week….

  • I’ve always looked at knitting sweaters for myself on #3’s (the smallest I’ve tried) as a motivation to loose weight but I like your logical view much better.

  • I’m not so certain it is the same number of stitches. If your row gauge isn’t the same, you may have to knit more rows, but I love the optimism of your theory.

  • LOL. I tooam a loose knitter. I was once knitting at Knitty City when everyine freaked out about my small needles. I needed to explain why it wasnt a big deal. I think it was a lace peoject….

    • Correction: It was a shrug in worsted or sport (can’t recall which shrug it was), hence the needle since gasps.

  • Amen from another loose knitter.

  • OOooooo, small needles! I love fine yarn sweaters on small needles! The lightness of the fabric is heaven. As one who teaches knitting, and who has often been consulted by knitters who “can’t ever get gauge” the number of responders who said they were loose to very loose knitters concerned me. That said, my concern disappears when they report that going down a needle size or so solves the problem. As for the aforementioned hapless, each and every one had never learned to tension their yarn. ‘Nuff said. I, too, knit loosely. On purpose. On tiny skinny needles. Love’m.

  • I also am very loose knitter! Most unusual for me to knit anything on needles larger than a 4. Which is why I don’t invest in inter changeable needles.

    Have many many tiny lace size circular needles.

    It’s only thing that works for me to get gauge

  • But but but—are there any plans to have Mohonk Light in Dark Roast in the shop? (trying not to whine here)

  • I have all kinds of empathy for and interest in this post, first as I too am a night owl who loves Daylight Savings Time and mutters a lot in the fall when we lose that much-needed afternoon light. IMHO, one night of one hour’s “extra” sleep does not make up for the gloominess that ensues. Also, I LOVE this Dark Roast color, as I am always looking for the Perfect Brown for my coloring. (Graying dark brown hair and hazel eyes.) I also feel your size 2 needle pain, as I also knit very loosely. But you have a good point that “gauge is gauge,” no matter the needle size used to achieve it. And, you seem to be making good progress on your sweater.

  • Oh, and thanks to your post on Dana Williams-Johnson and her prodigious sweater output a few weeks ago, I am going in the exact opposite direction, sweater-wise. I loved the look of DWJ’s Superbulky Grandpa cardigan by Joji Locatelli, and was thrilled by the thought of a quick sweater. I expect that since the yarn I’m using calls for Size 13-15 needles, I’m going down to at least an 11 to get gauge.

  • Oh my what timing!! Just yesterday I picked up some beautiful Yarn Carnival hand dyed fingering weight (beautiful blue variations inspired by Ann’s post!) to knit this same sweater! When I checked out, the gal said, “You’re really brave. I don’t remember the last time I saw anyone but fingering weight for a sweater!”

    I’m waiting for my 2.5 / 3mm needles to arrive tomorrow to start in earnest!

    • “buy” fingering weight, of course! Thanks, autocorrect!

  • That same gasp turned me off from knitting a sweater on size twos in my beginning days of knitting. I think I’ll have to do it in spite of her tsk tsking. Thank you for this!

  • ((@@,./’;,./’; I see “U”! LOL!!

  • I too knit very loosely and am currently knitting socks on a 1.75mm or size 00 (yes, two zeros). I knit all things with a needle size most people use for the next lighter weight. Yes, needle size shouldn’t matter, it’s all about gauge, but it’s hard on the hands to hold very skinny, dainty needles to knit 200 or more stitches for one round! I’d suggest using magic loop if you can, for the sleeves. Very skinny DPNs can be hard to hold and make your hands cramp. good luck!

  • I have knit a sweater on size 2 needles with size 1 for the neckband and button bands. you can do it!

  • Another loose knitter here! Needles bigger than about 5 feel like boat oars to me! Also – I got my paper copy of Downtown today and there’s a BOOKMARK in it ! I use the postcards as bookmarks, but a real bookmark-sized bookmark makes this librarian happy!

  • Yes, you’re right; it’s the same number of stitches! But I still can’t bring myself to knit socks on size zero needles, even thinking about it that way. (Loose knitter here, too.)

    I love the browns of your yarn. It’s going to be delicious.

  • I once went looking for size 1 (or smaller) needles for a baby hat with light fingering and the yarn shop owner told me “that’s crazy; don’t knit that” Seriously?

  • You GO, girl!

  • I’m knitting a sweater on size 3 and it’s going superbly.

  • This is going to be a beautiful sweater! I love those many tones. Dyeing with Black Walnut hulls taught me how much I love shades of brown, and it’s why I never get tired of dyeing with them 🙂

  • Glad to have a name for my spring forward affliction. CAT has taken over my brain. Spent most of two days touching my stash, picking out patterns. Now have two projects cast on, and two more ready. We’ll see how this goes.
    Kay, your sweater is gorgeous. Keep up the good work!