More Needle Gauges (1)

The rest of my gauges are pinned to cork boards. I have tried to group similar items together but the overall order is fairly random.

This shape was fairly common. The lettering, and placement of holes, on the metal gauges, are so similar they look as though they could have been stamped on the same machine. The overall shape is different.

The centre gauge has a ruler along its top edge but there is nothing to indicate what the markings are.

The two gauges on the right have protrusions that look as though they should be hinged as the lid of something. I do not think this was ever how they were used.

The cream coloured gauge is a very unusual material. It looks like cardboard but must be some kind of matt plastic. The sizes on all three gauges are from 000 to 16.

Three Aero gauges, made to look like the ends of knitting needles. Two are the same shape. The one without the Aero name is plain on the back; the other has English sizes from 000 to 14.

The smaller one has a slit, not holes. It has metric sizes on one side and English on the other. It says Use Aero knitting pins. Look for the name on the knob. They probably date from the early 70s, just before the (theoretical) changeover to metric sizing.

Sometimes there is a fine line between what is regarded as a knitting needle gauge and what is a wire gauge. I have some gauges that are definitely wire gauges. They are generally heavier and not of polished metal. Some of the older bells call themselves wire gauges although they are almost identical to those called needle gauges.

The four metal gauges above are grouped together even though they have little in common.

  • The triangle says Knitting Pin Gauge. Standard Wire Gauge. Made in England. It has slots to measure from 5 to 14
  • The bottle opener says Bristol Aluminium Bristol 62-2162 S.W.G. On one side the sizes are SWG (Standard Wire Gauge) 12 – 24. on the other side they are decimal .104 to .022. The measurements are the width of the slits not the holes.
  • The long gauge has nothing to identify it. The holes seem to be in millimetres. The largest is 12 and the smallest is 3. The really strange thing is that some are marked with fractions, such as 6½. If they are decimal measurements I would expect them to be written as decimals.
  • The ‘propeller’ gauge is a rare thing. It was made by the Stratton company (famous for making powder compacts), under the name Stratnoid. It is made from a very lightweight ‘new’ metal alloy
    The arms turn for ease of storage. It dates from early 1930s. The holes are sizes 5 to 12.

Wimberdar gauges seem to have been fairly common. I have never seen any other colours than those shown here. Three say Made in England; the other two do not. The sizes are from 000 to 16 but the holes in the centre do not seem to be in a logical order.

  • The Coronet Pin and Hook Gauge is a metal version of the Wimberdar gauges and is much less common.
  • The ‘tortoiseshell’ plastic gauge is much thinner than any of the others. It has a nice spiral coiling round the holes. It says Alderman British Made and has holes from 000 to 18. I cannot find any references to this anywhere.
  • It seems likely that the other two gauges were from the same company. One says Keepair; the other has no name. They both say Needle Gauge and have the same holes from 5 to 16. I think they were originally the lids of cardboard tubes for holding the needles.

This gauge was given away with Rinso washing powder in the 1930s. The holes are from 1 to 24. On one side it says Use Rinso for every kind of washing. Rinso Knitting Pin Gauge. Use Slots. See other side for hemming gauge. On the back it says Rinso Hemming Gauge. The gauge above ensures straight hems. See other side for knitting gauge.

Several years ago I wrote to the company who made Rinso to ask if they had any information about the gauges. I haven’t been able to find their response but I remember that their comment was “We no longer make Rinso”.

For more information about the history of needle gauges, and the companies that made them see The History of Knitting Pin Gauges by Sheila Williams.

Knitting Needle Boxes with Gauges

I have 14 knitting needle boxes with holes, or slots, for measuring needles. The six above are the oldest. Four of them are definitely bakelite; the others could be slightly later and made of a different plastic.

Underneath they say Bex Made in England. The sizes are from 00 to 16. There is a 12″ ruler on the top.

These two are exactly alike except that one is in its original box. The label, which has fallen off the cardboard box, says No 105 Green Knitting Needle Box Made in England One only

These were also made by Bex. They are narrower and shallower than the bakelite boxes above. Judging from the plastic I think these are later but there are some anomalies with that theory. Generally, over the years, people started to use thicker yarns and the smaller sizes disappeared from gauges. (Higher numbers are smaller sizes). These boxes start at size 1 whereas all the other boxes start at 00. This could imply that they are older.

There are slits, not holes, for measuring the needles. The top has a 12″ ruler.

These are definitely more recent than all the boxes above.

  • Light blue: Made by Bex. Similar in size to the bakelite boxes, but longer. It has a 16″ ruler. The slits are similar to the smaller Bex boxes and measure from 00 to 16.
  • Red: No name. Much softer plastic. Hole sizes from 3 to 14. Two rulers – 12″ and 30 centimetres.
  • Blue: Continental Plastics Pty Ltd Melbourne Australia. Rigid, but thin, plastic. 12″ ruler. Sizes 00 to 16.
  • The other two boxes are alike except for a slight difference in the colour

One box has its original cardboard sleeve. It has a lot of information but no maker’s name.

Knitting Needle Case. Compartments for 7, 9, 10, 12 & 14 inch needles.
A strong rigid case with specially moulded internal compartments to ensure that needles from 7 to 14″ are always at your fingertips. A useful needle gauge and embossed metric and imperial rules make it the ideal knitter’s companion.

The ruler is 10″ and the holes are from 000 to 14.

This is where the boxes usually live.

More Wool-holder Gauges

I don’t know how many wool-holders, with gauges, there ever were. I have four more types (in addition to beehives).

These are hard plastic. On the bottom they say BEX Made in England. The needle slits are for sizes 7 to 14. There is no other information.

I don’t know how many colours were made. Three of these have their original cord straps, and are completely undamaged. They must have been very robust. I have read that these are older than any of the wool-holders with plastic straps as plastic ribbon was was not invented until the mid 1940s.

These two are not exactly alike but I think they are from the same manufacturer. Underneath the yellow one it says Needle Gauge Patents Applied For; the red one says Needle Gauge Patent No. 108383, so is obviously of a slightly later date, after the patent had been granted. Both have needle slits from 5 to 12. They appear to be made from different types of plastic.

They open into two equal sized parts, unlike all my other wool-holders which open near the top or near the bottom. The hole, for the wool to go through, is on the side.

Three acorns. The red and dark green are exactly alike. They say Needle Gauge Made in England U-PLAS. the holes are sizes 9 to 14.

The lighter green says Needle Gauge Regd Made in England but there is no manufacturer’s name. The arrangement of holes is the same as the others and the strap is similar.

These are a very different type. The plastic is flexible and the bottom is attached by a hinge. It fastens with a tiny knob which fits into a slot.

Underneath it says Needle Gauge H.W. 1257 NB WARE MADE IN ENGLAND. This is the same manufacturer as the beehives but with a different model number. The company that made them was NB Mouldings.

Both have their original plastic ribbon straps. The hole sizes are 6 to 14.

This is where they usually live along with some other wool-holders that do not have gauges.

To Eternity and Beyond

I have been continuing to work on my From Square To Eternity design (see blog post from March 25 for the first stages).

This is what I was aiming for

These are probably as near as I’m going to get. The image never disappears when you look directly at the print. I think this is because the print has hard edges whereas the lines of the knitting blend together.

I tried several different refinements to get to this stage.

It would have been pointless, and time-consuming to create a more complicated design so I decided to experiment with simple stripes.

I started with a block about 8 cm square. It clearly didn’t work and it wasn’t really necessary to make such a large sample – so I made a smaller one. The size of the piece does affect where the filaments trail across.

To make the stripes more obvious the tops of the sticking-up parts needed to be thinner so that they cast less shadow. The grey and yellow is the same as shown above. The red and yellow has thinner stripes and it is certainly easier to see that the two colours do go right across. With a little cleaning up this would work well.

This was the method I used for the ‘eternity’ samples above but it didn’t solve all the problems.

I thought it might look better with less-contrasting colours.

The smaller sample has stripes 2 mm wide. The larger one was printed from the same file but at one and a half times the size.

They do not give any impression of the stripes in the two halves being continuous.


Prior to 1920, J. and J. Baldwin’s Wool and Paton’s Yarn’s, were separate companies both manufacturing wool for commercial purposes. They merged and went into producing wool for home knitters. They published patterns under Paton’s Rose and Baldwin’s Beehive trademarks then quickly became Paton’s & Baldwin’s (or P & B) and used only the Beehive trademark. For many years, they were the best known wool company in UK.

All of their gauges are in the shape of beehives. Some are flat and others are wool-holders with gauges set into the screw-on bottoms.

These were made by other companies not P & B themselves.

The oldest gauges were made of metal, probably in the 1920s.

This one looks older, and is quite rare. It might have been made to celebrate the tenth anniversary.

It is unusual because it has both the Paton’s Rose and the Baldwin’s Beehive.

There are three obviously different plastic gauges. They seem to be of several different types of plastic, presumably as plastics changed over the years.

This is quite thick plastic, similar in size and shape to the first metal one above. The needles are measured in slots.
Thinner plastic with holes for measuring the needles.
Holes are now only sizes 1 – 14, instead of 1 – 18 (Fine yarns, and needles, were used less often).

Some gauges appear the same at first glance but have subtle differences.

The overall shape, and arrangement of holes, are the same but the lettering is not. They also seem to be made of a different plastic. I believe that the gauges with the larger lettering were made in Australia.

This one is very unusual. It is the standard British shape and lettering. I have never seen this colour in any other gauge.

It has two rotating dials which could be used to count rows. I suspect this was someone’s personal adaptation. It seems very unlikely that the manufacturers would add something that obliterates part of the name.

Click slideshow to see all the beehives in the order they appear on the board.

I have ten beehive wool holders. They are identical in size and shape. I am not an expert in plastics but they don’t all seem to be the same. On the base it says H.W. 748 NB WARE MADE IN ENGLAND. The base screws off so that the ball of wool can be put inside and fed through the hole at the top. The needle gauge measures sizes 8 – 14

I have six that still have their original ribbed plastic handles. These must have been very substantial to have lasted so well.

All of my wool-holders live at the top of a rather dark staircase that leads to workrooms in the cellar. The beehives are housed in an IKEA CD tower.

From Square To Eternity

One of our favourite mathematical designs is something we call From Square To Eternity. It will be very familiar to mathematicians and quilters.

From Square To Eternity afghan

The four triangles that make up the new square have the same area as everything that has gone before. If you find that difficult to believe, imagine folding in the last set of triangles. They will meet in the centre and exactly cover the previous square. It all works thanks to Pythagoras’ Theorem and the magical properties of the square root of 2.

It is a square inside a square inside a square, etc., with one square standing flat and the next standing on its point. (Incidentally, we always avoid using the word diamond for a square standing on its point. It is definitely a square.) This pattern can go on for ever. It is a mathematician’s delight because each new square doubles the area of the design.

Square Root afghan

This seemed an ideal design to try 3D printing.

The first version was just the outline of the squares. It came out fairly well. The outer edge was a bit uneven but easily smoothed off. The rest is more-or-less as it came out of the printer.

I got more adventurous and tried some filled-in versions using both nozzles of the printer to use two colours.

Getting the settings right for just one colour can be quite tricky. Using two colours seems more than twice as difficult.

All filaments behave differently even when they are the same make. It takes a lot of experimentation to find what temperature is best for each. The results are affected by the temperature in the room, in the printer, on the bed of the printer, and in the nozzle that feeds the filament.

The two nozzles can be set to different temperatures but the two filaments do not always work together in the way you want them to. These squares are all experiments. They show some of the problems I encountered.

I could have gone on experimenting with this design but wanted to try something else.

I am best known for my illusion knitting designs and wanted to try some of the same methods. Most of my designs are very intricate so I decided to go back to where it all began.

Illusion knitting works because some of the stitches stand up and others lie flat. When you view it from an angle you only see the stitches that are standing up. When you look from directly in front you see stripes. The same principles should work by 3D printing some parts that stand up and other parts that don’t.

There is a long way to go to get the effect I was looking for.

Buy From Square To Eternity afghan pattern on Ravelry
Buy Square Root afghan pattern on Ravelry
Download Square To Eternity Illusion sample on Ravelry

Viyella Gauges

I have four Viyella knitting needle gauges. They are basically the same but are all different. Some differences are more obvious than others.

The same picture is on the back of three of the drums. It is of two children, in the style of Mabel Lucie Attwell but I cannot confirm that she was the artist.

The other drum has no picture. I have read that this was to save costs during WW2 but it seems unlikely that such an elaborate object would still be made only changing the printing.

All are marked as Needle Gauge and Knitting Recorder. The sizes of the holes are 1 – 7 at one end and 8 – 17 at the other. In addition to the holes for measuring the needles, the top and bottom of the drums turn to reveal the numbers 1 – 24. These are for counting the rows, or anything else you want to keep track of. The two sets of numbers are in different colours so you know which is which.

The top and bottom are held in place by screws which are joined by a strong spring, leaving the shiny parts able to rotate.

It is not possible to determine the exact date of these gauges but some were definitely made before others. The black one with the picture has nothing to suggest a date. The other black one and one of the others say Patent Pending. The fourth says Brit.Pat.No.408594

The application for the patent was made in 1932 and was accepted in 1934. This would suggest that two of these examples date from between 1932 and 1934 when the patent was still pending, one is from after 1934, the other is of an unknown date.

The application was from William Hollins and Company Limited and Horace Josiah Ball. Both of theses were from Nottingham. The final specification says:

This invention relates to improvements in number indicating devices for the use of knitters, or for use as a calendar, or for scoring points in a game, or for like purposes, and its object is to provide a convenient and inexpensive arrangement of the cylindrical type, the members of which can be more conveniently adjusted than in existing devices, and will not be likely to become accidentally displaced after being set.
According to this invention, the device comprises a hollow cylindrical casing of any convenient dimensions, with end covers of the pill box lid type which fit on the exterior of its ends These covers are angularly adjustable on the body, and numbers are disposed round either the ends of the body or the rims of the end covers, the relation of which numbers to a point on the other part being adjusted by turning !he end covers on the body.
A centrally disposed spring may be provided for holding the end covers on the body, and the several parts described are when the device is made on a small scale, preferably of thin sheet metal but a nonmetallic material may be used when the device is made of a large size.
The invention will now be more particularly described with reference to the accompanying drawing, in which Fig 1 is a front view, and Fig 2 a section of a number indicating device constructed according to our rue invention.
Fig 3 is a view of one end of the device, and Fig 4 a view of the reverse end.
Fig 5 is a front view showing an alternative arrangement
Fig 6 is a front view showing a construction which is large enough to hold a ball of yarn.
Like letters indicate like parts throughout the drawing.
Referring first to the arrangement shown in Figs 1 to 4, A is the cylindrical body, and B and C are the end covers which fit like pill box lids on the ends of the said body. If preferred, these two end covers B and C may in order to prevent them from becoming accidentally displaced, be connected by an interior spring D as shown in Fig 2. In this case each cover is formed with a central hole, studs E are located in these holes, and their inner ends are connected to the two ends of a centrally disposed spiral spring D which is in tension. In one arrangement, the rims of the covers B and C may have numbers engraved or stamped all round them, while the cylindrical body A has two points indicated thereon, that is, one near each end cover, and the two covers can be rotated to bring any of the numbers thereon into register with these points on the body and thus register the same.
In the preferred arrangement which is shown in the drawing, the numbers are engraved or stamped round the two ends of the cylindrical body A, in such a position-that they are covered by the rims of the end covers B and C, and each of the latter is formed with a single opening F so disposed, that by turning the end covers, each will expose one number on the body at a time.
In order to prevent confusion, the end covers B and C or the numbers on each end of the body A may be of different colours, and both of a different colour to the middle exposed portion of the cylindrical body A.

The provisional specification has more features for knitters but these are not included in the final, approved, patent.

The device may be used by knitters for recording the number of courses knitted, and the number of stitches knitted in the last course, or other information respecting the progress of the work, when the latter is laid down, so as to obviate the necessity for counting when the work is taken up again It can also be used for scoring points in games in which two players or two sides are taking part.
If desirable the portion of the body part between the two end covers may have narrow stripes of different colours or shades disposed thereon parallel to the axis of the body, and this part of the latter may be enclosed by an external rotary casing with a gap at one point in its circumference Each shade or colour can then be separately exposed to view by adjusting the gap in the outer casing in register with them, and the different shades or colours which can thus be seen disassociated from the remainder, may be numbered so that a record can be kept of any one, or a series of them for future reference. Other uses may be made of the device, for instance if months of the year are substituted for the colours, the device can be used as an adjustable calendar.
For the use of knitters, the end covers may be formed with a series of holes, which are graduated in size and are numbered so as to form a knitting pin gauge, and in some cases the device may be made large enough to hold a ball of yam that is being worked up, and this yarn is wound so that it can be conveniently withdrawn through an opening which is provided for the purpose, preferably in the centre of one of the end covers.
In this case the several parts constituting the device may be most conveniently constructed of a substance such as cardboard, or of composition, and owing to its increased diameter and the material
used in its construction, the end cover connecting spring is not required to prevent accidental displacement of the end covers, when they have been once set.

Viyella was a well-known company in UK. It was owned by William Hollins, who started making woven fabrics in the 1890s. It is still known today as a high-end fashion brand. There is very little information to be found about its knitting yarns but these were certainly popular in the 1930s. A few patterns and magazine adverts can be found online. The V&A has a copy of Viyella Knitting Book No 3 which includes 71 patterns. William Hollins is listed as the publisher.

A New Puppy

We get lots of requests for more baby blankets and it’s been quite a long time since the last one so Steve designed this cute little puppy blanket.

It is very difficult to photograph illusion knitting. When you look straight at the knitting you only see narrow stripes. The image appears when you look from an angle.

I knitted it using Stylecraft Special DK in Cream and Mocha. This is still my favourite yarn because it is inexpensive, easily available, washes well, and comes in a huge range of colours. I like this particular combination of colours which I also used last year to make a pair of blankest for twins, reversing the colours.

Buy the Puppy pattern on Ravelry
Buy the Teddy Bear pattern on Ravelry

We also have other illusion knit baby blankets.

The Bells

I used to collect knitting needle gauges – for a rather perverse reason.

Our first knitting book (Woolly Thoughts) was about modular knitting using any needles and any yarn to make a garment of the right size without ever having to knit a tension square (known as a gauge square, or swatch, in US). Many knitters hate tension squares, or just can’t be bothered to make them. They are vital in some garments but not always. Knitters get hung up on trying to achieve the right tension using the needles given on the pattern or ball band.

Knitting needle gauges, theoretically, tell you what size your needles are but that doesn’t help you to know what size stitches you will get. Different knitters can achieve the same result by using wildly different sized needles. Knitting is bit like handwriting and varies from person to person.

Gauges are useful for matching up needles but they are not totally reliable as they can vary from one make to another.

I have over 200 gauges. 36 of them are bells, all different. One gauge on these boards is not a bell-shape but it is the oldest gauge I have and deserves pride of place.

The Fairfax Knitting Pin and Wire Gauge
The Fairfax Registered No 278068

The Fairfax, and the two gauges next to it, date back to 1847. It is possible to roughly estimate the age of a gauge by looking at the size of needles that it was intended to measure. The oldest gauges are from the days when wool and needles were very fine. Gauges from 1847 have holes or slots for size 28 needles. In those days needles were usually referred to as knitting pins or wires.

The sizes were based on the measurement of industrial wires. It may seem contrary that the finest needles had the highest numbers but this is because they relate to how long a piece of wire was stretched out to be. A size 2 needle means that the wire was stretched twice as far as for a size 1 needle. A size 28 means the wire was stretched 28 times as far. 28 needles could be made from the same piece of wire, making a very fine needle.

The Birmingham Wire Gauge was used because many of the factories making needles and gauges were in Redditch, which is a town near Birmingham.

Some old gauges were made in very fancy shapes and these now change hands at high prices.

Bell-shaped gauges were very common. It may seem a strange shape but it was really a very practical way to produce a decorative item.

Very little metal was wasted when they were stamped out from a full sheet. The curved edges may also give a more usable perimeter.

The shape evolved slightly over time. The oldest bells had straight slits for measuring the needles. These changed to being rounded holes with slits. The reason for this is unclear and it seems as though it may only have made knitters more confused because they weren’t really sure which part to use for measuring. Later still the slits disappeared completely and there were only holes.

The history of these bells is very vague. Some were produced for big-name companies so they probably had them specially made. Others were mass-produced but if a company bought a certain number they were embossed with their own logo or other information. It is not known how many factories were producing bells. They were not all made from the same metal and some seem to be thicker and/or better quality than others.

Many people say they have a bell gauge, believing them all to be the same. The bells on the boards are all different. In many cases the differences are minimal and might only be a different metal or a different typeface. I have no idea how many more there might be that I didn’t find.

2 Chambers & Co Bell Gauge Patented 17 Sept 1847
3 Chambers & Co Bell Gauge Patented 17 Sept 1847
4 Jager
5 The Clock Knitting Pin Gauge Made in England
6 Abel Morall Redditch (Trademark: Griffin)
7 Abel Morall’s Metal Gauge (Trademark: Griffin)
8 Abel Morall’s Metal Guage (sic) (Trademark: Griffin)
9 Abel Morall’s Metal Gauge (Trademark: Griffin)
10 H Walker London Bell Gauge Patented Wire Gauge (Trademark: Lion & Unicorn)
11 H Walker London Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
12 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
13 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
14 H Walker London The Archer Bell Gauge (Trademark: Archer)
15 Faudels London Made in England The Peacock Knitting Gauge
16 Pearsalls Ltd Knitting Pin Gauge Little Britain (Trademark: Carrier Pigeon)
17 The “Sabre” Knitting Pin Gauge Made in England
18 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Metal Gauge Trade Mark (Trademark: Scales)
19 Vicars’ Knitting Pin Gauge
20 Vicars’ Knitting Pin Gauge
21 W Hall & Co Ltd (Trademark: Elephant)
22 Woodfields Redditch England Knitting Pin Gauge Trade Mark (Trademark: Cross)
23 No markings
24 (Trademark: Bell)
25 Rainsford Note Knitting pin size is width of slots
26 One Inch
27 Knitting Pin Gauge
28 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Made in England Regd. No. 804915 Trade Mark Metal Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge (Trademark: Scales)
29 Alfred Shrimpton & Sons Metal Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Trade Mark Regd. No. 804915 (Trademark: Scales)
30 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Cross Fox Trade Mark (Trademark: Crossed foxes)
31 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Cross Fox Trade Mark (Trademark: Crossed foxes)
32 Abel Morall’s “Aero” Knitting Pin and Tension Gauge Made in England Regd. No. 804915
33 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
34 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
35 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
36 Emu One Inch (Trademark: Emu)
37 Knitting Needle Gauge Presented with Woman’s World

I acquired several duplicates. Many have been given away. Some hang from a swift as wind chimes.

There will be further posts about my gauges in the future.