How Big Is Your Paint Brush?

I am totally serious. How big a paint brush do you use for different painting tasks?

You use a roller for large areas, and you use perhaps a two-inch brush for getting close around door frames, window frames, baseboards, and ceilings. (And if you’ve never tried the one with the bristles cut at an angle, you’ve been missing out.) Nothing revolutionary or unexpected here.

Let’s consider now that you have no two-inch brush, that all you have is a roller. Oh, and you’re out of tape, too. And no stores are open.

How hard is it going to be for you to do a nice, clean edge along your doors, windows, baseboards, and ceilings? Imagine trying to roll along all the trim without slopping any paint onto the wood. You might stick it out for a door or window or wall, but I expect you’re simply going to stop until you can adjust the tool you use.

And ceilings? Oy. Even with a cut-in edge, I frequently hit the ceiling when I’m rolling the walls.

On the other end of the scale, would you try to paint an entire room with a two-inch brush? Nope.

Why not? Because the tools don’t fit the tasks.

How does this little example relate to knitting?

The second scenario doesn’t come up very often in knitting. If you’re desperate, because you dropped your US size 17/12 mm needle somewhere between the front door and the sideline at the kids’ soccer practice, you might piddle a few rows using a pencil you found underneath the passenger seat in your futile search for the needle. You have to pull each new stitch’s loop a bit longer, because the pencil isn’t nearly as big around as a 17. But you’ll make do.

The first scenario, on the other hand, is more common than I like to think about.

Using a big roller to do very detailed painting tasks is exactly what so many new-ish knitters struggle with when they try to use the needle size recommended on the ball band or in the project instructions. In the same way that using a big roller doesn’t work well along untaped moldings and uncut edges at the ceiling, big needles can make it hard for loose slack non-tight knitters to get gauge.

For me to get five stitches per inch (twenty stitches per ten cm) in worsted weight yarn, I have to use…a US size 4/3.50 mm needle. Worsted weight ball bands often suggest using US size 5–8/3.75–5.00 mm to get that gauge. Can you imagine how hard I’d have to pull the yarn to get gauge on a size 8/5.00 mm? I’d practically have to strangle the needle with the yarn, and I’d last about twenty stitches before I got massive cramps in my fingers, arms, and shoulders.

It’s so much easier, and more relaxing, and of course not at all cramp-inducing, for me to use a smaller needle to get that gauge. ’Cause I’m a loose knitter, and proud of it.

If you’re having trouble getting enough stitches per inch/10 cm, don’t be afraid to go down a needle size. Or two. Or three. Or whatever it takes.

Next time I paint, I won’t be using a roller around all the trim, either, even if it is taped off.


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