Knitting Needle - Types and How to Choose
Knitting Needles come in a variety of sizes, materials and
styles in order to enable knitters to create a range of stitch
sizes and knitted pieces.
Knitting needles are typically made of wood, metal or plastic
and come in sizes 0000 - 50 and are available in straight,
circular, double pointed and interchangeable styles.
Knitting Needle Materials
While different types of needles have different attributes,
material choice really comes down to personal preference. In order
to find the right needle for you, you will need to try out each
type and decide what you like. However, here are a few general
guidelines for commonly used knitting needles.
Wooden needles have become the standard in the knitting world,
with bamboo needles firmly holding the place for the most popular
Wood needles can be made of any hardwood and offer knitters an
even knitting speed, a smooth finish and a warmth and softness to
the touch that metal and acrylic needles lack. Wooden needles
are generally the most expensive style. Bamboo needles offer a
cheaper alternative to traditional wood needles with the same
warmth and softness that wooden needles offer.
Metal knitting needles are most often crafted out of aluminum
but can also be made from brass or nickel.
Metal needles are more durable than their wood or plastic
counterpart and offer knitters faster speeds while knitting and the
smoothest surfaces. Metal needles are particularly useful with
yarns that tend to catch and can make knitting with them a
smoother, less frustrating experience. Metal needles also
provide the classic "clicking" sound while being used. Some people
enjoy the sound of knitting needles at work while others dislike
the sound and opt for quieter options.
Plastic needles are the least expensive type of knitting needle
and may be a good choice for someone who is interested in trying
knitting out for the first time. They offer smoothness comparable
to wooden needles and are the lightest in weight. Plastic needles
come in extended sizes and are therefore the best choice when very
large stitches are called for. They are also often used when
knitting alternative materials such as shredded plastic bags,
lengths of rags for rag rugs and rope.
Knitting needles can also be made of poured resin or glass. Both
options offer a smooth, dense needle for knitters but are harder to
find and less commonly used.
Knitting Needle Styles
Straight knitting needles are the style of needle that most
often comes to mind when people think of knitting needles. Straight
needles come as a pair and can most commonly be purchased in
lengths of 7", 10", 12" and 14". They are best for smaller
projects where there is no excessive bulk on the needles while you
work, such as scarves, baby blankets, wraps or projects that are
knitted in sections and then sewn together (known as piecing).
Arguably the more versatile style of needle,
Circular needles can be used for projects of most sizes.
Circular needles consist of two short pointed ends joined with
varying lengths of cord, usually made of plastic. Circular needles
typically come in lengths of 16", 20", 24" and 32". They are most
commonly used for larger projects such as seamless sweaters, large
blankets or scarves that are knitted horizontally because the cord
offers more space for the stitches. Another benefit of circular
needles is that the weight of the project is distributed across the
cord and can rest in your lap while you knit, making the knitting
lighter on your wrists. Circular needles can be used for most small
projects as well; making them an excellent all around needle
Double pointed needles (commonly referred to as DPN's) are
short needles with points at both ends. They are commonly sold in
sets of four or five and are designed for knitting in the round,
meaning knitting without a seam. DPN's are best for socks and baby
hats and are occasionally used for seamless sleeves.
Interchangeable needle sets offer an excellent option for the
dedicated knitter. These sets are comprised of short needle tips,
similar to the ends of circular needles, in a range of sizes, and
different lengths of cords. The cords and needle tips can be
combined to create circular sets of different lengths and sizes.
Some styles of interchangeables can also be used to create
different lengths of straight needle sets. The needles are
generally assembled by screwing the pieces together, although some
snap in place and some use a small key to attach the points to the
cords. While purchasing a set of interchangables can seem
expensive, they are generally less than buying each needle size and
length separately. Interchangeable sets also come with a case,
which makes storing the different pieces simple and efficient.
Determining What Size You Need
While most projects and yarns will list a needle size, this
is merely a suggestion. Everyone knits differently and the
tightness of your knitting has to be taken into account when
choosing your needles. The best way to determine the size of needle
needed for a project is through finding the gauge. Gauge simply
refers to how many stitches per inch you knit with a particular
yarn and needle. Most patterns will list a gauge for the project
and this is more important than the listed needle size. In order to
find your gauge, knit a test swatch and measure how many stitches
per inch you knit, then adjust up or down a needle size until your
gauge matches the pattern.
Knitting Projects to Try
There is a never-ending supply of simple, easy knitting patterns
available to get you started. Why not try creating a simple knitted
bracelet for example?
Starter kits are an excellent option for first time knitters,
providing needles and step-by-step instructions for the beginner.
Also there's a large variety of
project idea books, designed for all skill levels and knitting
interests. The best resource for patterns, both free and purchased,
is Ravelry.com, an online community for knitters and crocheters
that offers a place for members to display and discuss their
About the Author
Gillian Grimm lives in New York City where she balances writing,
cooking and crafts in a tiny apartment with, two kids, a dog, a cat
and a husband. As the daughter of a Journalist, she grew up all
over the United States, switching schools, towns and newspapers
every few years and loved every minute of it! She now works as a
freelance writer, primarily in the craft industry but with a few
forays into travel writing, narrative non-fiction and educational
matters. Gillian was recently published in the literary journal the
Review". You can find more of Gillian's work at "Dried
Figs and Wooden Spools".
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