Knitters can’t do without them, but there are so many types of knitting needles available, how do you choose? I often tell people it’s a personal thing, but here is some information to help with the choice.
Straight – these are the style that most people think of when you say “knitting needles”. They are basically a straight stick with one end tapered to a point and a knob on the other end. Straight needles come in a shorter or longer length, to accommodate fewer or more stitches. I only use shorter straight needles (I’ll explain why in the next section).
Circular – these look like they have two straight needles connected by a string. Actually, they are basically two short, straight needles with a flexible cable (often plastic) joining them. These have become my preferred needles. You can knit flat or in the round and they come in a variety of lengths (use longer ones for bigger projects like sweaters and afghans, shorter ones for hats, scarves and smaller projects). The biggest reason I like the circular style is because of my hands and wrists and elbows. Circular needles are much easier on your joints (especially if you have arthritis or tendonitis). They are also easier to travel with, since your project can slide down to stay safely on the cable, and they are easier to store (mine are coiled in a tote bag).
Double Point – these look like straight needles, except that they have tapered points at both ends. Double point needles are most often used for knitting smaller items in the round, such as hats, socks and sleeves of sweaters. I also like to use them in place of straight needles when knitting a small flat piece. Many people are afraid of double points, but while they do require a bit more attention, and seem a bit awkward, they really aren’t that different.
Knitting needles are available in a variety of materials too, including metal, wood, plastic and even a few more usual materials like bone or glass.
The Addi Turbo line of needles is one of the best out there, designed for experienced knitters. I usually don’t recommend them for beginners. They are a slick coated metal, so the knitting seems to fly, but if you’re not prepared, the knitting can fly right off the needles!
I used to be a fan of the standard aluminum, but have fallen in love with bamboo. The smooth texture, the warm feel of wood, and the way the yarn moves across the needles, but still grips is wonderful. And bamboo is sustainable (one of those important Eco friendly words) because the trees can be harvested and then regrow quickly. The needles also have a flexibility (which you don’t really notice) that makes them comfortable to use.
You do have to take into consideration the yarn you’ll be using when you choose your needles. Sometimes I have started a project then had to change needles because the yarn didn’t move the way I wanted it to. Some yarns slide too much on some needles while others won’t slide easily enough. For example, chenille type yarns do not slide well on bamboo needles. If one thing isn’t working, switch needles so that you’re comfortable working.
One more needle tool you should consider:
Needle Gauge: I’m on my third needle gauge – I am always loosing them! They are a little investment (we have a number of options including one that sells for $2.00.) that is so helpful. My Addi Turbo needles are marked on the cable with the size (of course I don’t keep packaging) but it is so small and partially worn off, that I can’t tell what size the needles really are without the gauge. Also, I do have a few aluminum double point needles and no idea what sizes they are. The little ruler on the gauge is also handy for measuring your gauge swatch.
Go ahead and try a few things and find what works for you!
Happy Knitting! by Cathy Mark
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