This week we’re doing a deep dive into knitting needles and we’ll (try to) answer all your questions. I’ve learnt a ton writing this (I think I’m going to change needles to something that better fits my knitting style now) so I think it’s worth a read for beginners and experienced knitters alike.
Before we talk about needles I have to mention that there are two main ways to knit; Flat Knitting – This is knitting back and forth to create a flat piece of fabric and Circular Knitting – This is knitting around in a spiral to create a tube. I won’t go into detail here but you need to know which you want to knit before you can choose your needles.
What size needles do I need?
Knit a gauge swatch! The pattern will tell you where to start but you won’t really know if the size is right for you until you try it. If your swatch is too small then try a larger needle size, if it’s too big try a smaller size. This is a whole subject in itself but definitely worth a mention here. (I’m not even going to start about the metric vs US vs UK sizing 🤦♀️).
A different type of needle might change your gauge so be extra careful to swatch after making a purchase.
Bamboo? Plastic? Aluminum?
Knitting needles are made from all sorts of different materials that let your yarn slip off the end more or less easily – it just comes down to personal preference!
Looser knitters enjoy more grip so might prefer bamboo or wooden needles. Tighter knitters (like myself) are likely to prefer aluminium or steel needles since they have more slip and are stronger.
If you’re just learning to knit and are worried about stitches falling off the needles then start with more grip, if you’re more confident and feel like they’re slowing you down, try more slip.
Why can’t I use Straight Needles for everything?
Straight Needles are a super easy traditional knitting option for flat knitting (but they can’t do circular knitting). One end is pointy and one end has a stopper. If you’re getting your head around how to do basic stitches I would recommend these. I personally find that straight needles are really easy to hold because of their length and I always have a relaxed hand when knitting with them. Their simplicity is kind of wonderful and you can get pretty creative with what you can use as “straight needles”.
What are Double Pointed Needles?
So it’s pretty obvious Double Pointed Needles (AKA DPNs) have two points (one on each side) but why? Circular Knitting.
They come in packs of five but I personally prefer to only use four together – so just give it a go and find what works for you! (I’m going to be saying that a lot).
Wait, aren’t Circular Needles for circular knitting?
Yes and No (?!?)
Circular Needles are great for circular knitting but they’re great for flat knitting too (It’s exactly the same as knitting with straight needles). My wrists are prone to swelling so I especially like that you don’t have to hold the full weight of the project on the needles. You can rest your project on your lap while you work so they’re easy going on the hands.
Interchangeable Needles or Fixed Circular Needles?
Interchangeable Needles are definitely the staff pick at Loopine. They are made up of separate cables and tips (which you usually buy separately) so you can mix and match as much as you like. It means you can have fewer tools in your bag. I like to have multiple projects on the go on different cables, if two projects call for the same size needle I can just swap them in as needed rather than buying more.
Should I Invest in a Set of Interchangeable Needles?
If you’re buying needles for the first time try a bunch of different options and find out what works for you first! If you know your favorite needle type and brand already then go for it – a set will be cheaper.
There are many brands of interchangeable needles that you could pick and they all have different strengths. Unfortunately they don’t mix and match with each other so you have to choose one brand to knit with. Hiya Hiya and ChiaoGoo are both popular choices, they have sharp, light-weight needles with similar sizing options. Hiya Hiya cables have an ingenious swivel that stop them from getting twisted up as you knit. ChiaoGoo have beautiful sturdy cables that are memory free so they don’t get kinks in them. They also have shorter or longer needle tips to choose from.
Magic Loop or DPNs for Small Circumference Knitting?
Wow, for knitting things like sleeves and socks there are so many more options than you might expect!
DPNs are a great choice – Alanna swears by them. If five DPNs are more needle transitions than you’d like try Addi Crasy Trio or Hiya Hiya Sharp Flyers. These are knitted with the same technique as DPNs but because they’re flexible you only need three needles. The Addi Crasy Trio are a little less flexible and like to keep their curve while Hiya Hiya Sharp Flyers are truly flexible and can easily move in any direction. Again – Try them out and find what works for you!
If you like circular needles (like me) then you’ve got a few choices here too. I love the Magic Loop technique. It’s super easy, even for a beginner – I used it in my second ever knitting project. Magic Loop means I can use my regular circular needles, I don’t have to buy anything special.
Here’s a tutorial video on Magic Loop to get you going.
If you don’t want the fuss of loops getting in your way short circulars are the way to go. They’re circular needles the same length of your project so you can just keep knitting round and around. Easy peasy. The only catch is they’re not going to work if they’re not exactly the right length so try them out first!
Addi Sock Wonder are a short circular innovation with needle tips of different lengths making them easier to use and manipulate. If you’ve got ChiaoGoo interchangeable needles you can also buy needle tips of different length and make these yourself by mixing and matching.
Hopefully that helps! – I know it’s been a long one 🙂