So you’ve decide to give knitting a go (yay, welcome aboard!) but you haven’t started yet because you took one look at Amazon and got scared by the sheer number of tools out there, not to mention all that yummy yarn! How do you choose the right knitting needles for you?
There may be more knitting needle variations than you can shake a stick at but don’t worry, I’ve got you. How do you know which knitting needles are the right ones for you?
Do you go for straight or circular?
Bamboo or metal?
Long or short?
Don’t worry my friend, I’m here to answer all of your questions.
In this tutorial you’ll learn what style, size and material will suit you best and I’ll even throw in some of my recommendations that you can shop via my AMAZON SHOP.
(Some of my posts contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links it won’t cost you a penny more but I get a small commission. For example as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases that you make if you click one of my links)
Straight vs Circular Knitting Needles
First things first, the main decision to make is whether to go for straight or circular knitting needles.
Straight needles are the traditional ‘sticks’ that your granny used, with a point at one end and a knob or stopper at the other end to stop the stitches falling off.
These are perfect for flat projects such as sweaters, scarves or blankets and many people love their straight needles over circulars.
Circular knitting needles are shorter and are joined together with a cable (usually made from plastic or nylon). These are often used for knitting ‘in the round’ for projects such as hats or socks
This cable is sometimes fixed or can be unscrewed and used on different size needles. These are known as interchangeable needles as both the needles and the cable can be swapped around to fit your project.
(I would recommend checking for nylon cables as these tend to be stronger than the hollow plastic cables on some cheaper sets.)
It’s important to check the join between the cable and the needle as stitches can catch between then and snag, making your progress much slower!
I’ve listed some of my favourite straight & circular knitting needles here
If you’re worried about which size of needle to choose the label on your yarn will generally tell you which size (usually in mm) works best with that yarn. This knitting needle guide should also help
Short vs Long Knitting Needles
Straight knitting needles are useful for beginners as they can be easier to handle. They tend to come in a standard 35cm length which is great for everything up to sweater size but they can become heavy if you are aiming to create a blanket or afghan.
Shorter lengths (around 15cm) are often recommended for children but are also useful for smaller projects or when you’re travelling.
If you’re knitting ‘in the round’ ie small tubular projects such as tops of hats and socks then double pointed needles can be handy, these are typically much shorter (more like large tooth pick!) and come in sets of 4-6 to help you work your way round your project, although for slightly larger projects most people prefer circulars.
Circular needles come in both fixed lengths and with interchangeable cables so you can always find something to suit the project you have planned.
These are handy for larger, heavier projects such as blankets as the weight of the knitting can sit in your lap rather than strain your wrists and is easier to work if the stitches are not all crammed onto the length of the needle .
Don’t think you have to keep them for special occasions though…..oh no.…. circular needles are the go to for me, it’s so easy to work a flat project then swap your needles over just as you would with straight needles and when your ready for a coffee break those stitches are MUCH less likely to slide off if they’re sitting pretty on the cable ;o)
I personally prefer interchangeables such as these KNIT PRO interchangeables as they offer so much more flexibility and are easier to store than buying each size of needles in several cable lengths! (this set on the right below is good for helping you decide whether you prefer wood or metal too)
If you get part way through your project and want to start a new project it’s easy to unscrew them add some end stops and start casting on again. Plus you’re less likely to lose one of your pair if they’re held together with a cable!!
Bamboo vs Metal Knitting Needles
Which material you use really comes down to personal preference. I generally recommend bamboo or wood needles for beginners as there is slightly more resistance than metal knitting needles so the stitches are less likely to slide off – and you don’t want to be having to deal with picking up dropped stitches when you’re just learning – it’s far too stressful!
Once you get more confident and maybe want to work at a slightly faster rate then it may make sense to migrate to metal needles which are just that bit more ‘slippery’.
Best Knitting Needles For Beginners & Children
So by now you might be starting to put it all together right?
Whether you’re 8 or 88, beginners are best with bamboo or wooden needles as their rougher surface means stitches are less likely to slide off unintentionally.
Straight needles are generally easier to handle at first, especially for a child’s smaller hands.
As for size, chunky is always good!
It can take a little while for the knitting knack to kick in, so while you’re practising I recommend using bigger needles (10 or 12mm) and chunky wool (size 5 bulky or size 6 super bulky) to help you see how the loops work together.
Always check your yarn label which will tell you the recommended size of needle for that yarn. If your needles are too small your loops will be too tight for you to insert your needle in and you’ll end up with one big ball of knots….if your needles are too big you will end up with giant loose loops and nobody wants a sweater that reaches the floor!!
Best Knitting Needles for Specialist Yarns
Once you have more knitting experience you’ll start to notice the characteristics of different yarn materials.
Some, like cotton, linen and silk are more slippery and can fall off the needle easily. You may prefer to use wooden and bamboo needles with these.
Certain wools with a fluffier or catchy feel to them such as mohair, alpaca or man made acrylics tend to slide more slowly along the needle so you may prefer a more slippery metal needle to compensate.
Pointy or not pointy? That all depends on…. yep you guessed it…. your yarn, or if you’re a ‘tapper’.
Some faster knitters love a good point to their needle, especially these favourite HIYA HIYA pointy needles for faster working, but if you tend to ‘tap’ the end of the needle with your fingertip as you move your stitches along this can get quite painful!
Best Knitting Needles For Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Knitting can be very addictive and even though your hands and wrists may be causing you agony if you suffer with arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome, that temptation of ‘just one more row’ can be too much to bear once you’ve caught the knitting bug.
These conditions tend to cause more pain and inflammation the harder your hands have to work, so the trick is to minimise any movement in your stitching and in the weight that you wrists are carrying. Circular needles are invaluable here for transferring the weight of your project to your lap.
Metal needles may move more smoothly for fast knitters, but softer materials such as bamboo or wood are generally recommended as they have slightly less resistance when clashed together and can be easier on the joints.
Best Way to store Knitting Needles
Of course now you’ve made the decision which needles to buy you need somewhere to keep them safe and protected, because let’s face it not everyone thinks pointy sticks should be left down the back of the sofa!
There are a million and one (ok maybe a few hundred) options for storage bags on the internet, you can check out some of my favourites (including these really nifty ones with yarn storage) in my AMAZON SHOP.
There’s every reason to get creative here though, if you’re planning to switch between projects regularly then a simple pot or jar on your craft table is perfect.
If you need to travel with your projects (you will once you develop the addiction, believe me) then you might find a fabric roll is better for you.
Top prize goes to one of my customers who turned a wine box on it’s side and uses the bottle compartments to separate her different sized needles!
If you have any better ideas then get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) I’d love to hear about it