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My Complete Guide To Knitting Needles – All The Best Knitting Needle Types And When To Use Them

The many Knitting Needles available can seem overwhelming. This guide is to give you a better understanding.

Knitting Needles

The Click and Clack Of Knitting Needles

Click, clack, click, clack.

Do you enjoy the sound of them weaving their magic?

Some people describe the sound as a “whisper”. I love this idea, needles whispering sweet sounds of what’s to come.

There are so many knitting needles!

Some knitters have old versions tucked away in their cupboards. All have been used and loved by knitters of years ago.

What would past knitters think of the choices available now?

I remember learning to knit on plastic and metal straight needles.

The metal ones were freezing when picking them out of my knitting bag. I admit I broke some plastics! Now I use fixed circular needles with bamboo tips.

My favorite knitting podcast host; Andrea from Fruity Knitting said she knitted her beautiful projects on ancient wooden needles. Over time they became bent.

She spends most of her knitting budget on expensive wool, she opted not to pay so much for needles.

Until her husband, who co-hosts the podcast and a complete knitting newbie, complained about the ones he used!

Andrew announced an artist is only as good as his tools. Perhaps in his case, it’s true. I beg to differ in regards to Andrea. The knitting she created using those bent needles was extraordinary!

Many knitters swear by particular brands and only use those. They try out many different knitting needles and find what is the best knitting needle for them.

Trying them all out is costly. If you do heaps of knitting, anything making it comfortable and quicker justifies the spending.

To find the types of needles and needle materials that suits you, you need to try different sorts.

My guide helps you understand the size, materials, and types of knitting needles. I also share why it’s important to knit a swatch and test your gauge. 🙂

Table of Contents

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Sizes of Knitting Needles

Sizes used in a knitting project depend on many factors – the thickness of yarn, stitch used and to some extent the design. The finer the yarn, the smaller sizes required.

They come in varying diameters and lengths.

The needle diameter determines the stitch sizes. A thicker needle, bigger stitches. A thinner needle, smaller stitches.

You also need to know your knitting gauge.

Diameter

The thicker the needle, the larger the stitch and looser fabric. With a smaller one, the stitches are tiny and tighter, thicker material.

Length

Long or short, straight or circular. The type of project determines the length of your needle. Most patterns have suggestions for the length.

A large project such as a blanket or sweater needs a longer needle or cord. Small, flat projects can be worked on any needle length. Small ones like socks need a short circular needle or double-pointed needles.

Most straight needles are 10-16″ (25-40 cm) long, and circular needles vary from 12″ to 60″. The length can be a personal choice.

If you have lots of stitches, you’ll need long needles. A shorter one may be more comfortable. A matter of personal preference.

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Knit Picks Radiant Needles have smooth layers of laminated birch and sharp, gradually tapered tips

Yarn

Another factor of the best-sized knitting needle is the chosen yarn. Thicker yarn means fewer stitches can fit on a needle.

Different countries have different numbers/measures. In Australia, knitting needles are in metric sizes (millimeters) mm. In Canada, the same sizing as the UK.

Different Types of Knitting Needles Explained

Knitting Needle Sizes

On my post, Knitting Needle Sizes – The Complete Guide & New Free Conversion Chart, I show you everything you need to know on knitting needle size. Plus I have a handy international conversion chart with metric sizing, US sizes, UK sizes, and Japan sizing.

Knitting A Test Swatch To Determine What Size Knitting Needle You Need

Every knitter has a different tension. It’s how tightly they knit. The tightness of your knitting determines which needles.

How Is This Done?

A knitting gauge is how many stitches per inch you knit with a particular yarn and knitting needle. It’s essential to know yours. Most patterns list it for a project, and it’s more important than the listed needle size.

How To Find Your Gauge?

Knit a test swatch in the chosen yarn and suggested needle size. Measure how many stitches per inch you knit. If yours matches the pattern, great!

If it doesn’t match, adjust up or down a needle size until your gauge matches the pattern. There is an excellent tutorial by Davina at Sheep & Stitch to help you. Read about it here.

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.” ― Elizabeth Zimmermann

Materials used for Knitting Needles

Metal

Many knitters prefer the slippery coating on metal needles as they are smooth and fast. Metal knitting needles often crafted out of aluminum, stainless steel, brass or nickel.

They click when knitting. Soothing to some, irritating to others. They are durable and inexpensive.

They suit working with hairy and fibrous yarns, the stitches slide along the surface of the needle and don’t catch. Great for increasing your speed. Sets of needles come with a case.

Metal needles have the pointiest tips, like lace needles. An excellent choice for certain yarn weights. The best knitting needles for lace and fingering yarns. The pointy tips are also great for intricate stitch work such as lace made with very fine stitches, or detailed cable knitting.

The downsides are they are cold, hard and inflexible.

Avoid this type of knitting needle material if you have any problems with your hands such as Tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Arthritis.

Carbon Fiber

Similar to the features of metal, this high tech material is super light and has a non-slip surface. Popular with knitters who work with lace weight yarn or fine and silky yarns.

Some people don’t like the smell of brass and others are sensitive. These needles would make a great alternative.

Plastic

Plastic knitting needles are lightweight, smooth, and flexible. They become warm in the hands after knitting. Heat transfers from the hands to the needles. They’re subject to warping but they are the best knitting needles for those on a budget.

If you plan to do lots of knitting with thick, chunky or bulky yarn and require huge knitting needles, choose these for their lightness.

Plastic needles come in many colors. A good opportunity for encouraging young beginner knitters because they have choice. They’re an economical choice for a beginner knitter too.

Wood

Wooden knitting needles are quiet, smooth but not slippery. They’re sometimes made of exotic woods and have carved ends or painted decorations. They’re warmer in your hand than metal needles and lighter in weight.

The downsides are they catch and slow you down. Wood needles have blunter tips than others. They are the best knitting needles to work with specific yarns or stitches, when slowing down can be a good thing.

Bamboo

Bamboo knitting needles are very lightweight but don’t slow you down as much.

Different manufacturers produce these needles with variations in their tips and ends. The shape of the point is important when you transfer stitches from one needle to another.

They’re excellent for beginners. The best bamboo ones have a slight grip, and knitted stitches remain in place. Great for slippery yarns.

Most of the knitting I do is on quality bamboo circular needles. I find them to be the best knitting needles for knitting cotton dishcloths and they feel light in my hands.

The best bamboo needles are made from smooth sustainable bamboo. Clover is a brand that many knitters recommend.

Casein

Casein knitting needles are made from milk protein. They have similar qualities to plastic needles. They are gorgeous and come in tortoiseshell or pearly colors. The points are short and blunt.

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Types and Styles of Knitting Needles

Straight Knitting Needles

Straight knitting needles are the most common style. They come in pairs. Most common lengths are 7″ (good size for children) , 10″, 12″ and 14″.

Best for smaller projects with no excess bulk on the needles while you work. Scarves, baby blankets, and wraps use straight knitting needles.

You can use end caps which are placed over each needle tip for when you are taking a rest from your knitting. This stops the stitches from sliding off the needles.

Circular Knitting Needles

Circular needles have two knitting needle tips. They’re approximately 5 inches long, connected by a flexible cord. The cord lengths vary from 16″ to about 50″.

The tips come in plastic, metal, wood, or bamboo. These needles may have flexible nylon cords or plastic ones.

Your choice of tips depends on the type of material you like in straight needles. Although they’re designed for knit in the round, they also knit back and forth.

Circulars are essential for those times you are knitting wide projects such as shawls. Two straight knitting needles are too short to hold all the stitches.

Circulars can knit in the round on a small scale, such as knitting socks.

Using these means you can rest the weight of the project in your lap. Many stitches go across the cord, making the knitting lighter on your wrists.

Handy Tip About Fixing Kinks In Your Cables

Heat some water to almost boiling. Pour the water into a bowl – enough to cover your needles. Use a chopstick or something similar to make sure the needles are entirely covered (don’t burn yourself).

Leave them for about 30-40 seconds, more if they aren’t relaxing. Once the cables relax, carefully remove them from the hot water and lay them flat on a towel. The cables should be kink free.

Libby from Truly Myrtle shares her experiences of the circular needles she loves.

9-inch circular knitting needles, for example, make small tubes. Knitters either like them or hate them. Staci at Very Pink.com 9 inch circular knitting needles tutorial and review is excellent!

Double Pointed Knitting Needles

Double pointed needles (referred to as DPNs) are short needles with points at both ends.

Commonly sold in sets of four or five and are designed for knitting in the round, meaning knitting without a seam.

The technique of knitting in the round is knitting in a circle. Accurately described as knitting in a spiral.

The rows are counted as rounds, with the last stitch of one round leading straight onto the first stitch of the next, creating a seamless tube.

DPNs are best for socks, gloves, baby hats and the crown of adult hats. Occasionally used for seamless sleeves.

Staci at Very Pink Knits video tutorial using Double Pointed needles is excellent!

Interchangeable Knitting Needle Sets

Interchangeable needle sets have short needle tips. Like the ends of circular needles, they have a range of sizes, and different lengths of cords.

They combine to create circular sets of different lengths and sizes.

Some styles can create different lengths of straight needle sets. Interchangeables are assembled by screwing the pieces together.

Other versions snap in place and some use a small key to attach the connection points to the cords.

Addi needles are famous for their Addi Click system. Some include cable connectors to make even longer cords. This set of needles also come with a case.

A set of interchangeable knitting needles can seem expensive and high end. However they’re cheaper than buying each needle size and length separately. They give increased versatility for your knitting.

The tips are made from a variety of materials, metal, wood and durable plastic like the Denise Interchangeable needle set.

Consider the different sizes you use and your budget to choose the best interchangeable knitting needles. All your options are in my review.

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Knit Picks have Needle Binders to keep everything neat and tidy

Giant Knitting Needles

Size 50 Knitting needles come in straights and circular needles. They are light and versatile – use them for scarves, big throws, blankets or rugs.

The best knitting tools for super sized projects.

Knitted projects take no time with big yarn.

Knitting with giant needles takes practice and can feel awkward. Not recommended for people with wrist strain.

When working with big straight needles, make sure you’ve got the needles supported on either side of you. Use the couch or pillows.

Square Knitting Needles

The square design of the needle shafts (the tips are still pointed), helps stop the needles from twisting and turning in your hands as you knit.

Knitters who use square knitting needles experience less tiredness in their hands and wrists. People find they knit more evenly. Knitter’s Pride make a metal version, many are wooden.

Most people have to go up a needle size to get their standard gauge. It’s crucial to test before taking on any new project with a differently shaped version.

Hexagonal Knitting Needles

Traditionally a knitting needle is a solid round length with a pointed tip. These look similar to a pencil.

Companies like Indian Lake Artisans create beautiful wooden hexagonal-shaped needles.

The benefits of using hexagonal needles are –

  • Multiple resting points for your fingers
  • Relax your grip and still maintain control
  • Stitch gauge remains the same, yarn rests on the outer ends of the hex shape
  • The needle wood tip is sharp

Ergonomic Knitting Needles

Prym’s Ergonomic Knitting Needle design hit the European market back in 2016. They are now also available to the US market too.

Prym, a German-based craft supplies company, uses flexible synthetic material and great features to make knitting comfortable and user friendly.

The teardrop-shaped tip is a unique feature, as is the triangular shaped shaft. The clickable heads of the straights are clever. You can keep the needles together when you are not knitting.

Roxanne Richardson of Rox’s Knits has an excellent video review on the Prym Ergonomic Needle range.

Her honest, helpful review of the 4.5mm/US 7 80cm/32 inch circular knitting needle is worth watching to understand how these needles work.

Phil from A Twisted Yarn, one of the featured bloggers in my Top 100 Knitting Bloggers post, wrote an excellent review of the Prym Ergonomic straights version.

Knitting Needles For Beginners

On knitting forums, experienced knitters recommend starting with bulky yarn for beginning knitters. This type of yarn uses thicker needles, your first project knits up quickly.

Decide on the type of yarn you’ll be using. Once you’ve got your yarn, look at the label. It tells you the size of needle best corresponding to said yarn. You’re set.

When you’re a beginner, you’ll start to understand your tension, whether loose or tight. Beginner knitting projects like a scarf have a suggested needle size. Basic knitting is way easier.

Best to start with that. Gauge won’t matter so much in these projects.

Later with complex patterns, start swatching and know your gauge.

Read Next – You May Also Like:

Now It’s Your Turn…

Plenty of helpful information for you about the best knitting needles. I am currently working on a post about Blanket Needles, so stayed tuned.

I’d like to hear what you have to say. What did you think about today’s guide?

Or maybe you have a question. Either way let me know by leaving a comment below right now or send me a message on twitter.

You can also contact me here.

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, owner and creator of Knit Like Granny. (Yes, I’m a real person :) ) Thanks for being here.

I created Knit Like Granny to help show 1,000,000 people the benefits of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion.

I love knitting and have met so many other fabulous knitters through this site. I enjoy learning and helping others discover the joys of working with yarn.

Please say hello!

6 thoughts on “My Complete Guide To Knitting Needles – All The Best Knitting Needle Types And When To Use Them”

  1. There some knitting needles that does not work very well with yarn.I would say most of the time let say 95% I work with wool.the best choice would be bamboo .The tip of the knitting needles is very important,some of them the tip is to big.

    Reply
    • Thanks very much Christiane for sharing your thoughts on what knitting needles work best with wool. I too like knitting with Bamboo needles but I have also enjoyed working with metal tips.

      Reply
    • Hi Mary Jo. Thanks for getting in touch. Welcome to the wonderful community of knitting 🙂 I hope you enjoy your knitting adventures. When starting out, our readers have recommended using larger sized needles. This means the project will knit up more quickly and you get practice without too much difficulty. I would try plastic needles, as they are usually more inexpensive. Size US 10 (6mm) would be a good start. They come in different lengths, so start off with a shorter length, anywhere up from 8 inches(approx 20cm). I will also check in again with my readers, to see what other tips they suggest. Cheers Jodie

      Reply

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