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Knitting Needles, My Guide: Knitting Needle Types & When To Use

Choosing Knitting Needles is a challenge. Easily understand the size, many different materials, and types of knitting needles with my guide.

I share why it’s important to knit a swatch and test your gauge. 🙂

Knitting Needles (Not Crochet Hooks!)

Table of Contents

Diameter & Length Of Knitting Needles

Sizes used in a knitting project depend on

  • The thickness of yarn
  • Stitch used
  • The project design

They come in varying diameters and lengths. The needle diameter determines the stitch sizes.

  • Thicker needle – larger stitches, looser fabric
  • Smaller one – tiny stitches, tigher material

Length

The project determines the length.

  • Large project – longer needle or cord
  • Small, flat projects – any needle length
  • Socks – short circular needle or double-pointed needles
  • Straight needles – 10-16″ (25-40 cm)
  • Circular needles – 12″ to 60″

If you have lots of stitches, you’ll need extra-long needles.

Different countries have different numbers/measures.

  • Australia – metric sizes (millimeters) mm
  • Canada – same as the UK
Knit Picks Radiant Needles
Knit Picks Radiant Needles have smooth layers of laminated birch and sharp, gradually tapered tips.

Knitting Needle Sizes

Everything you need to know about knitting needle size. Plus, a handy international conversion chart.

  • Metric sizing
  • US sizes
  • UK sizes
  • Japan sizing

Knitting Needle Gauges

The knitting needle isn’t labeled with the size? Get a Knitting Needle Gauge.

Knitting A Test Swatch

Every knitter has a different tension. (How tightly they knit.)

Knitting gauge – how many stitches per inch with a particular yarn and knitting needle. It’s essential to know yours.

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!

Adjust up or down a needle size until your gauge matches the pattern if it doesn’t match. Need a tutorial? Read one by Davina at Sheep & Stitch here.

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

Materials For Knitting Needles

Knitting needles are made from various materials. Read on for more.

Bamboo

Lightweight, but don’t slow you down much.

Most of the knitting I do is on quality bamboo circular needles. They’re the best knitting needles for knitting cotton dishcloths. They’re light in my hands.

Benefits

  • Excellent for beginners.
  • A slight grip
  • Knitted stitches don’t slide
  • Great for slippery yarns.
  • Sustainable materials

Downsides

  • Can catch the yarn
  • Gets warm and sticky after lots of use
  • Needles may not suit some projects

Bone

An ancient material similar to bamboo.

Benefits

  • Smooth
  • Warm to the touch
  • A bit of grip
  • Slightly flexible

Downsides

  • Expensive
  • Hard to find

Casein

Made from milk protein. They’re similar to plastic needles. They are gorgeous and come in tortoiseshell or pearly colors.

Benefits

  • Nice colors
  • Smooth & lightweight
  • Warm in the hands
  • Slightly flexible
  • Quiet

Downsides

  • Short and blunt
  • Expensive
  • Finding needles made from this is hard
  • Limited availability

Carbon Fiber

This high-tech material is super light with a non-slip surface. Popular with knitters using lace weight yarn or fine and silky yarns.

Benefits

  • Some don’t brass, and others are sensitive. These are a great alternative
  • Lightweight

Downsides

  • These items are expensive
  • Hard to find

Glass

Yes, they exist! Usually made with Pyrex to make them more durable.

Benefits

  • Beautiful
  • Array of lovely colors and patterns
  • Smooth
  • Stitches don’t slide off accidentally

Downsides

  • Thes accessories are breakable
  • Expensive prices
  • A bit of grip

Metal

Many knitters prefer the slippery coating on metal needles. They’re smooth and fast. Makes a real difference for your fast knitting needs!

Here’s a selection of what they’re made from.

A pair of metal needles has the pointiest tips, like lace needles. Excellent for certain yarn weights and knitting socks.

The best knitting needles for lace and fingering yarns. The pointy tips are great for intricate stitch work like lace or cable knitting.

Most gold knitting needles are metal, coated in a gold finish.

Benefits

  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Minimal friction
  • Suit hairy and fibrous yarns
  • Great for speed
  • Excellent for the magic loop

Downsides

  • Cold
  • Not sutiable for learning to knit
  • Hard
  • Inflexible
  • They click when knitting. Soothing to some, irritating to others.
  • Avoid this knitting needle material if you’re someone with tendonitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or Arthritis.
  • Curface can corrode or get scratched over time.

Plastic

Lightweight, smooth, and flexible. They’re warm in the hands after knitting.

There are two variations.

They’re subject to warping, but they’re great on a budget. They’re also excellent for flying. There are light-up needles of plastic with an LED light.

Benefits

  • Plan on knitting with bulky yarn or using huge knitting needles? Choose these
  • Many colors, good for encouraging young beginner knitters
  • Affordable

Downsides

  • Subject to warping
  • Not too durable
  • Don’t last as long as some other materials

Wood

Quiet, smooth, but not slippery. They’re sometimes exotic woods and have carved ends or painted decorations.

Colorful knitting needles are almost always made of wood.

Types of wood.

Benefits

  • Warmer in your hand and lighter than metal needles
  • Smooth
  • Comfortable to use

Downsides

  • Catch and slow you down
  • Blunter tips than others.
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Types Of Knitting Needles

Here are some different knitting needles.

Straight Knitting Needles

The most common type of knitting needle. (Aka single pointed needles.) These needles come in a needle set of two. Great for your first project!

Common lengths

  • 7″ (good for children)
  • 10″
  • 12″
  • 14″

Best for smaller projects like scarves, baby blankets, and wraps.

Use end caps (point protectors) over each needle tip when taking a rest from your knitting. This stops the stitches from falling off the needles.

Circular Knitting Needles

Circular needles have two knitting needle tips.

  • Approx 5″ long
  • Connected by a flexible cord – nylon cords or plastic ones
  • Cord lengths vary – 16″-50″

The circular tips come in

  • Plastic
  • Metal
  • Wood
  • Bamboo

Your choice depends on your material style preference in straight needles. Although they’re designed for the knit in the round method, they also knit back and forth.

You rest the weight of the project in your lap. As a result, the knitting is lighter on your wrists. Hurrah for fewer pain problems!

Great for a variety of garments like a sweater. Sometimes they have lifeline holes for knitting things like lace projects.

Circulars are essential for knitting projects like shawls. Small circular 9-inch sock knitting needles are popular with knitters.

Double Pointed Knitting Needles

Double point needles (referred to as DPNs) are short needles with points at both ends. A double-pointed needle is commonly sold in sets of 4 or 5. Designed for knitting in the round.

Beginners may have a problem with using this, so practice some easier projects before attempting anything complicated.

Best for socks, gloves, baby hats, adult hat crowns, or seamless sleeves.

Interchangeable Knitting Needle Sets

Interchangeable needle sets have short needle tips. These knitting tools combine to create circular sets of different lengths and sizes.

Interchangeables are assembled by

  • Screwing pieces together.
  • Snapping in place
  • Using a small key

A set of interchangeable knitting needles seems expensive and high-end. Considered luxury needles, interchangeables make life much easier.

However, they’re cheaper than buying each size and length separately.

The tips are made from

Knit Picks Option Needle Binder
Needle Binders to keep everything neat.

Giant Knitting Needles

Size 50 Knitting needles come in straights and circular needles. Light and versatile – for scarves, big throws, blankets, or rugs.

Knitting with these takes practice. Not for people with wrist strain.

Square Knitting Needles

The square design of the needle shafts (the tips are still pointed) stops the needles from twisting as you knit.

Knitters experience less tiredness in their hands and wrists and knit more evenly. Many are wooden, but Knitter’s Pride uses metal.

Most have to go up a size to get their standard gauge. Test it before taking on a new project with a differently shaped version.

Hexagonal Knitting Needles

These look similar to a pencil. Indian Lake Artisans create beautiful wooden hexagonal-shaped needles.

Benefits

  • 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
  • Needle wood tip is sharp

Ergonomic Knitting Needles

Designed for comfort and easier knitting. Great for any technique.

These are excellent if you have hand pain/hand strain, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or want something to keep knitting for longer.

Handmade Knitting Needles

Some lovely handcrafted needles are often made of wood or bamboo. They have an heirloom quality and are made to last a number of years.

Knitting Needles For Beginners

On knitting forums, experienced knitters recommend bulky yarn for beginning knitters. This type of yarn uses thicker needles.

Decide on the type of yarn and read the label. It tells you the best size needle.

Beginner knitting projects like a scarf have a suggested needle size. Gauge won’t matter so much. With complex patterns, start swatching.

Knitting Needles For Kids

Usually shorter in length than an average-sized needle and with blunter tips, these are specifically designed for small hands. They’re most commonly made of plastic but can be made of bamboo or wood too.

Vintage Knitting Needles

From as recently as the 1980s to as far back as the 1920s. A favorite of collectors and knitters who like lightweight needles.

Best Knitting Needles Brand

Here are some choices of knitting needle manufacturers.

  • Addi – German company. Known for slick, fast aluminum and metal needles.
  • Aero – Vintage aluminum needles from the 60s, 70s, & 80s. They last a lifetime
  • Boye – Affordable needles great for beginner knitters.
  • Brittany – Sustainable family-owned US business. Sells birch needles
  • Bryspun – Designed for arthritis, hand strain, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • ChiaoGoo – Chinese family-owned giant. Various needle types and materials
  • Clover – Japanese company. Known for smooth bamboo needles
  • Crystal Palace – Polished and cured bamboo from Japanese bamboo in Japan
  • Deborah Norville – Manufactured by Premier Yarns, with smooth birch wood
  • Denise – Small USA family business. Interchangeable plastic needles.
  • Furls – Beautifully handcrafted wooden straight needles.
  • Hiya Hiya – Known for their sharp metal needles
  • Hobby Lobby – Stocks generic needles and some from dwell-known brands.
  • KA (Kinki Amibari) – High-quality bamboo needles of the strongest bamboo
  • Knit Picks – Their needles are made from laminated birch.
  • Knitter’s Pride – KnitPro in Europe, they have various needle styles.
  • Kollage – Square needles designed for comfort and ease of use.
  • Inox – A subsidiary of Prym, these are made of smooth aluminum.
  • Lantern Moon – Formerly manufactured luxury needles of rubberwood.
  • Lion Brand Yarn – Family business in the USA. They haveplastic needles.
  • Lykke – Handmade birch needles in Nepal by local craftspeople
  • Neko – Curved DPNs, a unique take optimized for comfort.
  • Pony – A company based in India produces various needles
  • Prym – Specializes in ergonomic needles, comfortable and smooth plastic.
  • Signature Needles – A family US business. Luxury colored aluminum needles.
  • Susan Bates – Perfect for beginners, these are affordable and versatile.
  • Tulip – Smooth needles of local bamboo, they’rre quality and well made.

Where To Buy Knitting Needles Online

Let me help you decide with my top recommendations.

Storage Solutions

Knitting needles need to stay organized. Otherwise, you’ll never find the one you want! Find solutions in my post knitting needle storage.

Specific products too, like –

Plenty of helpful knowledge about the best knitting needles.

Have any questions? Leave a comment.

About Jodie Morgan

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

I started Knit Like Granny to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion.

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

Please say hello!

14 thoughts on “Knitting Needles, My Guide: Knitting Needle Types & When To Use”

  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
  2. Would square needles be best for children as the advantages for the disabled would be the same as for beginners, e.g easy grip, less slip off?

    Reply
    • Hi Margaret. That’s a very good question. I am always impressed with kids’ ability to learn a new skill. Trying tubular needles first and see how they go would be my recommendation. I say that because there are so many to choose from including size and material they are made from. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  3. I like knitting with Knitters Pride Dreamz…great wood needle. I love them. I have both sets, the deluxe interchangeable and the short tip set for hat/ socks. Great needles.

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon, thanks so much for sharing your love of the Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles. That’s great to hear! Happy Knitting 🙂

      Reply
  4. Hello I have just completed a cream Aran jumper for my grandson. Half way through knitting the coating wore off the metal needles I used and the knitting is now a distinct gray colour when compared with the part where the needles were still coated. Only became obvious when put together. What is the best way to try and restore the cream colouor and get rid of the gray?

    Reply
    • Hi Sue. Thanks for getting in touch. How frustrating to find that the needles’ coating has discolored the cream yarn you used. Do you know the brand of these needles? It might be an idea to get in touch with the company’s customer service and see what they suggest. I’d try doing a small swatch with any left over yarn and the same needles to recreate the discoloration. Then wash the swatch (cold water) with a small amount of wool wash and give it a good rinse see if the gray comes out. Then let it dry and see what it looks like. This is so you don’t have to wash your entire jumper. If the gray comes out in the swatch, it should come out in the jumper when you wash and block it. I am doing some research for you and if I find anything from other experts, I will let you know. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  5. Hi Jodie I am a newbie to knitting I learned English knitting from Marly Bird and now I am learning continental from her. I absolutely love bamboo needles since I have had 3 carpal tunnel surgeries and arthritic fingers. I would like to know if there is a specific needle that can help with my essential tremors. Maybe a little weight on the end this would help so much. I really enjoyed this article.

    Reply
    • Hi Lisa. That’s fantastic that you are learning the techniques of knitting. Welcome to our wonderful community.

      I hope the surgeries have helped you. Be sure to take regular breaks and do some gently hand exercises. I will do some research about a specific needle to help with your tremors.

      Are you using straight needles? I wonder if you could get custom made needles with a medium weight bead on the end? I’ve just done a quick search on Etsy and there are lots of options.

      The other thing I’ve heard is that square wooden needles have helped people with hand pain. Kollage Needles are highly recommended but they are not bamboo.

      Another option is Rosewood Cubics from Knitter’s Pride/KnitPro

      I will get back to you with what I’ve found out. Cheers Jodie

      Reply

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