A knitting needle is unique. Unlike sewing needles, the tips are blunt so that they can move the yarn without piercing it. There is no eye (the hole in a sewing needle where the thread goes through) to a knitting needle. Rather, they are solid, usually made from metal or bamboo, although sometimes you can find them in plastic.
Knitting needles typically fill a wall of a shop, mainly because they come in a variety of sizes, styles, and materials. You’ll want to purchase a pair of knitting needles that works for the project you are planning on doing. If you are looking for some in depth information about how to find the ideal pair of needles for yourself, read on!
You can identify the size of a knitting needle by its number. If you live in the US you’ll see the sizes as as whole numbers or fractions, for example, size 8, or 10 1/2. If you live in the UK/probably the rest of the world the typical way to size needles is by millimeters, for example, 3.25mm. These numbers are typically found on both the packaging and one of the needles.
The smallest knitting needles that I’ve been able to find are size 00000. Needles this small are typically used for fine knitting or miniature knitting. These Scandinavian mittens I’m working on use a size 2, and you can see that that’s already quite tiny!
Knitting needles get bigger in size as the number increases. Most projects tend to use sizes 6-10, in my experience. However, needles can get extremely large, for example, these custom knitting needles from Etsy seller Woolaty for bulky blankets.
Most knitting patterns will give you a recommendation for what size to purchase for that project. If you are just starting out, I would pick a pattern you want to make and then purchase that size of needle if you don’t already have it. This results in a nice collection built over time!
Knitting needles come in three styles. Straight needles look like large sticks with balls or flattened ends to keep the yarn on. While these can be cheap, they put extra pressure on your wrists while you knit because of the weight of the yarn out on the ends. And if you are like me and have wrist pain, that’s not so good!
My favorite style of knitting needle are the circular needles. Instead of having ends where the yarn stops, the ends of the needles are connected by a plastic tube so that the yarn is suspended in-between the needles while you work. This design not only makes it easier on your wrists, but it also gives you the ability to knit in the round.
In addition to needle size, circular needles have a cord length that you will need to consider as well. The cord length tells you how long the cord connecting each needle will be. Cord lengths are typically noted in inches.
If you decide that you like circular needles, then I would highly recommend interchangeable circular needles. Built like circular needles, you can change the cord length of these needles to accommodate whatever you need for your project. This becomes invaluable when you are making sweaters, knitting in the round, using the magic loop method, or changing sizes mid project. You can buy interchangeable needles and cords bit by bit or in a set. I personally like the set by ChiaoGoo. I’m sure others are great as well, but my cats cannot maul these needles or cords as easily, which helps them last longer!
Last but not least come the double pointed needles, like those featured below. Double pointed needles have points at each end of the needle so that they can be used to knit things in the round (aka in a circle), like a hat or mittens. These needles are sold in sets of 5.
Knitting needles come in a variety of materials.
Plastic is typically the cheapest option. Unfortunately they don’t hold up well over time, especially the smaller sizes, which bend easily.
For a long time I liked bamboo needles the best. The wood is super smooth so the yarn slides around easily while you knit but not so easily that your stitches slip off, and they are rather quiet (metal ones can click quite a bit!) I only stopped using bamboo because my two fur babies like to participate in my knitting adventures and cat teeth dent the soft wood really easily!
My current favorite is to use metal knitting needles. They can withstand kitty participation and make a nice clacking noise. Nice as long as you (and whoever you are around) don’t mind it! Metal can be pretty slick, however, so it can be a little trickier to keep the stitches on depending on your yarn and pattern.