// November 24th, 2012 // Comments Off // Knitting, Needlearts, Stich, Felt
When I started knitting years ago, looking at all the different needles like circular needles and double pointed needles, I remember thinking WHAT? But after being a knitter for a number of years, I’m now comfortable using all of these weird needles. So, I thought I would go through some of the different needles, explain what they’re used for, and what those odd numbers on them really mean.
Different Types of Materials for Knitting Needles
There are many different materials used in making knitting needles. Each has its pros and cons and the material makes a difference in how the yarn glides along the needle. Knitting needles range from 00-50 in size. The most common materials used in making today’s needles include bamboo, plastic, and aluminum.
First, let’s start off with my favorite type of knitting needle – bamboo. Bamboo allows the yarn move smoothly along the needle and is much easier to hold due to the fact that this material doesn’t have the “chilly” surface that aluminum needles can have. They feel and look like real wood knitting needles except that they are less expensive and eco-friendly.
Aluminum knitting needles are just that, needles that are made out of aluminum. These needles are a bit slicker than bamboo needles although as I mentioned earlier, they do have a chill to them that those with poor circulation problems might find a little uncomfortable to hold. They are more durable than the wood or plastic needles and because they are so slick, you get a faster knit with them. Plus, they make a very satisfying click-click sound as you knit and they’re exceptional for knitting with textured yarns.
Plastic needles are what I advise people to use if they are just starting out and do not want to spend a lot of money on their materials. Because they are plastic, these needles are very inexpensive and great for kids. Plastic needles are available up to very large sizes and are so much fun to use with plastic bags (cut into strips and knot and make a bag!) or rag rugs. These types of jumbo knitting projects are so fun to do with the kids!
So, now that you know about the needles let’s talk about different styles of needles and what they do.
NUMBERS ON NEEDLES
Knitting needles have 2 numbers on them. American size numbers and their equivalents in the old United Kingdom sizes. The larger the number, the larger the stitch size.
STRAIGHT SINGLE POINTED NEEDLES
Also known as “single points,” these are needles that have a tapered point on one end and a “stopper” or top on the other to keep the yarn from sliding off. They come in pairs and are available in many sizes with lengths up to 18-inches. These needles are mainly used for scarfs, pieced knitted items, small blankets, and different kinds of wraps. The size restriction of your project is due to the fact that you can only hold so many stitches on the needle itself, although the larger the length of the knitting needle, the wider the piece will be.
These are straight needles that are similar to single points with the exception that they have tapered ends on both sides instead of just one. These needles offer greater flexibility because you can knit from either end or both ends at the same time. They are usually sold in sets of four or five needles depending on the brand and the material the needles are made of. Double-pointed needles are used to make I-cords, and knitted tubed items like socks, hats, and sleeves. They are used in sets with one needle always remaining free as you knit on the other needles and then incorporate the free one in as one of the other needles becomes free. They do come in a few different thickness and sizes and can be intimidating at first but once you “get it,” you’ll find your knitting will move fast and you will be really be proud of yourself. Many use double-pointed needles as an alternative to circular needles.
I call circular needles the multi-purpose knitting needle. They come in a variety of sizes from short to long and they have a tapered end on each side with a piece of flexible nylon connecting the two needles. With this type of knitting needle, you can knit straight, you can use them as if they were double-pointed knitting needles, and they’re great for working on bigger-sized projects. The ability to work on either end is so wonderful and helpful for certain kinds of knitting. Circular needles are great for people who have issues with their hands or wrists as these distribute the weight of the yarn more evenly, making it easier to do bigger projects. Another great thing is you do not have to worry about your stitches falling off. You can make large afghans, scarves, and much more. You can also do the Magic Loop technique with these types of needles. They even have kits available that allow you to remove the tapered ends to add different sizes of nylon or needles, so you do not have to buy all of them individually if you don’t want to. I always suggest getting at least one pair of circular needles in a size 10 to always have on hand.
A FEW EXTRAS
Cable needles are not really knitting needles, but rather these tools are used to add cables in your work. They hold the stitches in front or back of your work to add the cable. They are so easy to learn to use and add such dimension to whatever you are making. I suggest getting to know cable needles by using them the next time you’re knitting a scarf. I really think these are so fun to get creative with.
As you become more advanced in your knitting, I suggest using stitch markers. They help you know where you might need to slip a stitch, increase or decrease, or find where your first stitch is in the round. you can also use them starting out so you can keep track of 10 stitches in a 20 stitch pattern. In your pattern or even knitting in the round you will have to use them. Stitch markers are inexpensive and best of all, you can even make your own if you choose to.
Point protectors are great things to have when using straight needles. You put them on the tip of your needle so your stitches don’t fall off. Point protectors are especially useful for making sure your yarn doesn’t slide off the needles when you put your work down. I love these, they are not expensive and I highly suggest them.
Stitch holders are great for holding stitches when you are working on sleeves and other complex knitting jobs.
A yarn guider fits on your finger and guides the different colored yarns when doing multi-colored knits.
A row counter is a small device that’s used to help keep track of your rows. It is an incredibly helpful tool to have when knitting bigger projects.
If you’re just getting into knitting, remember, all yarn comes with suggested needle size on the label. But, if you are like me and you don’t like to play by the rules, then the recommended needle size is a great starting point but don’t limit yourself there. Experiment and do your own thing. That is how new things are discovered! Of course, if you are making a sweater or something where you need the right gauge, follow the pattern, but, remember PLAY! Put your favorite music on and go with the flow. Knitting is one of the most meditative things you can do. You can just do one stitch and go into your own world. And then you will quickly discover that, like the rest of us knitters, you too will suffer from “ONE MORE ROW” syndrome!