Tools of the Trade: Choosing Knitting Needles

Some knitting needles in a mug.

Every knitter has their opinions on what makes the best knitting needles for their projects. I’d like to share a review of the needles I like to use. As you can see from the lead photograph, I’m partial to bamboo and wood double pointed needles.

From left to right: wood, metal and bamboo needles.

But before I get too ahead of myself, for the benefit of those relatively new to knitting, let me provide a bit of context. Knitting needles come in a variety of forms, including straight, circular and double pointed, and materials, such as steel, aluminum, wood, bamboo and plastic.

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Straight knitting needle tips.

When you think of knitting needles, usually a pair of straight knitting needles come to mind. These are used to knit back and forth. I think that straight needles are not as popular as they once were, because of circular knitting needles.

Basic bamboo and plastic circular needles.

Circular knitting needles are two needles connected by a piece of plastic, used to knit items in the round like hats or pullovers. Increasingly, people use circular needles to work back and forth, just as you would traditional straight needles. The advantage of circular needles, though, is that you can put a lot more stitches on a circular needle cord than you can on a straight needle. The circular needles, being smaller, tend to also be more portable.

Double pointed needles used to make a sock.

Before circular needles appeared on the scene, there were double pointed needles, also used to knit in the round. Knitters still used double pointed, especially for small items knit in the round such as socks and sleeves. They require a bit of dexterity to use, but it’s really easier than it looks.

I’ve learned that I like different knitting needle materials for different kind of projects. When working large projects in the round, I like metal tipped circular needles, particularly Addi Turbos. They provide little resistance while knitting, which is good when you’ve got a big project that you’re trying to finish in a hurry. I find using metal tipped circulars a lot easier on my wrists than bamboo, which provide more resistance.

Signature Needle Arts double pointed needles in 4.5mm.

However, when it comes to working on projects using double pointed needles, it becomes a bit more complicated. For fine gauge projects like socks, I like the wood or bamboo needles which provide more grip and makes the project less slippery. I usually use either Clover Takumi bamboo or Brittany wood double pointed needles. But for bulkier projects, I like metal double pointed needles, especially my lovely needles by Signature Needle Arts.

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The next thing is finding a place for all these knitting needles to live. There’s a whole art to finding knitting storage. I sewed myself a needle roll to hold all of them. Ravelry has a cool feature where you can keep an inventory of all your needles, which I find quite helpful.

There’s also sets of interchangeable circular needles that come in an array of sizes where you pick the knitting needle tips to cord length. Surprisingly, I haven’t ever purchased such a set myself but I can see where it would be useful and also a cost savings overall. Although I tend to have several projects on the go at once and I usually need more than one of a certain size. Like I said, it’s complicated. 🙂 If you buy a set of interchangeable needles, I recommend that you will have tried out a variety of material types for your needles to know that you’ll like what you purchase.

Do you have a favourite set of knitting needles?

x Rena

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12 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: Choosing Knitting Needles

  1. sage_brush says:

    As I’ve gotten older, bamboo and wood have become my favorites. For whatever reason, the aluminum needles aggravate the arthritis in my fingers. Which, after many decades of working with my hands while knitting, crocheting, crewel embroidery, gardening, and intense piano practice – can by VERY painful! Ouch! I’m coveting a lovely set of rosewood needles. . .

    • Rena says:

      Interesting to know about the aluminium aggravating your arthritis. I have one set of rosewood needles and they’re lovely to work with.

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