For the purpose of this article, I am going to assume that you are a beginning knitter and want to purchase knitting needles. You will look at the different types of knitting needles and the various materials they are made of and wonder which you should buy. This article will help you make that decision by describing the types of needles and how they are used, and also the different properties of the materials of which they are made.
All instructions assume you are right-handed, or at least knit as if you were right-handed.
These needles are straight, with a point at one end and some sort of knob at the other that prevents the stitches from slipping off the needle. These needles are purchased in pairs. Knitting takes place at the pointed ends. The stitches are on the needle held in the left hand, are knit using the point of the needle in the right hand, and are slipped onto the right needle after knitting. The work is turned, the right needle becomes the left needle, and so on.
Double-pointed needles (dpns) come in two varieties; what are termed double-pointed needles are relatively short needles sold in sets of four or five and as the name implies, they have points at each end.
Circular needles also have two points, joined by a plastic cord.
Both types of needles are used for knitting in the round. The human body is conveniently made up of different sizes of tubes, which lend themselves to circular knitting. When knitting in this manner, the work does not need to be turned; the item is knit like a tube, whether it is a sock, mitten, glove, sweater, hat, etc.
Since the relatively recent invention of the circular needle, dpns are used mainly for small circular knitting projects such as gloves, mittens, socks, and any project such as a hat or sweater sleeve that is too small at some point to be knit on a circular needle.
How to choose your knitting needle material
Besides the obvious differences in cost between various kinds of knitting needles, there are different qualities inherent in the materials, such as the warmth of bamboo and wood, the coolness of aluminum, glass, and steel, and the flexibility of plastic and casein. A beginning knitter might be more comfortable with bamboo or wood needles that are smooth but not as slippery as other substances, thereby making it easier to keep the yarn on the needles. Learning how to control the knitting is usually an issue with beginners, while more experienced knitters often prefer slippery needles that allow for picking up some speed.
Bamboo needles work well with thinner, smoother yarns, and are a bit clumsy when used with bulky yarns. Bamboo is light, strong, and warm to the touch, similar to wooden needles although wood is not quite as flexible and therefore breaks easier, although in smaller sizes both break quite easily.
The slickest needles available are nickel-plated brass, such as Addy Turbos. Experienced knitters swear by them.
The beginning knitter will therefore look at any price limitations first, and then consider any other personal preferences. For example, a knitter with arthritis would probably do well to invest in bamboo or wood needles, as the warmth would make them easier on the hands. A knitter with children might want to buy metal needles so they could stand up to accidents such as sitting on them or inevitable play – knitting needles are tempting to use as play swords! Financial constraints might make plastic needles the best option.
Perhaps the best idea of all is to join a local knitting circle and ask to try different types. Find the needles that work best for you and start knitting!
Kathryn Beach is a sister, aunt, mother, and grandmother who’s been knitting for over least 50 years. She’s been co-owner of a knitting business then put that aside for a few years to take up freelance content writing; and now she is busy blogging and setting up a new knitting business. You can find her at home on an island in Washington state and online at Kathryn’s Favorite Free Knitting Patterns [http://favorite-free-knitting-patterns.com] – come visit and learn more about knitting with style on a budget.
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