How to choose the right knitting needles for you: a chronology of a finding your inner knitter (Part one)

Like all tasks, it is important to have the right tool for the job. 

In knitting, there is a vast amount of flexibility you can take in deciding which tool is the best for you. In this post I have laid out my experiences with various types of knitting needles, but by all means, test them out for yourself to find what works best for you.

Through the years of knitting I have experimented with all types of needles and have chosen which work best for me in a variety of circumstances.

I have also met a great deal of knitters, and each seems to have their own preferred needle, and way of knitting. please, feel free to comment about your favorite needles!

It is so fascinating to watch other knitters, as there are so many styles, and variations that produce the same stitch. I remember when I was learning to knit, watching my teacher gracefully pull the yarn through her stitches. When I first picked up the needles myself (aluminum straights) I was clumsy, and awkward. Over time, and through muscle memory, my fingers developed their own little dance that was both efficient and natural for me. the needles however- had to go.

Aluminum straits: 

For not using them, I sure have a lot.

For not using them, I sure have a lot.

let's start here, because it's the first needle I encountered, and is likely the first one for you to. This needle is easy to access as it is common at any craft store, i'm sure you can find it at your LYS (local yarn shop) as well, though by the time I was frequenting there- I was not looking.  This needle, also has an uncanny ability for being gifted, or passed down to you, a knitter, from a non-knitting relative who has inherited her grandmothers old knitting stuff. 

I find, that these needles are excellent tools for learning the two stitches of knitting. plain old knit and purl, and lends itself to garter stitch much easier than stockinette, because as we know, stockinette curls. perfect for beginning with a dishcloth! 

bonus- aluminum needles are slippery, so, it's an added learning curve! Not sure if it's a good thing for everyone, but for me, it made knitting soooo much easier when I switched to bamboo.

However, i do not find that aluminum strait needles are conducive to actually making much other than a scarf, or a dishcloth. I know that knitters for generations have been making masterpieces with straight needles- I am not one of them. 

Because of my knitting style, my left pinky is holding the weight of my knitting, and after a dishcloth, or about 7 inches of knitting, it begins to weigh on my pinky. I do not understand how people carry the weight of all that knitting on their straight needles, but they must hold it differently than I do. So, if you choose aluminum straits, and hold the weight of you knitting on a mere pinky finger, it is best to hope it will all be over soon. 

Bamboo double pointed needles:

For some reason unbeknownst to me, after getting a decent grip on my yarn and needles, my knitting teacher then handed me a set of #US 6 bamboo DPNS (double pointed needles) and began teaching me how to knit "in the round" 

I quickly discovered that these stitches were much harder to move and less likely to slip right off the end of my awkwardly angled needle. I liked it. it gave me a better grip, and taught me the art of tension. 

there was no need to yank the yarn so hard after completing a stitch anymore. I could simply give it a little snug, and it would stay on the needle. Although moving from one needle to the next proved a little confusing at first and tended to leave a little gap at the beginning and end of each needle (something I would later learn to correct). Knitting was going relatively smoothly and I was making a leg warmer! Already alternating my stitches and testing the waters I used what I would later learn was a garter ridge pattern. after all that work I had tube in a not so lovely neon turquoise that I never wore! hooray! 

I was still losing stitches at the ends, but, the ease of use with these would come in time. 

when the dpn's get too small (US 5 or smaller) I get nervous that I am going to break them, so I opt for their metal counter parts. but for a size 6, 7 or 9, they are great for decreasing in the round. for toes of socks, I literally use toothpicks for fear that the size 0 dpns will break and I will have to pay another 9 dollars for replacements. 

Metal DPNS: 

Notice- I don't have a full set of any of them.

Notice- I don't have a full set of any of them.

As I mentioned, I like these for decreasing in the round on very small projects, like fingerless gloves made with sock yarn, or socks. because they won't break. although, if you are doing some intense cabling, or have a very tight grip, they could bend on you.  I also use them as cable needles for small projects. 

which leads me to 

The cable needle:

I have never used a cable needle, meaning the curved one that is specified for cable usage. it was not until recently that I even encountered one. my mother in law was using one for her project, and it just looked cumbersome- as if there was an extra step to cabling to hold the stitches in place. 

conveniently for me, The way I hold the needles when knitting, I have an extra finger, my middle one, to hold the cable needle, or in this case, dpn. I just tuck it right behind or in front my work, and when it is time to knit from the dpn I just tuck it right back in and pretend it's my working needle. it works for me, and it is fast. The stitches stay right up by the tip of the needle, as if they were not being knit out of order. it seems too much fuss to get the stitches in that little u-bend. 

Bamboo circular needles, interchangeable or not

One of the best investments I have made.

One of the best investments I have made.

I first started with a non-interchangeable circular needle, and quickly realized that I was going to need to buy a whole lot of them to have every size I needed. so I bought a 5 inch tip bamboo circular needle set from chiagoo. I use it for just about everything. even if I am not knitting in the round. like I mentioned earlier, if the work gets heavy, somehow the circular needles prevent my pinky from having to carry any weight at all. the needles have never splintered, or cracked. I did break a number 6 clover pair in the door of a car once, but, other than that. I have been most pleased with my bamboo circulars.

I find, as long as I have a sharp DPN they are perfect for projects where I am cabling, or doing a lot of plain knitting. they are quiet, and the yarn stays put. they are beautiful, and I love the feel of the needles in my hands. 

I only own a few of the non-interchangeable needles, from before I realized how much I would be spending if I had to buy an individual pair of needle in various cable lengths and sizes. but, the ones I do own, have a smooth join, and I don't have to worry about the cables coming untwisted from the needle occasionally- which does sometimes happen with the interchangeables, though, being more aware of my stitches and needles is a small price to pay in the long run.

I did notice that they tips became dull very shortly after repetitive use. Although I have heard it said that the wooden needles get better with age, I am starting to wonder if I should change over to the metal circulars (GASP!) because the points will not dull. 

The set I have is a 5 inch tip set, and I really should have gotten the 4 inch tip set so I could also use them to make a 16 inch cable. I did not realize this when I was purchasing the set, but they still work for just about everything beautifully. 

In conclusion, right now, these are my preferred needle type,  but I wonder if it's just because I do not have an interchangeable set of metal needles...


Metal Circulars or the interchangeable or not variety. 

I hope to be adding a complete set to this little family soon.

I hope to be adding a complete set to this little family soon.

I just recently bought some interchangeable chiagoo twist lace red cable needles- you know the ones. 

I got a few sets of the 4 inch tips, and a cable to make a 16 inch circle.

I love them, I really do. so much so that I am definitely going to get an interchangeable needle set for the metal needles, and this time I am going to get 4 inch tips, so I will have that extra cable, and should have needles in just about every size. 

I'll need to purchase an additional circular needle for socks, because my little bamboo one is dull... no surprise. 

These needles are so perfect for lace, because the insertion for a k3tog is precise every time. They do make a little clicking noise that I did not notice, but my partner did. Needless to say, I won't be taking them to the movie theatre or anything. surely I'll opt for the bamboo there. 

I knit just about everything on circular needles, either to accommodate a large number of stitches, take the weight off my pinky, or to actually knit in the round.

Plastic of any variety:

Oddly enough, with my penchant for organic materials, I am somewhat fond of these. they are more sticky than the bamboo, and make little noise. 

the sticky-ness of the needle tends to bend them however, and the tips on the ones that I have are rather dull. 

Though, I did inherit all of the plastic needles I own, so I cannot speak for the more modern types of plastic needles, other than I noticed that they come in a really fun choice of colors, and I must admit I am tempted to try those "marblz" anyone used those?

Wooden Straights:

I've been wanting my partner to make me some, but I don't know when I'd use them seeing as I don't use the ones I have now. 

Not my fault though! They are in a size 13, and It is very rare that I knit anything so large. 

Maybe I will use them to teach my children to knit, because of the dull tip situation.

these are probably the oldest needle known to knitter, except perhaps maybe bone, and many a knitter before me has used these to great effect. I suppose in this alone I consider myself to be more of a modern knitter. I go for the circulars every time. 


Finally, The elusive, and I'm pretty sure, Illegal Ivory and bone.

I have never laid eyes, nor finger upon these needles. 

If you have, you are an envy of us all. 

I know it's illegal, and inhumane to make them. I am not suggesting that they should be made. 

but it would be a rare treat to experience these needles from a time long ago. I can only expect to ever encounter these in a museum or something. If I ever get a change to hold a pair, I will cherish that moment for the rest of my days.

Though I am not convinced that having bone needles is illegal or inhumane... why wouldn't you be able to use already dead animals? not sure.

Same goes for ivory- but I suppose it is a slippery slope.

if you have a pair of these and feel inclined to share, I will not ask that you incriminate yourself- but simply send me an email with the codeword- vanilla ice-cream, and perhaps we could arrange a meet?

only joking... 

but really.

Lauren McElroyComment