You have decided to get into knitting and now is the time to buy knitting needles.
You are confronted with the terms: circular needles, straight needles, double-pointed needles but also with the different materials available on the market!
How to find your way around?
Here is the second article to help you unravel the knitting jargon and help you choose what suits you best!
You have decided to start knitting, you have already bought yarn or are ready to do so. You have already fallen in love with a pattern or are ready to do so. Now you need to buy the basic materials including knitting needles.
You are faced with a large choice of needles: interchangeable, circular, straight … which ones to choose?
To begin with, you will need to distinguish between the two main types of knitting needles: straight and circular. Then, once you have acquired these two main categories, you will see that there are several sub-categories and accessory needles that you can find on the internet or in your favourite local yarn shop.
Let’s start with the straight needles.
1. Straight needles
1.1. Single pointed straight needles
As for many of you, when I started knitting, here’s what I was thinking about when I was thinking about knitting needles. This was typically what my grandmother used and what I used before I discovered circular needles.
They are straight, they have a point on one side and a ball on the other to prevent the stitches from falling out of the needle. They can measure from 25 to 40 cm.
They are available in metal, wood, plastic (if you want to know more, I advise you to read this article on the materials used for knitting needles).
1.2. Double pointed needles
Double pointed needles (DPN’S) are very similar to straight single pointed needles. Except that they have two points and not just one (rather obvious, isn’t it?).
But that’s not really what makes them special, double pointed needles are shorter: they usually measure 10 to 20 cm and are sold in sets of 4 to 5 needles.
As with the double pointed needles, you will find them in different materials: wood, metal, bamboo etc.
Double point needles have a special use: they are used for knitting small circumferences in round and are mostly used for knitting socks! (you can of course knit a sleeve or a hat but I have rarely seen them used in this case except to finish the crown of a hat when there are only a few stitches left).
1.3. Flexible Double Pointed Needles
Flexible double pointed needles have recently appeared on the market. They have the same use as double point needles but are sold in sets of 3 instead of 5.
They facilitate the use of needles for knitting small circumferences because they have a very small cable in the centre, which makes them flexible and allows only two needles to be used for stitches and a third for knitting.
Personally, I was convinced by these needles after a short adaptation time. Especially for knitting socks (although it is not uncommon for me to return to double-pointed needles when I want to knit small circumferences).
2. Circular knitting needles
The circular needles look very much like the previous ones: two tips joined by a flexible cable of variable length.
Some circular needles have the cable-needle junction which rotates on itself. I strongly advise you to take this option if you have the choice. This will make your life easier and prevent your cable from getting tangled when you are doing Magic Loop or a sleeve.
When I discovered circular needles, it totally changed my vision of knitting: no more need to knit flat and sew sweater’s pieces together, everything can be done in one piece! And no more stress when you have a lot of stitches on your needles!
Circular needles have now become my favourite knitting tool and I haven’t used my straight needles for many years.
2.1. Fixed Circular Needles
Circular fixed needles are circular needles with the cable attached to the needles.
You won’t be able to change the cable length with these needles. So if in a pattern you are asked to take a shorter length of cable, then you will have to take another pair of circular needles or use the Magic Loop method.
I have very few fixed circular needles. Either because they were given to me, or because it was a pair I bought in a rush, or because I wanted to test the cable and needles before investing in a kit.
2.2. Interchangeable circular knitting needles
The interchangeable circular needles are completely identical to the fixed circular needles: they consist of two tips and a cable made of different materials.
The big difference is that these needles are screwed onto a cable. This means that you can change the length of the cable when knitting.
So you can buy one pair of needles and several cables to be able to have different circumferences.
There are also circular needle kits with three or four cables that fit several needle sizes. If you become addicted to knitting, it is worth considering buying a kit. It is a definite investment at first, but one that will serve you well for many years to come.
An additional note: Circular needles are made of the same materials as straight needles, but the material used for the cables must also be taken into account. This can be hard plastic, soft plastic or also a metal reinforced plastic cable.
Personally, I prefer a relatively soft cable for knitting large pieces and a more rigid cable for sleeves or small circumferences (when I don’t use double-pointed needles).
Also pay attention to feedback from experienced knitters: for example, I have a set of circular needles that I like very much but unfortunately I have to buy cables regularly as the plastic of the cable ends up bending and eventually breaking.
2.3. Short circular needles
2.3.1. 23 cm short circular needles
The short 23 cm needles are fixed circular needles with a very short cable.
They were developed as an alternative to double pointed needles and are therefore suitable for knitting small circumferences.
They require a certain amount of dexterity to hold them.
Personally, I have used them but very little because I have to hold them with my fingertips to be able to knit and therefore it totally changes the way I knit and it becomes painful after a while of knitting.
2.3.2. 30 cm short circular needles
These needles look very much like the previous ones but they are slightly longer and their point is bent. They are in my opinion much more ergonomic than the previous needles.
They are my favourite needles for knitting sweater sleeves.
2.3.3. Interchangeable short circular needles
Recently, Chiaogoo has proposed an interchangeable kit of short needles. It is therefore no longer necessary to invest in several needles of different lengths if the first short needles are suitable for you.
I hope that one day Chiaogoo will offer the same option for their 30 cm short bent needles.
3.1. Cable needles
Needles that are not really needles but rather an accessory.
These needles are very short needles, usually bent. They allow you to slide stitches over them to put them on hold or to put stitches on the front or back of the work when knitting cables.
They will be indispensable when you take knitting to the next level and start knitting cables.
You will find them in different shapes: straight, bent, plastic, wood, etc.
That’s it for today, I hope that these few pieces of information have already helped you to clarify some things and to orient you towards one type of needle or another.
If you want to know a little more, I share my knowledge in the YouTube video below (in French)
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See you soon,