choosing knitting needles

The Ultimate Guide to What Knitting Needles You Need

choosing knitting needles

Figuring out what knitting needles you need can be a really frustrating task to a complete beginner knitter. There are more options than a person can count and everyone is pointing them in different directions based on what they like or what they are trying to sell.

I’m here to give you just the facts. Choosing the right knitting needles shouldn’t be about making someone else happy, it should be about what you need to accomplish your goals.

We’re going to break this discussion down into three major steps:

  1. Figure out what you want to make first.
  2. Determine the size you need.
  3. Choose the material, needle material that is.

At the end I’ll list a few of the top knitting needles available on the market. You can purchase them right here from Amazon if you’d like!

Step 1: The first question you should answer is “what project do I want to make”

It’s easy to jump right to the point. You’re here to learn how to choose the right needle, nothing else. Don’t worry, I promise this will be worth your time!

The reason we must decide what kind of project we will make with our needles is because it is the single most important piece of information you need to choose the right needle. 

Allow me to explain.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, there are a few different options when it comes to knitting needles. Some are straight, some are circular with a cord, some have two points and some allow you to change sizes. That’s a lot of options my friends and each has their unique purpose. Let’s break them down here.

  • Straight needles are for knitting flat pieces that are from 1-18 inches long
  • Circular needles are for knitting in the round or for knitting flat pieces that are more than 18 inches long
  • Double Pointed needles (DPN’s) are the traditional method of knitting in the round. They are great for projects smaller than 9″ in circumference.
  • Interchangeable needles are the more cost efficient route to a full collection of circular knitting needles. They can be used for all types of projects, flat and round.

Now from this list, you can gather that the project does matter. Take some time to answer these questions:

Question 1: What shape is the project I want to make?

Question 2: How long is it? or What is the circumference?


If you answered “flat” to question number two, you have narrowed your needle selection down to:

  • Straight needles
  • Circular needles

If you answered less than 18 inches to question 2, a straight knitting needle is your best option.

If you answered more than 18″ to question 2, a circular knitting needle with the coordinating size cord is your best option.


If you answered “circular” to question number two, you have narrowed you needle selection down to:

  • Circular needles
  • Double Pointed Needles

If you answered less than 9 ” to question 2, double pointed needles are your best option.

If you answered more than 9″ to question 2, circular knitting needles with the coordinating size cord is your best option.


Cord length matters.

If you’ve came to the conclusion that a circular knitting needle is best for your project, one more hurdle you have to overcome is the cord length. When you’re working in the round, you can use a cord that is slightly smaller than your desired circumference but not the other way around. Knitting cords come in these standard sizes:

  • 9″
  • 16″
  • 24″
  • 29″
  • 36″
  • 48″

You will want to choose the cord that is closest to your desired circumference but not smaller. As far as large flat knitting projects, this same rule of thumb applies. For example, if you want to knit a throw that measures 52″ wide, it will be wise to use a 48″ circular knitting needle.

Step 2: Decide what size needle you need

Knowing what size knitting needle you need is dependent on three things:

  • Pattern specific
  • Yarn specific
  • Gauge specific

Pattern

If you are a beginner knitter, you’re probably following a pattern or tutorial for your first several projects. If that is the case, you can skip down to the next section where we talk about needle materials. All patterns and (good) online tutorials will tell you exactly what type and size of knitting needle you should use.

Yarn

Many skeins of yarn will include a recommended needle size on the label. As a beginner, you should use this as a guide until you get a better idea of how you can manipulate that to get the results you want. Once you venture away from patterns and start exploring on your own, you will spend this time developing these skills.

Gauge

This is the caveat to both of the examples above. All patterns and yarn labels give the “suggested” needle size to obtain a specific gauge. Gauge is an in depth topic but you really only need a general understanding of it here. Gauge is a measure of stitches and rows. It is used especially for projects where sizing is important, like clothing. We all have our own knitting styles and therefore knit slightly different from one another. These subtle differences mean my stitches may measure different from yours. You should always knit a gauge swatch and measure it to see if it matches the measurements given. If it doesn’t, you will need to make adjustments to your needle size accordingly if you wish your project to come out the size you expect.

Step 3: Figure out what kind of material you like to knit with

Needles come in a variety of materials. It is up to you to decide what kind of material you like to knit with. This topic is very subjective and the best way to figure it out is to knit with each type of material.

The most common types of knitting needle material are:

  • Bamboo
  • Steel/Aluminum
  • Plastic

Bamboo knitting needles are perfect for beginner knitters. Bamboo knitting needles “grip” the yarn better and that helps to prevent stitches from falling off the tip.

Steel and aluminum needles are great for speed. The yarn glides effortlessly from one needle to another and this is a very desirable quality to many knitters. They are slightly heavier than bamboo or plastic, so keep that in mind too.

Plastic needles are incredibly lightweight. They offer the same yarn grip that bamboo does. I find them useful for large projects that I know will be heavy.

What Knitting Needles for you

Now that you’ve figured out what needles you need to buy based on the project you’re going to knit and your personal preference to material, it’s time to purchase your needles. You have two choices when it comes to buying needles: get a set or acquire them individually as you need them.

Disclosure: Please note that the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to purchase your needles online. Please understand that I have experience with Amazon and these knitting needles and use them everyday. I recommend them because they are great needles, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy them. Please do not spend any money on this product unless you feel you need them or that they will help you accomplish your goals.

Benefits of buying a set

As with many other things, when you purchase a set of something you usually spend less money over all. That usually comes at a higher upfront cost but when you do the math, pay less for them individually. Here are the top knitting needle sets to consider:





Benefits of buying them individually

When you buy knitting needles as you need them, you are allowing yourself the opportunity to try them before you make a big investment. When you “build your own set” you will often pay more money per pair than you would if you bought a set, however, it’s equally as important to know what you like before you do. Here are the top knitting needles to consider:




I really wish something like this guide existed when I started knitting. It would have saved me a LOT of money! I really hope you find a lot of useful information here and it helps you be more successful in your hobby, charity efforts or business.

If you have a question related to knitting needles or you feel I’ve left out something very important here, please leave me a comment below. I’ll be adding to this ultimate guide to meet your  needs. I’m here for you!

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