If you’re new to the world of knitting, you’d be forgiven for thinking that one knitting needle is very much similar to the next. Once you start on your first knitting pattern however, you’ll soon realise that the choice of needle is almost as important as the choice of yarn.
Thick or Thin?
Needles are available in a wide variety of thicknesses, from as little as 2 mm up to 1 cm or even more. Some extreme knitters knit with needles the size of fence posts and yarn made from cut up strips of cloth. Needles are marked with the size on the non-pointed end. When buying Wendy yarn, the paper label will tell you what sort of needles is most appropriate. Commercial patterns will also tell you what needles you need to use to make the garment. Generally speaking, thin needles are used for thin wool, and the chunky yarn will need thicker needles. Working with thin yarn on thick needles produces a loose, lacy effect which may be desired depending on what you are making.
We’re not terribly fond of circular needles here in the UK, although our American and Canadian cousins seem to work with little else. A circular needle allows you to knit a tube of fabric rather than a flat piece, and this means you can knit a jumper or hat without having to join up the flat pieces at the end. A circular needle is one piece, with two small traditional looking needles joined by a cord, usually made of plastic. They can take some getting used to, but they have distinct benefits when making large blankets which are all knitted in one piece.
Double Pointed Needles
As the name suggest, double pointed needles, or DPNs, have pointed bits at both ends. They are used instead of circular needles for things like socks or sleeves. Knitting using this sort of needles can take some getting used to, and socks aren’t a very good beginner project. Stick to a scarf or simple blanket for your first project with your Wendy yarn.
This sort of needles is the latest innovation in the knitting world. Kits of separate thicknesses of needles and cords are sold in stores and knitters can screw and unscrew the different pieces to make any combination of traditional needles or circular needles as required. The initial investment can be quite large, but a good set of interchangeable needles is all you will ever need.
Bamboo, Plastic, Metal or Wood?
Needles are also made in a range of different materials. Metal needles are the most widely available, but are not always easy to use, and can be “sticky” when knitting with artificial fibres. Bamboo or wood lets the yarn slip more easily on and off the needle, and plastic is a great budget choice for beginners or children. Always keep your needles in pairs, secured with an elastic band and you won’t have to rummage in the bottom of your knitting bag for the matching pair.
- Photograph by Mr. T In DC Via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
- Photograph of Circular Needles by Breibeest Via Flickr (CC BY-2.0)
Written by M. Peers, we think you’ll agree this guest blog post is very informative. Peers loves to knit and shops online for her knitting yarns from retailers such as Pack Lane Wool.