This is a wonderful time for knitting. The craft is making a return to popularity, after seeing a decline for over 50 years. It is getting a lot of global exposure, and interest in handcrafted items is at a high. Yarn spinners and dyers, knitting needle manufacturers and yarn store owners are focused on making the creation of knitted fabric easier and less time consuming for beginning and experienced knitters alike.
For knitters, this is a great time to invest in knitting needles and tools. Needle manufacturers are developing innovative product lines to make every step of the knitting process easier. The selection of materials, lengths, and tips makes me feel like a kid in a candy store – I don’t know which to try first and I want them all!
While that may be bad news for my bank account, the current market is very favorable to knitting needle buyers. Needles have never been cheaper and you can find some great deals!
Let’s take a look at the different types of needles used in knitting and the major brands.
What to Consider When Buying Knitting Needles
Needles are one of the most important elements of knitting. You can’t knit without them, and you always have to have at least two. It takes time and practice to learn your knitting style, and to acquire a set of trustworthy needles that support your skills and simplify your projects.
Try out as many different types of needles as possible to find which one works best for you. Since each size is usually sold separately, and not all interchangeable sets contain every size, your knitting bag could have single points from one brand, circulars from another, double-pointed from yet another brand, and so on. Or if you find a brand you love, you could have everything from one manufacturer. It’s up to you.
Related article: What are the Best Knitting Needles? (with Buying Guide and Reviews)
Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for different types of knitting needles:
Single Point – The Straight Needle
These are the most recognized type of needles. If you’ve ever seen someone knitting in a movie or on TV, they’re almost always using single points. They are straight with one pointed end and one end with a stop.
This is the knitting needle to use when you want to knit flat (back-and-forth). They don’t give you a lot of variety for projects since you can’t use them to knit in the round. If you use them to knit sweaters, mittens or hats, you will have to sew your projects together when finished.
In their defense, single points are really great for when you don’t want to have to worry about stitches falling off the non-working ends or for when you don’t want to fuss with the connecting cable used with circulars.
For beginners, it can be argued that a circular needle might be a better option. These needles are more versatile, but they don’t have the simplicity and tradition of single points. If you need or prefer straight needles, you have to have single points!
Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Wooden needles, such as bamboo or birch, are less likely to have dropped stitches than metal needles.
- If knitting lace, go for straight needles with sharp tips, sometimes called lace tips.
Double-pointed needles (dpns) are the oldest method for knitting in the round. They have points at each end, allowing you to knit from either end. They usually come in sets of four or five because you generally work with that many at a time. They are used to knit items in the round that are too small for circulars, such as socks, mittens and sleeves.
A cable needle is a type of double-pointed needle. It’s typically smaller with features to keep needles from falling off of it – such as ridges, a hook on one end, or a U-shaped bend in the middle. It’s mean to hold only a few stitches while performing cable patterns. A regular double-pointed needle can be substituted for a cable needle.
Double points aren’t beginner friendly needles. Having a point on both ends results in a much higher chance of dropping stitches. If you use double-pointed needles to learn to knit, you should only use two needles until you’ve mastered your stitches.
When buying double-pointed knitting needles, keep in mind:
- Wooden and carbon coated needles usually result in fewer dropped stitches, than metal or plastic needles.
- Look for sets of 5 needles so that you’ll have enough for any project.
- Tip protectors can be used to prevent stitches from sliding off the needle, and can be used to turn dpns into single points in a pinch.
Circulars are the workhorse of your knitting needles. They are the ones that you’ll turn to for most knitting projects. They are two needles connected by a (typically) nylon cord on either end. They can be used to knit flat and to knit in the round. If you want to knit a sweater, but you don’t like sewing seams when you’re done, these are the needles for you.
They can also be great for anyone with sore or arthritic hands or wrists because the cord that connects the needles helps take the weight of your projects. It also helps you to have a longer area for holding stitches than you’ll find with either single- or double-pointed needles.
When knitting flat, circular needles are worked just like straight needles. When knitting in the round, stitches are joined and knit just like working on double-pointeds. The Magic Loop knitting method can be used with circulars to replace double-pointed needles for knitting small items, like socks.
Some tips to keep in mind:
- For lace knitting, look for needles with sharp tips; also called lace tips.
- When knitting in the round, the length of the needle should be equal to or smaller than the circumference of your project.
- Look for needles with smooth joins (where the cord meets the needle) so that stitches will glide without snagging.
- Cables that swivel move with you as you knit, turning at the base, so that it doesn’t snarl or kink.
- Softer, less stiff cables typically work better for the Magic Loop.
- If you are allergic to nickel, check the join material before purchasing.
Interchangeables are highly versatile circulars. These knitting needles allow you to switch out different sizes of needles with different cable lengths. If you enjoy circulars, but don’t want to have dozens and dozens of needles lying around, interchangeables can be a great choice. Some manufacturers use a click-in-place method to connect the needle to the cable, while others require you to tighten the cable in place with small cord keys.
Our best buying advice:
- Examine the join carefully for smoothness and to make sure you won’t lose stitches by a cable drifting apart from the tips.
- If you tend to lose small items, go for the click-in-place connection.
- If you have a nickel allergy, carefully examine the material used for the joining piece before purchasing.
Related article: What are the Best Interchangeable Knitting Needles?
A Short Guide to Major Brands
The ideal knitting needle is the one that best suits your knitting style and project. If a particular manufacturer has one that meets your needs, is in a material you like, and fits your budget, go for it. Don’t worry too much about specific brands. Much of what you hear about one brand being better than another often comes down to personal preference. There isn’t much of a difference between the top ones in terms of usability or reliability – they will all ultimately get the job done.
The top 8 brands are probably:
- Knitter’s Pride (sold under the name KnitPro outside of the US)
- Knit Picks
Knitting needle marketing strategies can make it difficult for beginners to select what will work best. While the brands use common technical terms, if you’re just learning to knit, it’s like learning a new language.
Once you begin to get your feet wet, it becomes clear that the main elements are the type of needle (single point, double point, or circular), size, material, and length. When you get more experience, these things can affect how quickly and easily you are able to complete complex projects.
But if you’re a beginner, don’t worry about it. Learn the basics, ask for help regarding your pattern and yarn, and you should be able to pick the best knitting needle for you.