A lot of what goes into choosing the best knitting needles comes down to one debate: speed versus weight. It can be tempting, especially for beginning knitters, to buy knitting needles that help you knit faster or are your favorite color.
What is more important, however, is finding a knitting needle that works best for your project and yarn choice, while maximizing your output. What’s the point of spending your time with needles that grab yarn when you need to quickly complete a project?
With that in mind, let’s look at what you should consider when buying a knitting needle to balance the impact of the needle on your hands with the temptation of speed.
We’ll take a look at what you should consider when buying a knitting needle, such as the best material and how long it needs to be, as well as the different categories of needles. Finally, we’ll go into some of the best knitting needles in each of these categories, all of which we have already reviewed on this site. They include:
Our Top Needles for 2021
Knitting Needle Buying Guide
Much of what you look for in choosing the best knitting needle can be applied to any knitting needle; this is because needles come in a variety of lengths, tips, materials, and styles. When you want to buy a new needle, you should understand what you are going to knit, the yarn you will be using, and how the needle is built if you want to find one that fits your needs.
Here are some things to understand before you make your purchase.
The length of the needle refers to the amount of area from the needle tip to the opposite end (not including any stop or end cap on straight needles).
If you’re using a large-sized yarn, such as DK or worsted weight or higher, a longer needle, whether straight or circular, gives you more room to space out the stitches. Cramming the stitches onto shorter needles may cause you to drop stitches or may make you a slower knitter.
Another consideration on needle length is the number of stitches in a pattern and how the project will be knitted. For instance, with circular knitting projects, knowing that casting on and knitting 25 stitches of lightweight yarn, such as lace or fingering, on 16” circulars will work but casting on and knitting those same 25 stitches on a 40” circular needle just won’t work because the stitches must go around all 40” and there aren’t enough stitches to do that.
An important consideration when looking for a good knitting needle is the tip. Tips come in two types – sharp and pointed or round and blunted.
You should use needles with sharp and pointed tips, sometimes known as lace tips, when working with fine yarns like cobweb, lace or fingering.
When knitting socks or gloves with smaller needle sizes, a sharp, pointed tip makes it easier to work tighter stitches. Likewise, twisted stitches such as knitting through back loops or multiple stitches such as purl three together work-up easier with pointed tipped needles.
Rounded, blunt tipped needles work best with larger yarn weights or yarn that easily splits, such as cotton, novelty yarns, loosely spun fibers, and acrylic yarns.
Some knitters like using lace tipped needles for all projects. Once they get used to the speed of knitting with lace tips, blunt tips appear to be slow and cumbersome.
Bamboo, wood, carbon fiber, plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel knitting needles all get the job done. Each material type has pluses and minuses. A lot of times, it’s personal preference. You might want to experiment to find what you like best.
Bamboo. Made from grass, bamboo’s properties make it strong yet flexible. A lot of knitters like the feel of bamboo needles. The lighter weight of bamboo knitting needles make them a good choice for anyone with wrist or hand pain, or arthritis.
But keep in mind that yarn sticks more to bamboo than to some other materials. This resistance means fewer dropped stitches. Beginning knitters may like the sticking ability of bamboo. For more experienced knitters, that same sticking may slow them down.
Wood. If you like the feel of bamboo, then wood needles may be a good choice. Wood knitting needles have similar properties to bamboo needles. Softer woods, such as pine and birch, can dent with a lot of use, which causes yarn to catch and slows down faster knitters.
Carbon Fiber. Knitting needles made from carbon fiber bring another dimension to the world of knitting. Carbon fiber needles weigh more than bamboo and wood but less than metal needles. Needle tip points in a set may vary unless the manufacturer added a metal tip, such as brass or understood the importance of the needle tip. Lace knitters may want to examine the tips of carbon fiber needles to assure the use will meet their needs.
Plastic. Many knitters use plastic needles when they use super bulky and super chunky yarns. These lighter weight needles are less likely to promote fatigue when using heavier yarns. Smaller sized plastic needles may bend with the weight of heavy knitted fabric and may retain the bent shape. Also, plastic knitting needles break more easily than metal needles. Look for needles with a smooth finish to avoid yarn snagging on the needles as you knit.
Aluminum. Lightweight and strong, aluminum knitting needles are a good choice for knitters who want a longer lasting choice for a knitting needle than say, bamboo or wood. Aluminum needles can bend, especially if stepped on, and the surface can get scratched, which incidentally, makes these knitting needles similar to bamboo and wood.
Stainless steel. For speed knitters or those knitters wanting to finish projects in less time, look to stainless steel as yarn sticks less to this metal. For a long lasting needle with little to no ability to scratch, dent, or bend, put stainless steel needles in your knitting bag. Stainless steel needles, like aluminum needles, hold up well in smaller sizes. Bamboo, wood and plastic needles break more easily at a smaller size.
Style or Type
Straight. The original style of knitting needles, straight needles work best for knitting back and forth, otherwise known as flat knitting. Flat knitting produces pieces that are later sewn together or complete when done, such as sweaters or towels. Straight needles have one tip or a single point on one end and a built-in stop or knob at the other end.
The weight of your project hangs on the needles, which places more weight on your hand. If holding something heavy is a problem for you, then straight needles may not be the best choice.
Circular. Used for both flat knitting and knitting in the round, circular needles give flexibility to your knitting bag. Attached by a length of plastic cord, two pointed needles fit nicely in your hands while the cord drapes or loops between. The cord takes the weight of the project, which helps knitters with arthritic hands.
A smooth join where the cord meets the needle makes your life much easier as stitches will glide rather than get snagged at the join.
Interchangeable. The versatility of interchangeable knitting needles makes them a good choice if you like circular needles. One set of interchangeable needles provides multiple combinations of sizes and lengths. Look for sets that are easy to attach and remove. Some downsides to interchangeables are that they may come apart while you knit or may require a special tool to attach and detach the needles from the cord.
Double pointed. Used mainly for making socks, gloves and hats, double pointed needles work in a pinch as straight needles – just add a point protector at one end. Coming in sets of four or five needles, double pointed needles (dpn for short) work for flat knitting small projects or areas such as sock heels or for knitting in the round when knitting glove fingers or the tops of hats.
Knitting Needles for 2021 Reviewed
This list includes the best needles in the circular and interchangeable categories, which caters to beginner and experienced knitters. The largest volume of needle sales is in these categories.
Best Single Pointed Needle
These lightweight bamboo straight needles by Clover bring strength with a smooth look and feel. For beginning knitters, the polished bamboo keeps stitches in place but still allows the yarn to move easily on the needle.
Clover sources high-density structured bamboo for a durable product. Knitters interested in experimenting with bamboo needles should find these needles a good choice. Eco-minded knitters will like the use of bamboo as a renewable resource.
Although lightweight, if you have hand or arm pain, you may find that working with these needles is tiresome when using heavier yarn.
Knitters looking for speed may find it slower going when powering through projects.
For classic circular needles, ChiaoGoo Red Lace, made from surgical grade stainless steel keeps all knitters enthused about their projects. The flexible cord, made with a plastic coated steel cable, does not retain memory; extra cord when knitting flat stays out of the way.
Needle sizes are laser etched into the needle and not printed on the cable, which makes finding the size a breeze.
As with all circular knitting needles, the weight of the project rests on the cord between the needles. This keeps knitters who tend to have sore or painful hands knitting longer.
Beginning knitters will find this a good circular needle when making projects in the round. The ChiaoGoo Red Lace circular needle is a great choice if you want speed and ease of use. Additionally when knitting flat, the longer cables give serious knitters the benefit of making two sleeves at once, making row counting much easier.
Lightweight but strong, Knitter’s Pride Karbonz double pointed knitting needles take you from cobweb to bulky yarns with ease.
If you’re new to using double pointed needles, then the carbon fiber in these dpns give you the best of both worlds – a double point without the slipperiness of stainless steel. While the sizes of most dpns start at US size 0, Karbonz start at US size 00000. If you enjoy knitting doll clothes or using lace weight yarn, your more delicate work will stand out!
Beginners may want to use tip protectors to keep stitches from sliding off the needles. Experience knitters gain speed by foregoing the protectors and moving from needle to needle quickly.
Best Interchangeable Needle Set
- Premium set includes 13 pairs of Sharp tips US sizes 2-15
- Includes 4 cables in lengths 18", 24", 32" and 42" and tightening grips
- Small cable connectors, Tip Adapter, small and large panda stoppers, small and large single point adapters
- Puppy Snip, Darn Its, and Knitters Safety Pins (10)
- Comes in a handy brocade case to hold everything securely. Case color may vary.
These interchangeable knitting needles from Hiya Hiya, made from stainless steel and a swivel connecting cable, provide a variety of options for knitting. The cable screws directly into the needles, but it doesn’t require a key for tightening. You can make longer cables for single piece projects, such as afghans or blankets, by connecting 2-3 cables together with cable connectors.
Just like circular knitting needles, when working on large or heavy projects, the weight of the knitting rests on the cord between the needles, making it easier on your hands and arms.
This set comes with everything a knitter needs: stoppers to use the needles as straight needles, darning needles, safety pins that double as stitch markers, and snips.
Knit projects in the round or flat with this interchangeable set. Beginning knitters and experienced knitters will find this needle set a good choice if they work on several projects at a time.
Best Plastic Jumbo Needle
Lightweight at 2.4 ounces, these Susan Bates plastic knitting needles work best for bulky or chunky yarns and roving. Even cotton rope knits up well with these large needles.
Beginning knitters may find these needles too big for comfort when learning advanced knitting techniques. Knitters looking to create a project quickly using large yarn or wanting to experiment with double or triple stranded knitting will find these needles a big help.
These large-sized needles are a good choice for knitters who cannot grip smaller needles. However, if you have hand or arm pain, you may find that using with these needles with heavier yarn is tiresome because your hands hold the weight of the work.
Speed with these needles comes from the size of the yarn, which create a large stitch and therefore, takes fewer stitches and rows to finish a project.
Circular and interchangeable needles dominate in terms of sales. They are incredibly important to the future of knitting as they allow a wide range of projects and fabrics to be created.
If more people are to take up knitting on a regular basis, they need access to lightweight and durable needles that can be used on a variety of projects. The above selection of needles is some of the best around.
With the interest in knitting increasing, we can expect more needles to be released in the future. But for now, these are the best knitting needles for 2021.