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When I decided that I was going to learn to knit, I did some research to figure out the best tools for the job. There are an incredible amount of options when it comes to knitting needles. Knitting needle selection can be very personal. With all the noise on the market, how do you know which knitting needle to reach for? I’ll help you cut through all the pretty packaging to find the ones that are the best for you. Knitting needles are available in multiple sizes, materials and types. Let’s start with material.

Wood Knitting Needles

Wood knitting needles provide the most friction between the yarn and the needle when working on them. This is a really great thing for the beginning knitter who is just trying to get those straight sticks to make a stitch and not have other stitches fall off the end of the needle. (We’ve all been there!) Wood needles are also great when working with an especially slippery yarn. As time has gone on, I’ve also found that I like the extra friction when working on a delicate  project or a project that I am taking my time with, like a complex double knitted project or even small projects that I don’t want to slip off the needles as I’m tossing a work in progress into my knitting bag.

Plastic Knitting Needles

Plastic knitting needles are available in various quality levels. This is true of all material types, but I’ve noticed that the quality levels are more pronounced in plastic knitting needles as opposed to the other materials. Lower quality plastic knitting needles sometimes have seams on them which can easily catch on the yarn. The friction that plastic needles provides are a good middle point between the high level of friction with wood needles and the little friction that metal knitting needles provide. If you’re looking to work faster than you can with wood, but not ready to make the leap to metal, then plastic knitting needles offer a great middle ground. When selecting plastic knitting needles, looks for a variety that doesn’t have a seam running down the length and look for tips that about as long as the traditional wood or metal type.

Metal Knitting Needles

Metal knitting needles are often lighter weight than their wood counterparts and offer the least amount of friction between the knitting needles and yarn. This is especially important as you gain speed as a knitter and feel wood knitting needles are slowing you down. Metal needles allow for the yarn to glide off the needles quickly and offer a seamless surface. As I started to transition to metal needles, I found that I enjoyed them for heavier weight yarns before I was comfortable with worsted weight or lighter yarns. Once I was comfortable with using metal knitting needles on my bulky weight projects, I quickly transitioned the majority of my knitting to metal needles.

Knitting needles are also available in several styles. Straight, circular and double pointed needles.

Straight Needles

Straight knitting needles are a great option for items that are not too wide. They have stoppers at the end of the needle to keep work in place.  Straight needles at best when you’re turning the work at the end of each row. My first set of knitting needles was a wooden variety pack found on Amazon! I loved them so much that I have two sets in my knitting needle collection!

Circular Needles

Circular knitting needles are extraordinarily versatile and make working straight and in the round a breeze! Circular knitting needles are available in a multitude of fixed lengths and also in interchangeable varieties. Fixed length circular knitting needles are comprised of two needles that are connected by a cable. The cable lengths vary and are selected based on the project you’re working on. The pattern often makes a recommendation for circular needle length. Interchangeable circular knitting needles come with needle tips and cables of differing lengths that you mix and match to achieve the desired needle setup. Depending on the kit, the knitting needles and cables connect by screwing the needle cable together or a quick connect method like the Addi Clicks. My first interchangeable set was a Susan Bates model and I was blown away when I received Addi’s for Christmas. The Addi Clicks are significantly lighter and the cables offer greater flexibility for smaller work and when using the magic loop method.

Double Point Needles

Double point knitting needles are often referred to as DPN’s. DPN’s are wonderful for small projects worked in the round and even for transitioning a larger circular project worked on a circular needle when decreases become more difficult on a cable. DPN’s are also a favorite tool when knitting cables into the work. (Personally I still rely on my trusty cable needle, but it’s an individual preference.) DPN’s are available in multiple lengths and sold in sets of 4 or 5.

With so many options for tools and so many different materials to choose from, where does one begin? I like to make my dollar stretch as far as possible and don’t believe in upgrading tools unless it makes a difference in my work. For the beginner knitter, I recommend a multi pack of wood straight knitting needles. After you become more comfortable knitting and want to dabble in larger projects or even circular projects (I.e. a seamless hat) then purchase a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles. The Susan Bates interchangeable set I purchased was half the price of my precious Addi’s and served me well. I still use them when my cables are tied up or I know that it’s a longer term project. If you’re looking for a versatile set of double pointed needles, this wood set is my favorite.

Hopefully we’ve helped navigate the knitting needle waters for you so you an make the best decision possible based on your needs and skill set. Let us know your favorite knitting needles in the comments below!