How to choose your knitting needles?

This article has been planned for a long time but ... I forgot ... 😥😥 It is therefore time to address the other hot topic when knitting: needles. We tackled the subject of wool: its quality, its structure, its weight, the name we give to the different formats ... It is possible to knit without needles but it is finger-knitting or arm-knitting and the projects are quite limited ...

Again, there is a frightening amount of needles: they are straight, wooden, bamboo, metal or aluminum, with a more or less long cable for knitting in the round, with the magic loop or even with 2 points in set of 5 ; 4 or only 3 needles 😵😵 ... In short, it's time to put everything flat to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The first thing to know about needles is that their size is defined by the diameter of the needle. It can range from 2mm for working fine and lace threads to 25mm (2.5cm) or even more for chunky, jumbo and other threads.

For some reasons that I don't know, in the US they came up with their own system :

Needle Gauge with US metric

Normally, the diameter of the needles is written on it. But it can happen that it disappears, it is then possible to use needle gauges. When needles are sold as a kit, the gauge is part of the kit. I found this beautiful little sheep last year at the Salon du Fil in La Valette du Var (#naayacolletion).

wooden gauge in the shape of a sheep.
Needle gauge

The needles

Straight Needles

They are the best known and easiest to get, no matter what every yarn store or shoud have them. Their lengths (from 30 to 60 cm) will allow you to work more or less stitches and to work any project called "flat". A rectangular scarf, shawl, sweater or cardigan with seams.

The advantage of these needles is that the stitches will not slip since the needles have a closed end. They are also easy to find and often very inexpensive.

However, I find that they are more disadvantages than advantages

  • Their length makes them bulky and difficult to handle since they will knock on the arms.

  • The number of stitches is limited (especially for shawls). When there are too many stitches, the project is packed along the needle, the stitches are then tight and it is possible to miss them or they willby themselves from the needle ... This problem can be solved by having several pairs of the same size but different lengths, but that takes up space ...

  • The larger the size, the less it is possible to cast-on stitches. Who says large needles (7 to 25mm) says thick thread, it will take up more space on your needles and therefore it will be more difficult to make large projects.

  • The whole weight of your project is on these 2 needles. When you work your project, it ends up on your hands and shoulders. Some pain may appear.

Set of permanent or interchangeable circular needles, straight or double point taken together
Set of different kind of needles

Double Pointed Needle - #DPN

They are ideal for smaller projects that work in the "round". Beanies, socks, gloves, mittens or sleeves can be knitted with these needles.

These needles are sold in sets of 5: 4 needles carry the stitches and knitting is carried out thanks to the 5th.

It is also possible to have 3 needles carrying the stitches and to knit with the 4th, it all depends on the total number of stitches.

This number must be low (~ 20 stitches per needle), otherwise the stitches will necessarily slip from the needles since nothing retains them at the ends.

It is important to understand the positioning of the needles between them so that neither the needles nor the stitches slip while knitting elsewhere and there is not too much stitches on them.

The junction between 2 needles is also critical because the "ladder effect" may appear. It is during the passage from one needle to the other, there will be a space between the last stitch of the needle and the first stitch of the next needle (this can also happen with circular needles and the magic loop*).

* the magic loop is used to knit in the round but when the number of stitches is not sufficient to cover the entire length of the cable (for example a pair of socks). We take advantage of the long cable to divide the circumference of the sock in 2 and knit half of the round one at the time.

At the junction of the 2 needles, the stitch at the start of the round is very loose compared to the others.
Ladder effect when working in the round

This problem can be avoided by tightening the first stitch well, by moving every 5 to 6 rows the place of the junction (if you do this, remember to use a marker to identify your start of turn) or the experiment and the habit will make it go away.

But also with the newcomers from Addi: Addi Crazy Trio flexible sock needles.

Ensemble de 3 aiguilles avec un câble très court pour tricoter en rond de petites circonférences
Addi Crazy Trio

I have not yet had the chance to test them 🙁 but if the opportunity arises I would not hesitate to update this article).

From what I read, this kit of 3 needles with a flexible cable in the center allows you to knit in the round of small projects (socks, gloves, sleeves ...). The stitches are placed on 2 needles and they are knitted with the 3rd. This system avoids you the magic loop since all your stitches form a loop without interruption. Apparently, many knitters complain of needles that are too short and therefore of hand pain.

Circular needles

Those are 2 needles connected by a cable (plastic, rubber or metal) whose length is measured from one end of the needle to the other (and not from the beginning of the cable) and allow knitting flat and / or in the round!

They are more expensive than straight or DPN lines but are more practical because they are versatile.

  • You can knit back and forth, at the end of your row simply turns your work and starts again where your thread is.

  • You can knit in the round, you will always see the right side of your knitting and will create a very (very, very long spiral). A bit like round crochet.

  • The cables can measure from 30 to 150 cm, these different lengths (fixed or removable for interchangeable sets) allow working on projects of all sizes with large variations in stitche number.

  • All these stitches and all the weight of your knitting rest on the cable. The only weight you carry is the one from the stitches you're currently working and the rows/rounds previously knitted.

  •  The length of the needles (only the needles) makes them easy to hold becausee they perfectly fit in thehand (10 to 15cm - I think). And when you knit, they will not hit your forearms nor your elbows.

  • You can take them everywhere with you, without losing the stitches 😉😉

For all the reasons mentioned above and for having tested (👩‍🔬 #sciences) different products, I find the most practical circular needles.

There are 2 cons to these needles.

The first will be to get used to knitting with, especially if you have always knitted with straight needles. Some stuck the straight needles along their ribs which is not possible in the case of circular needles.

So you will need to be patient with yourself if you want to use circular needles.

The second is linked to cables.

Manufacturers make different choices about the quality and flexibility of the cables. The cables are sold wound, if they are not flexible enough they keep "in mind*" the rounded shape. They can then become cumbersome when knitting since they will necessarily be placed where we knit ... Inevitably this difference in quality is felt on the price of the needle or kit.

*The plastic has a "shape memory"

On the photo below and from left to right I present you different circular needles and their cables, in all cases, I removed them from the storage pockets, gave them a little stretch and I put them on the ground for the photo.

The one on the left (purple) are made of bamboo, the cable is quite flexible but the yarnreally don't slide well over it ... I use them to put stitches on hold or during knitting lessons. They are bad quality and inexpensive. I bought them for my knitting classes, because the yarn doesn't slide, student are more confortable knitting.

The black cable of the gray needles (I have used these needles very little) is too short to use the magic loop technique and very stiff...

The gray with the transparent cable is quite long but is not very flexible. Likewise with the purple cable from Knit Pro. There are keeping teh round shape from their pockets.

The last cable is from Chiaogoo. As you can see, it's the only one that stays (almost) straight. It's the only kit I have whose cable has no shape memory!

Various kind of circular needle

Earlier, I talked about the "ladder" effect when knitting with circular needles and the magic loop*. This problem can also be avoided by using mini needles.

aiguilles circulaires interchangeables posées à côté d'un mètre ruban
ChiaoGoo Shorties Twist

These needles have a short cable (5 and 6") and equally short needles (2 and 3").

The English knitting method (thread in the right hand and the whole right hand or the right index finger that wrap the thread) did not work at all for me ... The needles being so small I can only hold them with 2 or 3 fingers unlike longer needles where I use all my fingers ... (in this video, I show you how I hold my regular sized circular needles).

So I learned continental knitting (yarn in the left hand very close to knitting stitches and it is only the index finger that winds yarn) that I am very far from mastering. I think I would test the Portuguese method for the next pair of socks. Anyway, these needles can knit in the round fairly quickly since we do not waste time moving the stitches as in the magic loop.

Finally with the circular needles, they are also available as an interchangeable kit. They can contain ten pairs of needles (mostly from US2 to 13 or 15) and cables of different lengths. The advantage of these kits and that you have on hand many sizes and the cables that go with it. Buying all sizes and cables individually is much more expensive.

These kits are interesting if you are very versatile in your yarn' weight and projects on which you work. Which will allow you to make your purchase profitable.

The different cable lengths allow you to knit several projects at the same time but also to use them in one project. Let's say a round sweater, you can use the extra cables to put the sleeve stitches on hold 😉.