Month: March 2016

let’s talk needles

Having a variety of needles is useful when you want to pick up a project right away, but it can also be overwhelming for a beginner. Today’s post explains the differences among knitting needles and what I personally have in my arsenal. Enjoy!


What are straight needles used for?
Straight needles can really only be used to knit things flat – think dishcloths, scarves, blankets… things like that. You can, of course, knit something flat and seam it up to make something round (cowls, hats,etc.), though I rarely use this method. They come in varying lengths to accommodate the size of your project. I (along with most knitters, I assume) learned to knit on straight needles. In my case, they were very long, metal needles. They were hard and cold and a bit intimidating. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I discovered circulars while attempting to knit my first hat. What a difference! It didn’t take long for me to realize that I prefer bamboo needles to metal, but each knitter has unique tastes, so I would recommend trying out both to see what you like! I don’t have a real recommendation for straight needles because I literally never use them anymore. In my experience, though, the Clover brand has a solid line of bamboo needles if that’s your thing.

Image credit: Takumi

What are double-pointed needles?
Double-pointed needles (DPNs) are also straight, but are pointy at both ends. They’re used to knit small things in the round (that’s basically a whole other post!). For bulky yarn, I use the Clover Takumi DPNs to finish my hats and to knit chunky mitts and mittens, mug cozies & boot cuffs.

Image credit: Takumi

My most recent purchase is the 5″ Caspian Wood Double Pointed Needles Set. I bought these specifically for socks, because my circular needle set (more on that later) doesn’t come with small enough tips. I’ve already used them to knit up a sock and I love them so far! DPNs also come in varying lengths; I chose the 5″ for socks, but this set also comes in 4″ and 6″ lengths.

Image credit: KnitPicks

Why use circulars?
Circular needles are essentially 2 straight needles connected by a flexible cord. The cords vary in length, depending on how big around your object is (e.g. 16″ circulars are often used to make hats). Circulars can be used to knit things in the round. Once you join the round, you are knitting on the right side. This is the cool part, for me, because I don’t like worrying about right side/wrong side. There’s also an awesome technique called the Magic Loop method, which utilizes a longer cord (like 40″) to knit small things like socks and hat decreases, without breaking out the DPNs! The other super cool thing about circulars is that you can use them to knit absolutely anything that you can knit on straight needles! Instead of joining in the round, you just knit as you would with straights. This is ideal because the cord will hold the bulk of your project’s weight. Plus, if you’re anything like me and have a penchant for losing needles… these are connected, so you’re safe! (In case you haven’t already figured it out, I much prefer circulars.)

What should I get if I’m looking to buy circular needles?
I first purchased Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular 16-inch Knitting Needles and loved them instantly. The problem is, I wanted to knit ALL the hats. With ALL the different yarns, which have different weights. So I have about 10 sets of 16″ circular needles, which is neither cost effective nor easy to store. If you love knitting hats (or want to learn), I highly recommend these needles.

Image credit: Takumi

If, however, you want to knit lots of different things, large and small, in the round and flat, with all kinds of yarn, I recommend an interchangeable set. I recently invested in the Options Interchangeable Rainbow Wood Circular Knitting Needle Set, which includes 9 different popular needle sizes, 4 cords (of 2 different lengths), 8 end caps, 2 cable keys (to tighten up the joins), and a clear plastic case.

Image credit: KnitPicks

So far, I have really enjoyed these. The joins are smooth and don’t snag my yarn as long as I tighten them plenty. I’ve used them to knit socks and hats in the round using Magic Loop and am currently working on both a blanket and a shawl, knitting flat. While the rainbow wood is beautiful, some people (beginners or those with poor eyesight) may have trouble seeing darker and jewel-toned yarn on these needles. I personally haven’t had a problem, but it’s something to note. I also had an issue last week when one of the needles came out of its metal casing, causing me to lose a few stitches (thankfully I was able to pick them up). I called KnitPicks and they immediately shipped out a replacement – at no charge. I really should have notified them before it broke, because I could tell it was loose when I started knitting with it. The wooden needles are glued into metal casings, so make sure they are securely glued in before you start your project!

The Lineup
With this mix, I never have to worry about whether or not I have the right needles; I can just cast on and knit away!

  • 5″ DPN set for socks and similar in the round
  • The Options Interchangeable set works for anything requiring size 4 to 11 needles. I knit flat objects with these, knit in the round with the shorter cables, and use Magic Loop
  • For super bulky yarns (like I use for my Etsy shop!) I still use the Clover circulars & DPNs, since I need sizes larger than 11

What are your favorite needles? I’m always looking to try out new ones!

Warmest Wishes & Happy Knitting!!