Knitting needles come in assorted types and are made of different materials. The needles you choose depends on the yarn you choose and the techniques used in your project. Straight needles give lots of support to the hand when knitting. Short needles are best for short projects whilst longer needles are more suitable for wider knits. However, what needles you choose is a personal decision.
Knitting needles can be
- straight, in pairs
- for cable
They can be made out of
- metal needles
- ebony/rosewood needles
- plastic needles
- bamboo needles
- square needles
Straight Needles; in Pairs
Knitting needles come in pairs of two, with points at one end of each needle. Pairs of needles are available from 7.5 mm in diameter to the finest size, 1.25 mm. They come in three different lengths: 25, 30 and 35 cm. For very thick blankets, there are a few thicker sizes which also come in different lengths. Needles in the 8, 9 and 10 mm sizes are supplied in two lengths; 20 and 30 cm, whilst sizes 12, 15 and 20 mm are available in one length only, 35 cm. The very largest needle is 25 mm in diameter which is available in only one length; 38 cm.
Special shorter needles are available for children and are usually plastic. These are 15 cm long and are made in the middle size range from 4.5 to 3.25 mm. Most needles are made in plastic or wood, except for children’s needles. Some needles are made out of bamboo or metal. Pairs of needles are more popular than circular or double-pointed needles.
Circular needles are available in five different lengths; 40, 50, 60, 80, 90 and 100 cm. They range from 7.5 to 2 mm. These are used for knitting in the round and for very long pieces of knitting. They are like the tips of a pair of straight needles, joined by a flexible nylon cord.
These are sets of four needles with points at both ends. They are available in four lengths; 15, 20, 30 and 40 cm. They are made in almost the same range of sizes as pairs of straight needles; 10 to 1.5 mm. The 15 cm length is available in sizes 2 to 6 mm and the 20, 30 and 40 cm lengths in sizes 2 to 10 mm.
These are pointed at both ends and are much shorter than even the shortest set of needles. They are just the right length for working the crossing of cable stitches, and tuck neatly behind or in front of the needles in use. It is not necessary to have them in as great a range of sizes as ordinary needles, but do not use a thick one if you are working a fine cable, or you will stretch the stitches. Choose a medium size and you will find it much easier than using a spare needle.
Needle Conversion Chart
There are three needle sizing systems which have evolved over the years:
- The traditional British system
- The metric system
- The American system
There is a chart which gives the closest equivalents between the three needle sizing systems.
Knitting Needles Size Gauge
If you are using a UK vintage pattern or old knitting needles, you may need help to convert to the new metric system. Use a needle size gauge to find out what needles you are using. Push the needles through a selection of holes to establish their size.
You can buy a needle roll or bag to keep your needles organized and protected.