What Should I Consider When Buying Straight Knitting Needles?

Bronwyn Harris

As any experienced knitter knows, all knitting needles are not created equal. There are many different shapes and styles of needles, with the oldest and most traditional being straight knitting needles. When buying straight knitting needles, you should consider the size, material, length, and manufacturer. Choosing the right needles can often make a project much easier.

A knitted sweater.
A knitted sweater.

The most important decision when buying straight knitting needles is the size. Although most patterns and yarn labels specify what size needles to use, the choice can still be confusing. It is important to first make sure you are looking at the correct sizes for your country, as the size markings differ in different parts of the world, although they are all based upon the diameter of the needles.

Knitting needles and yarn.
Knitting needles and yarn.

In general, bulkier yarn requires larger needles, while knitting lacework with fine yarn is usually performed with smaller needles. A knitter may need to adjust needle size based upon how tightly he or she knits. For those who knit extremely tightly, it might be necessary to move up a size in order to get the correct gauge for a pattern, while the reverse is true for extremely loose knitters.

Another factor to take into consideration when buying straight knitting needles is the material that they are made of. Knitting used to be performed primarily on metal needles, but there are now a variety of types of needles available. Many needles are made of aluminum or stainless steel, and these may enable knitters to work more quickly than other types of needles. Wooden needles — made of bamboo or a more expensive wood such as rosewood — are not as loud as metal needles and may help slippery yarn from coming off the needles as easily. Plastic needles are favored by children and those not wishing to spend much money on knitting supplies; there are even battery-powered plastic needles that light up for knitting in the dark.

Length may or may not be an important consideration in buying straight knitting needles, depending upon the project. A wide project, such as a blanket or the body of a sweater, may require longer needles than a washcloth or scarf. Even so, the project may still need to be scrunched up as the knitter works. A knitter working on a particularly wide project may opt for circular knitting needles instead.

Finally, when knitters are buying straight knitting needles, they often look at brand names. For a beginning knitter, a particular brand may not appear better than another, but experienced knitters often have one brand that they favor. This is something that varies among knitters, but it is not uncommon to find a knitting group happily debating the merits of various brands.

In general, the ideal size of knitting needles depends on which type of yarn is used.
In general, the ideal size of knitting needles depends on which type of yarn is used.

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