Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Choosing Knitting Needles



Recently knitting has become my new old hobby.  Old because I dabbled in it as a child.  New because I have a renewed interest in it.  I’ve had to purchase knitting needles recently as I don’t have the sizes required for the projects I am working on.  I used to think that knitting needles only came in metal – the ones my mother had that I grew up using.  But recently I’ve discovered and bought other types – mainly due to not being able to find the right size in the metal ones.
But which type do you choose if you have a choice?  And in what length?  In this post I’ll go though the positives and negatives of each type to help you decide.

Plastic

These can be entirely made of plastic, or reinforced internally with a metal rod inside the plastic.  If they are reinforced, they can rattle a little bit as you knit but I haven’t found the noise to be annoying.  They have a nice smooth surface that makes the yarn slide over easily – perhaps not as slippery as polished metal, but personally I haven’t noticed much of a difference.  They aren’t as cold as metal but they won’t last as long as metal.  Plastic degrades over time – and while you will probably get many many years of use out of plastic knitting needles, you might not be able to pass them on to the next generation.

Metal
3.5mm metal knitting needle with a length of 25cm
 Great for small projects like scarves
I once accidentally slammed on in the door of my car and I’m still using it after bending it back into shape.  So these needles are tough and will last a long time.  On the negative side, they can be cold to the touch initially, and stitches can more easily slip off them.  However, a slippery needle is seen as a good thing for a proficient knitter as it allows them to knit fast.  Maybe try another material if this is your very first attempt at knitting, but don’t be scared off by metal needles either – they aren’t that difficult to use.

Bamboo
3.5mm bamboo knitting needles with a length of 35cm
Great for bigger projects like adult jumpers

Bamboo is the opposite of metal as far as knitting needles are concerned – they are cheaper, warm to the touch, grip the yarn (good for beginners, not so good for proficient knitters), have a bit of flex and can break .  

Length of Needle

Needles tend to be available in a shorter size that I would say is more manageable, and a longer size that in necessary for bigger projects such as an adult man’s jumper.  The shorter ones are nicer to use if you can – they are easier to transport, you are less likely to hit the person next to you with your needles, and you can use them sitting in bed without worrying about hitting the doona.  That said longer needles are a must for bigger projects such as an adult man’s jumper.  You can try to squeeze all the stitches on shorter needles but it really is worth the money to invest in a larger set of needles for these projects as with a bit more space to see what you are doing properly you are less likely to make mistakes and stitches are less likely to fall off. 

My Advice

It all comes down to your budget.  If you can afford it, buy a length of needle to suit your project.  If money is tight, buy the longer needles as they are suitable for a wider range of projects.  As for material, again budget comes into consideration – but that aside I would choose metal knitting needles.  They are the most durable and will last a lifetime (or two or three – I just received my Grandmother’s metal knitting needles after she passed away and they are showing no signs of age – her plastic ones didn’t fare as well and were thrown away).  And when you gain just a little bit of experience you will appreciate the yarn sliding easily along the needles.

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