Welcome to part 2 of our beginner knitting series. If you haven't read vol. 1 yet, I definitely suggest starting there. We are going to touch on a few things left hanging in that post. Today we're going to talk about choosing your knitting needles, along with a few other tools.
If you have picked out a pattern for your project, you probably already have an idea of what size needle you need. Most patterns will suggest a specific yarn and needle and then say something like "or size needed to obtain gauge". What does that even mean? Last week we went over how to read the information on the yarn sleeve. Most sleeves will give a suggested knitting needle size, at minimum. Many will also tell you the gauge (how many stitches in an inch) of the yarn using that needle. If you want to use a different yarn than suggested in the pattern, you may have to adjust the needle size as well. This is when it is also helpful to know your average tension. Because I tend to knit tightly, I usually go up at least one needle size than is suggested. If you have loose tension, you may want to use a smaller needle. If this is your first time knitting, go up a size. Most beginners start with a very tight tension that loosens over time and with practice. US sizes are every number 0-10, 10.5, and then use odd numbers only 11-19. There are also size 35 and 50 knitting needles. The grey needles on the table in the picture above are size 50. You can see they are quite large. They are perfect for knitting large chunky scarves very quickly.
Alright. You know what size needle you need. But what type do you need? Most patterns will
tell you this as well. There are 3 types: straight, circular, and dpn or double pointed needle. Straight needles are the most common and are perfect for your first project. These have variations as well, of course. They come in different lengths, which is helpful depending on how many stitches wide your project is. Larger projects need longer needles. You can also choose between plastic, metal, or wooden needles. This is purely preference. I have always loved aluminum needles as they provide a smooth surface which allows me to knit quickly. Plastic and wooden needles hold on to the yarn a bit more, which slows down knitting. This can help prevent slipped stitches and other mistakes. I am not a fan of how plastic feels in my hands, but the bamboo needles have grown on me over the last few years. Circular needles have a connector between the two points. These can be used in two ways - if you have a large project, like a blanket, you can use these in lieu of straight needles. The concept is the same, but the connecting piece holds more stitches. You can also knit in the round with circulars. This is where you connect your project and just continue knitting around and around. This is great for many projects such as hats and sweaters. There is a method called magic loop that I have heard is great for socks as well. I have never knit a sock, so I cannot provide and opinion. Finally are the dpns. Double pointed needles (so-called because they have a point at each end) are purely to knit in the round. Most sock patterns I have seen call for them, as well as things like hats, sweaters, etc.
I have invested in an interchangeable set if circular needles and it was probably the best decision I ever made. Circular needles not only come in the regular needles sizes, they also come in different cord lengths (the can also have different needle lengths). My interchangeable kit allows me to pair different needle sizes with different cord sizes, depending on what project I am working on. My set is a Hiya Hiya metal large sizes (9-15). However, I have been drooling over the Lykke Driftwood interchangeable set.
Now. You have your yarn and your needles. Anything else you might need? Again, your pattern should tell you. Many patterns call for stitch markers. Stitch markers come in a few different types. The most common are ring stitch markers and locking stitch markers. I actually make my own stitch markers as I tend to stick with bulky yarns. Many ring stitch markers are for smaller needles, whereas mine can fit up to a size 19 knitting needle. They also double as locking stitch markers. Ring stitch markers are put onto the knitting needle when you cast on and mark the place where you change stitch type. Locking stitch markers go on the project itself as you knit and can mark right side versus wrong side, or where you last changed the type of stitch. I highly recommend point protectors (also called needle protectors). These well help prevent your works in progress from slipping off the needles when you set it aside. These things have saved me many times. Not pictured, a crochet hook is perfect for weaving in ends once you have finished knitting your project. And finally is a gauge ruler. Many knitters knit a swatch to figure out their gauge before starting any project. This tool helps you figure out how many stitches and rows are in a square inch. Mine happens to also determine the size of a needle based on which hole it fits in. This is great if you have unmarked needles.
Finally, as promised, I have an image of a dye lot number, as I promised to included. It is typically a stamped on number that you make sure all the skeins for your project share. This makes sure that there are not any shade differences between the skeins, as they were all dyed in the same group.
-US knitting needle sizes run from 0-10, 10.5, 11-19 odd numbers only, 35, and 50
-You can change the size needle you use based on your tension to achieve the desired gauge. Knitters with loose tension should go down a needle size while people with tight tension should go up a size.
-Knitting needles are made from plastic, wood, and metal
-Knitting needles come in 3 types, straight, circular, and double pointed (dpns)
-Straight needles come in different lengths. Longer needles accommodate more stitches
-Circular needles come in different cord lengths. They can be used in lieu of straight needles for larger projects, or to knit in the round to make circular items, like hats.
-Double pointed needles are used exclusively to make round items like hats and socks.
-Stitch markers can be ring or locking.
-Locking stitch markers open and shut and are put in the knitting itself. The show where entire row changes are made or right side versus wrong side.
-Ring stitch markers are put on the knitting needle. They show where stitches need to be changed within a row.
What did you think of the Getting Started series? Do you still have questions? Comment and let me know!
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