Recently a friend started to learn how to knit and was more than a little confused by the vast array of yarns and needles available. It reminded me of how I felt when I was a beginner. Which yarn went with which sized needles? Does it make any difference if I use a bigger/smaller needle than the one recommended on the yarn band? Why are they made in all kinds of different materials?
So I started to search through my books and realised I have some pretty good info just sitting on my living room bookshelf. Pages and pages about types of yarn, variations of needle size and type. Measuring tension, notions and embellishments.
Lets start with needles. Everyone who has been a knitter or crocheter for a while has a favourite type of needles or hooks. I would recommend all beginners to try out as many different kinds as they can. The material they are made from can make a dramatic difference to the fabric that you produce.
Metal, plastic, bamboo or ebony/rosewood are all common materials used in the manufacture of knitting needles and crochet hooks.
Metal needles – these are usually very slippy and not recommended for beginners. It is easy to lose a stitch when working on metal. They are great for fibres like mohair and wool that tends to stick. They are also great if you tend to knit too tightly. You will find you naturally loosen your tension when working with metal.
Bamboo needles – these are very lightweight and flexible. If you have a lot of stitches or a heavy fabric you may find your needles bending. They are great for more slippery yarns such as silk, cotton and bamboo. They are often recommended for beginners as they will slow the flow of your knitting down. Also recommended if you suffer with arthritis in your hands.
Plastic needles – these have a surface which falls somewhere between metal and bamboo. They keep a steady temperature as you use them and are not too slippery or sticky so are great with most types of yarn. Great for beginners and arthritis suffers. But beware needles smaller than 4mm have a tendency to snap!
Ebony/rosewood needles – these feel luxurious in your hands but are usually the most expensive on the market. They have a smooth surface, almost waxy and will become smoother with use. They keep a nice temperature too. They will help you keep an even tension and don’t bend like bamboo.
I started off using bamboo. As a beginner I liked the way the stitches flowed off the needles at a nice steady pace. I had used metal when I was much younger and my nan was teaching me. I had a tendency to lose a lot of stitches as when I slipped one off the needle, the stitch behind would follow, often without me noticing for a while!
A couple of years ago my husband bought me a set of KnitPro symphonie needles. I have never looked at another needle since. They are quite costly, but I think they are well worth the money. I have since received gifts of their double pointed and interchangeable needles. I even have a few of their crochet hooks too!
Which kind of needles and hooks do you prefer?