Knitting needles are available in a wide variety of materials: aluminum, plastic, and other fabricated substances, along with natural woods. You can make your own needles out of dowels sharpened on one end. Or you can buy rare antique, sterling silver, or gold-plated needles, or even needles with the ends adorned with precious gems. Whichever you choose, just know they all knit the same, and all can get lost in the cushions of the couch.
Novice knitters may prefer to use needles of bamboo or wood because the stitches are less likely to slide off. These materials help grip the stitches. With experience, you'll find a type or brand of knitting needle that becomes your favorite. To begin, it's a good idea to buy an inexpensive pair that appeals to you and start from there.
Needles come in a range of sizes, from a very tiny size 0 (you don't want to start with these!) all the way up to size 50 (you'll only use these in rare instances for specialty projects). Knitting patterns include a suggested needle size. You won't know the actual size you need to work the pattern until after you make your gauge swatch.
There are three styles of knitting needles: straight (single-point), circular, and double-point needles. The most common style is straight, single-point. These needles are sold in pairs and are available in both 10- and 14-inch lengths. They have a knob on the end opposite the point to prevent stitches from slipping off. The needle size is sometimes stamped on the knob or on the needle shank. Straight needles are best suited to working back and forth in rows to make a flat piece of knitting.
Clockwise from left:
circular needles; straight, single-point needles; double-pointed needles.
The third type is double-pointed needles. These short needles have an identical point on each end, and either end is used to knit. Double-pointed needles are usually sold in sets of 4 or 5 and are available in lengths from 6 to 8 inches. Shorter lengths are available for making socks or gloves. This type of needle is best used for knitting in the round or for making I-cords or other small, flat items made with few stitches.
In the next section, we'll discuss the variety of yarn available for knitting and how to choose one that will work best for your project.
Needles and yarn will get you started, but as your knitting skills progress, you'll want to acquire the following:
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