Circular vs Straight Knitting Needles


Straight needles, circular needles, bamboo needles, metal needles, plastic needles, 16 inch, 24 inch, double points, Size 2, Size 19, WHAT??


For a beginning knitter there are a lot of choices of tools.  Each one is prettier than the next.  I have enough needles personally to last for a few lifetimes but if I see a shiny new pair that’s a little different I’m going to be after it.  They’re just so exciting to have!


Someone recently asked the difference between all of these so here’s a run down on what I know.

I recommend a brand new knitter to start out with a pretty big size such as a size 15 bamboo (Straights) along with a pretty bulky yarn.  The stitches are so visible so you can see every loop easily.  You also get your project done quickly so then you can start another right away.  If your stitches try and run off, you can spot ’em from far away.  They can’t hide.

Straight needles are great for making pieces that are flat (scarves) or that may be assembled with others to complete a garment.  Typically circulars are for creating items that will be mostly seamless (hooray!).  Double points are for mostly the same as circulars; they allow different amounts of stitches to be held that may not fit from one end of a circular to the other.

(I really want to make sure to not say ALWAYS because most tools can be used in a lot of creative ways.  We Knitters are super creative and resourceful people.  heh heh)

Bamboo or wood needles sometimes have a bit of a grab to them which can be great as your stitches will stay put but if you are a tighter knitter it might drive you crazy.  Acrylic or metal needles slide real fast.  REEEEEAAAALLLY fast sometimes.  You can really build up speed.  Like a jet.  A newer knitter may not want to handle all of that speed.  (go bamboo then)

Circular needles come in many sizes of cable lengths.  You will see most commonly 16″ and 24″ but there are lots of other lengths.  16″ is the perfect size for hats and 24″ are great for sweaters.  (but I didn’t say always).  Circular needles can be used as straight needles also.  Just try and not see the cable and pretend like you have two separate needles.  When knitting in the round you would just keep going and going.  If you are knitting flat, when you come to the end of your stitches, you must swap the needles in your hands (flat knitting).  A lot of knitters I know never use straight needles (some say they get stuck in their sleeves…that’s kinda funny).  They only use the circs.  Makes sense and can be a cost saver.


Double points make my heart swell.  I love ’em.  They just bring me joy and I do not know why.  If I feel sad, I start to day dream about a sweet mitten I might make on a set.  Or maybe a beautiful purple sock.  Oh such goodness.  The feel of them in my hands is like a continuous fountain of warm chocolate.  Sigh.   These lovelies usually are for knitting in the round (mostly seamless).  You get a pack of 4 or 5 and they are used to spread out all of your stitches so they don’t fall off the ends.  The majority of knitters I have met use 4 (they have their stitches on 3 and knit with the 4th).  But again, not always.  hee hee.   I remember seeing in a beginner’s knitting book a long time ago a picture of Mary -you know, Jesus’ Mom- knitting with double points.  There you go.  Mary loves ’em, too!  Go with what she does.


Whatever you do, don’t try and get them all at once.  Well, I guess you could and I have awesome dreams of having boatloads of needles but just pace yourself.  Get what you need for your current project.  Maybe try a project of each type and see what you fancy.  It’s all about YOU, you know.  Feel the love.

Good luck, as always my friends in fiber!

-Here’s my pot ‘o gold-this moment!





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