Guide to Knitting Needles and Crochet Hooks
Have you ever wondered which needle or hook to use with what project and why? The choices in the tool section can be a little intimidating. This week on Ask Me Monday I give a guide to knitting needles and crochet hooks. Watch the video for in-depth explanations and recommendations, then bookmark this post as a cheat sheet!
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Before we talk tool type, it’s pertinent to talk about the materials that those tools might be made from. You have several different choices when it comes to both knitting needles and crochet hooks. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter which you go with since technically, they’ll all get the job done. What does matter though, is that you pick needles and hooks made from a material that you enjoy working with. Just like finding the right yarn, needles and hooks can make or break your stitching adventure. Here are a few of your options:
Aluminum needles and are inexpensive and available at all craft stores. They’re the workhorse of the bunch, easily accessible and get the job done. They work best with non-slick yarns.
Another more affordable option, plastic needles are flexible and light weight. The grab of plastic makes it a good material choice when working with slick yarns.
Available at most major craft stores and local yarn shops, bamboo is an excellent choice most of the time. They’re generally reasonably priced, warm in the hands, and are fairly light-weight. Although bamboo technically has grab that would make working with higher-traction yarns like wool, the modern advancements in buffing gives them a shine that mostly negates that potential issue. If you’re thinking about upgrading from aluminum or plastic, but aren’t quite ready to invest in one of the more expensive materials, bamboo is an excellent choice!
Wood needles and hooks are lovely, warming in the hands, and wonderful to work with. Laminated wood offers the perfect balance between grab and slickness, making them a great companion for most yarns. Although these tools will be more of an investment, they’re worth it!
- Nickel-plated Brass
Designed for speed and ease, your yarn will fly of of these shining beauties! When working with non-slick fibers, needles and hooks made from this material will feel feel like butter. These, along with with their wood-sisters, are considered top of the line, though, so expect to spend a little more on them.
There are a few options when it comes to knitting needles. You can make your choice based on project, technique or often, just plain ol’ personal preference. Here’s the scoop!
STRAIGHT NEEDLES (AKA SINGLE POINTS)
Straight needles are the O.G. tool for knitting. They’re likely what you learned to knit with, and could be what you use until the end of your-knitting-time, as long as you stuck with flat garments. They work singularly for knitting pieces back and forth, and thus are a solid choice for projects like scarves, lightweight wraps, pillows, or smaller garments that are worked flat, then seamed later. They come in different lengths to accommodate varying widths of knit fabrics. The plus to these needles is that they’re readily available anywhere that sells even the most basic of knitting supplies. The minus is that when working on larger or chunkier projects, the weight of holding all of the stitched on a rigid stick can be really hard on the wrists.
CIRCULAR NEEDLES (FIXED)
Circular needles (aka “circs”) consist of two needle points connected by a flexible cord which allows one to knit a piece in-the-round. The cord lengths come in lengths varying from 8.5″ to 60″, but most commonly are between 24″-40″. You choose your cord length based on the circumference of your project, if using normally, or a longer length if you’re using the Magic Loop method (as an alternative to using double-pointed needles) to knit any circumference.
Circs aren’t just for knitting in-the-round, however. In fact, I use them for almost any type of project, flat or otherwise. The needles are shorter, so less cumbersome than straights, and the cords allow for the bulk of any project to sit on my lap, taking the strain off of my wrists. They’re my go-to knitting tool!
CIRCULAR NEEDLES (Interchangeable)
These are the Swiss Army knife of knitting needles, because a set of them offers any number of customizable needle sizes and lengths. A stitcher can swap out needle tips when, say, moving from tighter ribbing to the looser body of a garment, or to a longer cord as a top-center out shawl grows in width. Although an interchangeable set is a larger investment up front, in the long run will cost less than buying multiple sizes and lengths of fixed needles. I can’t live without my interchangeable sets!
Double-pointed Needles (dpns) are mostly for knitting small pieces in-the-round. They come in longer lengths for hats and adult sleeves, and smaller lengths for socks and cuffs. The advantage of working with dpns is that there is no limitation to how small of a circumferene that can be made with them, nor, technically, how large. If you’re working on a piece that grows in circumference, you could potentially just keep adding double-pointed needles to the mix. Although a knitter is never working with more than two needles at a time, some find that have an additional two or more hanging in wait to be fussy. I personally, really like working with dpns. Take ’em for a spin and see what you think (but give yourself a minute to get used to them!)
Crochet hooks are a lot more straight forward than their knitting counterparts. The function of all are the same, so that leaves flair to choose from!
The main things to consider when choosing the right crochet hook for you and/or a particular project are: material (see above Materials section, and decide based on yarn type), handle type and head shape. For the most part, these choices can all be made based on personal preference. Although I’d suggest a pointier tip (see Ginger hook below) for working with spike stitches or front/back loop work, and a rounder tip when working with a yarn with a lot of plies (making it harder to split them), that really is just my recommendation. You should do you, when it comes to choosing a hook. Experiment. Do you like a warm, round wooden handle, or prefer the grip of a rubber, ergonomic one? Do you feel like you have more control over the flow of the yarn when there’s ample room under the hook, or a tighter, flatter groove? Take a few for a spin, then decide for yourself!
Crochet Hook Heads (Shown: Knitter’s Pride Ginger, Aluminum, and Zing Hooks)
All in all, the tools really can make the experience. If you try one type and feel frustrated, don’t cast the craft aside. Simply try a different style needle or hook. Having the right tool, for you individually, can make a huge difference. The most important thing is that you do you, and ultimately find your creative groove!