Circular knitting needles consist of two small needles connected by a cable. Purchasing a pair requires a consideration of much more than just basic needle size. With choices of needle length, cable length, tip style, needle material, cable material, fixed cables and interchangeable cables, which ones are right for you, and how can you decide? While your choices will be dictated by your preferences and project, here are some pointers that can help you to choose more wisely and make your knitting more pleasurable.
Needles are now available with a mind boggling array of material choices: anodized aluminum, stainless steel, nickel-plated brass, various woods, bamboo, plastic, acrylic, bone, and composite materials. Different yarns will suggest different needles, as will your personal knitting style and preferences. Consider your level; if you are a beginning knitter, or prefer a slower pace, you might choose wood or bamboo, because these materials are typically less slippery and you will have better control over your knitting with fewer dropped stitches. An experienced knitter, or one interested in increasing knitting speed will usually choose aluminum, steel, or nickel plated needles, which float the yarn with less friction and speed knitting along. Regardless of experience, most knitters prefer the extra friction of bamboo or wood with slippery, silky yarns, and choose slippery needles for clingy yarns, so consider the material you typically choose for your projects before buying your needles.
The cable material that connects the needles is very worthy of consideration. The plastic connection cables available at many large retailers have ‘memory’ and stay curly when removed from the package, so they are difficult to use. Experienced knitters relax the plastic cables by suspending the cable in near-boiling water for 2 minutes, then stretching it out in a towel to dry and cool. Metal needles can sit in the hot water, but keep porous materials like wood and bamboo out. Many companies use cables that do not remain curled, and these are worthy of consideration: Knitter’s Pride, Hiya Hiya, Addi, Knit Picks and Chiagoo are just a few of the brands that specialize in very flexible cables that straighten easily. These can be a little pricier, but the ease of use can make them very worth it. These more flexible cables also make the magic loop technique possible.
Tip style refers to how long or pointy the tips of your preferred needles are. If you tend to work with bulky, very soft, or single ply yarn, sharp needles may cause you to rip and split your yarn, so you may prefer more rounded needle tips. Those who work with finer lace weight yarns or lace patterns requiring the needles to slide under several stitches at a time usually prefer sharper tips with longer tapers. Watch for the term “lace” or “sharp” on the needle package to indicate long tapered sharp tips.
Long needles are usually easier to hold, while short needles are required for tiny cables. Long cables are required for large projects with lots of stitches. Some brands (Hiya Hiya, for example) have a pivoting cable, although many do not.
Circular needles are also sold in sets with either fixed or interchangeable cables. Fixed cables are permanently attached, while interchangeables allow you to attach different size cable to different size needles, based on the needs of your current project. Cheaper interchangeable sets may come apart while knitting, while pricier sets usually include methods of keeping cables firmly attached.Some of these needles require tools to aid attachment, and some do not.
Read customer reviews of various knitting needle manufacturers to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each brand you are considering. Consider trying a single needle in a brand to give you a feel for the company and its product.
Knitting with the right needles turns a pleasant hobby into a delight. Get the needles that are right for you!