Choosing the Right Knitting Needle

Are you starting a new project? Need help choosing the right knitting needles? Check out these stats on style, points, and materials to help you choose the perfect type of knitting needle for your project!

Needle Style

Not all knitting needles are great for all knitting projects, the style of needle you choose to work with is important and should match the type of project you are creating.

Working on a scarf or seamed cardigan? Try straight needles:

Straight Knitting Needles – Yes all knitting needles have a straight section to them, but ‘straight’ knitting needles are the kind you would most commonly associate with knitting. You know the kind from story books and movies, two sticks, one end pointed and a small knob or button on the other end. This type of needle is great for narrower flat pieces of knitting, think scarf, or a sweater worked flat in pieces and then seamed together.

Want to start a Pullover worked in the round or a blanket? Circulars are what you need:

Circular Knitting Needles – Circular needles are two short needles that are joined with a flexible cable. They are exquisitely versatile since they can be used for knitting in the round AND knitting flat. Since the needles are joined with a cable they can hold a larger number of stitches making this kind of needle perfect for knitting in the round or working on larger projects like a pullover, shawl or blanket. Since the weight of the knitting rests on the flexible cable, this type of needle can be much easier on the forearms and elbows of the knitter making for a more comfortable knitting experience.

Are you small circumference knitting a sock or mitten? Double points are one way to go:

Double Pointed Needles – Double Pointed needles come in sets of 4 or 5, they are typically between 6-8 inches long and both ends are pointed. This type of needle is used for small circumference knitting where the stitches that are worked in the round are placed as evenly as possible on 3-4 needles, then worked around with the final needle. Most commonly used for hats, socks, and mittens this type of needle is excellent for decreasing areas like the top of a hat since the needles can accommodate the changing circumference.

Small circumference knitting can also use shorter circular needles, two circular needles, or one very long circular needle with the cable looped around.

Tip Type!

The type of finish that your needle tip has can affect your knitting experience and finished item.

Are you working with a plant based fiber like cotton? Or creating a beautiful Lace shawl? Sharp tips can help with that!

Sharply Pointed – Really sharp needles are great for knitting lace stitches, the narrower tips help the knitter and the needle insert into the yarn loops faster and with greater success when completing a decrease like k2tog, or ssk. Sharper tips can also help with make one increases when using a plant fiber yarn like cotton, the plant fibers yarns tend to have less elasticity and can be harder to twist into an increase. Narrower needles have a fine tip allowing the same increase with less tension.

Are you enjoying some meditative rows of stockinette or garter stitch? Middy points are a great choice to keep that zen feeling:

Snub or Middy Point – These needles are great for faster knitting, they have a wider point that is smooth and are better at not splitting the yarn. If you are working on a mostly garter stitch, or stockinette stitch item then this point style is a great choice. It also works well for loosely spun yarns like singles, novelty yarns and fuzzy yarns like mohair since typically the middy point will slide smoothly into the stitch versus getting snagged in the yarn.

Materials: What your needles are made out of matters!

Most knitters have a preference for one material type or another, and it can be helpful to switch materials now and then depending on your project.

Working with wool? Try Metal Needles:

Metal Needles – Metal Needles are great for keeping the yarn moving smoothly along the needle, they are ideal for yarns that are typically sticky like wool or mohair. If you are typically a knitter with loose tension switching to metal needles might help you tighten up, the more slippery needles will require tighter stitches thus firming up your tension.

Super Slippery Yarn? Wood Needles can help:

Wooden Needles – Wood or Bamboo needles are typically stickier to work on than metal needles. If you are using a slippery yarn like rayon or bamboo working on wooden needles can help you keep the stitches on the needles better. If you are typically a knitter with tight tension switching to wooden needles might help you loosen up, the more sticky needles will require looser stitches thus relaxing your tension.

Using a strong yarn like cotton? Plastic Needles can be flexible:

Plastic Needles – Plastic needles are light to work with and are typically stickier than metal but smoother than wood. Some knitters love the flexibility of plastic needles, especially when working with a strong yarn like cotton.

Related Videos: Choosing Your Knitting Needle: Circular vs. Straight, Choosing Your Knitting Needle: Sizes of Needles, Choosing Your Knitting Needle: Wooden vs. Metal

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20 Responses to “Choosing the Right Knitting Needle”
  1. Karla Canal
    Karla Canal

    Thank you for clearing some of the problemI had in the passed up
    I may just start knitting again

    • Cece

      My wood size 5 needles keep unscrewing and pulling the yarn I can’t seem to get them screwed on tight enough to stay

      • Customer Service
        Customer Service

        Hello Cece,

        We have received the following response from our experts regarding your question:

        Some brands of needles unfortunately have this problem. It’s a problem I have too with certain brands. If you are already using the little key the interchangeable comes with to tighten and they still come unscrewed, you can try holding the needle with something grippy as you tighten the needle – like something you would use to open the lid on a jar. Sometimes that will help with getting the needles screwed in a little bit tighter.

        If you have further questions, please chat, email or call Customer Service at 1-833-622-6523.


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        • Leslie Ingraham
          Leslie Ingraham

          i have found that finger cots, that you can get at drugstores, put over the fingers you use to tighten the needle work well to prevent slippage. They really make it possible to get the needle tip screwed in tightly.

  2. pat

    You seem to have left out the most important way to choose needles — which your teacher should have told you right at the start — if you had a teacher! You are not giving beginners all the information necessary.

  3. Kathy L Franccis
    Kathy L Franccis

    I love working with natural fibers and couldn’t understand why when I was making cotton fiber dish cloths I liked the short plastic needles my friend gave me when she taught me how to knit. I am a crocheter from way back and didn’t start knitting until I was in my 50’s.

  4. Wendy Graham
    Wendy Graham

    I am a small person and found that straight needles catch on my upper arm as they wave around. I therefore always choose round needles even when not knitting in the round.

  5. Sylvia Jurys
    Sylvia Jurys

    I am a straight needle knitter. I have tried to knit on circular needles but don’t seem to be able to get the tension right. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, Sylvia

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Sylvia,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      The actual knitting needle portion of a circular needle comes in different lengths, depending on the type or brand of needle you’re using. Some knitters can easily knit on circular needles where the needle is very short, and some knitters need a longer needle. You might find that trying a different brand of circular needle may help you.

      If you have any additional questions, please email or contact Customer Service at 1-833-622-6523.


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  6. Eugenia Read
    Eugenia Read

    I have heard alot of people raving about interchangeable needles. Do the same rules apply for type of yarn vs. type of needles? eg. acrylic and plastic/metal.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello! Great question! The ‘Ask an Expert’ section is currently for members of our online community. By becoming a member, you will have access to our expert’s knowledge in XXX. With your membership you will also receive discounts on products and hours of Premium video content.

      If you are interested in becoming a member to $3.00, please click on the special offer below:


  7. Linda

    I bought bamboo needles on eBay because I could get a full set for cheap. They are rougher than aluminum, but rub them with 1200-grit sandpaper (1200, not a typo) and give them a coat of paste wax and they’re silky smooth.

  8. Esmeralda

    I mainly use round needles even if I am not knitting on the round. In general I use bamboo needles, I don’t like the feel of the metal needles and find too slippery.

  9. Pamela Kendall
    Pamela Kendall

    Please recommend the brand for a bamboo needle or wooden one. I am a beginner and would like your recommendation. Thank you.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Pamela,

      Great question! The ‘Ask an Expert’ section is currently for members of our online community. By becoming a member, you will have access to our expert’s knowledge. With your membership you will also receive discounts on products and hours of Premium video content.

      If you are interested in becoming a member, please click on the special offer below: