A friend contacted me over the weekend asking for help picking the best knitting needles for beginners. My friend explained that drinking Gin wasn’t a hobby. She wanted to give knitting a try and knew it was my forte.
This guide to knitting needles for beginners covers all the things you need to consider before you get going. As well as things you don’t need to worry about. That way you can stop feeling overwhelmed by the options, and get down to it.
Obviously it is about more than just the needles but they are key. The needles you chose can make knitting a breeze, or they can cause such frustration, that you give up prematurely. Therefore they should be the main starting point for any beginner.
When you start out, there is a surprising amount to consider and a need not to overthink things too much. Knitting is best learnt through actually doing, so the less time you spend on the initial choices, the better.
The main piece of advice I have for beginner knitters is to buy some needles and just start.
If you don’t want to read at all then you can just…
Compare Knitting Needles for Beginners
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I have already covered this briefly in my post about hobbies for women, which you should definitely read. Especially if you are feeling the pinch of being indoors so much.
Why is knitting so great? Beyond the fact that you make something with your own hands from complete scratch? Which I still think is ridiculously cool….
Unless you haven’t been living under a rock, you have probably heard of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been shown to have numerous benefits.
Here is what popular Meditation app Headspace has to say about it:
You may have heard that mindfulness — the ability to be fully present in the moment — can have numerous benefits. Everything from decreased stress and sadness to increased levels focus and happiness, according to general mindfulness research. But what exactly is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.”Headspace
What on earth has this got to do with knitting? If you think about the description there, knitting has similar properties to help with mindfulness. It’s hard to think negatively about your thighs or the world whilst you’re muttering “Knit, purl, purl, knit” to yourself.
Think I am talking nonsense? There have actually been studies on knitting and wellbeing. These have shown that knitting has both physical and mental benefits. A study from “Knit for Peace” found the following benefits:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces depression and anxiety
- Slows the onset of dementia
- Is as relaxing as yoga
- Distracts from chronic pain
- Provides an opportunity for creativity (at a time of reducing capacity)
- Increases sense of wellbeing
- Reduces loneliness and isolation
- Increases sense of usefulness and inclusion in society
Still not convinced. A Harvard Medical School study from 2007 evidenced that Knitting lowered peoples heart rates on a similar level as yoga. This also had a corresponding effect on blood pressure.
I will admit to being a tad gungho and overenthusiastic about knitting. I think I am also justified based on all of that, don’tcha think!?
Things to consider:
Material – Wood, Metal, Plastic
There are 3 standard types of knitting needles:
- Plastic – These needles can be cheap. There is a reason for that though. They are more likely to bend or snap. They can be uncomfortable to hold. As they are moulded they can have raised deformities that catch the wool. They tend to have a slippery factor somewhere in between wood and metal. Unless you really don’t want to spend much on the initial purchase, then I wouldn’t buy plastic needles. If you actually like knitting, it’s a false economy.
- Metal – Metal knitting needles are generally the choice for more advanced knitters. As they are slick the stitches slide across them easily. This can be a disaster in terms of dropped stitches for a beginner. They have sharp points and are also heavy and less flexible than wooden needles. They can be noisy too. For speed, you cannot beat them so personally they are my favourite as a seasoned knitter. A newbie should probably give them a miss.
- Wooden – These are the best choice for a beginner. They are lightweight, have blunter tips and are quiet. The main benefit for a new starter is that they tend to grip the stitches a little better. Meaning you are less likely to drop stitches. Bamboo knitting needles are a little bit slicker than other wood. I am lumping them all in together for now.
Knitting needles sizes go from teeny tiny to really hefty. This often corresponds to the type of wool you are using. If you have very thin wool, you’ll generally want a smaller needle. Thicker wool, bigger needle. I’ll go over wool weights in more detail later.
One main thing you need to know is that knitting needle sizes can be displayed in 2 ways. 3 if you have an old UK pattern. See this conversion chart for more details on sizes.
So what should you choose? Some people say that it’s better to go for larger needles and thicker wool. This is because projects knit up faster. I find this counter-intuitive though. Often knitting on larger needles doesn’t have the same feel or flow as the standard sizes. You are better to choose a medium-sized needle and wool to get started. Say a 4.5mm or 5mm needle.
This way you get in the flow of knitting comfortably. Yet, you can still see the stitches clearly enough to try to work out any error, if you make them.
When you are starting out, the length of the needle is important. For a beginner knitter, you don’t want a knitting needle which is either too long or too short. Too long and you feel like you have knitting needles in your armpits. Too short and it becomes much harder to see the stitches on your needles as they are all bunched up. 9-10 inches is a good size for beginners.
However, it also depends on the type of needle you are going to get. The length of the needle is less important on circular needles. Yet if you are using double-pointed needles, choosing a shorter length could be catastrophic.
Let me explain:
There are 3 (and a half) needle types that you can consider when you are starting out:
- Flat – The knitting needles everyone generally thinks about when you say “knitting. They are perfectly fine when you are starting out. Get onto more complex things like jumpers though? Knitting on flat needles means that you have to sew up all the component parts. Snorefest!
- Circular – Shorter knitting needles connected by a cable. The stitches move to the cable when they run out of needle room so there is still plenty of space. You can knit back and forth on these as you would on flat needles. You can also knit “in the round” which means going round and round in circles. This makes jumpers and clothing a much easier job.
- Double-pointed Needles (DPNs) – As the name suggests these needles have points on both ends. This is so you can knit in the round with small items such as socks or gloves. You knit on 3 needles and use a forth as the active needle. As you go round, you swap the needles out. These needles can be quite fiddly and difficult to get to terms with. I wouldn’t start out with DPN’s. If you have a burning desire to knit socks or mittens, then you will need them at some point.
If you are keen to start knitting and sure that you will like it. I would urge you to go straight in and invest in an interchangeable circular knitting needle set. Yes, it is an investment. They have so much added versatility and can do everything a flat set of knitting needles can.
It also depends on what kind of knitting you want to do. If you only want to knit hats for preemies. Buying one pair of wooden knitting needles to practice on and then progressing to DPN’s is a good idea.
My main advice for a beginner in terms of a pattern is to not bother. To start, just knit squares. Train yourself in how to hold the needles, make stitches and cast on and off. Then start adding in purl stitches. The idea is to build up muscle memory and ensure that you have a good knitting form. Once you finish a square, look at it. Compare it to something similar online. Often you’ll be able to see if yours looks different and reverse engineer any problems.
Once you are confident knitting squares then you can advance to simple patterns. From there you can slowly build up the complexity as your understanding and skill grow.
There are hundreds of patterns on the internet both free and paid. A good starting place is Ravelry. It has the ability to search for patterns. Then you can filter them by all different options; free or paid, photos, gender and needle size. There is a social element too with forums, groups and the ability to share your projects against any pattern. It is worth checking out and you should also add me as a friend too.
There are 7 general weights of yarn:
- Lace – US Lace
- 3 Ply – US Super Fine
- 4 Ply – US Fine
- DK – US Light
- Aran – US Medium
- Chunky – US Bulky
- Super Chunky – US Super Bulky
Here is another chart. This on helps you to work out the best needle to use with which wool. Though often the pattern will tell you.
Continental Vs English
There is more than one way to knit. English is the traditional way where you use your right hand to wrap the wool around the needle. There is another way though. Continental is faster and makes switching from knit stitch to purl stitch much easier. It involves holding the wool in your left hand.
Continental can seem a little strange and tougher to get the hang of. If you possibly can, I would persuade you to try to learn this method of holding your wool.
As it makes switching from knit stitch to pearl stitch easier this will mean you can get quicker faster. All the fastest knitters are continental. So starting this way will stand you in good stead, no matter how your grandma did it. I switched a few years in. It was a little difficult and frustrating at first but I persevered. I quickly became used to it and am a better and faster knitter now.
Cheap vs Branded
When you are just starting out, branded knitting needles can seem ridiculously expensive. Whilst cheap needles are fine if that is all you can afford. I would encourage you to invest if you like knitting and want to progress. Why? Branded needles are designed for heavy use out of better materials. Therefore they are more ergonomic so you are less likely to run into issues with pain and strain.
Best Knitting Needles for Beginners Overall
Overall my advice when starting out is to choose a set of needles if you can. This is because often patterns will require you to change up or down a size midway through. Having a set means that your tension should remain similar versus if you changed needles type completely. You will have the next size to hand rather than waiting for a new needle size to ship to you.
If you definitely want to get knitting and aren’t just testing the waters. I would encourage you to invest straight away in a set of interchangeable circular knitting needles.
I mentioned before that circular needles are much more versatile than flats when you progress to more complicated patterns. As someone who hates sewing, finding circular interchangeable needles was a revelation. These needles will save you from a lot of the additional work. They negate sewing if you knit strategically and mean less work putting finished pieces together. They don’t cut out all the sewing, but they cut out a lot.
So on to my best beginner knitting needle choice:
Knit Picks/Knit Pro Wood Interchangeable Needles
These needles are great for folk who are just starting out. How do I know? They were my first knitting needle purchase for myself.
They are a good pick because they are wooden so the stitches don’t slip across the needles too easily. Also, they have a good range of needle sizes going from small up to a pretty hefty 8mm.
The needles are 4.5 inches long. Most Interchangeable sets come in a 4-inch to 5-inch length. Therefore these needles are a good starting point somewhere in between.
On to the not so good. The cables on this set are a pretty standard gripe on this set. They retain their shape and since they are shipped all coiled up, the bendiness remains and can be irritating. There are also sometimes issues with the smoothness of the connections. You may occasionally hit a snag or have to tighten the cable mid-project. I have found this to be a minor irritation rather than a dealbreaker but it’s something you should know.
Finally, the number on the needles rub off pretty quickly so you will want to invest in a knitting gauge.
Bottom Line: Are these the best needles money can buy? No. However, as a not too expensive wooden beginner set, they are worth the investment. My set lasted around 8 years. I have only recently replaced them and that was because I wanted to, not because I needed to. They are still going strong.
Skip ahead if you want something a bit fancier.
Best Straight Knitting Needles for Beginners
Similar to my overall pick, I would say that for similar reasons, I would choose the Knit Pro/Knit Picks Symphonie Wooden Straight Flat needles.
Again they are made of pretty densified birchwood so stitch slipping is kept to a minimum. Also, they come in 3 length choices – 10-inch, 12-inch or 14-inch. So you can choose the size that is good for you.
They have none of the snagging issues with cables that interchangeable sets suffer with, so they are just a really beautiful wooden set of needles.
Additionally, they come in a cute little carry case which makes organising them by size much easier.
Best Interchangeable Knitting Needles for Beginners
For best interchangeable knitting needles for beginners, I would choose the Lykke Driftwood 5″ Interchangeable Knitting Needles.
The Lykke sets often come with very dinky 3.5-Inch needles however I wouldn’t recommend these for beginners for two reasons.
Firstly being that that is a very short needle. I know I said it doesn’t matter so much when you are on circulars however that is barely bigger than my index finger and I have petite hands. Secondly, the smaller set has less of a selection of needle sizes, coming up small again. Whereas the 5-Inch needle tips have more choice in needle size going up to a chunky 12mm.
These needles are also made of birchwood, like the symphonies, and come in a really lovely denim display case.
These needles come in various colours, though be warned that there were some reports of the indigo dye coming off on your hands.
Best DPN Knitting Needles for Beginners
For the best set of DPN’s I would go with the Knit Pick/Knit Pro Wooden DPNs.
I know I am loyal to this brand but the wood is strong and pretty. The tips are pretty sharp which helps to pick up stitches, especially on fiddly smaller things like socks.
They come in 3 different lengths, 10cm, 15cm and 20cm.
Knitpro provides you with 6 of each needle as well which means you have more than enough for any project.
They come in a clear plastic pouch which helps to keep them organised.
One word of warning, these needles are very delicate so if you are a heavy-handed knitter, or still having problems with too tight tension, then you need to be careful with them.
Another option I would urge you to consider is the Addi Crasy Trio needles (Also called the flexi flips.) These bendy DPN’s make fiddly in the round knitting that much easier and you only need 3 needles as opposed to the 4 you usually need for other small round projects.
It is essentially a DPN with a very short bit of cable in the middle so it bends. This means that you can bend them into a circle and only need to have the knitting on 2 needles and use a 3rd needle as the active one. Lots of people swear by them. I have been dying to try them but am currently in the middle of a project so changing to a different type of needle isn’t a good idea. They are expensive though so again not a beginner buy, but good to know about.
They are said to help with the issue of laddering where you are changing needles that tend to develop on more traditional needles.
The set comes with two different tips, lace and a standard Addi tip, so one end is pointier than the other.
There are also both bamboo and metal options. I usually would suggest the wooden option for beginners but there seem to be some issues with the bamboo ones breaking where the cord joins to the needle, so the metal choice may be more sensible.
It’s reported that they are easier to use than traditional DPN’s. Full disclosure though, despite being on my wishlist, I haven’t tried these yet so cannot confirm these statements.
Still if you are feeling adventurous, definitely give them a go.
Best Bamboo Knitting Needles for Beginners
Chiaogoo are one of the best brands of needles you can buy. Their sets all come in attractive cases and have extras like stitch markers and a knitting gauge thrown in. They have special cords which are thin and have no memory so they do not stay coiled and bendy when you are trying to knit.
These are just some of the reasons and the Chiaogoo Spin Interchangeable Knitting Needle Set is my top pick for a bamboo knitting needle set for beginners.
They have quite sharp points that make picking up stitches a breeze without being too pointy. This is especially good for lacier knits. I also like that the bamboo is darkened a little so they are an attractive deep brown colour.
They are designed so that the connectors spin on the needle as well, meaning that there is no chance of the cord unravelling whilst you knit and preventing the cord from twisting.
Knitting on Chiaogoo’s really is a delight and although one of the pricier options, they are worth the money if you can afford to splash out.
Best Metal Knitting Needles for Beginners
For this option, I have gone with the HiyaHiya 5-inch Sharp Stainless Steel Interchangeable Needle Set.
Although not the full set, you can choose either the small set which goes up to 5mm or the large set which goes up from there to 10mm needles. Therefore if you know you have a fondness for knitting with certain wools or patterns, then you can choose confidently. If you want the full set, please see Best Beginner Complete Starter Set.
They come in a lovely Chinese brocade storage case which is well made and has space for extra tips in case you purchase more sizes.
Otherwise the main features on these needles are that they have keyless screw-on connections between the cord and the needle. They supply a rubber grip to help assist with tightening them. Similar to the Chiaogoo’s they also have swivel cables to prevent the cables unscrewing or getting twisted.
These needles are lightweight with sharp tips for easy stitch pick up. The wool glides very well over these needles for smooth knitting.
The only negative is that the size of the needle which is printed on it is very hard to read so you will definitely need to get a gauge.
Best Plastic Knitting Needles for Beginners
Whilst I would stick by my assertion that you should skip over Acrylic needles, there are times when someone might prefer a plastic needle over a metal or wooden one. I know, for example, that arthritis sufferers sometimes fine acrylic needles to be preferable.
They both come with a nice variety of needle sizes as well as all the normal cables, stoppers and keys for interchanging the cables.
The Knitpros match with the other Knitpro sets so you can always use the cables and accessories over more than one set. They have gradually tapered points which although not as sharp as metal or wooden needles, should assist with picking up stitches.
The Denise needles come in a lovely pink “Knit for the Cure” carry case.
These needles will serve you fine although they do have some issues with snapping and bending however that is just a general issue with plastic needles.
I will reiterate that if you have no need for acrylic needles, then you should go for a metal or wooden set.
Best Interchangeable Knitting Needles for Intermediate or Advanced Knitters
I recently purchased myself the Chiaogoo Twist Red Lace Set to get some more glide on my stitches and move up from my Knitpro set and I have to say that I adore them.
As with other Chiaogoo options, the cords on this set have a steel core and therefore have no memory, preventing twisting and bending. The cables are the bigger pro to these needles and I cannot rave about them enough.
They are made of steel so they have a lovely glide which is perfect for lace, hence the name. This combined with the cables and the smooth transition has sped up my knitting.
The set also comes with cable connectors so that you can extend the cables by joining two cables together. You also get a needle gauge although the sizing is written on the tips very clearly.
The carry case has the perfect amount of space for the cables and extras as well as labelled slots for each size of needle. This is great as if you want to expand you set, there is still space in the case for the additional sizes.
The only con is that as they are based on American sizing there is no 3mm, 7mm or 7.5mm needles included in the set. You can purchase them separately so it’s a small gripe, especially as there are no slots for those needle sizes in the pouch.
Still, I love this set and the cables really do make them fantastic.
Best Beginner Knitting Complete Starter Kit
The HiyaHiya Sharp Pinnacle Gift Set comes with absolutely everything you could need to get started in either the 4-inch tips or 5-inch tips.
It comes in the same lovely brocade case mentioned on the smaller set. With needles right from size 2.75mm to 10mm.
The needles themselves are stainless steel with lovely sharp tips. The set also comes with 5 sets of cables. They also have innovative swivel technology to prevent cables undoing or getting twisted. The transitions are all smooth so no snagging.
This set also has a straight needle adaptor in both large and small, so you don’t have to use the cables if you don’t want to.
It also has Panda cable stoppers in large and small, a pair of tip adaptors, a pack of 12 safety pin stitch markers, 3 tapestry needles and a pair of puppy snips. Cute overload!
Best Budget Knitting Needles for Beginners
For my branded choice I have gone with the Knitters Pride Dreamz Deluxe Set.
It is similar to the best overall pick of the Knit Pro Wooden set however it is slightly cheaper with a slightly less polished look.
Also if you can get hold of it the Knit Pro/Knit Picks Wooden Starter Set is a good choice. The only difference between this and the complete set is that this only has 3 different needle sizes – 4, 5 & 6mm. This is ideal for medium starter projects and the kit still comes with 3 cables, 6 stoppers and a key for each cable.
This is ideal as it is not too expensive but if you like knitting and this set particularly, you can buy a bigger set and just integrate the two together.
If you want to go for a cheap non-branded set, then there are loads available but always read the reviews.
Also, I would buy a needle gauge from a separate and more established source and double-check that your needles are the size they say they are before you get in a swatch muddle.
Here are some optional extra recommendations just to help you out.
Best YouTube Channels for Beginner Knitting Help
Here are my three favourite knitting channels on YouTube which give great help. Though there are loads so if you can’t find what you are looking for just do a quick search. In no particular order, my favourite YouTube Channels:
- 10 Rows A Day – Maryna from 10 Rows a Day has so many awesome tips that really show how much of an expert she is. Her stretchy cast on video improved my cuffs no end. She explains things really well without going too slowly. I also like that she generally uses bright yellow wool on a blue background so you can really see her working. She knits continental style and for this reason, she is my top pick from YouTube.
- The Knit Crowd – Mikey explains things well and also does knit and crochet along (on his sister channel the Crochet Crowd. I find these helpful if you are struggling with a pattern. Mikey knits English Style so if you are looking for a Continental Knitter to follow then check out 10 Rows a Day who I mention later.
- Sheep & Stitch – Davina also explains things well and is entertaining. She also has some really good beginner knitting step by steps for if you are a visual learner and want to watch then do. Davina is also an English knitter.
Best Books for Beginner Knitters
As I am more of a visual learner, books have limited usefulness for me, however, these are the books I had recommended to me for this article. I won’t comment further as to do so would feel dishonest as I have never looked at them but I didn’t want to skip over something that a lot of people can’t do without.
- “Knitting Without Tears” – Elizabeth Zimmerman Click here to check price and read reviews
- “First Time Knitting” – Carri Hammett Click here to check price and read reviews
- “Knitty Gritty” – Aneeta Patel Click here to check price and read reviews
- “Knitting for Beginners” – Nancy Gordon Click here to check price and read reviews
Accessories to Consider Purchasing:
Stitch Markers – An absolute must – Use to mark the beginning/end in the round and remind you of increases, decreases etc. I’d suggest the lockable ones which aren’t expensive but make life that much easier. Click here to buy some.
Tapestry Needle – To Sew up makes and weave in ends
Cable Needle – If you want to make cables at some point you will need one of these. These are the fancy things that look like plaits/braids on jumpers sometimes.
Stitch Holders – This is for when you advance a fair bit and sometimes need to put some of your stitches on hold without casting off.
Yarn Bowl – So pretty and stops your wool for rolling all over your floor and tempting your cat to join in.
Project bag – Always handy to have a place to stash everything neatly when you aren’t knitting.
Finally, I’ll sign off with a single bit of advice for you. If in doubt, ask a knitter you know to help!