Creating knitted fabric is facilitated by the use of knitting needles which means getting the right one for your pattern is pretty important. If you’re more than a little bit confused by all the different kinds of knitting needles on offer then we break it down here for you, to make sure you get the best needles for whatever it is you fancy knitting.


Knitting needles guide


Knitting needles: All the facts

1. In the past, needles were made from bone, ivory, tortoise shell, celluloid, steel or even silver.

2. Nowadays they are usually made from aluminium, bamboo, plastic and wood. They can be very colourful with elaborate stoppers or even have tips that light up.

3. A wide range of sizes are available starting from 2mm to 25mm and they come in a few different lengths too.

4. There are three types of needles: straight, circular and double pointed.

5. Straight needles have stoppers at the end and are used in flat knitting. Flat knitting is created by turning work at the end of each row, so right side and wrong side rows are worked alternatively.

6. Circular needles have shorter straight knitting needles connected by flexible cord and are used in circular or tubular knitting. They can also be used in flat knitting. Circular or tubular knitting is worked in rounds and always on one side, creating either circular or tubular fabric.

Knitting needles guide

7. Double-pointed needles are shorter straight needles with no stoppers at either end. They come in a set of four or five and can be used in circular and tubular knitting. When working with the set of needles, one of the needles is free and the stitches are divided equally between remaining needles. Use free needle to knit stitches on first needle, releasing the first needle, which will become the free needle.

8. Sometimes, a pair of double-pointed knitting needles are used in conjunction with a knitting belt, this practice is widely used by knitters on the Shetland Isles. In this method, one end of the needles is bedded in the belt, holding needles in working position. The knitter uses the points only to work with, so she can be very fast and very economical with labour.

9. Size of needles used for specific project is very much governed by thickness of yarn, stitch use and to some extent the design. The finer the yarn the smaller size needles are used.

Knitting Needles: A guide to sizes

Below is a list of some of the standard yarns and size of needles that would be usually recommended:

    • 2 ply yarn, size 23/4mm (No.12) needles.


    • 3 ply yarn, size 3mm (No.11) needles.


    • 4 ply yarn, size 31/4mm (No.10) needles.


    • Double knitting, 4mm (No.8) needles.


    • Aran yarn, 5mm (No.6) needles.

Remember that all needle sizes quoted in the pattern should just be treated as recommendations, but you will also need to check your tension first and use the size needle that allows you to achieve the stated tension.

There are some exceptions on this rule, like toys for instance, where smaller needles would be use to create denser fabric to keep the stuffing in, nice and snug or for welts, edgings, neckbands etc. And this applies to things which need a looser finish, like shawls where a more open fabric is required, therefore larger needles would be used.

Knitting needles guide

The length of knitting needles very much depends on the number of stitches to be worked on as well as your own technique of knitting. So. if you like knitting with the left needle tucked under your arm, then you will need longer needles. There will also be times when your pattern will reach a number of stitches that would be too many for straight needles, so a circular needle would be used but working forwards and backwards in rows.