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Your knitting needles (or ‘knitting pins’) are fundamental tools in the construction of hand-knitted pieces, specially designed to hold yarn and create new stitches. These specialist tools have long shafts to hold unsecured yarn stitches, and tapered ends to make new stitches. Knitting needles come in a variety of forms. Firstly, there are standard single-pointed needles; long, thin sticks with a knob on one end and a tapered point on the other, usually used as a pair. The oldest type of knitting needles are double-pointed needles – tapered at both ends – while the most recent additions are circular needles, featuring two straight needles with tapered ends that are connected by a flexible cable. Knitting needles can be constructed from a variety of materials, although plastic, aluminium, bamboo and wood are most commonly used. Each material boasts its own benefits, so it’s best to try out different needles to see which one feels most natural to you. For example, plastic needles are lightweight and affordable, while aluminium needles allow for quicker stitching – but are slippery. Bamboo needles are usually found to be the most comfortable, while wooden needles have a great grip. For a beginner, it’s recommended to start your knitting journey with single-pointed needles of a medium size range. Check out our Knitting Needle Size Conversion Chart to find out more!
Yarn is the material used to create a knitted piece – but there isn’t just one type. In knitting, yarn can be made from natural fibres or synthetic fibres, each possessing different qualities. Spun natural fibres, such as wool or fleece, are generally considered the most popular yarns amongst knitters. However, synthetic fibres like acrylic are also used. For beginners, you want to choose a yarn that’s pretty easy to work with – so yarn weight and colour should be considered. It’s best to pick a yarn of a light and solid colour – rather than multi-coloured – so that you can see your individual stitches whilst practising. It’s also recommended to use a medium-weight (or worsted weight) yarn as it can be the easiest to work with. Check out our Standard Knitting Yarn Weights Chart to find out more!
After learning how to perform basic knitting stitches, it’ll be time to put your new skills to the test using a knitting pattern. A pattern explains how to create a design, broken down into a symbol-based chart and written instructions made up of abbreviations. For beginners, it’s easiest to begin with straight (‘row’) designs, such as washcloths or scarves. Patterns are generally labelled with difficulty ratings, making it far easier to find the right one to begin with. Beginner patterns usually only contain a couple of basic stitches, such as the knit stitch and the purl stitch. If you want to learn how to read a knitting pattern, check out our Understanding Knitting Patterns page.
Scissors are always a staple in craft kits – and the same goes for in knitting! Used to snip your yarn’s tail when casting off, scissors may not play an integral role in knitting, but they certainly are a necessity. Although there are no scissors specifically designed for knitting, there are certain qualities you should look out for; a small, compact size (veer clear of large dressmaking scissors!) and a very sharp point that allows you to make quick, clean cuts.
Unless the knitting needle size is listed in millimetres, figuring out its diameter can be an arduous task. The needle size you choose should correlate to the thickness of your yarn; thicker yarn requires thicker knitting needles, while thinner yarn should be worked on with thinner needles.
We’ve put together a handy conversion chart comparing metric, UK and US knitting needle sizes, making it easier for you to pick out the right size for different yarns. It’s important to note, though, that knitting needle sizes could vary by manufacturer – this is just a general guide!
|Metric (millimetres)||UK Size||US Size|
Like knitting needles, the names of knitting yarns vary from the US to the UK, and even by manufacturer. And, to make it that bit more baffling, the phrase ‘yarn weight’ doesn’t actually refer to the weight of the yarn, but how thick its threads are. In simple terms, the thicker the yarn, the heavier its ‘weight’. This remains true even if the yarn weighs less than a ‘lighter weight’ yarn in grams. The benefit of yarn being categorised into these particular weight categories is that it makes it easier to decide which knitting needles to use, and how large your stitches should be.
|US Yarn Weight Name||UK Yarn Weight Name||Gauge Range (‘sts’ – stitches) per 4 inches||Knitting Needle Range (millimetres)|
|0 / Lace||2-ply||33 – 40 sts||1.5mm – 2.25mm|
|1 / Super Fine / Light Fingering||3-ply / Baby||27 – 32 sts||2.25mm – 3.25mm|
|2 / Fine / Fingering||4-ply / Baby||23 – 26 sts||3.25mm – 3.75mm|
|3 / Light Worsted||DK||21 – 24 sts||3.75mm – 4.5mm|
|4 / Medium / Worsted||Aran / Afghan||16 – 20 sts||4.5mm – 5.5mm|
|5 / Bulky||Chunky / Rug||12 – 15 sts||5.5mm – 8mm|
|6 / Super Bulky||Super Chunky||7 – 11 sts||8mm – 12.75mm|
‘Gauge Range’ explains how many stitches you’re likely to have to make per four inches of a knitted piece. Every knitter stitches in a different way and to a different density, so you’ll notice that this is quite a wide estimation; suggesting the range of stitches that the weight will be able to stitch to.
The term ‘gauge’ describes the right tension you should be working to. This makes sure that your finished knitted piece is made to the correct size. The gauge directly relates to the ‘Knitting Needle Size’ column, so the higher the needle size and yarn weight, the smaller the gauge range (the fewer amount of stitches you’ll need to make).
Let’s look at an example. As chunky yarn is so thick, you’d only be able to fit between 12 and 15 stitches in four inches of a piece. Furthermore, due to the thickness of chunky yarn, you’ll also need a larger pair of needles to handle it. It should be noted that the above table only contains needle size recommendations, for reference after you find out the gauge for your project. It’s crucial that you work to the right gauge whilst knitting clothing. Otherwise, your finished piece may not fit!
When you purchase yarn, you’ll notice that it has gauge information written on it. Numbers next to the words ‘stitches’ and ‘rows’ suggest how many stitches and rows you could stitch with the yarn. Patterns also contain this information, but instead of taking these numbers as suggestions, they should be strictly kept to. This information could look something like this: ‘9 sts and 12 rows in a 4” square’. The number next to ‘sts’ tells you how many stitches across you need to make in a 4” x 4” section, while the number next to ‘rows’ tells how many rows of stitches to make in that same section. It’s recommended to make a 4” sample swatch to practise the gauge until you get it spot on.
To make a swatch, begin by finding the yarn weight, knitting needle size, stitch details and gauge information outlined on your pattern. Afterwards, complete a 4” x 4” square using the amount of stitches and rows stated in your pattern. Count how many rows and stitches you that made in the sample. If you didn’t quite make it, try and try again. If you’re making too many stitches and/or rows, this means you’re working too tightly and may need bigger needles. If you haven’t created enough stitches and/or rows, this means you’re working too loosely and may require smaller needles. Keep practising this swatch until you stitch to the correct gauge information. Then, you’re ready to begin.