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Wood, metal, straight or circular: Which knitting needle is best for you?

by Fiona Stevenson

Hey there! Welcome back! We’re onto the next necessary knitting tools you need to complete this week’s project, the Cabled Poncho, a free pattern from Lion Brand. Yesterday I gathered together my Wool-Ease Thick & Quick yarn, pattern, and pattern holder. Today we’re looking at other essential accessories we need to successfully knit this project, which are knitting needles and cable needles.

A few balls of Lion Brand Thick & Quick yarn in kale green rest on top of the partially knit Cabled Poncho.

Thick & Quick Cabled Poncho is underway using all the tools of the knitting trade to make it perfect.

A large pair of KNITTER’S PRIDE Ginger wooden needles, a couple packages of Karbonz Double Pointed Needles and a large set of SmartStix metal needles sit on top of a partially knit green poncho; KNITTER’S PRIDE Karbonz Double Pointed Needles, KNITTER’S PRIDE SmartStix 80cm (32″) Green Fixed Circular Knitting Needle - 9mm (US 13)

Which is best – wood, metal, straight, or circular?

Knitting needles

Except for yarn, there are no more important tools for any knitting project than the needles! When I started, I only wanted to work with wooden needles. They are warm, natural, and comforting. In the beginning, wood or bamboo needles helped prevent dropped stitches, because their surface holds more securely than metal needles. Wooden needles tend to be less expensive in general which was also a bonus. However, as I became a more experienced knitter, my taste in needles changed. I started to find the courage to pay a bit more for my knitting tools, and I branched out into metal needles. There were two immediate benefits to metal. They are cooler to the touch, and I tend to run hot, so they feel nicer in my hands. Furthermore, and most importantly, the stitches move more smoothly across metal needles making my tension more even, and allowing me to knit faster. Now all my needles are metal. I don’t use acrylic needles, because I find them hard to move stitches as I work. The surface grips hard to my yarn.

A large KNITTER’S PRIDE ginger wooden straight needle and a large set of KNITTER’S PRIDE SmartStix teal metal needles sit on top of a partially knit green poncho.

Wooden straights or metal circulars? I chose the metal SmartStix circulars (in center) to knit my Cabled Poncho.

The Cabled Poncho pattern calls for circular needles as opposed to straights. This is due to the width and weight of this project which is easier to manage with the weight distributed on the cord of a circular needle. I got the KNITTER’S PRIDE SmartStix US 13 [9mm] 32” circular knitting needle to knit my poncho. What’s unique about these needles are the marks at 1” increments right on the cord that allow you to measure your width as you go, to keep an eye on your gauge. Very cool! Gauge can change as you move from knitting flat to knitting in the round, and just generally as you work through a project. SmartStix are very useful for knitting fitted garments, but it can’t hurt to keep an eye on the gauge of this poncho project.

If you are a newer knitter you might want to get wooden circulars to help keep your stitches on the needle so you won’t have dropped stitches while you’re cabling. Acrylic needles also hold the yarn in place, but may hold it too much making it hard to shift your stitches and work quickly. However, these needles tend to be cheaper to buy, so if you need to save a bit, they may be your best bet.

It’s possible to knit on straight needles, but they need to be long to accommodate all the bulky stitches. In the photo above are KNITTER’S PRIDE Ginger 9mm (US 13) 14” needles which will hold all the stitches of the poncho if you really squish them.

Cable needles

Three rainbow colored wooden cable needles of different sizes are photographed in a close-up on top of a dark wood table background; KNIT PICKS Rainbow Cable Knitting Needles - 3pcs - S/M/L

These KNIT PICKS Rainbow cable needles are what I used to make my cabled poncho. Check out the little grooves that hold the stitches in place. Very smart!

With the Cabled Poncho make sure to put a cable needle in your knitting tool kit. You won’t get past Row 2 without one! There are many kinds of cable needles. You can use a regular DPN needle as a cable needle, but there’s a danger your stitches may slide off. Double pointed needles are designed to make stitches slide easily for happy knitting, but you don’t want your cable stitches to slide too easily. You need a little bit of resistance to keep them in place until you’re ready to knit them. KNIT PICKS Rainbow Cable Knitting Needles (pictured above) have little grooves in the wood which is just enough texture to keep your stitches secure. I used these on my poncho, and didn’t drop a single stitch!

U-bend cable needles keep your stitches in place with a deep curve. This is a safe way to cable without dropped stitches. It takes a little more time to slide them back on your needles to knit your cables, but they do ensure secure cabling without scrabbling to pick up lost loops. If you’re a newbie cabler these may be the best bet for you.

Whatever kind of cable needle you choose, make sure it’s the right size for the Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. It’s a large size recommended for US 13 [9mm] needles.

What’s up next?

Well, now you’ve got your needles, yarn, and pattern all set and ready to go. There’s a few more essentials that you need to have in order to make the Cabled Poncho. Tomorrow I’ll share ideas on stitch markers, measuring tools, and yarn cutters to help you choose the best accessories. When that’s settled, you should be dying to jump into your poncho project, but hold off just one more day. On Thursday I’ll let you know what extra knitting tools I’ve found that make all of my projects knit up faster, easier, and better. And make sure to come back Friday to see my finished Cabled Poncho in all its glory!

This is part 2 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 1: Better knitting starts with the right accessories [tools of the trade]

Go to part 3: Knitting essentials: Why it’s the small things that count


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