Exploring needles

You can choose from three kinds of knitting needles: straight, circular, and double-pointed (see Figure 2-6).

Jetting it straight

Straight needles are generally used for flat knitting — knitting on the right side, and then turning and knitting on the wrong side. Straight needles come in many standard lengths ranging from 7-inch "scarf needles" to those that are 10, 13, and 14 inches. The larger your project, the longer the needle you'll need. (You also can knit flat using a circular needle for wide projects; see the next section for details about circular needles.) Figure 2-7 shows the various parts of straight needles.

Figure 2-7:

Straight knitting needle anatomy.

Knot

Shaft

Going in circles

A circular needle is simply a pair of straight knitting needle tips joined by a flexible cable. You can use a circular needle to knit in the round — knitting in a continuous, spiral-like fashion without turning your work. This technique creates a seamless tube large enough for a sweater body or small enough for a neckband. You also can use a circular needle as you would straight needles, to work back and forth. This approach can be particularly handy for lengthwise-knit scarves, blankets, and other very wide pieces.

Circular needles are available in many different lengths, most frequently 16, 24, 29, and 36 inches, although they're also available in sizes as long as 60 inches! Some knitters find that double-pointed needles, described in the next section, are more comfortable to work with than circular needles for smaller circumferences.

^ When you buy a circular needle, check to make sure the spot where the needle tip meets the cable (called the join) is smooth to prevent stitches lf(|l| from snagging. Several manufacturers now make circular needles with interchangeable needle tips and various cable lengths. These are useful for a wide variety of projects and make it very easy to swap needles when you're attempting to find the right gauge with your chosen yarn.

The needle size appears on the package (which you can use as a storage case), but it doesn't always appear on the needle itself, which can be a bit of a pain. Our recommendation: Invest in a small metal or plastic needle gauge with graduated holes to help you determine the size of your needle.

Double-pointed needles

Double-pointed needles (abbreviated dpns) have a point at each end and are sold in sets of four or five needles. They work the same way as a circular needle — in rounds. You use them to make small tubes when there are too few stitches to stretch around the circumference of a circular needle — for such things as sleeve cuffs, tops of hats, socks, mittens, and so on. They come in 7- and 10-inch lengths and recently have shown up in 5-inch lengths — a great boon to those who enjoy making socks and mittens.

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