The stuff theyre made of

First mass-produced in steel, knitting needles have been made in ivory, tortoiseshell, silver, whale bone, and more. Today you can find them made in ebony and rosewood, sherbet-colored pearly plastic, Teflon-coated aluminum, and 14-carat gold-plated (we kid you not). And that's only the beginning. Whatever your needles are made of, the material will contribute more or less to your knitting comfort, speed, and the quality of your stitches. Here are some recommendations:

i If you're new to knitting, working on double-pointed needles, or executing color patterns, wood (bamboo, walnut, and so on) and plastic are good choices. Wood and some plastics have a very slight grip, giving you more control over your work and discouraging dropped stitches.

i If you're knitting in stockinette or a straightforward stitch pattern, a slippery needle makes sense. The fastest ones are nickle-plated brass and call themselves Turbo. Use these and watch your stitches fly by before your eyes. (Also watch for more easily dropped stitches.)

i If you aren't sure what needle sizes you'll need in the future, try a circular knitting needle set with interchangeable tips. Even though the needle is designed for circular knitting, you can also use it to knit back and forth. Some sets feature plastic needle tips, some metal. These sets allow you to combine different-sized needle tips with different connector cords to make a very large range of needle sizes on the fly.

An interchangeable circular needle is especially handy when you're unsure which needle size to use for a given yarn. If the current size isn't giving you the right gauge, simply switch the tip up or down one size instead of starting over on another needle.

Although all needles look pretty much alike, there is a difference in the feel of various kinds of needles and in their interaction with your knitting style and the yarn you're using. If you find that some feature of their construction or material is annoying you or interfering with the flow of your project, try a different kind of needle. Switching may make the difference between a knitting experience on cruise control or one that stops and starts and sputters along.

Needle tips can be long and tapered or rounder and blunter (see Figure 2-9). If you're working a project with a lot of stitch manipulation (as in lace or cables), or if you're a snug knitter (that is, your stitches are tight rather than loose), you'll have an easier time if you use a needle with a long tapered tip. If you're knitting with a loosely spun yarn and/or you're a relaxed knitter with looser stitches, you may prefer a blunter point.

Figure 2-9:

Two kinds of needle tips.

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