(Can I just say how ridiculous this title is? I didn’t come up with the title until I had written out this whole post as well as the last post. Anyway. Dorky me and my wordiness.)
Even once you have decided on the kind of needle material you want, you still have to figure out the type of needle you are going to use. Here, again, you pretty much have three choices.
“Straights” or “straight needles” are your grandmother’s knitting needles. They’re they kind that you imagine when you hear the words “knitting needles.” They’re straight (obviously), usually longish (12+ inches), and have a point on one end and a nubbin on the other. The nubbin stops your stitches from falling off the end. They are great for learning on, and are good for knitting flat things. However, if you knit big projects (like blankets or sweaters), you might want to avoid using straights, because the weight can cause wrist/hand problems.
The second type of needle are Double Point Needles (or DPNs). DPNs are usually shortish (in the 5-8 inch range), and, as the name implies, have points on each end. They’re sold in sets of 5 or so (depending on the brand). They’re used to knit up small projects in the round. If you’re making mittens, socks or sleeves, you might make the whole project on DPNs. Or, you could make the top of a hat on DPNs. They’re a little scary to use the first time, since you use so many at the same time, but they’re really the best/only way to make certain projects.
The last type of needle is the circular needle. These are two short needles (usually about 3-8 inches, depending on the brand) connected by a long cord. These are my absolute favorites. They’re versatile, allowing you to knit flat (like with straight needles) or work large projects in the round. The fact that the project hangs more or less evenly between your hands means that there is less chance of arm/hand fatigue. Also, if you knit in public/on the bus/on a couch next to people, circulars are nice and compact so you won’t keep poking your neighbors. But, one drawback of circular needles is that they are fairly specific to the project you want to make. For example, even though they’re both knit on size 8 needles, you will need a long circular needle to make a sweater in the round, but a short circular needle to make a hat. (But, that’s a pretty minor complaint in my biased opinion.) Also, poorly made circular needles can snag where the needle joins the cord, which can be a huge pain in the butt when you are cruising along a project. This means that when I buy circular knitting needles, I almost always go for the super fancy ones (like Addi Turbos), which cost way too much. But, I think it’s worth it to not hate my knitting.
They type of needle you use is pretty much determined by the project you’re making, but still you’ll develop preferences. If you hate DPNs, you could end up buying a whole bunch of tiny little circular needles, so you never have to break out the DPNs on a sleeve. Maybe you love circulars, so you end up knitting everything on circulars and never touch straights again. It’s really all up to you and your personal preference. What do you prefer?