Technically, all you need to knit is a skein of yarn and a couple sticks. That’s it. We talk about yarn weight, fiber content, dying, blah, blah, blah, all the time. Often we forget about the knitting needles. They’re probably feeling all left out. So, let’s talk needles.
Historically, knitting needles have been made from just about anything you can think of (bone, horn, wood, metal etc.), but most needles you can find at your local knitting store are made from one of three materials, metal, wood (or bamboo), or plastic. Whatever your needles are made of, they all perform essentially the same function, i.e. they hold your stitches as you knit. But, as with everything in knitting, there are just about as many opinions on needles as there are knitters.
Metal needles are very rigid (because they’re made from metal… duh), but are really slippery and can be made with really pointy points, which makes them good for fuzzy or snaggy yarns or for really complex projects (like lace, or other textured patterns).
Wood and bamboo needles are much lighter than metal needles and slightly bendy, which makes them more comfortable if you have hand or wrist pain issues. But, because wood and bamboo are softer than metal (again… duh), the tips of these needles are usually more blunt than metal needles, which makes them a little harder to use when you’re doing fancy-pants lace work. Supposedly, bamboo needles are supposed to be stronger, and more durable than wooden ones, but they seem about the same to me.
Most commercially available needles are metal or wood, but sometimes you’ll run across plastic ones, too. They are usually somewhere between metal and wood on the bendiness/heaviness scale, and they come in fancy colors (sometimes with glitter!). But (and maybe this is just my limited experience) they seem a little cheap to me. I’ve had a couple pairs of plastic needles, one broke in half, and the tips of the other got beat up to the point where they looked like I had been chewing on them. Not ideal, in my opinion. But, if you love plastic needles, let me know! I like being proved wrong.
So, try knitting with different types of needles and see what you like the best. I love me some metal needles when I’m using straights or circulars. But, when I’m working with DPNs (making socks or mittens etc.), I like my bamboo needles.
What do you like best?