Most people assume that most other people think, feel, and act in ways that are similar to the way they think, feel, and act.
I’m no different. I assume that most knitters are like me. I assume most knitters prefer interchangeable needles. And I assume that when knitters talk about long knitting needles, they meant long straight knitting needles.
The needles I learned to knit on looked a lot like the ones pictured above. They were long, straight, aluminum needles. Since I was only about 9 years old at the time, they probably extended past my elbows.
I don’t miss them. But plenty of knitters still use them and some of you really want loooong straight needles.
So I considered all the usual questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. I came up with answers to all of them, except one. When I looked at the answers for the other 5 questions, it just made me more puzzled about #6. Maybe you can help me out. Here are the questions and answers I came up with:
What is the longest length of a straight knitting needle?
I looked at the sites of a few popular knitting suppliers. Most of them offered 14″ needles as their longest straight, or as they called them, single pointed, needles.
Then I checked Etsy. Someone was selling 19.7″ straight needles from Argentina. Someone else was selling slightly shorter, but handmade metal needles and was willing to make custom lengths, contact for quote, of course.
It appears that you can buy straight needles as long as your heart desires.
This is not a surprise.
It’s worth noting that interchangeable circular needles can be converted to straight needles by adding a stopper to one end instead of the second needle tip. Every interchangeable set I’ve seen has included these stoppers. Also, with cable connectors, you can join cables to each other to create a needle long enough to circle the earth, which would be absurd, but you could do it.
My least favorite option would be to use multiple double pointed needles. It wouldn’t be fun, but like interchangeable cables, you could get any length you wanted. You might go insane from trying to manage all those dpns, but you could do it.
Verdict: Whatever length you want, you can get it.
When do you have to have monster needles?
You must have something special in mind to go to all that trouble to obtain a ridiculously long needle.
When it comes to the actual knitting, short needles are more often useful than long ones – cabling, sleeves, socks, etc., so when would you want a loooong needle?
The obvious answer is you’re making a big blanket, maybe with a bulky yarn. You could make strips or squares and then sew, knit, or crochet them together, but I get it. Finishing is a pain in the butt.
Sometimes, I hate to admit it, going to ridiculous lengths, pardon the pun, to avoid finishing just isn’t worth it. If you’re looking for needles longer than 16″, this may be one of those times.
My other thoughts for why you want monstrously long needles were: you’re knitting a wedding dress, with a train, or a really big shawl, or a cover for your sofa. Or you want to use a jumbo weight yarn and can only get a few stitches on your needle (or arm).
I learned to knit on long straight needles. It doesn’t take all that many stitches before the needle gets crowded and then the stitches are trying to sneak off the needle every chance they get.
Circular needles would be soo much easier. Either an interchangeable or fixed cable needle would do a better job of keeping your stitches corralled.
Verdict: I’m not convinced you ever have to have super long straight needles. The alternatives are so much easier to use.
Who would want long straight needles?
Some knitters really don’t like circular needles. Maybe it’s a matter of familiarity. Maybe it’s a physical limitation. It doesn’t matter, as long as you have what you need to knit.
From looking at the knitting supply catalogs, there’s still a good supply of straight knitting needles out there. All of the reputable brands are still making and selling them. There aren’t that many choices in the catalogs, but there’s easily enough to keep straight needle knitters going.
Verdict: If straight needles are what it takes to keep you knitting, more power to you. Every knitter should have whatever they need to keep on knitting.
Where can you use long straight needles?
This is a real limitation. Unlike circular needles, when you use long straight needles, they stick out. A lot. The longer they are, the more likely you are to hit someone or something with them.
Usually, it wouldn’t matter too much because it wouldn’t be a hard hit. But if you’re stuck in a plane, train, or bus, next to someone who keeps hitting you with their needles, well, it’s not going to end well.
It would be easy to knock over a cup sitting near your elbow, too.
Verdict: If you’re going to use long straight needles, you’re going to have to be more aware of your surroundings, even when you’re at home. And you should definitely plan on keeping this knitting project at home.
How to Knit with Really Long Straight Needles
What: You can buy any length needle you think you can handle. If your regular knitting supplier can’t help you, try Etsy. Someone can make the long knitting needle of your dreams.
When: You have a really special project or yarn that’s worth a LOT of extra effort.
Who: Someone who hates or can’t use fixed or interchangeable circular needles. Also, you’ll probably need more arm strength than usual because the weight of the needles, plus yarn, plus project will add up.
Where: Using long straight needles is like having wings flapping around by your elbows. The longer your needles are, the further those “wings” will stick out and hit things and people around you. Long needles require situational awareness, even at home.
Which brings me to my unanswered question. I’m hoping you can help me out. I seem to be suffering from a failure of imagination here.
Why would you ever use really long straight knitting needles?
Seriously, if you know of a real knitting project that just has to have long straight knitting needles, let me know in the comment section below.