I strongly prefer wooden knitting needles. If you haven’t tried wooden needles, or haven’t tried knitting needles made out of different materials, here are some things to look for:
Circular or Straight
For nearly 30 years, I only knitted with metal needles and my hands always hurt. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I tried bamboo & wooden needles. It was a miracle! Knitting no longer hurt my hands!
I’m not suggesting that wooden needles will banish any knitting-related hand or wrist pain. They won’t.
There are a lot of knitters who experience hand or wrist pain for a variety of reasons. Most knitters find relief by taking breaks and doing hand, wrist and shoulder stretches, which brings me to the most important consideration.
Whatever type of needle you choose to use, it should be comfortable for you. If it isn’t, you will probably quit knitting.
I’ve never heard of any other knitter having an issue with metal needles like me. From an acupuncture perspective, I can explain my hand pain, which was centered in my palms. From a western medical perspective, I doubt there’s an explanation.
The moral of the story? Don’t worry about what works for others or why. Always choose what works for you.
Wooden knitting needles can be, and usually are, tapered to a long, fine point. Most knitters like this, especially lace knitters. If you are a lace knitter, or you hope to be, you might as well start as you mean to go on. Be warned, however, that fine needle points are more likely to split the yarn.
One company, dyakcraft.com, offers wooden knitting needles with lace tips or “regular” tips – your choice. Their needles are exquisite and expensive, and you will have to get on a waiting list to get any, but you will get your preferred style of tip. (Sadly, they do not offer any sort of affiliate program, so I mention this company only because their needles are great!)
Just as yarn comes in a variety of textures, so do knitting needles. Wood needles are typically smoother than bamboo needles, but not as smooth as metal or plastic.
Plant based yarns, like cotton, linen and silk are very slippery. Having knitting needles that are also slippery can make knitting very challenging!
Fuzzy, sticky yarns are easier to work with on slicker needles.
This may be wooden needles greatest weakness. Wooden needles break pretty easily. This is a bigger problem in the plain wooden needles. Fortunately, there is a stronger, wooden alternative.
In recent years, colorful, laminated birch knitting needles have become very popular. Many layers of stained birch wood are glued together and then cut & shaped into knitting needles. The needles are very attractive and seem to be stronger than plain wooden needles.
Circular or Straight?
Wood and bamboo knitting needles come in circular, interchangeable, and straight, too. Each have their pros and cons.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll use “circular” to refer to fixed circular needles. Circular needles come in every needle material currently available. It’s easy to find wooden circular needles that are attached to a plastic cable that stretches between the two needles. The joins are usually very smooth. It’s possible, but fairly rare, for the yarn to catch where the needle joins the cable.
Circular needles can be used for flat knitting or knitting in the round. Straight needles can only knit flat pieces.
Circular needles have one other HUGE advantage: it’s nearly impossible to lose a needle.
It’s all too easy to lose a straight needle and then have to buy a new pair so you can finish your project! Ask me how I know. Still, some people prefer straight needles.
I’ve mentioned the attractiveness of wooden knitting needles a lot, because that matters to me a lot. I like using needles that please my eyes as well as my hands. The aesthetics of knitting needles don’t impact their use or the projects you make on them, but judging by what other knitters have to say, we like attractive needles.
So how do you choose between them? The most important thing is to figure out what works best for you as a knitter. Whether you choose straight or circular, it’s very easy to find beautiful, functional wooden knitting needles.
What do you look for in a knitting needle and why? Let me know below!