This post is a part of my "How to Knit" series that is aimed at teaching beginner knitters the basics of knitting. Click here to view the other posts in this series.
This is the starting point of all knitters: what do you need for a knitting project? This post will show you the essential items you will need by going through what I have in my knitting bag.
Almost everyone is familiar with the long, stick-like knitting needles. However, I prefer to use circular needles because they can be used for both knitting in the round (for knitting cowls and hats) or knitting back and forth like straight needles (for knitting scarves and shawls). The cables on the circular needles come in different lengths, 16", 24", 32" and 60" (and other variations in between). I use 32" cable lengths for almost all my projects (yes, even for knitting hats!) using a special method called Magic Loop knitting - but a post on that comes later. For beginners, I would recommend buying the needle tips and the cables separately so you can interchangeably use different needle tips on the same cable length when needed, instead of having to buy a new circular needle every time.
Double Pointed Needles are used to knit small tubes in the round, such as sleeves or mitts. They can be awkward to use at first as you are using multiple needles but I avoid this problem by just knitting using the Magic Loop method. Both styles of knitting have their advantages and disadvantages so I do recommend getting familiar using DPNs at some point.
The most common needle tips come in bamboo, wood and metal. Bamboo is usually the best needle type to go for for beginners as the yarn is less slippery and the bamboo is flexible. In the picture above, the needle tip is wood - it allows for smooth knitting and great for thicker yarn. Metal needle tips allow the yarns to slip off quickly and easily and the metal points are better for catching the finer yarns so it's a popular choice of tip for lace projects. They also provide the satisfying "clicking" sound when you knit.
Needle tips come in different sizes that match up with the varying yarn weights (this will be discussed in the next post). Read the labels to determine what size needle you are purchasing - if you are following a pattern, it will tell you want size needle you will need. If you are knitting for the fun of it, unless it is a lace project, get the needle size recommended on the yarn you are buying. They are marked both in the American Standard needle size and mm (if you live in the states). Here is a useful conversion chart in case you are international.
I recommend either Clover's Takumi Bamboo Circular Knitting Needles (they are not interchangeable but reasonably priced) or Knitter's Pride Dreamz Interchangeable Wooden tips. Visit your Local Yarn Store (LYS) for your needle and yarn shopping. The range of sizes and types available is much better than at Michaels or large hobby/craft store chains. Additionally, the staff will also be able to help you pick your first knitting needle!
Here are some other important items that a knitter should have in their project bags as they advance their knitting skills.
a) Stitch makers. They indicate the beginning of a row when knitting in the round, or highlight the pattern repeats in intricate projects to help keep your stitch count correct in every row. Definitely a must have. They come in many sizes for the different needle thicknesses.
b) Tape measurer. I use this to measure out my finished pieces, calculate gauge and get body measurements if I want to make a garment fit to certain proportions.
c) Cable needles. If you want to do cable work, you will need cable needles. They come in sets of different sizes.
d) Scissors. Self-explanatory. Make sure they are sharp though!
e) Daring needles. These are used to weave in the tail and loose ends of the remaining yarn. A must have for any project.
f) Row counter. Some of the more complex knitting patterns will need usage of this to help keep track of which row you are on, in case you put down your work and later forget which row you were on.
g) Needle caps. These are used to prevent the stitches from sliding off the needles when you are carrying your projects around. Nothing is more frightening than picking up your work and finding that the stitches have fallen off and are unraveling themselves!
h) Knitting bag. To hold all of these items in one place.