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Video:Knitting Basics: Needle Sizes

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Knitting needles come in all different sizes and styles, all depending on what you're trying to knit. This video will go over the different sizes of knitting needles and how they're used.See Transcript

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Transcript:Knitting Basics: Needle Sizes

Hello, my name is Jennifer Hoag. I'm from the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston, Vermont, and I'm here for About.com today. I'd like to talk to you about knitting needles. 

Different Types of Knitting Needles

Knitting needles come in a variety of styles, sizes, and also they're made out of different materials. The knitting needles you're probably most familiar with are the straight knitting needles. Straight knitting needles have a point at one end and a finial or knob at the other end, and you can knit everything on straight needles.

But if you knit a sweater, or a hat, or socks, or mittens on straight needles, they're going to require a seam. So if you don't want to have a seam in your sweater, or your hat, or your socks, then you're going to want to use what's known as a circular needle. Circular needles are used when you are knitting a sweater, but you can also use circular needles if you're not knitting in the round and just knitting a scarf, like I am here -- I can still use circular needles.  

If you need to knit something like a sock or a mitten in the round and you don't want a seam, the circular knitting needles will be too long. So then you'll need something called a double-pointed needle. Double-pointed needles usually come in sets of four or five and they're characterized by having a point at each end.  

Knitting Needle Materials

All of these needles can come in a variety of different materials. You'll notice that some are made out of bamboo or wood, and others may be made out of metal, and others still you may find are made out of plastic. 

Knitting Needle Sizes

Knitting needles come in a large range of sizes. For example, these are U.S. size 2 needles, and you can see how fine they are, and they'd be appropriate for knitting a very fine lace or fingering weight yarn such as this. And we also have very large needles such as these, for example, U.S. size 11. You can see how much thicker they are and they'd be more appropriate for knitting a bulky gauge yarn such as this. Each ball of yarn is going to have information on the label and they're going to recommend a suggested needle size. In this case it recommends a U.S. size 7. So that will be your starting point.

Different People Knit in Different Styles

But then you have to take into account the fact that everybody knits differently. So here is an illustration of how two different people can take the same yarn and the same needle size, cast on the same number of stitches and knit the same number of rows and you can see how differently these two swatches came out. So some of us knit tighter and others knit more loosely. So you can use this manufacturer's recommendation as a starting point but then you really need to knit a gauge swatch to make sure you're getting the number of stitches you need for your pattern. 

Using a Needle Sizer

Now I'd like to introduce a handy tool that every knitter should have, and that's a needle sizer such as this. The reason this tool is important is because most brands of straight needles, double-pointed needles and all circular needles usually etch the size of the needle into the surface of the needle and as you knit with it, that tends to wear off. So after a while you won't know what size needle this is, so by having a needle sizer, or needle gauge, which has holes of various sizes, you can take a needle and insert it through the holes until you find the hole that it just goes through. And then you can read on the needle sizer that this is a U.S. size 11 needle. 

Needle sizers also usually have a ruler on an edge that's marked in inches as well as on another side marked in centimeters. That helps you to read your gauge once you've knit your gauge swatch. Most of the packaging of needles give you both the U.S. size as well as the European millimeter size. So that will help you in picking the right needle for your next project. 

Thanks for watching. If you'd like to learn more about any of these topics, please visit us on the web at About.com.

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