Knitting Needles

The needles used are the only tools that are needed for knitting but it is crucial to choose the correct size for the yarn and the piece of work being undertaken. Each of the three parts of the needle is important. The head acts as a stopper preventing the stitches from falling off, the point enables the easy insertion into the loops on the other needle, and the shaft is not only the holding place for the worked stitches but also the part that forms the size and tension of the piece.

The active (unsecured) stitches of the fabric are held together by the shaft. This prevents them from disentangling. The taper is used for forming new stitches.

The size of a knitting needle is determined by its radius, which in turn determines the size of the stitch. The radius affects the length of the yarn drawn from the previous stitch. Fine needles are used for making petite stitches, whereas large needles are used for making big stitches. In case of uneven knitting, one can use several types of needles. One can influence the stitch size by wrapping yarn about a single needle for a multiple times. Large needles are used for large-scale projects.

Knitting needles come in several types and sizes. Probably invented in the 19th century, a straight needle is used by a large number of people the world over. This needle is capped at one end with a knob/head and tapers at the other end. It is used widely in the process of knitting two-dimensional fabrics mostly in squares and rectangles. The straight needle is used extensively in domestic knitting. It allows a person to create fabrics using extremely simple stitches.

Another type of knitting needle called the circular needle has two tapered rigid ends that are connected by a flexible cord. The long flexible cord holds the active stitches, whereas the tapered ends are used for creating new stitches. A short, straight rigid needle tapered at both ends is a popular variety of knitting needle.

Circular knitting (socks, sweaters etc.) whereby a needle with a small radius is essential uses this short type of knitting needle. Another short type of knitting needle is used for forming permutations in the order of stitches in cable knitting.

Different countries use different systems to denote sizes of knitting needles. They have set their size standards for different types of needles. One can determine the size of a knitting needle with the aid of a needle gauge. Most modern needles have their sizes engraved on them. Needle gauges have holes of different sizes in which a person can insert his knitting needle to determine its size. Of course, here in the UK we have metric sizing but there are still many of the old sizing needles around as well as old patterns. Most of these, I guess, we have inherited from our mothers.

Contemporary knitting needles are made from materials like aluminum, steel, wood, bamboo, casein, plastic and glass. Plastic needles have no pointed edges and can be safely used by children. Previously, wood and metals were used for making knitting needles. The beautiful antique needles were created using tortoiseshell, walrus tusks and ivory. But soon they were banned as they made use of endangered species of animals.

A knitting enthusiast can store needles in several types of needle cases, bags, wallets. Straight needles can be stored in attractive cases. Cylindrical containers with padding on their bottoms keep the needle points sharp. Circular needles can be kept dangling on hangers. In case they are coiled tightly, one should soak them in warm water before using them.

Despite the presence of high-tech knitting machines in the markets, many of us still prefer to use the good old knitting needles. These needles probably won’t ever fail to amuse use and keep us engaged.


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