Choosing Yarn & Needles for Beginners
A Free Knitting Lesson from PurlsAndPixels
When you start learning to knit, you will discover there are more kinds of yarn and knitting needles than you ever imagined. Let me help you sort through some of the more commonly available yarns and choose a good pair of knitting needles to get started with.
What materials do I need to learn to knit?
There are different weights of yarn, which you can learn about here, but when you first start to learn to knit, I suggest using a worsted weight yarn. This is a medium weight yarn that is widely available.
As for brands, start with a less expensive acrylic yarn such as Red Heart Super Saver, Caron Simply Soft, or Paton’s wool. You will certainly throw out some yarn when you begin to learn knitting. You will make mistakes. That is ok! But, save the fancy yarns for later – you will be sad if you have to throw away yards and yards of a beautiful and extremely expensive yarn.
Red Heart Super Saver is one of the cheapest yarns I have found, and it tightly wound so it is easy to work with; however it is a bit scratchy.
If Red Heart bothers your hands I recommend using Caron Simply Soft Yarn; it is only a bit more expensive than Red Heart. It is also so incredibly soft that I still make most of my projects with it. Simply soft makes great scarves, hats, and mittens.
Paton’s wool is wonderful for scarves, hats, and mittens, as long as you don’t mind the feeling of natural wool. Some people love it.
Cotton yarn is not very stretchy, but pretty absorbent so it is best when used for items like washcloths and dishtowels.
There are countless other kinds of yarn and materials you can use to knit with. Yarn comes in acrylic, wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, bamboo, and many combinations of fancy fibers. For beginners, I suggest sticking with the economical basics to practice with. Move on to nicer yarns as your knitting improves and you feel comfortable with your needles.
You’ll need knitting needles to learn to make the yarn you pick out into a knitted project. There are a few kinds of needles, which come in different materials. Most types of knitting needles come in metal, bamboo, and wooden versions. Metal needles are stronger and less likely to break if knitting tightly; if you are using very small needles (under US size 4) metal needles are a good choice. Wooden and bamboo needles are nice because they are not quite as slippery as metal needles, so knit stitches will not slip off as easily. I also love that wooden and bamboo needles are quieter; metal needles can clink and click quite loudly when you knit.
Once you choose a material for your knitting needles, you will also need to select a type of needle: straight, circular, or double point.
Straight Knitting Needles
When most people think of knitting needles, they think of regular straight needles. These are two straight needles with knobs on the ends, which keep the yarn from slipping off.
Circular Knitting Needles
More unusual looking, but also more versatile, are circular knitting needles. I highly recommend investing in circular needles instead of straight needles; you can use them not only for knitting straight or square items like blankets and scarves, but also for round knitting projects like hats.
There are different lengths of circular knitting needles; the longer the needles, the more stitches you can knit. You’ll use longer knitting needles for things like knit blankets, and shorter knitting needles for projects that require squares (e.g. sampler blankets) and hats.
Double Point Knitting Needles
Another common type of knitting needles are double point needles (DPNs). These knitting needles are mainly used for knitting in the round on smaller items like gloves and socks.
My recommendation for a first set of knitting needles is the Clover brand no. 8 (5mm) 24 inch long bamboo circular knitting needles. In my opinion, these are the best bamboo knitting needles to work with and this size was great for starting to learn to knit. I used them to make a sampler baby blanket, which helped me practice my stitching and learn different patterns. You also can use them to make scarves, washcloths, dishtowels, and lots of other beginner patterns.
So, for your first materials when learning to knit, I suggest:
- One or two skeins of worsted weight yarn, either: Caron Simply Soft Acrylic, Paton’s Wool, or Lilly Sugar ‘nCreme Cotton
- One set of Clover No 8 (5MM) 24 inch long bamboo circular knitting needles,
- Sharp scissors, AND
- A tapestry needle to weave in the loose ends at then end of your knitting projects.
The links above lead to Amazon, where you can order your supplies online. You can also get these materials at most big retail and craft stores.
DIY gift idea for the aspiring knitter
Know someone who wants to learn to knit? Make them a homemade do-it-yourself gift. Gather these knitting materials in a pretty box or bag to make them a learn to knit gift set. They will be happily knitting away in no time! Get a printable gift card and read more about how to make a learn to knit box for a gift here.