Choosing Yarn & Needles for Beginners
A Free Knitting Lesson from PurlsAndPixels
What materials do I need to learn to knit?
Before you can start knitting, you’ll need to gather up the basic knitting materials. To complete your first project, you will need yarn, knitting needles, a “darning” or “tapestry” needle, and very sharp scissors.
When you start searching for these items, 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.
First, a bit of vocabulary to help you get started: a ball of yarn is called a “skein.” You’ll see that word come up a lot in knitting, so it’s best to know it from the beginning.
There are different “weights” of yarn; in knitting and fiber art, yarn “weight” refers to the thickness of the yarn. You can learn more about yarn weight here. 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 yarn such as Red Heart, Caron, or Patons. You will probably throw out some yarn when you begin to learn knitting. You will make mistakes that just cant be untangled. That is ok! But, save the fancy yarns for later – you will be sad if you have to throw away yards of an extremely expensive yarn.
Acrylic yarns can be good for those with certain allergies. They are also usually the most cost-effective yarns available.
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.
I recommend using Caron Simply Soft Yarn to start learning with; it is only a bit more expensive than Red Heart. It is also so incredibly soft that I still make a lot of my projects with it. Simply Soft makes great scarves, hats, and mittens.
Wool, Cotton, and other Natural Fibers
Patons Wool is wonderful for scarves, hats, and mittens, as long as you don’t mind the feeling of natural wool. Some people actually prefer it to overly-soft yarns. And of course, wool is the more environmentally friendly choice. Check out Campaign for Wool’s website to see more about how wool biodegrades more safely than man-made acrylics.
You can also choose a cotton yarn to start with, such as Lily Sugar ‘N Cream Yarn. Cotton yarn is not very stretchy, but is pretty absorbent so it’s 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, like an inexpensive wool, acrylic, or cotton to practice with. Move on to nicer yarns as your knitting improves and you feel comfortable with your needles.
Next you’ll need knitting needles to go with your yarn. 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 an ideal 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 hats and for projects that require smaller rectangles (e.g. washcloths and scarves).
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, sweater sleeves, and socks.
Needles for Beginners
For your first set of knitting needles, I recommend Clover brand US No. 8 (5 mm) 24 inch long bamboo circular knitting needles. Bamboo is great for beginners, since it is a bit less slippery than metal; this means less stitches will accidentally fall of your needles when you are learning. US number 8 (5 mm) needles are a standard size to choose when working with a worsted weight yarn. They are also the correct size for making my beginner knit scarf.
For your first materials when learning to knit, I suggest:
- One or two skeins of worsted weight yarn – either: Caron Simply Soft Acrylic, Patons Wool, or Lilly Sugar ‘nCreme Cotton
- One set of Clover No 8 (5MM) 24 inch long bamboo circular knitting needles,
- Sharp scissors, AND
- A darning / 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.