The Right Tools February 20, 2014 – Posted in: Thursday This and That

Let’s be blunt: Knitting as a hobby is not cheap. More than once I’ve encountered a knitter balk at the idea of having to buy yet another needle – and bite the bullet since there is usually no way around it and you need the right tools to knit what you want.
Today’s post is inspired by those “high/low” editions in magazines, be it a design or fashion version. They do put together how to do practically the same thing for more or less.
I have to admit, it is a bit different for knitting. Not buying a needle usually means making a compromise or learning a new technique. However, I do know that not having to spend money on another pair of needles, i.e. working in a more budget-friendly manner, can be important.
Knitting a hat:

  • 16″ circular for the brim
  • 16″ circular for the hat
  • double pointed needles same size to finish


  • 16″ circular for the brim
  • double pointed needles for the rest

Alternate even lower version:

  • if you have a very long (80 cm or longer) needle in the size needed for the brim, you could work magic loop – this is a technique you have to learn. Learning, however, is free.
  • same for the rest of the hat – a 80 cm needle or longer to knit the body and crown of the hat.

Second alternate version:

  • if you have already two needles in the size needed for the brim, you can work on 2 circulars – a simple technique to also learn
  • same for the rest of the hat

Depending on the hat pattern you sometimes get away with using just one set of dpns to knit the whole hat. If you like knitting on dpns, that is.
Please do not try to knit the hat on a longer needle than specified without any special technique since this for sure will not get the result you expected, the hat will be too large.
Knitting a shawl:
The pattern asks for a 80 cm circular needle. You have a 60 cm in the right size. I say, start with that, you might be surprised how many stitches you can squeeze on that shorter cable. Buy the longer one only when you feel it is absolutely necessary.
Knitting a sweater:
If the sweater is knit flat, you do not really have an issue. Any needle in the right size, straight or circular will do. Dig into the inherited stash of needles (if you have one) and go to town. Otherwise, if you have to buy them, choose what you are comfortable working with. You might need a very short needle (16″) to finish the neckline, depending on the pattern.
For a sweater knit in the round, you are going to need circular needles. Sometimes it is necessary to start on very short needles for the neckline, in this case you could use the magic loop method or two circulars the same size if you have them. There is usually a reason a pattern asks for 80 cm needles, sometimes you can get away with a 60 cm. Or use two, if you have the same size.
For sleeves knit in the round the same thing applies: magic loop or 2 circs work as well as dpns – in contrast to buying very short circulars that you probably will use less.
As you can see, if you are willing to try new techniques you can get away with buying less needles. Then again, if knitting becomes a chore, you do not like the new technique and suffer through every row or round, buy a new needle (for crying out loud).
Convenience is often a bit more expensive as we all know. It all depends on what is the right thing – and tool! – for you.
Happy Knitting, as ever!
– Mona