15 Essential Knitting Tools and Materials
There's a wide selection of yarn, needles, gauges, and other supplies to start your knitting basket. Here are all of the odds and ends you'll need to knit and purl.
Ready to start knitting? You'll need a few things. First: a lesson on how to knit. Second: a pattern to inspire your own project. Lastly: all the tools and materials needed to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off.
Some of the essentials are obvious: Even a beginner knows you need a pair of needles and your choice of yarn. But what about the other practical (albeit, puzzling) accessories that pique your curiosity at the crafts store? We demystify them in this extensive guide. Take, for example, a yarn needle, which is used for weaving in ends and joining pieces of knitting. Meanwhile a stitch gauge and needle gauge both help to maintain the right measurements before knitting. Of course row counters and stitch markers are important—they help to maintain the right measurements mid-process. A ball winder and bowl keeps your yarn neatly contained and from becoming unraveled. There are even tools that can be traded across techniques, such as a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches or sewing needles for everything from stitching knit pieces together to weaving in loose ends and adding decorative stitches. Other accouterments you'll find handy: a notebook, pen, and tape measure all for keeping track of where you are in your pattern. Ultimately, there's a wide world of tools available to make your knitting go smoothly. As you progress in your skills, you will add to your stockpile of supplies. Start with these essentials, and you'll be inspired to grow your collection.
Choose a yarn that is suitable for your project. Refer to the ball band (or label) which states the fiber content, weight, suggested needle size, gauge, and dye-lot number. To ensure that all your yarn for a project is exactly the same color, buy it all at once and check that the dye-lot numbers match.
Shop Now: Arbor "Rainier" Yarn, $14.50, brooklyntweed.com.
A needle's size is based on its diameter and is indicated with a number (in the United States) or in millimeters (in Europe). Standard sizes range from zero to 50. Needles are divided into two basic categories: straight or circular. Straight needles allow the knitter to work back and forth, producing flat pieces; circular needles allow the knitter to work in a continuous round, producing tubular pieces. They are further categorized by use as single-pointed, double-pointed, interchangeable, and cable types. Needles are made of different materials such as metal, wood, bamboo, or acrylic with the occasional specialty like bone. The material you choose is a matter of preference, but beginners may like working with wood or bamboo needles, because they are a bit flexible, are comfortable to use, and stitches don't slip off of them as easily.
Shop Now: Twin Birch Double Pointed Needles, from $13, echoviewnc.com.
These small notions are used to mark a certain number of stitches in a row, increases or decreases, and any repeats in your knitting pattern. Available in both solid and split-ring styles, they are slipped over the needle as you knit or slipped into previous stitch. Bright colored-ones make them easy to spot.
Shop Now: Clover "Click-Locking" Stitch Markers, $7.49, michaels.com.
Any knitting project begins with a gauge. This tool is a flat piece with a ruler marked on one side and cut out windows to easily measure stitches and rows. To use it, place your knit swatch on a flat surface and place the stitch gauge on top of it, lining up the window evenly with one row of stitches.
Shop Now: Twig and Horn Small Gauge Ruler, $15, quinceandco.com.
Unsure of a needle's size? This tool—punched with holes or rings in corresponding sizes—allows you to identify it easily. To size the needle, slip it into each of the holes until you find the best fit (allowing both the tip and shaft to slide easily through it).
Shop Now: Addi Needle Gauge, $5.60, addineedleshop.com.
When your pattern calls for increases and decreases, and variations in the pattern, this counter tool helps to keep track of the number of knit rows. In manual styles, you click a lever, button, or dial as you complete each row. In more tech-savvy options, it pairs with an app to keep count for you.
Shop Now: Grellow & Gray Inc. "Sirka" Row Counter, $17.95, theyarncafe.com.
Similar to a safety pin, the stitch holder is used to clasp together a group of stitches that will be bound off or worked later in the pattern (such as parts of a knit sweater). Sizes are available to accommodate most patterns, but they are especially practical for smaller stitches in long rows.
Shop Now: Boye Aluminum Stitch Markers, $3.75, woolery.com.
Also commonly called a "stopper," point protectors are small rubber caps that cover the pointed ends of your needles to ward against dings, and scratches. Another benefit: They prevent stitches from slipping off the needle, which is helpful when you're knitting on the go. If working with multiple needles (such as knitting in the round), it's a good idea to purchase point protectors in multiple colors, so you can color-code them.
Shop Now: Clover Point Protectors, $3.60, clover-usa.com.
A blocking board is required in the process of wetting or steaming your completed knit pieces—this sets the finished size and evens out any stitches. It has a firm, padded surface for pinning into place. Many boards are marked with a grid pattern and a ruler so that you can shape them to precise measurements. Some unfold like an ironing board; others snap together like puzzle pieces.
Shop Now: Coco Knits "Knitter's Block" Kit, $89, store.cocoknits.com.
Swift and Ball Winder
Different styles, same purpose: Both of these mechanisms help to keep your yarn bound neat and contained. A swift is an umbrellalike device that holds a hank of yarn and spins freely when you pull the yarn, winding it into a ball; while a ball winder is shaped like a spindle with a stabilizing base and clamps to the edge of a table to keep the yarn secure. These two devices are connectable to each other.
Bowls have become a must-have item in recent years, popular among knitters of all styles. In this open rounded bowl, a cutout holds the working yarn securely and the spherical shape can accommodate many sizes of yarn in either cake or ball form. Things to look for: a collared, high-walled bowl with solid weighted base (so it won't tip over), and a smooth material like glazed ceramic or polished wood (so the working yarn won't snag).
Shop Now: Dave Yocom's "#1349" Wood Creations Yarn Bowl, $94, davesbowls.com.
Also knows as the "Knitting Nancy," this small, handheld device topped with pegs allow you to easily turn out I-cord. They often come in whimsical shapes and styles, making them collectible for some; for others, it's a great teaching tool for a child beginning to learn housekeeping methods.
Shop Now: Knitter's Pride Laminated Wood Knitting Dolly, $13.28, amazon.com.
A reliable pair of scissors always comes in handy, and this is also true for knitting. There are a range of sizes and styles, but the best scissors will complement your working style. If you knit smaller items like mittens and socks, a pair of embroidery scissors helps to snip loose ends. If you knit larger items in the round like sweater sleeves, a pair of sewing scissors helps to cut those longer pieces.
Shop Now: Martha Stewart Detail Scissors, $12, michaels.com.
Working with different colors of yarn? Bobbins keep them from tangling when working intarsia or stranded colorwork patterns. Available in both flat and spool styles, they range in size to accommodate lightweight to bulky yarns. How they work: Simply wrap the yarn around the bobbin (flat styles have arm mechanisms that keep the yarn from coming undone) and unwind as you need each color.
Shop Now: Clover Knitting Bobbins, $5.29 for six, brooklyncraftcompany.com.
Have a variety of sizes on hand. Tapestry needles are a must for stitching knit pieces together, weaving in loose ends, and adding decorative stitches akin to embroidery. A rounded tip is helpful for bulky yarns as it is less likely to fray and split. Follow the golden rule of needlework: The eye of the needle should easily accommodate the yarn's thickness.
Shop Now: Blick Art Materials Needles, from $0.87, dickblick.com.