If you ask us, there’s no better craft to curl up with on a cold winter night than a yarn craft. Knitting isn’t just for your grandmother anymore: these crafts are gaining popularity because they can be easy to do and result in beautiful, handmade creations.
If you’re just getting started, there are some knitting supplies that are must-haves. The basics include:
Even with that simple list of basics, it can still be daunting to pick out the perfect supplies for your knitting project because you have a variety of choices. We’ve got you covered with our yarn and craft supplies buying guide.
Before selecting your knitting yarn, think about what you’re going to use it for. The yarn for a baby blanket would be much different than the yarn for a fashion scarf or hat. Most knitting patterns will suggest what kind of knitting yarn to use for your project. If your pattern lists a specific brand and you want to use a different brand, simply match the yarn specs to get the same look.
Natural Yarn vs. Synthetic Yarn
Natural Fiber Yarn – This type of knitting yarn is made out of natural materials like angora, cashmere, mohair, silk, wool and cotton. Cotton is a great choice for warm weather garments and household items. Wool is perfect for cold-weather accessories. Many people prefer to work with natural fibers aesthetically, but they can be more expensive than synthetic yarns.
It is also important to know that some natural fibers, such as wool, can be difficult to care for. (If you have ever shrunk a sweater in the wash, you have learned this the hard way!) Because of this, you may not want to use natural fiber knitting yarn for a project that will be gifted – if you do, be sure to pass along care instructions. Washable wool is a nice alternative that gives you the feel and look of wool along with the easy care of a synthetic yarn.
Synthetic Fiber Yarn – Synthetic yarn consists of man-made materials like acrylic, nylon, rayon and polyester. Most common craft yarns are synthetic yarns. Because they are usually inexpensive and easy to care for, synthetic yarns are a popular choice for many knitters.
Blended Yarn – These are types of yarn that include natural and synthetic materials.Within these basic types, many different specialty yarns are available. These include handspun, hand-painted, metallic yarns and more.
Knitting Yarn Weights
Yarns range in thickness from delicate, threadlike strands to extremely thick and chunky fibers. The Craft Yarn Council has created 7 standardized categories for yarn weight. From thinnest to thickest, they are:
- Lace (Lace and Cobweb Yarns)
- Super Fine (Fingering and Sock Yarns)
- Fine (Sport and Baby Yarns)
- Light (DK and Light Worsted Yarns)
- Medium (Worsted, Afghan, and Aran Yarns)
- Bulky (Chunky, Craft and Rug Yarns)
- Super Bulky
- Jumbo (Jumbo and Roving Yarns)
Knitting yarn can be found in all of the categories above. Lace and super fine yarns can be used to knit beautiful scarves, shawls and other fine garments, while super bulky or jumbo yarns work up quickly into accessories and home decor items with a chunky look. Worsted weight (medium) is the most commonly used yarn weight, and is probably the thickness most associated with craft yarn, too.
Buying Yarn Skeins
Crochet and knitting yarn is sold in skeins or balls that are measured by weight. The thickness of the yarn determines the yardage (length) in each skein. Yardage is usually listed on the label, along with a knitting needle or crochet hook size recommendation. Labels often provide a gauge or tension, which lets you know how many stitches and rows to expect in a swatch.
Once you’ve selected the perfect yarn, it’s time to make sure you have the right knitting needle for your project.
Knitting Needle Materials
Knitting needles are made from metal, bamboo, wood, plastic, and many more options.
Wood or Bamboo – These are most commonly used in the knitting world, and bamboo needles are the most popular type of needles. Wood needles are typically the most expensive style.
Metal – Metal knitting needles are typically crafted out of aluminum but sometimes can be found in brass or nickel. These types of needles are more durable than wood or plastic and offer the smoothest surface.
Plastic – Typically the least expensive option, plastic needles are a good choice for beginners. They are the lightest in weight and are much smoother than wooden needles. Plastic needles also come in extended sizes.
As you learn to knit, you may develop a personal preference for one material or another. You may also find that some types of needles work better with different knitting yarns. For instance, you may prefer to use wood or bamboo needles with a yarn that is slick or slippery.
Types of Knitting Needles
Straight Knitting Needles – These are the most common style of needle, and what most people think of when they think of knitting needles. They can be purchased in a variety of lengths and are commonly used for smaller projects.
Circular Knitting Needles – These types of needles consist of two pointed ends joined with a circular cord. They are versatile because they can be used for projects in a wide variety of sizes, but are most commonly used for larger projects because the cord offers more space for stitches.
Double Pointed – These types of needles are short needles with points on both ends, and are commonly used for knitting in the round (without a seam). They are most often used for small items like hats and socks.
Selecting the Right Size
The diameter of the knitting needle determines the needle’s numbered size. In the U.S., knitting needles range from size 1 (2.25mm) to 50 (25mm). A larger needle will produce larger stitches.
It is also important to keep in mind the length of the knitting needle, which determines the number of stitches that fit on the needle – and thus, the width of each knitted piece. For larger projects, you’ll want longer or circular needles. When starting out and selecting your first knitting needles, pick a size that fits your hand comfortably without feeling awkward.
If you’re working with a pattern, it should tell you what size knitting needle you need to complete that pattern. If it does not include a needle recommendation, you can check the label on your knitting yarn for a recommended size and knitting gauge.
If you still aren’t sure which size needle you want to use, a good way to determine what works best is to find the gauge. The gauge is how many stitches per inch you knit with a particular knitting yarn and needle. Most patterns list a gauge for the project, so to determine what your gauge is, knit a test swatch. Count how many stitches per inch you knit, and then adjust your needle size until your gauge matches what the pattern calls for.
Other Knitting Supplies
Sharp Scissors – Having a pair of sharp scissors handy isn’t just necessary for knitting crafts– it’s essential for all crafting activities! But to make ensure that you have clear, finished ends of a project, avoid cutting paper or other materials with your knitting scissors. This keeps them sharp, which means you can cleanly cut your knitting yarn every time.
Knitting Needle Case – A sturdy knitting needle case is a good idea to protect your tools from damage – and to protect you from getting poked!
Yarn Storage – When you’re just starting out, you don’t have to worry too much about yarn storage. Many people just keep the yarns for their current project in a plastic bag.
As you accumulate leftover knitting yarn – or new skeins that you’ve picked up just because you love the way they look – basic plastic storage boxes are a perfect choice. Their clear sides allow you to see the colors you have inside, and their size makes them easy to fit and stack on any shelf.
What’s your must-have knitting tool? Share below!
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Content Manager for ConsumerCrafts by day, enthusiastic trash picker, gardener and DIY crafter by night! Most of my projects are inspired by my love of vintage jewelry – or the challenge of finding creative new uses for materials.
When I grow up, I want to be MacGuyver.