Types of Knitting Needles
You can choose from three kinds of knitting needles: straight, circular, and double-pointed. The type of knitting needle you choose depends on how you plan to use it:
Straight: Straight needles are generally used for flat knitting — knitting on the right side, and then turning and knitting on the wrong side. Straight needles come in many standard lengths. The larger your project, the longer the needle you’ll need.
Circular: A circular needle is simply a pair of straight knitting needle tips joined by a flexible cable. You can use a circular needle to knit in the round — knitting in a continuous, spiral-like fashion without turning your work. This technique creates a seamless tube large enough for a sweater body or small enough for a neckband. You also can use a circular needle as you would straight needles, to work back and forth.
When you buy a circular needle, check to make sure the spot where the needle tip meets the cable (called the join) is smooth to prevent stitches from snagging.
Several manufacturers now make circular needles with interchangeable needle tips and various cable lengths. These are useful for a wide variety of projects and make it very easy to swap needles when you’re attempting to find the right gauge with your chosen yarn.
Double-pointed: Double-pointed needles (abbreviated dpns) have a point at each end and are sold in sets of four or five needles. They work the same way as a circular needle — in rounds. You use them to make small tubes when there are too few stitches to stretch around the circumference of a circular needle — for such things as sleeve cuffs, tops of hats, socks, mittens, and so on.