My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.



This morning, Sally emailed me with a question about needles:

Is there some kind of sense to what needles with what or is it just a matter of trying to see what you like?

When I first learned how to knit, as a tiny tot, I used my mother’s needles. All 14″ straight needles. When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, my mother bought me my own needles. We were a military family, and one day when she was shopping at the PX, she saw they had just gotten in knitting needles, so she bought me four or five pairs (and they were all 14″ straights, aluminum, and made by Boye, I believe). I used these needles for years, augmenting them when I made something that required a size I didn’t have.

It was well into the 80s before I started using circular needles for everything, then I bought Susan Bates circs as I needed them. Eventually I replaced all those with Addi Turbo circs, little by little. I used to ask for Addi Turbos for Christmas from my mom. I know have sizes 0 through 11 in varying lengths — 12″, 16″, 24″, 32″, 40″. Not all sizes in all lengths, but pretty darn close.

For sweaters in pieces, like arans, I use a 24″ length. For sweaters in the round, like fair isles, I use a 32″ length. 16″ needles are for collars and sleeves in the round. I bought some 40″ length needles for shawls.

Then I discovered wooden needles, which I prefer for fair isles, because the wood “grabs” the stitches slightly and helps to maintain an even tension. So I’ve got bamboo, rosewood, and ebony circulars in various sizes and lengths.

Then of course there are dpns . . .

I’ve got dpns in birch, bamboo, ebony, rosewood, and steel.

As a rule of thumb, I like to use the Addi Turbos for arans and texture. They are fast needles so are good to use for something that’s an easy pattern, like straight stockinette. I like them for cable work, because it makes cabling without a cable needle easier when you a needle that allows the stitches to move freely.

I’m using an Addi Turbo on my Rebecca wrap sweater, because the kid mohair is fuzzy, and I think the “grab” of wooden needles would slow down the knitting.

Now if I have a yarn that’s very slippery, I might use a wooden needle because I want to slow it down — keep it from flying off the needle.

I used an Addi Turbo for Kinsale because it just felt better. But I usually try a wooden needle first with smooth yarns because I prefer the feel of wood in my hands over metal.

Nowadays I almost never use straight needles, but I did buy a pair of Lantern Moon 10″ straights in ebony (from Knit Happens, who also has ’em in rosewood) for the Jade Sapphire cashmere scarf. I do like working scarves on short straights, and I love ebony needles!


Needles are very much a matter of personal preference, though. I know knitters who use nothing but Addi turbos, and ones who use nothing but bamboos.

Speaking of the Rebecca wrap cardi, here’s the finished back:


Knitting a simple, delicate lace sweater on 4.5mm needles after a heavily textured knit on size 2.5mm is great therapy. I highly recommend it.

The Rebecca pattern does leave a lot to interpretation — perhaps because the English version is a translation? No bother, because it’s pretty easy to figure out what they mean.

I’ve got a fair bit done on the left side front as well.

So . . . what did Lucy do all day?



  1. hi wendy – i love addi turbos too, and also have found and used the addi natura (wood or bamboo, not sure which)circulars – they worked great on a plain wool sweater i made, just enough grip to make me happy. and by the way, if lucy is anything like my mama cat she spent most of her day sleeping…
    sharon — in massachusetts awaiting the snowstorm…

  2. Jo in Boston says:

    I’m dying to make that Rebecca sweater but it’s not something you can wear with blue jeans or chinos–I may have to make it for a friend. Yours is beautiful.
    Also in Massachusetts awaiting the snowstorm . . .

  3. I want to be reincarnated into Lucy in my next life–but only AFTER she gets adopted by you. What a great life! Thanks for the peek into your needle bag! =)

  4. Thanks for the tips! What do you use for sock needles? And have you ever tried socks on circulars? I like using dps, but wonder if the circulars live up to the hype.

    Also, what wooden circs do you use? I haven’t been thrilled with my crystal palace–bad joins.

  5. Have you ever tried Denise needles? ( It is an interchangable set that locks into place so that they don’t unscrew when you knit (like other interchangable sets do). I ordered mine as a Christmas gift to myself and I love them. There are 5(?) different cord lengths and the tips range from size 5-15. The cords are plastic and the tips are resin. I also love bamboo for DPN’s, but for almost everything else I do I use the Denise needles. Just another option….

  6. Can you knit mine for me? I am only on row 21…..

  7. You? Knit slowly? He should come watch me a bit…he’ll feel like he aged 10 years!

    I love the Rebecca pattern…you make it look so easy 🙂


    Awaiting snow here too 🙂

  8. Ooh, rosewood and ebony, they sound so lux. The cardi is looking fantastic!

  9. Oooh, needles, don’t know what I’d do without my Addis – all circ – all the time. I left behind straights a long time ago – I think it comes from being a bus knitter and not wanting to poke those fellow riders! (Oh ya know ya want to…)

    I love KINSDALE! I have that book and it just didn’t reach out and smooch me until I saw what YOU did with it. YUM!

  10. Is Lucy for real? I have a suspicion that she’s just a bendy cat that you position in various forms every day! Does she walk around or just roll places? What a satisfied kitty.

  11. Thanks Wendy – I’ve put my order in with Kristine! That cashmere looks good enough to eat!

  12. I don´t think, that translation is the only reason for leaving a lot to interpretation of the Rebecca pattern. German patterns are often much shorter and not so accurate than English patterns. When I started knitting English patterns a year or so ago, I was suprised how detailed they are.

  13. ‘bec’ wrap is looking great! lookin’ over the pattern right now. i had a feeling the new english (aka still translated) would be a little grey, but i’ll give it a go. interesting walk through needle info.

  14. Like you, I love my Addis and have most of them in several different lengths. Same goes for dpns. I love my wood dpns but I am very careful withthem in the smaller sizes. I haven’t seen dpns in ebony before but I will now be on the lookout. Have ou tried the Pony Pearl dpns. Since I normally use 0s to knit socks, I have found that the Pony Pearl size 0s are great. They are flexible enough, grab the yarn, and most important, do not bend.

    Isn’t amazong how cats can twist and turn and than fall asleep?

  15. Hi Wendy, even the original version of the Rebecca pattern in German does leave room for free interpretations…. this seems to be a usual problem with Rebecca patterns. I find that they usually require some knitting experience, a beginner can get confused.

  16. You forgot the… “I stop at the yarn store near the office on my way home for work for yarn and needles so I won’t have to commute with idle hands when I’ve found myself inbetween projects” or, maybe that just happens to me. I loved reading of your lifelong story of needle collecting. It’s great to hear how a stash grows. Very enchanting. Happy knitting!

  17. Rebecca patterns remind me a bit of French patterns: Short and to the point. I still can’t get into row by row instructions, like the ones in Interweave Knits.

    The back of your cardi looks so fabulous. Have you already decided how you’re going to accessorize that number? It’s gonna look HOT!

  18. Love the Lantern Moon needles, they look exotic when you’re knitting, feel good in the hand and could become furniture when they grow up.

  19. So, you think the wrap sweater is being knit faster enough for that list poster? *giggle*

    I’m always drooling over the ebony and rosewood needles, but they’re too expensive for me when I know I can buy more yarn with the money I save by buying regular bamboo or plain wood, LOL…

    You know, I’ve seen an interchangable circular (Denise/Boye-like) BAMBOO set… ::drool::

  20. I have to tell you – that was an extremely informative post. You probably enhanced my knowledge of needles and their capabilities in a more succinct manner than the twenty knitting books I have sitting around. Thank you.

  21. Judy H. says:

    My basic rule of thumb is slick needles (Turbos, etc.) for grabby yarn like wool or mohair, and grabby needles (bamboo, other woods) for slick yarn (some cottons, silk, rayon, most of the ‘foofy’ yarns). And wood for fair isles, like you said. I’ve also been known to switch from wood to metal or vice versa when trying to get gauge.

  22. Susan Bates makes a Silvaume sock needle set in sizes 1.5 – 2.25, featherlite and good points.I found them on E-Bay, replaced my 23 yr old aluminum size 0’s.

  23. Where do you buy your wooden circs? I’ve looked all over and I’m never able to find any.