Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Knitterly Things :: Straights vs Circulars

Within the past, oh...6 months or so I've had an influx of messages from new and beginner knitters (and even some experienced knitters too) asking me about my needles.  What needles do I use?  What brand do I recommend?  Should a knitter use just straight or circular needles?  Why don't you ever see me knitting with straight needles?

Well, like most things regarding knitting, it all comes down to personal preference.  I had started out using nothing but straight needles, as that's what I was accustomed to and what I had always thought was considered knitting.  You know how it is, even nowadays, growing up anything pertaining to knitting always showed a ball of yarn or a machine-wound skein with either wooden or grey metal needles sticking out of it.  Seeing someone knit on TV or in the movies is rare, but when it happens I'm sometimes surprised if they are doing it right (as in needles down and not held like rabbit ears).  As a child, seeing someone knit with straight needles sticking up in the air all TV antennae-like is what I thought knitting was all about.  When I was taught to knit I was given straight needles.  Throughout my "dabbling years" (the years where I had dabbled in knitting and had knit stuff but didn't call myself a knitter), I used nothing but straights and DPNs.  I had no idea what circular needles were about and truthfully, was extremely intimidated by them.  It wasn't until fashion school that I dared to try using them (I kind of had to, it was for a project!), but after that, I went back to the safety of DPNs.

Then I moved to Victoria.  After attending a few knit nights with the Bitchy Bees, I saw that pretty much everyone was knitting with circular needles.  Even for flat items!  FTW?!?  I asked questions galore about the circulars and what the deal was with them.  Then I ventured out to my LYS and bought a pair to try out in my next project.  That's when the magic happened and my knitting took off.  Since that moment I've stopped using straight needles and started using circular needles exclusively.  I'm even a Magic Looper.  I will only use straight needles if the pattern calls for obscenely large needles (like a 19mm) and I don't have the size in my arsenal of circular needles.  Even then, the second the chance arises to switch back to circulars, I do.  On the double!

So what gives?  Which is better?  Straight needles or circulars?  I personally prefer circular needles.  Don't mistake that as me saying that circulars are better.  I just prefer them over straight needles.  This is just MY preference.  Here's why:

:: Straight Needles ::
♥ Knitting time is limited, as my hands and wrists start to hurt after even 10 minutes of knitting.  The weight of my project gets lopsided and causes my wrists to wear out really fast. I've tried anchoring a needle to help take some of the weight off, but it was just too awkward for me to do.  Of all the reasons why I'm not a fan of straight needles, it's this one.  My hands and wrists just get too tired to knit for long periods of time

♥ General awkwardness.  I couldn't knit in public, like in waiting rooms filled with people because the needles stick out too much for my liking.  Not only was I tapping people in the leg with the needles (I swear, they're love taps!), but it started to annoy me

♥ Even more awkwardness.  I found it a pain to carry my project with me on the go because the needles were so big.  At the time I was a new mom and so I was already carrying around a hefty diaper bag and trying to jam long straight needles into my bag just wasn't happening

:: Circular Needles ::
♥ Comfort.  I am so comfortable knitting with circs.  I can distribute the weight of the project as I knit and therefore can reduce any strains on my hands and wrists.  All of which means...

♥ I can knit forever!  Ok yeah, I'm totally exaggerating there.  But I can knit for extended periods of time without pain.  Last year when I was stuck in a hotel room for a weekend recuperating, I literally spent each day sitting on the couch knitting for 10 hours straight (don't worry, I stretched a lot and took bathroom breaks!).  Being able to knit for as long as I want and to be comfortable while doing so is huge in my books, and are the main reasons why I love to knit with circulars

♥ Easier to transport.  Because circs are generally made up of 2 needles 5 inches in length and attached to a flexible cord that can be compacted, it's super easy to stuff a project into a bag and head out the door.  Yes, you have to be careful of a sharp tip poking out from time to time, but at least you don't have to worry about carrying around a duffel sized bag just to house the needles themselves

♥ Versatility.  I like the idea of being able to start small and knit up something large without having to switch from straights to circs in order to accommodate the growing amount of stitches

♥ No risk of losing a needle.  When I used to knit with DPNs I was always losing a needle.  Granted, most of the time I had stuck it in my hair but the act of having to look for it before remembering it was in my hair took time.  Which meant I wasn't knitting.  And the times that the rogue needle wasn't in my hair?  Well, let's just say I'm glad I'm the one that usually finds it first before butts got pierced

♥ Cheaper.  I found getting a set of interchangeable circular needles saved me a ton of money in the long run.  I didn't have every needle size in straights or in DPNs, and would often have to make a trip to my LYS to purchase more needles for practically every new project I cast on.  With circulars, I was able to knit as per normal and when it came to knitting in the round for a sleeve, I would use the Magic Loop technique.  There's no need to dig around for a set of DPNs and then realizing that I was either missing a needle to the set I have or realizing that I didn't have that size after all

I'm sure I'm missing a few more points up there but I really can't think properly today (thanks allergies!).  Basically, I'm a fan of using circular needles and that's what I use.  You should knit with what you like and are comfortable with using.  As for what needle brands I recommend?  Obviously I really can't recommend anything involving straight needles since I don't knit with them, but I do have some favourites when it comes to what circular needles I like and use.   But due to time, my allergies, and the fact that this post is already longer than I intended it to be, I'm going to break it down.  The next 4 blog posts (yes, four!) will be all about the needles I own and use.  A little review, if you will.  Any guesses as to what needles are my favourite?  What are yours?  Are you a fan of circulars too?  Or are you a traditionalist?

In the meantime, I've got a date with some antihistamines and a neti pot.  See you at the next blog post!

♥ Happy Knitting! ♥

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