Knitting needles for socks - which should you pick for your first pair?

Which knitting needles should you use for your first pair of handknit socks?

Which knitting needles should you use for socks? Especially if it's your first time?
Well, the main thing is that you get the correct gauge, but this can alter depending on the type of needle you use. Your speed can also vary with the different types but ultimately it's a matter of preference and what you find easiest. However, finding that that means giving everything a go and if you are looking to get started you probably are also looking for a set of needles to buy as well. So the following is a bit of an overview so that you can decide which type you want to try out first, or next!

PS - there's now a video version of this post over on the YouTube channel, here.

Beginner tips on which needles to use for knitting socks

The first few pairs of socks that I knit were using circular needles. First I used Lykke driftwood needles with a 80cm cord (second from right), and then HiyaHiya metal needles with a 100cm cord (all the way over to the right). I bought the longer cord to try out two at a time socks, but never got very far with that. Part of the reason I like knitting socks is that they are a small project - two feels unwieldy to me! 

Benefits of using circular needles are that there's less chance of your yarn slipping off and you can even use needle stoppers to make certain of this. There's no stray needles lurking around so it makes for a compact project. As you are knitting in the round for socks, these needles mean you can magic loop and only have to switch needles twice each round. Sometimes though, tension can vary where you have the cord magic looped and sometimes it doesn't give an even finish. I found the wooden needles to have more grip and they gave me a slightly looser gauge than the slippery metal needles. However, the cord on the metal needles is more pliable, which could be helpful for a first time sock knitter.

Beginner tips on which needles to use for knitting socks

I later moved on to Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) for my sock knitting. These usually come in sets of 4 or 5 and you spread your stitches across three needles, using the empty fourth as your right hand needle each time. Needle 5 comes into play when you are turning a heel or creating a cable. I personally prefer these right now as I find it quicker to switch needle 4 than to feed through the cord of the magic loop. I also find it easier to join for working in the round when knitting cuff down socks too. They don't feel as secure when travelling and you do always have a spare needle floating around to keep track of. At first I thought they looked quite complicated, but they aren't at all. These are all quite light weight metal - the ones in the middle are Knit Pro Zings and the others are Hiya Hiya sharps. Both brands are good. The sharps are helpful for lace work, but the Knit Pros won't stab you as often!

I also have a set of Addi Sock Wonder 9 inch circulars in my stash. The idea of these is that you never have to pull through a magic loop cord and can just knit continuously. Where the Addis differ to other 9 inch needles is that one of the needles is longer than the other, for greater ergonomic advantage. I thought these would be perfect for socks with lots of stockinette stitching but struggled with them at first. They do require a different way of holding the needles because the tips are so short. I'm not sure I would recommend them for a first pair, but on the other hand they would certainly be fast if you weren't battling developed muscle memory. Determined to give these a proper go, I used them for vanilla socks and self striping yarn because I was convinced they would be handy for when you don't really want to concentrate on needles - I was right on that one and the socks flew by as I watched movies and read. You still need DPNs for the heel and toes though. (There's more details in this post on that).

Beginner tips on which needles to use for knitting socks

You can also buy interchangeable needles with a variety of cord lengths and needle sizes. These come individually or in sets, grouped into sizes (so you can get ones just for socks). If you knit a lot of socks these might be useful but to be honest, you will be sticking to one or two sizes to start with and may end up preferring a different style anyway (it's quite an investment for a first pair!).

The circular needles and DPNs I listed above all mainly retail for around the £6 mark or thereabouts. The Lykke needles are more expensive, closer to £10.

So, really it's down to your personal preferences. However, if you really want something definitive so you can go ahead and knit your first pair of socks - I would recommend getting a set of Sharp DPNs, along with Susan B Anderson's Bluprint class on knitting toe up socks (there's a review of this class here for real beginners) , or Voolenvine's free cuff down socks tutorial, and just get going - it's a great fun knitting socks once you get going - I always have one pair on the go! You can keep your investment even more minimal and use a free pattern on Ravelry with help from You Tube (maybe look for cuff down as this is a more popular style).

PS, if you are interested in the needle case at the top, there's a post with details on how to make one for yourself here.

Knitting needles for socks - which should you pick for your first pair?


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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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