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What is it for:
A Breakdown of Essential Knitting & Crochet Tools

If youíre just getting started with needle arts, you might be tempted to purchase every gadget hanging on the wall at your local craft store. While some tools can be extremely helpful, others can just complicate matters. Instead of being confused about what all of those unusual gizmos are used for, letís talk about what you really need.

Needles and Hooks

Itís pretty obvious that youíll need knitting needles to knit and crochet hooks to crochet, but there are several types of each to choose from. Additionally, a crochet hook can come in handy for knitters who need to weave in ends. You can even learn to knook, which is a knitting technique using a crochet hook. However for now, letís cover the basics of each art form first.

Knitting Needles

Shape
Knitting needles can be long or short, circular or straight. They also come in a variety of materials, such as plastic, metal, wood and bamboo. You can experiment with different types and materials as you purchase the various sizes that you need to complete your projects.
Circular knitting needles can be used to create flat or cylindrical shapes. Theyíre quite versatile and can help you make rounded objects, like hats, without having to flip the project over and start a new row.

Material
Bamboo and wood tend to give yarn a better grip than plastic or metal. Some beginners prefer this because it results in fewer lost or skipped stitches. You might find it frustrating if the loop doesnít slide off the needle easily, though. Give yourself a chance to try each material to find out which works best for you.

Size
Long knitting needles can be cumbersome when youíre learning the craft. You might want to start with straight needles between 8 and 10 inches long. As you move onto larger projects, you might need longer needles to hold all of your stitches.

Crochet Hooks

Like knitting needles, crochet hooks are available in a variety of materials, sizes and shapes. Although the gauge of your project will determine the yarn and hook that you use, most novices prefer to start with a medium-sized hook, such as an H or 5mm.



A hook with a handle can be easier to maneuver and remain more comfortable in your hand as you work. A smooth crochet needle can prevent you from having trouble slipping off your stitches. For beginners, an aluminum hook can be preferable to bamboo or wood.

Alternative Knitting & Crochet Tools

You can knit with tools other than needles and hooks. These gadgets will require you to learn a whole new technique, though.

Knitting looms and spools might be easier to learn on than knitting needles. Theyíre ideal for people who are looking for simplicity or have limited mobility. Theyíre also a great way for children to make projects. Hairpin lace crochet forks are looms that are used to create dainty designs with lots of open spaces.


Stitch Markers

Marking pins, or stitch markers, come in handy when you need to keep track of a particular area of your knitting. Perhaps you need to make note of the beginning of a row when youíre knitting in the round. You might need to mark the row where you began an increase or a decrease.


Locking stitch markers can be added or removed at any time. Theyíre preferable to safety pins because they wonít snag or split the yarn. Ring markers slide onto the knitting needle itself. Because they donít open and close, youíll need to remove these markers and slip them onto the other needle when you reach them in a pattern. Ring markers are ideal for designating the beginning of a round. You can also use several in one row to mark pattern repeats.

Split ring markers are rings with a divided area. They can be slipped onto the yarn, but they wonít lock and stay secure. These can be used like either of the other markers and can speed up your process because you wonít have to fiddle with a lock.

Stitch Holders

Sometimes, a pattern may require you to slide open loops off the needle while you work on a portion of your project. If you donít secure these loops, they could easily unravel. Slide them onto stitch holders, which will prevent your work from coming apart. These are necessary when youíre knitting sleeves and neck holes.

Blocking Mat & Pins

After you have completed a project, you might notice that the edges arenít completely even. Thatís because you might change up the tension as you work through the project. Blocking is necessary to make your piece smooth and help it maintain its shape.

A blocking board or mat usually has a grid that helps you keep your stitches square. The basic blocking method involves moistening the piece once you have bound off. Youíll lay the project on the blocking mat and use T-shaped or U-shaped blocking pins to hold it down until it dries.

Swifts & Winders

Before you begin any knitting or crochet project, you might want to wind your yarn into a ball. Winding your yarn gives you a chance to inspect it for defects before you start your project. It also gives you a better foundation to work from because the yarn releases easily.


This is especially important if you purchase twisted hanks of yarn. If you donít wind it, you might end up with a tangled mess as you work.

A yarn swift holds the circular hank as you wind it. It prevents the yarn from becoming tangled and holds it taught as you create the ball.

Yarn ball winders create cakes of yarn that donít roll all over the place as youíre trying to work. The yarn pulls neatly from the center of the cake and doesnít build up tension as you work.

Manual ball winders give you more control and are portable. Electric winders may move more quickly, but youíll need access to an electrical outlet.

ID Tags

Circular or double-pointed needles may not be labeled with the size, leaving you wondering which to use for your next project. ID tags slip onto these needles and are usually marked with the millimeter and U.S. sizes. Use these to identify your needles while theyíre in storage.


You can also purchase cards that have holes cut to the size of various needles. Slip your needle into the holes to determine their size. These also have handy rulers to help you check the gauge.