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Knitting with Big Needles: Tips and Tricks

Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting Barbara Breiter joins us for her monthly column on techniques that people frequently ask about. 

For super quick projects, nothing beats knitting (or crocheting!) with thick yarn or multiple strands and big needles. You can knit up an afghan in a fraction of the time it would take to make with worsted weight yarn and, for example, size 8 needles.

Larger needles are considered to be US sizes 15, 17, 19, 35, and 50. Particularly with the largest of needles, you may find them cumbersome at first...but remember how awkward knitting with any size needle was when you first began? With a bit of practice, you’ll be handling these jumbo size needles just like smaller ones. Because of the heft, size 35 and 50 are almost always plastic, but as with any needle size, you'll find different options out on the market.

Image of 2 Hour Tweed Scarf
Knit 2 Hour Tweed Scarf

Although you might use one strand of a lighter yarn and a big needle to produce an open work effect, most of the time you’ll be using multiple strands of a heavier yarn. For help on working with more than one strand, see my previous article.

You’ll be knitting a very bulky fabric so most times these projects are relegated to scarves and afghans, although you’ll find patterns for hats and other items as well. Gauge can be difficult to obtain spot on because the increments between needle sizes are quite large, but with a scarf or afghan, gauge is not an issue. (Keep in mind: If you’re knitting something that requires a gauge, if you are off by a half stitch per inch you may be adding or subtracting several inches to your work, so use caution.)

A final tip: If you knit something on big needles that requires a seam, sew the seam in a half stitch instead of a whole stitch; this will lessen the bulk of the seam.

To get you started, here are a few patterns featuring big needles:

Image of Garter Cap Image of Wee Warmth Baby Blanket Image of Evergreen Speed Stix Afghan
Knit Garter Cap Knit Wee Warmth Baby Blanket Knit Evergreen Speed Stix Afghan

Do you have any favorite big-needle (or hook) projects to recommend? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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