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Knitting with Big Needles: Tips and Tricks

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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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  • Do you have any tips for joining yarns, i.e., when the skein runs out?

    • What Kit says above. Works like a charm, no matter what you are knitting. I do a lot of prayer shawls and the nice part of knitting in your new yarn is that there is no finishing work to do. When you are done, move on to another project. Wish I would have learned this as I picked up knitting again! Is much neater than knots, and trying to weave them in when you are finished.

    • I have found the Russian method of joining yarns when in the middle of a row easy and you can hardly tell where the yarns are joined. I found a diagram of this method somewhere a few mos ago (can’t remember where). If you would like directions, email me ( and I will send it on. The directions have pictures to show how it’s done.

  • I’ve made and gotten many compliments on the Textured Treasure Speed Stix Afghan with a double strand of Wool Ease Thick & Quick using size 50 needles.

  • JKD, what I always do to join yarns is just pick up the new yarn a few stitches before the old yarn runs out. That way the one spot is slightly thicker but there are no ends to weave in. This works particularly well when knitting with multiple strands that never seem to run out at exactly the same spot, so the difference in thickness is less noticeable. Lets say I have a strand of red, orange, yellow, and green. When the red has about six inches left on big needles (9 inches on very big needles, 4 inches on smaller needles) I pick up the end of a new red skein and knit with five strands for the next six inches. Now I am back to four strands, until the orange has about six inches left, and I add the new skein of orange, again making five strands. Six inches later, I am back to four strands and the new skein of orange is firmly attached to the work in progress.

    • Thank you for this tip. I am new at this and your instruction is very helpful.

    • Dumb question, sorry but I always feel like if I just weave in new yarn, it’ll end up coming loose after a few uses or washes, so I always tie the new yarn to the old one…am I doing the right thing or am I just being overly paranoid? 🙂

  • A really fun way to create a unique scarf is to work in three strands on big needles, but every few rows drop out one yarn and work in a new strand. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends of yarn. You can keep them in the same family, like all shades of blue, or make it a rainbow of colors.

  • Just finished a baby afghan. Took three balls of homespun, holding two strands together on a large crochet hook, think it was the size down from the speed hook. Came out great and got it done in an evening! Definitely worth it using large needles/hooks, especially for charity projects.

  • Best use I’ve found for huge needles (made with 1″ dowels) is demonstrating knitting for a classroom of students. Also used in a skit – check out Quaker Knitting Goddess Rap on youtube.

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