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New to knitting? Here’s what you need to get started

Adrienne Wyper / 06 January 2017 ( 02 April 2020 )

Find out about the key bits of kit you need when you first take up knitting, including the best needles, wool and accessories to get started.

Knitting needles and yarn

If you’re new to knitting, as with any pastime, there’s a temptation to rush out and stock up on anything and everything associated with it, whether or not you actually need it, aka ‘all the gear; no idea’.

But when you start to knit, whether you’ve never cast on in your life, or you were taught to knit years ago at school or by your mum or grandma, all you need is just one pair of needles, and some yarn.

If you have a local craft shop, you’ll be able to pick up all your knitting needs there – as well as advice – but I’ve included online sources too, useful for stocking up on supplies in the future.

Find out the best free knitting patterns for baby clothes and accessories

Choosing needles and yarn

Start with 3.5mm, 4mm or 4.5mm-size needles, whichever feels most comfortable. Pony has been making needles (of all kinds: knitting, sewing, surgical, gramophone…) for over 50 years, and there’s a massive range. Pick up a basic aluminium 4mm pair for £2 from

While you’re there check out the Patons Fairytale Fab DK 100% acrylic yarn, for £1.19 a 50g ball. DK yarn is the most popular weight, and knits perfectly on the above-mentioned needle sizes. There are exquisitely beautiful yarns available – merino, angora, cashmere, glittery – but it’s a waste of money if you have to rip it out and redo it.

If you carry on casting on (and off!) beyond your first scarf or hat you’ll need more bits of kit.

First off, more needles – I know, you didn’t see that coming! However, there’s no need to buy all sizes immediately (there are over 17 in the usual range); just add to your collection as and when needed, for your latest project.

Knitting needles are made from metal, plastic, bamboo and wood. Try out the options and you may develop a preference. Wood and bamboo are warm to the touch, which can be easier on the hands if you have arthritis or RSI. As you become more accomplished, you can investigate double-pointed needles, circular needles and cable needles.

Find out how sewing and knitting can help charities

Accessories to get organised

Store your latest WIP (work in progress) in a knitting bag. You can buy specially designed bags and boxes (John Lewis has a good range). However, you probably have something suitable already, in your alternatives-to-plastic-carrier-bags stash.

Prevent holes being poked in that knitting bag with a needle holder. Among the options are cute decorated pouches, or a fabric roll like Clover’s Getaway multicoloured stripy needle roll.

You could also use point protectors, which pop on the pointy end to stop your knitting from slipping off, and prevent the points from making holes in your needle holder or knitting bag. You can also use little chunks of pencil rubber, although they’re not as secure.

Use a row counter to save jotting down where you’ve got to on a piece of paper, or scribbling on the pattern. The simplest slip onto one needle, and you turn a numbered wheel to show which row you’ve just completed. Buy a Pony row counter for needle sizes 2mm to 5mm for from LoveCrafts.

(When I started knitting, I had a flat stone with ‘K’ on one side and ‘P’ on the other, to remind me whether I should do a knit row or a purl row on my first stocking stitch hat!)

Stitch holders are like large safety-pins, and you use them to safely hold completed pieces, such as sleeves. KnitPro make a set of three holders in blue, pink and gold.

Stitch markers are used to keep track of a certain place in your work, whether to count stitches, tell you when to increase or decrease, or to use a different colour. Some are closed, some are open, and you put them on the needle or the stitch. They can be simple rings or embellished like charms. Simple split ring markers by KnitPro come in sets of 30. And you can make them yourself – although that’s probably a whole new craft…


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.