What lace knitting comes down to is accuracy — by the time you spot a mistake in a lace pattern, you've likely knit a dozen or more rows, and going back to fix it is no easy feat. To that end, we've compiled a list of the best circular knitting needles with what you should look for in a lace knitting needle: sharp tips, smooth joins, and the grip texture right for your project, which could be a slick metal needle or a more 'grabby' bamboo or wooden needle.
Some lace projects require fine-gauge needles, such as knitting needle sizes smaller than US4 with fingering or lace-weight yarns or even threads. Other projects use standard size knitting needles, usually between US4 and US10, with yarns ranging from fingering to aran weight. Ultimately what makes knitting “lace” is the characteristic of having open spaces, usually created by patterns incorporating yarnovers paired with decreases.
What makes a good Lace Knitting Needle?
There isn’t a specific “size” of knitting needle specifically for lace; rather, there are characteristics of knitting needles that tend to help knitters make accurate, balanced stitches when knitting projects with so much openwork and lace. As lace work includes many different stitches, the individual loops will vary more than in stockinette. Having smooth joins when working with circular needles is crucial with lace knitting so that the loops don’t catch on the connections and distort. Many lace projects are shawls or wraps, which tend to be long on one side or knit in the round, so your best bet is to have circular needles on hand if you plan to do a lot of lace knitting.
There are also some yarns and fibers that tend to ‘come up’ more frequently in lace knitting projects, like alpaca, angora, mohair and other slightly ‘fuzzy’ yarns, whose fine texture shows off the lace stitches. With so many yarnovers on the needles, the project may feel ‘slippery’ than usual, which isn’t always a bad thing. For those ‘fuzzy’ yarns, you may have trouble pushing them along a bamboo or wooden needle, whereas that needle’s subtle grip becomes immendsely helpful when knitting with slick yarns like silk or bamboo. Many knitters look for a sharp tip with a long taper between the point and the body of the needle, which allows for easier entry into stitches and more dexterity for complicated decreases.
Ultimately lace knitting requires accuracy — by the time you spot a mistake in a lace pattern, you’ve likely knit a dozen or more rows, and going back to fix it is no easy feat. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the best circular knitting needles with what you should look for in a lace knitting needle: sharp tips, smooth joins, and the grip texture right for your project, which could be a slick metal needle or a more ‘grabby’ bamboo or wooden needle.
ChaioGoo Red Lace Circulars
If you ask a room full of knitters what their favorite knitting needles are, you’ll get dozens of answers, but one of the most common will be ChaioGoo Reds. ChiaoGoo stainless steel needle tips are among the sharpest knitting needles available, long favored by knitters requiring precision for lace or sock projects.
The vastly popular nylon-coated, multi-strand steel cable is “memory-free”, preventing kinks or coiling for projects that have to be packed up tightly. From our perspective, the iconic red ChiaoGoo “TWIST” cable is best in class.
If you want to get a set that will get you well on your way to lace knitting (and even standard knitting), you should definitey consider the ChiaoGoo Twist Red Lace Interchangeable Set, surgical-grade stainless steel interchangeable needles in 5” tips. Stainless steel needles are very smooth and provide almost no resistance while knitting. You will knit faster on metal needles, but your stitches may slip off the tips more easily, particularly if your yarn is smooth or tightly plied. We like the joins on the ChaioGoo needles, but they, like most interchangeable needle sets, require a separate key to assemble the cables and tips together.
Addi Long Lace Tips Interchangeables
The nickel-coated brass needles finish on the Addi sets has the lowest friction of any knitting needle we’ve tried, making the Addi Turbo Interchangeables (our pick for the best interchangeable set for most knitters) the needle of choice for many speed knitters. Less grab on the needles is also helpful when working with particularly fuzzy, sticky or inelastic yarns like kitchen cotton, mohair, and synthetic fibers. Unique to the other interchangeable needles available, Addi interchangeable needles require no separate tool to swap cords and needles. All of the Addi needles have an extremely pliable blue (US) or red (Europe) cable with sturdy joins that can withstand a surprising amount of force and don’t become brittle with age. The joins could be smoother, but they are no worse than any other knitting needle.
We recommend the Addi Lace tips for lace knitting, which have a sharper point and longer taper in addition to a subtley grippy finish. The Addi Lace interchangeable needles are available in both short and long tips. Of the two, we prefer the Addi Lace Long Tips for their even more tapered point and comfortable length.
The Addi Lace tips, though sharper than standard Addi tips, are still rounded enough to be a solid choice when working with splitty yarn like mohair, which is common in lace projects. As one blogger noted, some knitters (particularly continental knitters) push on the tip of the left needle with the right forefinger while sliding the just-worked stitch off. One or two pushes on a sharp knitting needle won’t do you any harm, but after a few rows, the sharp tips of most metal needles not only hurt, but can break the skin. If you find you’re tempted to push your needle points with your fingers, the Addi needles are going to be more comfortable than other metal needles.
HiyaHiya ultra sharp knitting needles
If you’re looking for the sharpest knitting needle on the market, you can’t beat HiyaHiya Sharps. Their fine point is excellent for delicate patterns with many decreases or small-gauge projects using fine, fingering, or laceweight yarns. Depending on the way you hold your needles, these may even be too sharp for those who frequently push the needle tips down with a finger. The sharp point will also cause endless grief if you are working with a chunky, splitty, or loosely plied yarn. However, for fine-point accuracy, the HiyaHiya Sharps can’t be beat.
The full HiyaHiya interchangeable series uses three different sizes of connectors. The smallest size of join is for the Sock interchangeable tips from US0 to US2½, the next smallest is for US2-US8 needles, and the larger size is for US9-US15.
Clover Takumi bamboo knitting needles
Worried about a sneeze dropping all of your silk/mohair stitches in your lap? Though not the obvious choice for lacework, a bamboo needle can be just the tool you need. Clover’s Takumi needles are the leading bamboo knitting needle, made from carefully selected bamboo heartwood and polished smooth with a rounded tip. To give you the most variety in your needle choices, we recommend the Clover Takumi Interchangeable set.
Like all bamboo needles, Clover Takumis are lighter and more flexible than other needle materials. Bamboo needles also offer more grip, making them suitable for slicker yarns like silk, and less desirable for wools, angora, and other grabby yarns. Knitters whose gauge tends to be too tight may benefit from the extra grab of a bamboo needle. If you’re used to working with metal needles, be somewhat more delicate with bamboo — projects with a lot of force on the needles such as patterns with tight decreases can cause the needle to bend or even crack.
Compared to other needles, the Clover tips are more blunt, which offers less precision than a metal needle in detail work. Blunt tips are also preferred by knitters who frequently push on the tips to slide needles down the neck of the needle, or when working with a loosely-twisted yarn. Knitting with bamboo needles will be slower than metal needles, but the security of not dropping your work is a worthy trade.
Luxury lace knitting needles
Produced by a family-owned machine shop in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Signature needles are a newer luxury brand famous for their ultra-sharp “Stiletto” needle point. The needles are precision-engineered from aircraft-quality anodized aluminum coated in vibrant colors — each size a different hue. These needles have a subtle textured finish in between that of a bamboo or wood needle and a polished metal needle. For this specialty ‘Goldilocks’ coating — not too smooth, not too grippy — you will pay a premium. This Signature Convertible set will set you back 3 to 4 times what any of the other sets on this page cost. Still, the Stiletto point is beloved amongst many knitters who specifically point out how much they enjoy lace knitting on Signature needles. As either the ultimate splurge or a gift your beloved knitter will never forget, Signature knitting needles are in a league of their own.