If your ultimate goal is speed, then you'll want to optimize for the lowest resistence. The slick finish of a metal needle makes sliding stitches over nearly effortless, and the last thing you need is more drag. But which metal needle is “fastest”? It turns out it still depends on you and your projects.
Miriam Tegels, the World’s Fastest Knitter, can stitch 118 stitches in one minute — a record that appears in the Guinness Book of World Records. An average knitting speed is around 20-30 stitches per minute. If you’ve been wondering how to increase your SPM (stitches per minute), there are a few tips you can try.
First, focus on optimizing your movements — try to find the smallest amount you can move your hands and needles and still achieve a stitch. It may seem awkward at first but speed will follow as you become more comfortable. If you’re an English-style knitter (or a “thrower”), wrapping the yarn around the needle typically with your right hand, consider learning Continental-style knitting, which minimizes the movement of the right hand and “picks” the working yarn up from the left hand.
All this optimizing the distance your knitting needles travel won’t matter much if you’ve got the wrong tool for the job. If your ultimate goal is speed, then nothing is faster than a metal needle — the slick coating makes sliding stitches over nearly effortless, and the last thing you need is more drag. But which metal needle is “fastest”? It turns out it still depends on you and your projects.
For the ultimate in precision, try HiyaHiya’s ultra sharp knitting needles
The stainless steel HiyaHiya Sharps have an extremely fine point, 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. A sharper point means you may have to pay a little more attention when working with a chunky, splitty, or loosely plied yarn — what’s the point in knitting very quickly if your project is riddled with mistakes? If you’re already an accurate knitter, these stainless steel needles are far faster than bamboo or wooden needles. In addition to the interchangeable set, HiyaHiya Sharps are available in fixed circular and double-pointed styles. While fixed circulars will be fastest because of the smoother join, interchangeable sets are far more versatile and economical than buying individual fixed circulars.
For continental-style knitters who push their needles
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 Click Turbo needles are going to be more comfortable than other metal needles.
All of the Addi Turbo series are ultra-slick, nickel-coated brass needles with a rounded point. The finish on these sets has the lowest friction of any knitting needle we’ve tried, making the Addi Turbos 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. We also prefer the keyless twist join of the Addi Click interchangeable set to any of the other brands’ keyed mechanisms (which we reviewed in our guide to The Best Interchangeable Needle Set).
For Speedy Sock Knitting
For sock knitters wanting speed and a long, tapered point in a finer gauge, Addi Rockets provide a sharper point on an ultra-slick nickel-coated fixed circular knitting needle. The smaller needle sizes were previously titled Addi Sock “Rockets” for their speedy advantage in small-gauge knitting. There are plenty of knitting needle options specifically tailored to sock knitting; you can check out our in-depth review of The Best Sock Knitting Needles.
A Fan Favorite
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 ChiaoGoo Twist Set of surgical-grade stainless steel interchangeable needles are available in 4” and 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. 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 ChiaoGoo red cable is best in class.
Economical speed-knitting needle options
KnitPicks Options Interchangeable Needles are a more economical alternative to the Addi Turbos above. Nickel-plated needles offer the highest speed available to knitters due to the low resistance of the finish, and may need occasional polishing. While a more affordable brand of needles, KnitPicks cables have reportedly come detached from their joins. Manufacturer defects are covered under KnitPicks’ one-year warranty, which feels short compared to the lifetime warranty available on higher-end needles like Addi and ChiaoGoo.
Recently, Susan Bates has been trying to compete with higher-end manufacturers, producing Velocity, a series of slick nickel-plated brass fixed circular needles available in US1-US10½ and lengths 16”, 32”, and 40”. The nickel-plated brass finish is common among speed knitting needles like Addi Turbos and KnitPicks Options. The Velocity plastic circular cables are not particularly pliable and may kink or coil more frequently than the Turbos or Options.