Bamboo knitting needles are a great choice for beginning knitters and any other knitters who like a warm, organic feel to their needles. Bamboo needles give a similar feel to wooden needles, but they are often cheaper, easier to find and available in a wider variety of sizes.
Bamboo is technically a grass that started out in Asia and India and is now grown in many parts of the world. It is a spreading grass, meaning that if you plant just a little of it, bamboo will spread underground and can take over as much area as you give it.
What is an unpleasant trait for gardeners is a wonderful advantage for those who want to make things like knitting needles out of bamboo. It is an extremely renewable resource and thus can be used for all sorts of products, from chopsticks to fencing, pipes to clothing. One of the most popular new uses for bamboo is bamboo yarn.
Making Bamboo Needles
Bamboo knitting needles are made from the wood of the bamboo grass. The bamboo is harvested, dried in the sun, cut to knitting needle sized lengths, shaped to the right width, cured and sanded. Then the tapered end is worked by hand or machine to make the point end.
Usually another round of sanding happens and the other end of the needle is attached. Needles are checked for gauge before they are shipped to stores.
To see some of the steps in making bamboo knitting needles in pictures, check out this photo essay of the production process for Crystal Palace Bamboo Needles.
Qualities of Bamboo Needles
Bamboo needles have a warm and earthy feel. They feel good in your hands and warm slightly to the touch.
Bamboo is known for its strength and flexibility, and those characteristics remain in bamboo knitting needles. Because of this, they are relatively difficult to break (except in really small sizes).
They are quite comfortable to use and are good for beginners because they are not as slick as metal or plastic needles.
Bamboo needles can also be easier to use and tend not to split yarn as easily as some other types of knitting needles. They are very lightweight and smooth, helping more experienced knitters knit quickly without mistakes.
Cost of Bamboo Needles
You can purchase straight, double-pointed and circular needles in bamboo from a variety of manufacturers. They usually run between $5 and $15, depending on the size of the needle and who makes it.
By comparison, wooden knitting needles start around $15 and go up from there, and some handmade needles can be quite expensive.
Bamboo Needle Manufacturers
There are several companies that make bamboo knitting needles. Here are a few:
Caring for Bamboo Knitting Needles
Bamboo knitting needles do not really need a lot of care but if you use them a lot you may find they will benefit from a light sanding every now and then to keep them nice and smooth and to keep the tips from breaking your yarn.
I once received a pair of bamboo knitting needles in a kit that had a rough point on one of the needles. It was easy to smooth down with an emery board, and I often keep one with my knitting supplies for this very purpose.
With just this little bit of maintenance you should be able to enjoy your bamboo needles for years to come.