Any knitter would be thrilled to see her hand-knit baby blanket become the child's favourite. But before that "ba-ba" becomes a companion, the knitter has other choices to make including: the pattern, the yarn and the knitting needles. The blanket pattern will dictate the size of the needle, but there are other considerations for choosing an appropriate needle for your baby blanket project.
The needle most associated with knitting, straight needles come in pairs with a point on one end and a knob on the other. They come in a variety of lengths from 20 cm to 36 cm (8 inches to 14 inches). The length of the needle does limit how many stitches the needle will hold. For baby blankets knitted in pieces or strips, a straight needle is appropriate. However, for blankets knitted in one piece, you should consider a circular needle.
A circular needle has two points joined together by a flexible cord. As the name suggests, you can use circular needles to knit round tubes. However you can also use them to knit flat pieces. Because they come in a variety of lengths from as short as 40 cm (16 inches), to as long as 100 cm (40 inches), circular needles are a good choice for baby blankets knitted in one piece.
With points on both ends, double-pointed needles, or DPNs, allow you to knit in the round, which sounds more like what you need to knit baby bootees, not blankets. However, you can use DPNs to knit flat circles or squares that begin in the centre. Patterns that use this technique usually start on DPNs, and change to circular needles when there are enough stitches to stretch around the needle comfortably.
All three types of knitting needles come in a variety of materials and your choice can be based on preference or on the type of yarn you chose for the baby blanket. For example, cotton, linen and synthetic yarn is very slippery, and a wooden or bamboo needle grips these yarns. Wool and other protein fibres are sticky, so consider a smooth metal or plastic needle.
The techniques used in the baby blanket pattern may also affect your choice in knitting needles. For example, if the blanket has an applied I-cord edging, you will need a set of double-pointed needles. Also consider the needle points. For yarns that easily split apart, a blunter needle point will cause few knitting frustrations. If you are knitting a lacy baby blanket, a sharp needle will execute those decreases much easier.