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24 Absurdly Clever Knitting Needle Alternatives

We love these homemade knitting needles and improvised needles from our readers.

By: Kaylee Pope, Editor, AllFreeKnitting.com
Knitting Needle Alternatives

Knitters have a secret hobby that most non-knitters might not understand. Trying to knit with random household objects is a true bragging right! From learning to knit with pencils and chopsticks or making jumbo yarn and extreme knitting projects with PVC pipes, brooms, or even tent poles, knitters are a creative brunch that will likely knit with anything and everything they can. Whether it is out of sheer creativity or needing a needle ASAP, our readers have some absolutely hilarious and sometimes heartwarming stories about improvised knitting needles!

If you’re on the hunt for knitting needle alternatives or are just plain inspired by making an attempt at knitting with something weird, check out our list of 24 insanely smart knitting needle alternatives!

Learning to Knit with Homemade Needles

Learning how to knit can actually be an expensive investment. Tons of our readers shared stories about finding improvised knitting needle ideas as a child. Whether they used chopsticks, pencils, or ballpoint pens, all of them are still knitting today! Hopefully with real needles this time!

1. Nails

Monica Akmal: To us, back then up until the mid-70s in Chile, it wasn't weird for fathers to file, round the tips and smooth out really long nails (5-7 inches) for young children to learn how to knit. That's how I learned at age 4. The nails were light but sturdy and just the right size for tiny hands. Back then all children were taught to knit and crochet, wood carving, sawing, weaving, sculpting, use of tools, and many other crafts in school.

Karen Schlehuber: My dad was a carpenter. When I was about 7 my mom taught me to do basic garter stitch on a pair of 16 penny nails. After she found out I was truly interested we went down to the dime store and got a real pair for me.

Marie Klausen: Carpenters nail with bricklayer’s twine! Yes, my father was a bricklayer. I was five.

2. Match Sticks

Dianna Goddard: My Granny learned to knit with match sticks in Scotland. I think she was born in 1902, so this was in 1910... I don't know if they had the long match sticks they use to light fireplace's today but I can only imagine.

3. Pencils

Anita Preston: Pencils. I was 7 and watching my mom knit, so gathered all her yarn scraps, tied them together, and started teaching myself to knit.

Maria Teresa Alpuim: My first knitting try was with pencils, and I was 7 or 8. I didn't want to forget how a lady was knitting, that's how I learned.

Alison Morgan: When I was 6yrs old I asked a relieving teacher 2 show me how to knit after seeing her knitting. Using some craft string and 2 pencils she showed me how to knit. And she had 2 short knitting needles for me the next day and some yarn. This seemingly innocent request ended up fueling a lifetime love of craft esp. wool crafts. Now I knit and crochet all the time 41years later.

4. Chopsticks

Soo Samler: Chop sticks. Mom wasn't too happy when I sharpened the ends. And yes, I'm Chinese.

MaryAnn Karre: When we couldn't find enough knitting needles to teach all of the students who wanted to learn to knit, we begged for chopsticks from our generous Chinese restaurant, and sharpened them with a Dremel sander. We made 24 pairs of needles that way, and 12 pairs of students and parents learned to knit!!

5. Pick Up Stix

Patsy Peel: Pick Up Stix when I was a kid, they are double pointed plastic sticks about the equivalent of a size 1 or 2 needles. They came in a can, you emptied them out and took turns picking them up from the pile of 25 or so without disturbing any other stix. If you disturbed them your turn was over. Whoever got the most Stix won.

Tweek Catlett: Pick up sticks- when I finished the small purse and used a spool knitter to knit the strap my mom bought me size 6 knitting needles because " it isn't s phase, she can knit"!

6. Lollipop Sticks

Monique Chevrier: Lollipop sticks. When I was 4 years old, my aunt showed me how to knit. My needles were the sticks. I'm 78 now and still knitting.

7. Drumsticks

Melissa Sabo: Drumsticks! I was teaching myself to knit, and while I found inexpensive yarn, I panicked at the idea of investing in the wrong needles. So I took the yarn home and dug around for something to use, and found my Band Hero drumsticks! Worked like a charm, knit my mom a scarf for Christmas and I was hooked!

8. Broomstick Handles

MaryElizabeth Gross: Here is what the knitting needles my Mama had her brother Johnny make from broom stick handles so she could teach me to knit at 3. (see below!)

 

Handmade Broomstick Knitting Needles

Improvised Knitting Needles that Actually Worked!

Knitters are insanely creative. There might not always be a needle waiting around, but knitters pretty much always want to knit. Check out these creative everyday items that can be used as knitting needles. Try one out today and let us know how it goes!

9. Coat Hanger

Pat Trivett: The stores were closed and I needed a pair of cable needles. My boyfriend made them for me out of a coat hanger. That was about 20 years ago and I still have them... 

10. BBQ Skewers

Anne Russell: Bamboo BBQ skewers. Most of them are 3mm, which is hard to come by in the US. Sanded them smooth and dulled the points a tad... I have a few pairs down to a 5" pair. I glued wooden beads to the ends. They work well. One year, during a snow storm, when we lost our power, I discovered that I can actually knit wearing gloves.

11. Spoons, Swizzle Sticks, and Coffee Stirrers

Cyna Whitford: My most favorite - while on the airplane was long stir spoons...(now I think knitting needles are legal) only knit wearing gloves. 
Sandy Fitch: Had a friend turn the heel of a sock in a dark bar one night. When she went to pick up her fourth needle, she grabbed the swizzle stick from her drink. She knit about four rounds before she realized it. Her mom & I had a great giggle over it. The sock came out fine.... and Mom drove us home.

Mary L Wheeler: Smith Wooden spoon. Perfect size 15!!


12. Toothbrush Handle

Kimberly Bunting Snyder: Toothbrush handles. I had a need for knitting needles that could also be threaded. We had a case of old fashioned toothbrushes (the kind with slots at the end for hanging) left from a family member who'd worked in a toothbrush factory. My dad snipped off the end of the brush and shaped the ends to a point. I still have them 25 years later.

13. Misc. Pieces

Michelle Watson: Not knitting needles, a cable needle. My husband was an aircraft mechanic. He was always coming home with pointless wire and scraps in his pockets that he didn't throw away at work. One day I found a small metal "rod" with two pointed ends. I had him fold it over for me so I could use it for cabling. That was about 7 years ago. I still use it.

14. Paper

Liz Hamilxton: Paper rolled up. Literally 4 sheets. Take 2 and roll em up to be tighter on one end then tape. Repeat and you have some rudimentary (and useful) emergency needles!

15. Drumsticks

Cathy Truesdale: Drumsticks (the musical kind!). I needed a quick knit for a show at school but all of my supplies were at home. I used string instead of yarn....

16. Arrows

Soosii Bramwell: My husband's arrows. He likes archery and I knit. Turns out his carbon arrows are 5mm diameter, cut off the tip and replace it with empty pen nibs glued in and I have some nice long needles.

17. Bicycle Spokes

Wendy Anderson: In Peru, we used bicycle spokes.
 

Jumbo Knitting Needle Alternatives

Jumbo or extreme knitting is all the rage these days! Investing in this hobby, however, is crazy expensive. Many knitters are turning to alternative knitting needles for these big projects like dowels and PVC pipes.

18. Wooden Dowels

Barb Schuelke: My husband bought wooden dowels from the hardware store. He cut them into 4 or 5 pieces, used an old-fashioned pencil sharpener then finished sanding them by hand. I have lots of different sizes of DPN!

Joann Rice Meagher: My uncle made me size 15 needles out of a dowel. Years and years ago.

19. PVC Pipes

Wendy Williams: Substituting giant knitting needles with PVC pipes to knit a giant chunky blanket, it's working really well so far.

Julie Allen: I made oversized needless out of 1.5 inch PVC pipe to knit with super-sized yarn. (See below!)

Jumbo Knitting with PVC Pipe

Itty Bitty Knitting Needle Alternatives

Larger knitting needles force you to make larger knitting projects. The bigger (or smaller) the needle, the more delicate the project. Many knitters have turned to needles and toothpicks to make tiny little projects.

 21. Sewing Needles

Lisa Allen: Two metal sewing needles. I was challenged by a friend on how tiny I could knit. I used sewing thread Leah Olson Although I have never used anything other than knitting needles. I met an elderly gentleman who was knitting the most beautiful preemie baby socks on 4 bicycle spokes. too. It was fun but difficult. But I made a nice little square!

22. Cocktail Sticks

Gwen Swain: Cocktail sticks to knit clothes for my mice.

23. Nails

Diane Youngblood: When I was young, I wanted to make a tiny scarf for my Barbie, so I used two nails from my Dad's workshop and crochet thread.

20. Toothpicks

Kathi Schallenberg: Round toothpicks. Put a small bead on one end, knitted about a 1" square out of embroidery cotton with them and used it on a greeting card. Was a big hit with the recipient.

Leanne Michelle: Toothpicks, to make Christmas ornaments a few years ago. I started knitting it on sock needles and then transferring to the toothpicks, but it was just easier to knit directly onto the toothpicks.

Maria Sandström: Tooth picks! I made an ornament for the Christmas tree. (See below!)

 

Knitting with a Toothpick

24. Paleolithic Knitting Needles (AKA Sticks and Twigs)

Plenty of knitters didn’t even find improvised needle ideas inside their home. Unsurprising, it isn’t very hard to make your own knitting needles by carving twigs and sticks.

Laurie Elkind Flanagan: Not me, but, as the story goes, my great grandmother was so big busted that her husband made her knitting needles out of willow branches. He would make them extra-long so she could stick the ends under her arms and knit over her bust. She also knitted 4 needle socks without even looking at what she was doing!

Mélanie Leury: I forgot my cable needle at home when I went camping a few years ago. Made one out of a branch with my knife! I still use it today!

Helen Twaddle: I once was in the bush a lost a needle, so I sharpened a stick and kept knitting!

Eva Lena Olsson: A piece of elderflower tree

What is the strangest thing you have ever tried to knit with?

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I love chunky knits, but huge knitting needles can be so expensive. But I think all of these alternatives are genius!

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