gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Knitters, According to Knitters

Photo: Paramount Pictures

If you don’t knit, you might think the best gift for knitters is some yarn or some needles. And though those are perfectly fine to give — we have a few for each in this gift guide — it’s not really as simple as picking up the first ball of yarn and a pair of sticks that you find. So to help you find something that the knitter in your life will appreciate and use, we spoke to a bunch of knitters on what would actually be useful to receive as a gift (and what wouldn’t be), from the smallest gadgets to premade patterns and, yes, some yarn and knitting needles.

Best stocking stuffers and small gifts

Marcy Handler, an advanced knitter and also my mother, recommends a row counter for a small gift. “You just want to get into the rhythm of knitting and don’t want to worry about counting rows and tallying them up on paper,” she says. “You don’t have to think with a row counter.” Every time you finish a row, you press the top down, and it counts the row for you. It only goes up to 99, but Handler says that’s more than enough, unless you’re making a blanket — which usually doesn’t require much row counting anyway, unlike a sweater.

“Stitch markers are essential for every knitter,” says Laurel Taylor, owner and knitter behind Alabaster Purl. And Atiya Jones, an advanced knitter, agrees: “Whether you’re gifting a novice or seasoned knitter, they’ll need stitch markers.” Exactly as the name implies, these little rings mark the number of stitches you have within the row so you don’t have to count them, and Handler also finds them particularly useful when knitting cables. Taylor likes the hexagonal markers she found on Etsy because they’re “unique and snag free.”

But Handler and Jones prefer something a bit more colorful, like these ones from Cocoknits, because they’re easier to keep track of and they look nice. “This set from Cocoknits features five styles for varying needle sizes and projects,” says Jones. And because they’re “easy to lose,” according to Jones, these come with little cases for you to plop them in when you’re done using them.

“Katrinkles is known for her high-quality wooden crafting tools, but her stitchable ornaments make the perfect stocking stuffer,” says Lisa K. Ross of Paper Daisy Creations. The ornament comes as just a blank piece of wood with holes cut out for where you put the yarn, and you can “stitch it yourself before gifting or pass along the blank canvas to let the creative person do the colorwork,” Ross says. You can also get them a hat, mittens, socks, and stockings. Or, if you think they might get really into it, you can give them the “mega” set of 13 different ornaments for them to decorate.

Best under-$50 gifts

Chances are the knitter in your life already has a ruler for their projects, but advanced knitter Kris Ray says this wrist ruler is actually one of their favorite tools, and it’s a bit more special than buying someone a tape ruler. “Not only is it supercute, but it is truly a useful tool to measure the length of a project when knitting on the go,” Ray says.

For the knitter who is already set on tools and supplies, tickets to a virtual knitting event might be right up their alley. “Knitters love knitting together and learning from each other,” says Mara Licole, knitwear designer for Mara Licole Knits. “So many virtual events and classes have started to pop up, so I think this would make a great gift to get through anticipated additional stay-at-home time throughout this upcoming winter season,” she adds. Vogue Knitting moved its live knitting series online during the pandemic, so you can access virtual classes and lectures from home for the duration of the four-day event. It has different packages (prices are on its website) where you can get anything from its smallest package of just a single one-hour lecture to its largest package of nine two-hour classes and two lectures. Vogue Knitting hasn’t announced dates further than October — but tickets do sell out, so you have to act quickly.

Although yarn seems like an obvious gift to give a knitter, it’s tough to buy yarn without a specific project in mind, and if you don’t know much about knitting, you might buy something difficult to work with. But Handler says if you really want to buy a knitter yarn, stick to sock yarn because most patterns only require one skein, so you won’t have to worry about buying too much (or not enough). Neighborhood Fiber Co. is a Black-owned business, recommended by Strategist newsletter editor (and knitter) Mia Leimkuhler, and it has a wonderful array of colors to choose from. This emerald-colored yarn is even machine washable.

Handler also likes this skein from Simply Socks Yarn because the yarn itself is dyed to make a pattern — mostly just stripes — when knit up, so it’s a “fun surprise” when you see the final design. And it makes the socks look like they took more work than they actually did.

“Mini-skein kits are better than a box of chocolates for knitters,” says Ross. “You get a variety of colorful yarns that can make any project sing.” Ross enjoys yarn from Leading Men Fiber Arts because they’re “full of rainbow goodness.” And you can easily “find the colors that best suit your loved one.”

$36

If your knitter often makes sweaters (or anything that needs to be sewed together), a blocking mat, which can stretch designs out and make sure that all pieces are the right size, would be helpful. (My sister and I actually got one for my mom for Hanukkah a few years ago, so I can attest to it being a much appreciated gift.)

But if your knitter already owns a blocking mat, Handler recommends getting them knit-blocker needles. That way, instead of dealing with individual pins, which can be a “pain,” as she explains, you can just stick the needles in all at once, and they’re more sturdy than traditional pins.

Since we recommended a lot of sock yarn, gifting a new set of needles would be a nice treat to accompany all that wool. Handler recommends Crystal Palace Bamboo needles because, when knitting socks, you actually don’t want the needle to be too pointed because when using four needles, they’re harder to manipulate and will get stuck. These slide well, aren’t too heavy, and feel nice to hold.

Lots of our knitters also recommended gifting interchangeable needles. Leimkuhler says they’re actually the tool she uses most for her projects. “They’re so absolutely necessary,” she says. “It saves you from buying different needles for every project.” And Jones says they’ll “keep a knitter prepared for most projects. Both use sets from brand Lykke because, as Jones explains, they’re “produced out of reclaimed driftwood and have just the right amount of slip, lightly gripping yarn where aluminum needles won’t.” She adds that they’re a “solid gift for an experienced knitter with an environmental flair.”

Leimkuhler and Ross also say that having a great bag to transport your project to, say, the park or even around different rooms of your house is a necessary gift for knitters. Leimkuhler bought this Baggu pouch set because “the different sizes are perfect: The smallest size holds little tools like a tape measure or scissors; the medium size holds a hat; and the largest size can fit an in-progress sweater.” She then tosses all three of them in a larger tote “without worrying about the other junk in my bag messing up my yarn or project.”

Ross prefers her bag from Beautiful Syster because it “was designed to hang from your arm while knitting on the go, transform into a yarn bowl while knitting at your local yarn store, or tie up tightly to keep everything secure when you toss it into your travel bag.” The company also offers pouches to go inside the bag, in case that idea appeals to you.

Best splurge-worthy gifts

Handler purchased Debbie Abrahams mystery blanket last year and thinks if you can splurge on it — or pool your money together with someone else — it’d be the best gift. Each month, you receive a new package of yarn and patterns that you knit one by one. Then, when sewed together, you get a very detailed patchwork blanket with a theme. Before signing up, you have no idea what the blanket you’ll be knitting is, but my mom says that was the whole fun of it. The company offers a basic pattern for intermediate knitters in case you don’t have the technique for the more advanced patterns (which are very hard), so if you overestimated the knitter’s skill level, they’ll still be able to do it — but beware, it’s not a beginner’s project, and because it’s from a British company, there are different abbreviations, such as SKPO instead of S1K1PPSO, which means slip one, knit one, pass the slipped stitch over and off the the needle. Handler has most knitting abbreviations memorized since she’s been knitting for decades, but with this project, she had to refer to the company’s handy dictionary throughout because there were a few differences. And Handler says the brand is easy to contact in case you have difficulty.

Instead of leaving your yarn, tools, and whatnot loose around the house (or shoved into a bag), Taylor recommends actually displaying it. “These beautiful yarn bowls can be used, of course, to hold yarn, but they can also be a catchall for your stitch markers, scissors, darning needles,” says Taylor. A yarn bowl will keep your knitter organized and look nice sitting on a coffee table, so if you live with said knitter, it might even be a gift for you, too. Plus, Taylor loves Darn Good Yarn: “Your purchase supports fair-trade artisans in a sustainable and ethical way.”

Three of our experts said that an actually enjoyable yet completely useful gift is a ball winder and swift. “What a game changer,” says Jones, who calls this one from the Woolery “wonderful for anyone enthusiastic about efficiency and the transformative aspects of knitting.” Leimkuhler also thinks it’s “so delightful” to use. “Who knew turning a little crank and winding up yarn into a ball was so pleasing, but really it is. It’s very soothing.” She and Ray got their winder and swift from Knit Picks, which is similar to the Woolery option, except they’re sold separately — so if your knitter owns a winder but not a swift, you could just buy one part. But regardless, Ray says it’s just as efficient as any winder can be. “After years of haphazardly winding my yarn by hand, I got myself a ball winder and swift combo from Knit Picks. Now, an hour of winding yarn turns into a two-to-three-minute task.” And if you’re buying all your yarn online and don’t want to go into a store to have it wound, like Leimkuhler, it’s a good thing to have on hand because having your yarn pre-wound sometimes costs extra, yet you can’t really knit without it wound into a ball.