Socks, like everything else knitted, are made on knitting needles. My grandmother always used the same kind of needles, probably the only brand available at the discount store where she usually shopped for her yarn. Today, the variety of needles available to knitters is almost limitless. The downside to the available variety is that you have to choose!
Wooden needles are smooth but not overly slippery and are a good choice for beginning sock knitters. Wooden needles are also warm, making them more comfortable than other materials for many knitters. Wooden needles are often made of birch, but are also available in rosewood, ebony, and a variety of other woods. The strength and flexibility of the needles varies based on the species of tree from which the wood is milled. I don’t recommend using wooden needles at sizes smaller than US 2 (2.75mm) because they are prone to break unless you handle them gently.
One cool trend in wooden needles is these fun multi-colored designs. These are from KnitPicks.
My personal favorites are Brittany Birch.
Bamboo needles are stronger than wood, particularly in the smaller sizes, while providing the same advantages of being warm and smooth but not slippery. I like Clover brand for dpns and Addi Naturas for circulars.
Plastic needles are also warm and flexible and are another good choice for beginning sock knitters. They can be less expensive than wooden needles, but are generally not available in the smallest sizes because of manufacturing limitations. I love these Pony Pearls in dpns. Their circular needles have a terrible lump at the join between the needle and the cable though.
Many different styles and brands of metal needles are available today. In general, these make for fast knitting because they are slick and very smooth. However, they are also quite slippery and can be frustrating for new sock knitters because they make it too easy to drop stitches, especially off the ends of double-pointed needles (more on that in the next section). Metal needles can be extremely slippery when nickel plated, very slippery when made from stainless steel, and moderately slippery when coated or painted. But they are all more slippery than plastic, wooden, and bamboo needles. Very small needles can be made with steel, however, making them popular for sock knitters who like to work with fine yarn and small needles to make firm, dense stitches and thin socks. These fine steel needles are flexible and will bend over time.
Who doesn’t love Signature Needle Arts needles? But they’re so expensive.
My go-to needles are ChiaoGoo Red Lace interchangeables and I also have Addi Lace Clicks.
Carbon-fiber needles are newcomers to the knitting marketplace. These needles are less slippery than metal needles and stronger than wood or bamboo, making them a new favorite of sock knitters. Some brands come with steel points on the ends of the needle for speedy knitting, while the carbon fiber of the needle shank holds stitches in place and helps reduce the frequency of dropping stitches.