I have arthritis in my hands and the smaller length needles are a little hard to hold onto. Would longer needles help, if they exist? Is there anything else to consider, such as needle material (wood vs. metal vs. plastic) that would make gripping the needles easier?
Longer needs can be helpful for this.
Addi makes a set of interchangeables with 5.5" (approx 14cm) tips (most interchangeables have 5"/12.5cm tips). They are called Rocket Lace Long Tips. http://www.addineedleshop.com/click_system/lace_click_long.htm
I found the same set on Amazon by searching for "Addi long lace tip circular knitting needles." Amazon also has these needles in fixed circulars. I would suggest starting with just one fixed circular or one set of tips and a cord before buying the full set to see if half an inch is enough extra length to make a difference.
Wood needles would have a little better grip. Using square needles might be helpful if you can get used to the shape. There are only a couple of brands carrying square-shaped wooden circulars that I know of, and they both come from the same manufacturer. Both come in interchangeable or fixed circulars.
- KnitPicks Foursquare http://www.knitpicks.com/cfNeedles/Needle_List.cfm?ID=300313&media=blogpost&utm_source=media&utm_medium=marketing&utm_campaign=blogpost
- Knitter's Pride Cubics https://www.amazon.com/Knitters-Pride-Cubics-Interchangeable-Needles/dp/B0076TFF08/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1517857551&sr=8-1&keywords=knitters+pride+cubics
everydayhealth.com has a list of tips on knitting with arthritis. For needles:
Occupational therapist Theresa Leto, DHS, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at the University of Findlay in Ohio and a knitter, recommends bamboo knitting needles because they create less friction between needle and yarn. Other options include needles that are modified to prevent your work from slipping off the end, such as circular needles.
Other tips including warming your hands before working, keeping a looser grip, wearing gloves, and switching between projects to avoid repetitive strain.
In 2017 Prym introduced needles designed to work well for people with difficulty knitting, you could try those.
They're plastic, triangular in cross-section and have a tiny ball on the tips. I have not used them, but talked to some people who did. The consensus was that there is nothing special in them for abled people (and the ball at the tip surprisingly doesn't impede knitting), but one person, who had a broken wrist and was slowly returning to knitting at the time said they were wonderful, she was finally able to work more than a few stitches and the physical therapy could progress better because of them.
The needles are called Prym Ergonomic, here's an Amazon search for them And this is what they look like:
Wood needles may be easier for you to grip, as would larger diameter needles. Bamboo is lighter than metal and most other woods, so that would be a good wood version.
One ideas is to knit circular but with several long double-tipped needles, as you would with knitting socks or a hat in the round. You knit from needle to needle around and around.
Here is a source for longer-than-usual (10") bamboo double-tipped knitting needles, in various diameters.
I would also look at the join between the needles and the cable between them. I often find that lower-grade needles have abrupt changes in size between the two, and advancing my stitches onto the right needle sometimes requires significant gripping and pushing. Of course, this is tension-dependent to some degree.
On better-designed (and more expensive) circulars, the cable-to-needle join is much smoother, and advancing stitches is considerably easier for me. Whenever possible, try to see and hold the needles before committing to a purchase.
I ended up buying every size wood needles and every length cables from Knitpicks. I also find that taking breaks and flexing my fingers every 20 mins helps, and applying arnica cream after I’m done.