I had so much fun posting during Knit & Crochet Blog week last week that I decided to do the wild card topic as well, even though I couldn't think of a knitting tool to recommend when I first thought about it!
My favourite knitting tool is a circular needle. Heck, even two at the same time!
I like knitting garments in the round, because you can motor on through endless stockinette stitch without having to worry that your purl rows are too loose and will distort the fabric. I love doing stockinette stitch: it is so relaxing and soothing, and the perfect thing for going to a knitting group with!
Circulars are great for doing colourwork, particularly in the round. You don't get the ends of a straight needle tangled up in cascades of threads.
You can use a longer needle by leaving a loop out somewhere and pulling the needle through when you get to the loop.
They can also be used for back and forth knitting - there is no rule book that says that you can't turn your work when using circular needles. The reason why I love circulars for back and forth and any other kind of knitting is that you can't lose "the other needle", or leave it at home by mistake: there is only one and chances are that if you've got your knitting with you, you'll have your knitting needle too.
I love that they're light, easy to handle because they are manoeuvrable and don't have ends to could catch on anything - you don't accidentally poke into someone sitting next to you (and will therefore not get dirty looks) - and best of all: the weight of your ever growing garment won't slip down towards the end of your straight needle which would make it necessary to do a bit of weight-lifting while you are knitting. That's the second biggest advantage in my book. Your fabric will slide towards the middle: into the loop of the circular neede's cable and might just sit quite comfortably on your knees.
You can get them in standard metal, but there are also lots around in other materials: I like bamboo because it is wonderfully light - but I also love my rather expensive Knit Picks circs because the cable/wire (in a lovely purple!) is very bendy and does not go out of shape. They are fantastic! I might get another one in 4 mm but I haven't seen any recently.
In the past I have used circular needles that were very annoying: the joint between needle and the cable (or is it called a wire?) wasn't well made at all, I had yarn snagging on it all the time - it drove me to distraction! Today's circulars are much better in that respect, much!
Using circulars (particularly if you feed a second circular through half of your stitches) is also very good for trying something on before you get way too far to even think about ripping back and trying again. You can try for size as you go along and will be much happier with the result. Just try the same with your knitting on straight needles! That's a complete nightmare.
I have also found circular needles very good when it comes to steeking: if you wish to do your sewn lines (by sewing machine) before you cast off (say you want to cut the armhole open before grafting the shoulders together), then you can sew much closer to the needle (the cable part of the circular) than you could if the stitches were still sitting on straight needles. It might be a good idea though to avoid putting the machine's needle through the plastic of the cable!
I think I've come up with quite a few good points, quite a few more than I was expecting before starting this post! I am also attempting to come up with a few negative points, just to be balanced, but I can't think of anything.
There is even a method for knitting socks on a circular needle (two circular needles to be precise: half the stitches on each) even though the circular needle is much longer than the circumference of the socks, but that needs to be the subject for another post.