Sunday, February 24, 2013

Needle review

Yesterday I switched from dpn's to two circulars on the Mandala II shawl, and after a while I thought that maybe it was time that I talked a bit about all the different needles I've tried out through the five years I've been knitting. I should tell you though that I definitely prefer to knit with wooden needles, so that's what I'll mostly talk about.

When I started out knitting, I just bought the cheapest needles that I found in my LYS, which was mostly Pony plastic or metal needles. I started out with ordinary jumper needles, but pretty soon I started making patterns that needed circulars. After a while I had a huge selection of Pony plastic circular needles, and even some in the same sizes as I often forgot which sizes I already owned. I never thought about whether I liked the needles or not, as I had nothing to compare to.

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Then in 2009 I found Ravelry, and the immense amount of information available there. I read about the KnitPicks needles, and pretty soon decided to try them out. I actually started by buying a whole set of interchangeable Harmony wood needles, with sizes from 3.5 mm up to about 8 mm or so I think. I think I only had to hold them for a few seconds before I knew I was in love. And I have never gone back to plastic or metal needles since then!

Since my first contact with the Harmony's, I've tried a few other brands as well. I thought I would just talk a little bit about the different ones, one by one. I'll start with the circulars.

I still really like the Harmony needles, they are amazingly sharp and feel great to handle. Some of the sizes I've tried seem to have difficult joins, and the yarn can snag sometimes. I've also broken a few needles, but I think I've only had one or so come loose at the actual joint. The rest I've sat on or something similar, so that's no reflection on the quality of the needles. The only thing that I'm still not overly fond of is the cables, which are the same on both the fixed circulars and the interchangeables. They are a bit stiff, and coil up very easily. Other than that I still love the KnitPicks brand, and they are very cheap compared to a lot of other needle brands. I think they are still my favourites.

I have also tried the KnitPicks Zephyr's, which are acrylic needles, but I'm not completely won over. They are completely see-through, and I find that to be a bit of a hassle. I also find them too grippy, so I very rarely use them. I have the whole set of these as well, but I like them well enough that I don't want to get rid of them.

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I also just bought a single size of KnitPicks Sunstruck needles, which are their new, blonde wooden needles. I haven't had a chance to try them out yet, but they feel almost exactly like the Harmony's so I think I'll like them just fine.

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When I made my first order from Eat.Sleep.Knit I got two sizes of Knitter's Pride Cubics needles to try out. These fit on the same cables as the KnitPicks ones, which was a nice feature for me as I already have a plethora of cables. The needles are square, which is supposed to be kinder to your hands than the round ones, but I have to admit I didn't feel any big difference. I didn't really enjoy them though, as the yarn was a bit harder to move from the cable join onto the square parts, and I actually managed to break two of the needles while knitting with them. These actually just broke in my hands, so I guess I was knitting very tightly with them. I didn't bother to get it replaced though, as I didn't like them anyway.

I think it might have been about a year ago that I discovered ChiaoGoo needles. I buy mine from Grandma's Knit and Crochet on Etsy, and their service and shipping is superb. They also reward their customers with a lot of coupon codes, which is a nice feature. I have some fixed ChiaoGoo circulars, and I also got their new interchangeables set when it came out. I LOVE the fixed circulars, the needles are smooth and slick and the cable is fantastic. The needles aren't as sharp as the KnitPicks ones, and if I could I would make a needle that had the KnitPicks tips and the ChiaoGoo cables. However, the cables in the interchangeable set aren't the same as on the fixed needles, and not as good. The cables on the fixed needles aren't swivelling, but they are on the interchangeable needles, but that feature doesn't make up for the fact that the interchangeable cables have a lot more memory and curl up a bit. I think they are similar in quality as the KnitPicks interchangeable. I think that the cables for the ChiaoGoo Red Lace interchangeable set (which is metal) is different, and I think I'll order some of those to try out too.

When I had found the ChiaoGoo needles I thought I had found a new favourite, but with the interchangeables I find that the cable joints can be very un-smooth. As I mentioned at the beginning, I'm using two circulars right now on the lace shawl, and it is almost impossible to get the last stitches of the row past the joint! I'm going to switch it for either a fixed ChiaoGoo or KnitPicks, because right now it's almost impossible to work on. So I think that the KnitPicks are still my favourites.

Finally, I have two circular needles in my stash that I haven't tried out yet. A while ago when I placed an order with Grandma's Knit and Crochet, they managed to mix two orders up, so I got someone else's order. It contained two 4 mm Red Lace fixed circulars from ChiaoGoo, and I got to keep them. As they are metal, I haven't felt like even trying them out. I would like to try the cables though, so maybe I will try them out and then give them away here on the blog.

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The second brand that I haven't tried out yet is an Addi interchangeable Bamboo Click needle, that I got from Garnkorgen just to try out. The bamboo feels very nice, but the needles are incredibly blunt! The sharpness of the KnitPicks needles is the feature that I love the most, so I think the Addi's will stay unused. Maybe I'll try them on something small, and then give them away here too :)

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Ok, let's talk about DPN's then. Since I started knitting with the KnitPicks Harmony dpn's, I've very rarely used anything else. They are still my favourites, and as I make all of my socks with dpn's I use them a lot. I've tried magic loop and knitting with two circulars, but I always prefer dpn's. The Harmony needles are very smooth, they don't bend like bamboo needles tend to do, and they are incredibly sharp. I have broken several in the 2 mm size, but that is almost to be expected with the smallest size, as they are made of wood. I have nothing bad to say about these!

A couple of years ago I bought a set of Marks & Kattens Ecological wooden needles at a fair (I think it was the sewing festival), just to try out. They are made from birch wood, and they are not waxed like the KnitPicks ones. They are pretty grippy, and I don't really enjoy them. I've used them as flight needles some times (you know, cheap needles that doesn't matter if you have to throw away if you can't bring them on a plane), and that is mostly why I keep them.

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I also have a set of Clover bamboo needles, that I also bought as flight needles. They are smooth but very blunt, and I mostly use them when I have no alternative. Like right now, actually. When I was starting the sleeves on the Julissa sweater my KnitPicks 3 mm needles were busy in the Mandala shawl, so I picked these up. I don't really enjoy them, but I don't hate them either. They are good to have around as flight needles too. I don't want to risk my KnitPicks dpn's when I fly, if I should have to leave them behind.

Picture from Here

Finally, I splurged a bit about a year ago, and got a set of Blackthorn Carbon Fibre dpn's. These are made with the same material as stealth planes, and incredibly light weight. They are supposed to be unbreakable, and I haven't tried to bend them but I think they are incredibly durable. They are pretty sharp, almost as sharp as the Harmony's, and they are warm to knit with. My only objection to them is the sound they make when they slide against each other. It kind of reminds me of the sound of chalk against a blackboard, even though it isn't as bad as that. It's a kind of scratching sound, and it bugs me a little bit. I still use them quite often, I even got a second set a while ago, but I don't think I'll get any more. I just prefer wood!

Ok, that was a pretty hefty post! All that to tell you that I still prefer KnitPicks! A lot of knitters seem to prefer metal needles, but I just don't like the feel of them in my hands. The metal is cold, and it gets sweaty if I get too warm, plus I don't like the loud clicking sound they make. Wood feels so much more natural to me, and as the Harmony's are lacquered they are almost as smooth as metal needles.

I hope I'll get back to you next week with a regular post, and hopefully a finished sweater. I'm almost done with the first sleeve, so keep your fingers crossed!

/ Jenny

1 comment:

aussiedonna50 said...

I have been knitting for 50 years and I have tried just about every type of needle there is on the market.
I generally use interchangeable needles and the tip type and colour varies depending on the yarn I am knitting.
My all time brand is knitpro as I love that no matter what set of tips I want to use, the standard cables will always fit.
You mentioned you were having problems with the cables kinking; try soaking the cable in hand hot water for 10 minutes to make it pliable and straighten before drying very well.
Hope this helps...