Saturday, February 18, 2012

Knitting Needle Review

The first thing I have to say here is a disclaimer. This is not a review of all possible knitting needles, just a review of the needles I've been lucky enough to try out or have heard a lot about.

I should also say that I am a very biased reporter of the facts.

I really love the sharp, long points, and hate the short, stubby, blunt points. I've also tried plastic and wooden needles, and I find that I tend to snap them with amazing regularity, and since I can't afford to replace needles (either in knitting time lost while I get new ones or in money spent), I tend to avoid those. I also like circular needles because they're more versatile. I can knit flat if I want, or knit circularly in the easiest way possible. So, mostly, you're going to hear about needles that I like.

 Fixed Needles

The one exception to the plastic knitting needle situation is the Bryspun circulars. They have a metal rod in the tip, and the plastic is slightly flexible, but still stiff, so they don't tend to break like their DP needles do. I like to use their DP needles in the larger sizes because they have some give (they're not too stiff) which is easier on my hands; the surface lets what you're knitting slide smoothly, but tends to prevent the stitches from jumping off; and they're just nice to work with. I only work with them when I have plenty of the same size on hand because I manage to snap them on a regular basis.

The points on the Bryspun needles are very similar to the Addi lace needles, but a little more concave, which makes them a dream to knit with.

Everyone who likes sharp points seems to love the Signature needles with stiletto points the best. Here's a photo of a stiletto point.

And, for comparison, here's a photo of the three different needle points they have available. That's the stiletto on the left, middy in the middle and the blunt point on the right. They mention on their website that the stiletto are the most popular.

I haven't had the privilege of trying them yet (in other words, I can't afford them), but have heard that the cables on the circular needles are wonderful.

I watched an episode of Knitting Daily where they were making gauge swatches on short single point Signatures, and it looked like they were knitting with jewelry, and I'm just dying to get a pair. The available stoppers on the ends look like this:

You can see why I said they look like you're knitting with jewelry.

The down side of these is the price. Everyone says that they're worth every penny, but nobody denies that they're expensive.

At about half the price of the Signatures, I love the Addi lace needles. They originally advertised that they had copied the Baleen needle points, but those were a concave shape, and the Addi lace points that I've gotten lately seem to be straight.

Below is a comparative photo of an Addi lace point, and the point on a Chiaogoo lace needle of the same size. Addi is shown on the bottom with Chiaogoo on the top.

Addi lace needles are made in brass with a clear coating that I think is resin. If you remember the grey coating that used to be on some needles that everybody insisted was Teflon, that was actually resin. The clear resin coating on the Addis doesn't seem to be quite as slippery as the old grey coating was. If you're knitting lace, this can be an advantage. The slipperiness is close to a nickel coating, but not quite as slippery.

At this point, I'm reviewing the fixed Addi lace needles. I'll get to the interchangeables in a bit.

I've noticed that after you have them for a while, they tend to smell like brass that's oxidizing, and I tend to get the smell on my hands and I don't like it. The points, however are quite nice. From the photos, they seem to be very similar to the stiletto points on Signatures, and at about half the price. The joins are wonderful, and the cables are very flexible. I used to love these needles before I tried Chiaogoo.

A Chiaogoo lace point is shown above the Addi point in the photo above. The points are very similar, and seem to be almost (maybe exactly) the same as the stilettos. When knitting with them, the very end of the point seems to be a little more blunt in the Addis.

Chiaogoo lace needles come with stainless steel tips, which will never smell like the Addis do. They also have the size of the needle imprinted on the needle tip, although I find the imprint difficult to read. The steel has just the tiniest bit less slipperiness than nickel coated needles, but not much. They're very close. The joins on these are smooth as silk, and the cables are sturdy (braided steel with a plastic cover), and very flexible, with no memory.

They also have a different feel when you knit with them. They feel like precision tools in a way that makes the Addis seem almost clumsy by comparison. This is not something that I can describe any other way. They just feel very precise, and just perfect to knit with. All this at about half the price of the Addis (or about 1/4 of the price of Signatures).

If you have an allergy to nickel, all of the needles reviewed so far should be safe for you.

Interchangeable Needles

Now we get to the ones that will not be safe for people with a nickel allergy, and the ones that are interchangeable, too. There are also ones in this list that are safe for people with allergies.

Options needles by Knit Picks are brass with a nickel coating. The very tip of the point is sharp, but they have a shorter taper than all the needles reviewed so far. Options are also available in resin-impregnated wood (Harmony) and plastic (Zephyrs) with the same tips for those of you with allergies. As far as wood or plastic needles go, they probably have the sharpest points it's possible to have with those. The cables are very flexible, and the joins can be excellent, and the join has a hole in it (for using a key to tighten them) which can also be used to thread a lifeline through so that you don't have to do it manually. They offer a quality product with a low price for what you get, so they're a good, economic buy.

I have had a cable come right out of the connection one time. I've had some connections come unscrewed when I didn't fasten them right, and I've had some connections that developed some roughness due to use.

Knit Picks is a wonderful place to buy from, and they guarantee everything. I mentioned the cable that popped out when I ordered from them, and they sent me two brand new cables, free in my order. I've heard many people mention that they've almost instantly replaced a product that broke or malfunctioned.

In fairness, I should say that one or another of my Options needles were used at least 4 hours every day for about 4 years, and the worst thing that happened was that one cable popped out of the connector. Plus these are very popular needles that see a lot of hard use by thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, possibly a million knitters for many years, so hearing about some problems shouldn't scare you off from them. Think about the times that you've sat on your knitting, or otherwise accidentally done something really bad to your needles, and you'll see that they have a very good record.

One to the Addi lace clicks! The first thing I need to say about these is that I haven't tried them myself. But I've read a load of reviews, and heard a lot from people who own them. But you should take anything I say with a grain of salt.

Addi originally released the set with 4 inch tips in brass with the clear coating. So many people didn't like the short tips that they later released 5 inch tips, and for a while, both were available. Sometime around this time, they changed to a nickel coating instead of the clear coating.

Now, it seems that they may be selling sets with either the 4 inch tips and sets with 5 inch tips. Other news I've heard leads me to believe that only the 5 inch tips are available. If you buy a set, and the tip length matters to you, you should be sure to check and make sure you get what you want.

Everybody seems to love the cables. Very flexible!

I've heard mixed reviews about the joins. They do not screw together like most of the other interchangeables, but rather, click together, more like the Denise needles. Hence, the name. Some people report not having any problems with the joins, and others report that yarn catches on them and it's difficult to move the stitches along them. This may (or may not) have something to do with how well the owners learn to operate the click mechanism.

Some people seem to see right away how to click them together, and others never get the hang of it, and their needles keep coming apart while knitting.

I've just gotten (in my opinion) the best interchangeable needles available. They're the Hiya Hiya Sharps interchangeables. The small set (sizes 2 to 8) have just come out in the past few months, and the large set (sizes 9 to 15) will be out soon.

They're stainless steel, with points that seem to be identical to the Chiaogoo lace needles, and they also have the size imprinted on the tips. Speaking of the tips, you can get the set with 4 inch tips or with 5 inch tips. If you like a more blunt point, they were previously making them with a regular point in both size sets.

The cables are clear plastic, and they are flexible and have no memory (don't keep trying to curl up).

The joins are screw-in, but have a lip that goes over the cable part of the join and seems to make them smoother than most of the joins that screw together. Oh, and did I mention that there's a swivel joint in each join? Well, there is! Some people had problems with the join coming unscrewed during knitting, so the manufacturer included two little pads of rubbery plastic to use for traction while screwing them together, and nobody seems to have a problem with them coming apart when they use the pads to tighten them.

These needles have the same precision feel to knit with that the Chiaogoo needles do.

To top it all off, they have the nicest case that I've seen come with a set of interchangeables, ever! It's made of silk brocade, which is available in several colors. There's a zipper pouch for keeping cables secure, spaces for the needle tips (with a few extra if you want to add more tips), and a zippered compartment for the little rubbery pads and anything else you might want to keep with them, like stitch markers, scissors, etc. It's everything I want in an interchangeable needle case.

The only warning I have for you is that there are so many options with this set that you have to be careful when you buy to make sure that you get what you want. Check the point (regular or sharp), the tip length (4 or 5 inches), the size (either small or large set) and the color of the case. Each set (small or large) seems to cost about the same as the Options, but both sets together give you much smaller and larger needles than you'll get in Options. I really don't like to knit anything that needs needles larger than about size 9, so the small set with extra Chiaogoos in size 9 are perfect for me. And I really appreciate having interchangeables that go down to size 2. I know others really only want the big needles, so choosing to separate it all into two different size sets might be a good choice for most.

Whew! That's a lot of information! And it only covers needles with sharp points! You can see why I didn't want to get involved in reviewing ALL needles!

I hope you're having a good day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope you have the best Valentines Day ever!

If you'd like to know more about the day, check this out! You might not want to do that, though, because a lot of what Valentine's Day is about is founded on martyrdom. Just skim down to where they talk about more modern celebrations.


For all you knitters out there, the universe out there has brought you the best Valentine's Day present, ever!

You'll have to pay for it, but the new, revised edition of The Principles of Knitting is out!

This is the best knitting reference book that has ever been written! This is the book that people were selling for $350, and people were lining up to buy it! This has stuff in it that you've never even heard of before!

It's a big book! In order to hold all that information, this book is huge! The best doorstop book ever. You can use it for ballast in a ship! And it is crammed with ways to cast on, increase, decrease, and do anything else that has anything to do with knitting! Amazon has it for a reduced price, too! If you're not sure, order it anyway. If it goes out of print, you may be able to sell your copy for $350. But at 2 am, when you can't remember how to do a particular cast on, and you have to do it right now, this is the book you want. No matter how esoteric the question, you can find your answer here!

It's Valentine's Day! Treat yourself!