Friday, March 29, 2013
Knitterly Things :: Knit Picks Options Interchangeable Circulars
I'm always asked about my needles on a regular basis: What do I use? What do I prefer? What do I recommend? I'll admit that I do have quite the collection of needles consisting of at least 10 different brands. Even though I'm fairly brand loyal, I'm also one of those consumers that likes to try out all the new products that come on the market. This rings quite true with knitting needles. So whilst I have my favourites, I thought I would share my views on some of the needles and sets that I own.
Before we get into the deets of anything, I'll put it out there right now that I might be a little biased on a few things. Such as the fact that I'm a huge fan of interchangeable needle sets and think they are the most economical way of obtaining a good collection of needles, as they usually provide an assortment of needle sizes and cable lengths that you can mix and match to suit your needs per project. Usually when a beginner asks what I recommend, I usually tell them to invest in a interchangeable needle set (of course, after a few questions and I know they are in it for the long haul...no point in telling someone who isn't sure if knitting is their schtick to dish out moola on something they may never use again after 1 project), not only will a set save you money but it's great to have all the commonly used sizes and options at your finger tips.
So, with that said, let's get into the first group of needles in my knitting needle review series!
The Knit Picks Interchangeable Circular needle set was the very first set of needles that I purchased (I was mainly using individually packaged needles bought at big box craft stores and had at the time of buying the interchangeable set, had forked over a lot of money on expensive needles from yarn shops). The set was also my first "big" knitting acquisition, as never before had I dished out this much money on one thing regarding the craft (nor was it going to be my last!). When I started attending my knitting group, it seemed like 90% of the ladies there were knitting with a Knit Picks set. At that time I had never even heard of interchangeable needles, let alone knew that such pretty needles existed. Back then I was using straight needles that wore my hands out, circulars that I was constantly fighting with, and DPNs that I completely disliked. At every knit night I would look around and notice that no one else was having the same struggles with their knitterly tools as I was.
After chatting with some of the knitters in the group, I knew that I had to invest in a set of interchangeable needles. If not for my sanity's sake, than at least for my wallet's sake - I was sick and tired of dishing out mega bucks with every project I started (even though I knew how to knit and had knitted things before, I was just beginning to take knitting seriously and didn't have that many sizes in my so-called collection yet). Since I was still new to the world of knitting, I really had no idea what was out there in terms of needle sets. So I asked around and a few brands had popped up. Of all them, 2 had stuck out. One of the the sets was way out of my price range at the time, and the other was Knit Picks. Swayed by all the good reviews from my fellow knitters, the affordable price tag, and the idea of knitting with such pretty needles (and not having the slightest idea that the material of the needle could affect your knitting), I went online and purchased the Harmony Wood set.
:: Pros ::
♥ For those who know me or have been reading this blog for a long time know that I like my needles to be sharp and so pointy that they can draw blood. While the wood isn't that sharp, I find the tips to be quite pointy and can match the other needles on the market, if not surpass all other wooden needles in this department. My set, and even all the extra tips that I have, are all pleasantly consistent in pointy-ness and I've never had a problem using them for lace work.
♥ I found the needles themselves to be lightweight and because it's wood, is warm to the touch.
♥ The joins are smooth. I've only had one instance where the join was uneven and was catching the yarn. A quick call to Knit Picks' customer service fixed that problem though!
♥ I've yet to use this feature but like the idea that it's there when I do, but the joins have a small hole (where you use the key to tighten the connection) that you can also use to thread a lifeline though so that you can save time and knit as per normal rather than threading it through manually. Brilliant!
♥ Fantastic customer service. I've always had wonderful customer service from Knit Picks and only have had to call them less than handful of times regarding my needles. For the record, once was because of the aforementioned uneven join that made knitting with the tip über annoying, another time because one of the extra cords I ordered came with threads that were too large to screw into the cap of the tip, and the last time was because the area where the wood joins the metal part was a little on the rough side and kept catching the yarn. Each time I called, Knit Picks replaced the needle/cords, no questions asked.
♥ The cables are thin, very flexible, and relatively memory-free - perfect for Magic Loop. I've never had a problem with the cables being too stiff or constantly trying to coil back up on itself like so many other needles that I've used. I've purchased some fairly expensive needles that had cables that were so firm that I've had to soak them in warm water to loosen them up. First of all, what a pain in the arse to do! Second, if I'm forking over big bucks for quality needles, I feel like I shouldn't have to do that in the first place. Am I right? Overly firm cables are one of my deal breakers. I want to be able to pick up my needles and knit without a care in the world, I don't want to have to fight with my tools every few minutes. Of all the needles in my collection, Knit Picks has one of the best cables.
♥ I love the fact that you can buy extra tips, cables, and accessories pretty easily and still have it be easy on the wallet.
♥ The Harmony Wood is very pretty!
:: Cons ::
♥ Most people really dislike the clear vinyl pouch that they come in. To me, this isn't a deal breaker, as I honestly think the pouch isn't that bad at all. Yes, it's not the prettiest case you've ever seen but it does it's job. Aside from the set, it's big enough to carry the 3 overstuffed cable cases that I use to store my extra cables, another 7 packages of cables (yes...I have a ton of cables), a set of needle size ID tags (which I don't use), a needle and hook gauge/ruler, and at least 10 packages of additional tips, with plenty of room leftover for more. Unlike some knitters, I don't bring my entire set with me everywhere, just what I need for a project, so maybe that's why my pouch hasn't fallen apart and is in a like-new condition.
♥ The joins are threaded, meaning that the tips and cables have threaded ends that you need to screw together to join. To make sure the connection is secure you need a "key", which is included with the set and with several of the accessories you can purchase separately. For those with arthritis or other kinds of hand pain, or those who tend to twist a lot during their knitting, this kind of join in a set wouldn't be so great. The joins can loosen while knitting regardless of how tight you screw the tips to the cable, and if you're not careful or don't notice in time, can cause the tip to disconnect completely during knitting. I personally have had the tips loosen during knitting only when I've been too lazy to fish out a key to tighten the connection (and trust me, after buying a lot of extra cables, I have a ton of keys at my disposal!), but never had them come off completely.
♥ The needle size aren't marked on the tips in any way. For some, this is a pain in the arse. Again, to me this isn't a deal breaker. I'm pretty good at keeping track of which size is on what project, if not, there's always the trusty needle gauge sizer. If you can never keep track, you can always invest in the aforementioned needle size ID tags. I'm pretty diligent about making sure that my tips go back to their rightful spot in either the package they came from or where they belong in the cardboard line-up of tips the second I'm done using them, so I'm never digging around trying to find a matching pair. I know a few people who have had to discard that cardboard backing because the elastic that holds the needles to the cardboard finally gave out, but another friend of mine had the right idea to re-use the cardboard by cutting it up into individual strips and inserting them in the pouch's many needle slots to label which size is which. UPDATE :: I've been informed in the comments that Knit Picks has changed this and are now marking the tips with the sizes. Yay!!
♥ Some people hate the fact that the smallest cable available is 24". Maybe it's because I'm not really a hat knitter (although I will admit that when I do knit a hat I prefer a 16" circular since it's just quicker and easier), but this doesn't bother me at all. I usually use Magic Loop anyways or at least some version of it.
♥ Another gripe is that the smallest needle size available is 3.5mm (US 4). Apparently anything smaller was too narrow to accommodate the type of join in the Knit Picks cable. This used to never bother me as I never really used anything smaller than a 3.5mm anyways. Lately my gauge has tightened up a notch and I now find myself using a 3.25mm (US 3) a lot more. Still, the fact that this set doesn't go smaller than the 3.5mm wouldn't prevent me from purchasing it.
:: My General Thoughts ::
I lucked out when I bought my needles, not only were they on sale but they were at the cheapest that I have ever seen them priced at. Since then, the cost for the set has gone up quite a bit, yet they are still pretty darn affordable compared to other sets on the market. I truly think you'll get the most bang for your buck with this set.
My set has treated me extremely well and I'm convinced that they have paid for themselves over and over. I've mentioned that I've bought a crap-ton of extra cables, mainly because I'm far from being a monogamous knitter and because of the type of knitter that I am (I like my knits to be seamless and/or in the round). Because the price points are so wallet-friendly, I have no problem starting a project and putting it in hibernation when I've lost the love for it, but before I do I unscrew the tips and screw on one of the gazillion end caps that I've managed to accumulate over the years. Sometimes, when I'm feeling smart, I'll even add a note as to which size and tip material I've used. Leaving the project still on the cable makes it so easy to be able to pick it back up again and continue on knitting. I also like to use the extra cables as stitch holders for when I'm knitting a larger project, and did I mention that it's so easy to screw on a cable connector and add another cable so that I can try on my knitting as I go? No more having to thread a project onto waste yarn and back onto the needles for me!
I'm honestly super happy with my set and took great solace in knowing that if there was ever a problem that Knit Picks would took care of it. Even if they didn't, all the pieces are easy to replace and would be at a fraction of the cost. I highly recommend this set and do to all new knitters that ask.
Eventually, as time went on and the more I was knitting, I decided I needed to be faster. So I gave Knit Picks' Nickel Plated tips a try. I was definitely faster on those and slowly began to accumulate more of them in the sizes that I used the most.
:: Pros ::
♥ The Nickel Plated tips share a lot of the same pros as for the Harmony Wood tips listed above regarding the cables, the small holes in the join, and obviously the customer service.
♥ Very slick with a sharp tip. I've seen comparison photos and saw in person myself the difference between the Nickel Plated and its closest competition, Addi Turbo Clicks. Whilst the Nickel Plated has a shorter taper, the tips are definitely pointier than the Addis.
♥ The join is so smooth and snag-free. I've never had an issue with my yarn catching on a join.
♥ The needles themselves are very smooth and lightweight. Unlike the Harmony Wood, the Nickel Plated tips are all in one piece so there's no extra material on the needle that could jeopardize the sleek surface.
:: Cons ::
♥ Like the Harmony Wood tips, the Nickel Plated tips don't have the needle size marked anywhere on them. UPDATE :: I've been informed that Knit Picks are now marking their needles with the sizes on them. Yay!
♥ The metal makes the needles a little cold to the touch but it doesn't bother me at all. Half the time I don't even notice anyways.
:: My General Thoughts ::
As pretty as the Harmony Wood tips are, I definitely prefer the Nickel Plated version. I find that I really do knit faster with them since stitches glide so smoothly and quickly along the needle. The Nickel Plated set is even more affordable at $15 less than the Harmony Wood set. Definitely easy on the wallet, especially when it comes to quality tools that you'll be using for years and years. Even though I didn't buy the complete set, I highly recommend it, even more so over the Harmony Wood.
:: Additional Notes ::
I also wanted to note that I have 2 pairs of the Zephyr tips that I received in a swap. I did try them out but after knitting with them for a few rounds I discovered that I really disliked them and don't think I would ever use them again. The Zephyrs are made from acrylic, have the same sharp points as the other needles, and are incredibly lightweight, I'm just not a fan of plastic needles. They were extremely sticky and I found the drag on them to be so drastic that I noticed that knitting a round took me than double the amount of time to knit than with any other needles in the Knit Picks line up. The acrylic content also makes the needle a bit flexible, and being the tight knitter that I am, while I was knitting it felt like I was going to snap the needles in half at any second. Another thing I really disliked about the Zephyrs: they squeaked. With each stitch. It drove me nuts.
For extremely new knitters and for those who need to work with a very lightweight needle (and possibly for those who don't care or notice the difference in the material their needles are made of), the Zephyrs may be a possibility. But one that I totally don't recommend. Yes, of all the interchangeable sets that Knit Picks offers, the Zephyrs are the cheapest - but you can also feel that cheapness within these needles. Bleh. My advice? Stick with the metal or the wooden needles, your knitting and your hands will thank you for it!
Still not sure which set would be right for you? Sadly, not many brick and mortar yarn shops carry Knit Picks so you really can't walk into your LYS and give them a try (although I've been told that Knitter's Pride sets are exactly the same as the Knit Picks, and that both brands are actually made by the same manufacturer). Don't fret if you can't get your hands on the different sets to test out because Knit Picks offers a TRY IT Needle set. Perfect for those who want to try out the different needle finishes/materials, and for new knitters. The set comes with one pair of each type of tip in Knit Picks' most common sizes, as well as 2 cables, 2 pairs of end caps, and even some stitch patterns to test out the needles with. Now that's great marketing on Knit Picks part!
Phew! That was a doozy of a post! So much to cover and so much to say, now you know why I wanted to break down the reviews into so many posts! But I hope it was full of helpful information to anyone who's been thinking about purchasing a set of interchangeable needles from Knit Picks.
♥ Happy Knitting! ♥
:: Disclaimer ::
I purchased these needles myself and wrote this review on my own free will. I received no compensation from the company mentioned in this post for this review. I am not affiliated with the company mentioned in this post, nor do I endorse them and vice versa. I simply am passionate about the art and craft of knitting and this review is based on my own experiences with the products mentioned. These are my opinions and I am not being paid to say them.