Monday, September 17, 2012

Circular Knitting Needle Review

The other day I was knitting with an expensive pair of circulars and getting incredibly frustrated with bad joining of the needle and cable.  I'm knitting a laceweight sweater, so that's a lot of stitches to have to pick over the joining.  When I saw the needles, it was love at first sight.  It was a type of needle we don't sell in the store, so I picked up a set with the excuse of using them for market research.   When I knit with them, I was horribly disappointed, they are the worst non-bargain-brand circulars I have ever knit with, AND the most expensive.  Last night I was struggling with my knitting, and thinking about how it's possibly doubling my knitting time, and how I couldn't wait to get to the store in the morning to swap the needles out for some that didn't make me want to stab my eyes out.  This gave me the idea of doing a knitting needle review. We choose our products based on quality more than anything else.  We don't want junk in our store, even if it is in demand.  There are some products that we don't personally care for, but we still carry higher quality versions of it.  We try to dance that fine line between quality and cost, and while we may have some fairly pricey yarns/products in the store, we try really hard to have quality goods at affordable prices.  So while the needles I was trying out were beautiful, expensive, and in demand, we likely won't carry them in the store, because the product just isn't good enough.  

I'm going to rate each needle type based on some basic characteristics and throw in some pros and cons, etc.  Today is all about circulars, if people seem interested in this and there is a good response, I'll rate other types of needles/products in the future.

Here are the characteristics 

Cord Suppleness - 1 being so stiff it would be ideal for installation sculptural pieces, 5 being so bendy and free it's probably on valium

Tip Sharpness - 1 being so dull as to be toddler safe, 5 being sharp enough to be used as a surgical tool in an emergency.

Tip Texture - 1 being rough, horrible, or icky, 5 being smoother than Isaac Hayes singing Shaft

Cable/Tip join - 1 having to pick each and every f*%!ing stitch over the join, 5 Join?  What join?

HiyaHiya Stainless Steel Circular Knitting Needles and Sharps

Synopsis: HiyaHiya Needles are our main store brand.  With the gazillion needle sizes vs cable length, it's really difficult (not too mention expensive!) to have a full range of multiple needle types in stock.  HiyaHiya is our go-to needle that mixes good quality with affordable prices.  

Price Range: $7.89-$11.25

Available at electrictree yarns - Yes

Made in: China

Cord Suppleness: 4  It's pretty good, I've never had any problems with it, they do tend to have a bit of a memory, so when you store your needles-make sure you don't put any weird bends or knots in them as it will take a while to work them out again.

Tip Sharpness: 3.5/5  Not too bad for the regular Stainless Circulars, I wish the thicker needles were just a bit sharper though.  The HiyaHiya Sharps are the sharpest needles I have ever used!  Great for nupps and k3tog tbl.

Tip Texture: 4 Pretty darn smooth

Cable/Tip Join: 4 Barely noticeable, but there is a little ridge, if it wasn't there it'd be a 5.

Pros: Good price, and great quality for the cost.  Comes with a free gift (usually a stitch marker or cable needle).  Also comes in 9" for socks and mittens.  

Cons: Not as pretty as some needles, size etching on needles tends to wear off.  If your cable gets a kink, it's hard to work out.  

Personal Notes: One of my favourite needles.  It's no coincidence we carry them in-store, I think they are fantastic for the price.  You could buy a more expensive needle, but you would be paying double the price for something that is only 10% better.  

HiyaHiya Bamboo Circular Needles

Synopsis: HiyaHiya Bamboo Needles use a special variety of Bamboo that is harder and has less texture than lower priced bamboo needles (you know, those ones that are like disposable chopsticks...)  

Price Range: $7.75-$11.25

Available at electrictree yarns - Yes

Made in: China

Cord Suppleness: 4  Same cord as the Stainless Needles.

Tip Sharpness: 3

Tip Texture: 3.5 The smoothest bamboo needles I have ever used.  

Cable/Tip Join: 3.5 I have noticed that in the larger sizes the join is a little bit more noticeable, although I am really picky.  

Pros: Good price, and great quality for the cost.  Comes with a free gift (usually a stitch marker or cable needle).  Also comes in 9" for socks and mittens.  

Cons: Not as pretty as some needles.  If your cable gets a kink, it's hard to work out.  

Personal Notes: I am not a bamboo needle user, I prefer to use a much faster needle.  HiyaHiya Bamboo needles, are the only Bamboo needles I have ever used that I don't hate.  They are very smooth, yet have that little bit of gription.  Perfect for silk or other slippery yarns.

Knit Picks Harmony Classic Circular Needles

Synopsis:  Previously only available online through, Knit Picks now wholesales needles and other accessories.  The needles are coloured and laminate birch wood with a purple cord

Price Range: $7.98-10.98

Available at electrictree yarns - yes (we also have the interchangeables)

Made in: India

Cord Suppleness: 5 These cords are fantastic!

Tip Sharpness: 4 Pretty sharp for wood, and unlike most needles, the tip sharpness doesn't decrease as the size increases!

Tip Texture: 4 It's smooth and delightful!  

Cable/Tip Join: 5 Wonderful, one of the best joins I have seen.

Pros:  They are pretty, well made, and inexpensive.

Cons: The cable length range available in wholesale is really limited.  Anything over 3.5mm is only available in a 16"/40cm cable. 

Personal Notes: I made the mistake of listening to someone who said that Knit Picks Harmony needles were no good and cheap, so I didn't use them for years.  When I finally got a chance to try them, I felt sad that I had missed out on years of knitting with these fabulous needles.  

Addi Turbo

Synopsis:  Addi Turbos are widely considered to be the best needles out there.  There are many knitters out there that only use Addi's because for them, they are the best.

Price Range: $17.90-$29.90

Available at electrictree yarns: 12mm 32inch is kept in stock, all other sizes are by special order, usually arrives within 3-4 business days.  

Made in: Germany

Cord Suppleness: 5 The cord is perfect!

Tip Sharpness: 3.5 I like sharp needles, so I could wish they were sharper, but they do have a line of Lace Circulars and they are must sharper.

Tip Texture: 5 The smoothest needle I have ever used.

Cable/Tip Join: 4  I would have given it a 5 but I have noticed that sometimes the needles kink right at the join, and this is impossible to fix.  (It is still totally usable when this happnes, it just drives my OCD crazy!)

Pros:  Best cable out there, all Addis have a lifetime warranty, so if there's anything wrong with your needle EVER you can return it and get a new set.  There's no special system for this, I myself have returned a set and had not trouble at all.  Addis also go up to insanely huge needle sizes, 25mm even!!  

Cons: The price, Addis are not in the price range of many needles.  The extreme smoothness of the needles is a bonus for some, but for others it may make repetitive motion injuries worse if you find you need to grip your knitting harder to keep your stitches from sliding off.  

Personal Notes:  I like Addis, I own the Clicks and several sets of the fixed circulars.  I don't use them in the larger sizes because I have found they are so slippery my hands get sore, but that's just me.  They're definitely the fastest needles I have ever used.  

Lantern Moon Destiny Circulars

Synopsis:  Lantern Moon Destiny Circulars come in a range of exotic woods and brass end caps.  They are beautiful and decadent looking.  

Price Range: 26.25-$32.15

Available at electrictree yarns: no

Made in: Vietnam

Cord Suppleness: 4, pretty good comparable to HiyaHiya

Tip Sharpness: 2.5

Tip Texture: Depends on which wood you choose.  Rosewood and Ebony are about a 4, Slate is about a 2.5, it is the roughest and slowest of all the higher quality needles I have tried.  

Cable/Tip Join: 2  Now to be fair, I have only tried knitting with one set of these needles, so it is possible I got a bad set, but the join was horrible for laceweight.  It may be better for heavier yarns, but you should be able to knit laceweight with a 3.5mm needle.  The join is so bad, that it has increased my knitting time by at least 50%

Pros:  Extremely beautiful needles.  When you are buying them, you are helping a family in Vietnam.  

Cons: Slow to knit with (for the Slate needles) and the join...I can not get over how bad it was.  For $26.25, it should be at least a 3.5

Personal Notes: Unless someone gives me a set of these as a gift, I will probably never knit with these again. 

That is the end of my little review.  Let me know what you think and if this info is useful to you.  Also, if there is any other attribute or info that you think should have been included, let me know about that too!