Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Needle Reviews’ Category

Needle Review: Addi Fixed Cable Circs, Short Tips

Monday, August 31st, 2015

I love knitting in the round.  The easiest way to do this is on one needle, but the drawback is that you have to have the right length of needle for the project.  This is fine if your project has 100 stitches or more as you can use a 40 or 50 cm needle, but if it has, say, only 50 stitches, you may be forced to use DPNs, which I also like, or Magic Loop, or 2 short circulars.

I recently ordered a really short Addi circular needle.  It is only 30 cm long, tip to tip.  Of this 30 cm, 14 are tip (7 cm each) and so the remaining 16 cm are cable.  This shortness of tip enables me to knit really quite small numbers of stitches in the round on this needle alone as there is a manageable ratio of tip to flexible cable.  I cast on 54 stitches in DK wool; my needle is 4 mm, old UK size 8.

The first round was tricky, but thereafter, there was no stretching or over-tension of the stitches.  It is always the case that if you are on the margins of the ideal ratio of stitches to length of needle, the first round or two will be tricky but this is not an issue after that – it all just relaxes and the need to stretch out the stitches eases.  If you can just about make the first round work, all will be well.  Otherwise, it will not.

So that is a great success.  I reckon I could get away with 50 stitches if I was prepared to struggle a bit more in the first round or two.  That’s a mitten size.  Result.

What is not going to go away is the fact that this is a very short needle and so it tends to slightly cramp your hands.  I knit with my hands underneath the work; with hands on top, as I can also manage, this is not such an issue, but there is no getting away from the fact that this is a tight space.  My hands are quite small.  If I had long elegant fingers (sigh), I think it might be a problem.  However, it was manageable for me and I soon grew used to it.

I have ordered two more needles in this length but different gauges.

Overall, these are very good value and they have all the usual Addi advantages – good quality, easy transition from needle to cable, reasonable tips, no memory in the cable, etc.  I am really pleased as I love the idea of knitting really small projects, that are also Fairisle, in the round on something with no transitions at all, which all the other method inevitability have.  So if you like the idea too, try one, but be aware that having such a little needle does feel odd and your hands might ache a bit at first.

Note:  these used to be made with bent tips, but they are now all straight – mine are.  Mine are in a package that says Addi Premium, but on the Addi UK website, they term them ‘Addi Short Circulars, ideal for the sock knitter’.  They come in 20 or 30 cm lengths – I think the 20 cm length would be nigh-on impossible even for the 2 short circ method as you  still have to use both ends of the same needle.

Do you know of any other FIXED cable short tipped needles?  If so please let me know and also what you think of them.  Ideally I would like a tip that is only 6 cm long.  I do not like interchangeable needles after a major trauma with one involving a 250+ stitch silk yarn lace pattern…

Needle Review: Signature Needle Arts

Monday, September 29th, 2014

I will carry on reviewing needles from time to time, even though we have now reached my favourite brand:  Signature Needle Arts.

Single Point Needles

This American company has created a range of needles which, for me, covers almost all the areas that matter: incredible functionality, precision, and beauty.

The website is interactive, so you actually build your own needle, using a range of choice options, which include gauge, style (e.g. single tip, DPN etc), length, tip profile, and decorative end feature (for the single tip needles).  The colour of the needle is determined by the gauge, for example, 2.25 mm needles are green, as are 4 mm needles. The other colours are hot pink, blue, purple, red and gold.

DPNs Size 2.5mm (Purple)

So you choose a set of 4 mm single point needles.  Then you are asked to choose the length of the needle – three options.  7, 10 or 14 inches.  Then, and for me this is the best part, the profile of the tip:  stiletto, midi or blunt.  All mine are stiletto, which is a long, tapered tip, always sharply precise and in the smaller gauges, very sharp indeed.  I can only afford one set of the sizes I like and use most so the luxury of choosing midi or blunt tips was always academic, but I just can’t see where they’d be better than stiletto tips, to be honest, which work for all knitting and yarns.

Then finally you choose your end feature: bell, tear-drop or spiral.  (Describing these decorative ends to a class once did get me into a bit of a myther, and caused Millington to snort tea and stare fixedly out of the window for some minutes as we fought to regain self-control.  Just read them back and add the word ‘end’ to each one…)

I have a few pairs/sets.  Most years I ask Mark to buy me a pair for Christmas, which means I have to go on the website and choose – not a hardship!  I have the single points in 10 and 14 inch lengths, in a range of my usual, preferred sizes; and I also have 4 sets of DPNs, which are just lovely.  One the clever features is that you can buy the DPNs singly, or in sets of 4, or 5 needles.

I have 2 fixed circulars too.  These have now been discontinued, and replaced with interchangeables.  I wish I had bought more of the fixed cables now, because I don’t use interchangeables – nor could I afford a full set of tips I use and cable lengths.  I think these are incredibly expensive, and I just don’t think I could justify it even if I thought I’d use them.

Knitting with them is an absolute joy.  I knit a lot of smallish items, so the small lengths of single point needles are ideal.  I also love the way they look.  The colours are jewel-bright and really pretty.  If the same precision-engineered tool was available to me in say, grey metal (think Pony), I know the knitting would be the same, but it actually wouldn’t feel as enjoyable.  We knit a lot, don’t we?  It’s good then to use tools that please and work so well.

They are the result of a brain-wave idea.  The woman who founded the company was also the President of a precision engineering company, and her hobby was knitting. Wanting a sharper needle tip, she had a pair made and polished – the first stiletto tips.  Now, these could have been made in grey, but the range has evolved into a thing of beauty as well.

They are aluminium.  So they do not flex much.  They are cool to the handle, and the tips are super-finely transitioned into the main shaft of the needle.  The main part of the needle is the part that is coloured and this has just enough ‘grip’ on the yarn to not be lethally slippery – though they have less ‘grab’ than carbon or wood; they have a lot more than plain steel needles.

Best bits:

  • amazing tools for the job; they make knitting even more of a pleasure
  • beautiful to look at
  • extremely well made
  • attention to detail – the range of size and length options, for example, and the laser-cut size that is added to each needle
  • choosing them is great fun – very addictive!
  • clear, clean website
  • life-time guarantee against manufacturing defects

Not so good:

  • they are really quite expensive.  A pair of single point 4 mm needles, in the mid-length, stiletto tip and spiral end is $34 plus postage.  I do not begrudge this cost.  I think they are worth this money, and I expect to have to pay for great craftsmanship.  It just means I have a limited number and will never have a full set!
  • there are very few UK-based retailers, and I can see why because the whole point is that YOU build the needle and then they assemble and ship it.  But this means that you are highly likely to be importing them direct from the US manufacturing site, which adds a lot of time and postage cost
  • be aware that they attract import tax
  • the longer single points I find very heavy, possibly due to the decorative ends.  They can make my hands ache after an hour or so, which is unusual for me.  The way round this is to use circs – but as I have said, the fixed option has been discontinued

 

 

Needle Review: Brittany

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Brittany needles are made of birch.  The properties of wooden needles are well documented – the ‘soft’ handle, the lack of heat conductivity and so on, all make them ideal for people who have sensitive or sore hands.

I first started buying Brittany needles many years ago, when it was not so easy to get them in the UK as it is now.  I did buy some from a few UK sites, but I also imported some from the USA.  I like single point needles for small projects which many of my preferred knits are.  I also prefer to knit in the round with DPNs and I have many sets of Brittany DPNs.  Once, when he was a puppy, Rupert ate 3 of a set of 5, having first carefully removed the sock I was knitting, without dropping a single stitch…Brittany will replace broken needles – but I felt I couldn’t claim that was accidental damage so I just bought another set!

So, I have many pairs/sets.  The ends are turned and they are attractive – though many years ago, the ends of the knitting needles were more elaborate, as the Brittany crochet hooks still are.

I have them, in a stone jar, in my office.  Sadly, these days I seldom knit with them.  Gradually, I have moved away from Brittanys as my first choice, and I think this is because of two factors:  they are too blunt for me (the single points that is, the DPNs in small sizes are OK). The tips are really rounded, which is OK for big yarns with simple stitches, but not ideal for lace and fine yarns. And second, they splinter at the tips.  This is probably due to my knitting style and may not ever be an issue for you, but I have a firm, even ‘clashy’ knitting style.  These wooden needles, despite being hard wood, sometimes develop tiny ‘rough’ areas at the tip, which I cannot smooth away, and which are intensely irritating especially when knitting with Kidsilk Haze.

There are just so many more needle options since I first began collecting Brittany, and for me, as someone who knits fine yarns a lot and often lace, there are others that I now prefer.  But, that said, Brittany needles are lovely, simple crafted tools and sometimes, for old time’s sake, I will grab a pair and knit with them.  They do feel lovely in the hand.  In fact, Lily is currently knitting a scarf with some of mine, ideal because they are the short length, and it’s a narrow item, they are light – good because she is a very inexperienced knitter whose hands will tire easily until she picks up knitting stamina (yes, it is a thing), and the yarn is aran weight, so the blunt tips don’t matter.

Best bits:

  • easy to get hold of in the UK in local yarn shops or on-line
  • attractive
  • light and warm
  • traditional – I like that
  • good customer service: Brittany will replace accidentally broken/snapped needles such as one of your set of DPNs
  • length options are good

Not so good:

  • for me, the tips are too blunt and quite easy to splinter.  Once this happens, I find I cannot repair the roughness.  This is the No 1 reason why I no longer use them much
  • size options in single points limited at the small end of the range, where I mainly live
  • the size, which is sort of stamped into the needle and then stained, is often really hard to make out

Overall:  6/10, mainly because of the love I had for them all those years ago.

Needle Review: Addi Lace-Tip Circulars

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

These are my first choice for any project that needs a circ – be it for knitting in the round, or for a ‘flat’ project that has a lot of stitches.

5.0mm ADDI Lace Circular needle

I get mine from the Addi UK site.  If you need them in a hurry, bear in mind that delivery usually seems to take about a week.  I have not bought from other UK sites for a while.

There are a lot of circs out there and I use several brands, including the Addi non-lace circs.  But increasingly, I use these, because I like sharp points for everything, and these are lace-tip, so really nicely sharpened.  If I am honest, yes, the gold needle and red cable does appeal too.  So what?  Why not have pretty and practical?

I also love that the cable has little or no ‘memory’.  That is to say, if you pull it out of the packet, it isn’t still coiled into the shape it was packaged as.  Some cables are just demonic, and refuse to unwind, unbend, or in any way get in touch with their relaxed side.  These cables deserve and often get very hot water baths to relax the kinks.  I have rarely felt the need to do this to an Addi Lace Circ, and I have about a dozen or more now.

The lack of cable memory is very important to me when I am knitting a Moebius.  For this, you need a long needle, 150cm is ideal.  If this has a springy, bendy, bouncy cable, the Moebius progress is severely impeded, not to say horrid.  I knit a lot of Moebiuses.  I always use an Addi Lace Circ.  With further use, any remnants of the cable they used to be are effectively beaten out of them.  Mine are now completely flat.  Yes, I have broken their spirit.  That’s what I am looking for in a long circ.

I also use their short circs for small in the round projects that are knitted on two short needles, especially toe-up socks.  These can be used for mitts too.

The size range and cable lengths available are really exceptional.

The tips are geared for lace, and they are sharp, not lethal, but with long, tapering tips that I enjoy using for more or less any project, lace or otherwise.  The metal is smooth, with a slight grip, and the transition to the cable is also smooth.  I never use interchangeables, because I do not like the transition, or the cable-tightening peril.  With these, all of that drama is avoided.

Best bits:

  • huge range of sizes and lengths
  • pretty – and highly visible in your bag
  • smooth transition and needle
  • little or no memory cables
  • the lace tip is pointy but not super-sharp and is useful for any project
  • relatively inexpensive – a 5mm circ of any length is £5.35 plus P&P
  • easily obtained in the UK.  I prefer it if my needles of choice are not as hard to track down as the lost gold of El Dorado
  • the needle size is printed in the cable and does not wear off.

Not so good:

  • nothing, really. Well, if I was really picky, maybe the needle size print could be easier to read, but I am splitting ply there.

10/10.  The best in my experience, for use of a circular needle for either the round or flat variety of knitting.

 

 

 

 

Needle Review: Quills

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Quill needles were originally manufactured in New Zealand by a family-owned company, but I believe that they are now part of the US-based Bryspun company, though Quills do appear to still be made in New Zealand.  I assume therefore that UK suppliers are importing them from NZ.

I started buying my Quill needles about seven years ago, and this was about the time that the New Zealand manufacturing was going over to Bryspun I think. I saw some in a yarn store where I was teaching, and was interested in their milky white colour.  I bought a pair and have now got quite a nice collection.

They are made of plastic, but the plastic is casein-based plastic.  This is a milk-based protein, that has been used in plastic manufacture for many years.

QUILL 5.5mm DP Knitting Needles 24cm, Pk of 5 BNIP

These are the DPNs.  I mainly use my short single point Quills though, for swatching or for small projects.  I think of them as very workman-like tools.  They are also very light for transporting, but not lethally sharp.

They are not beautiful, but they are really satisfying to use.  The milk-protein based plastic is warm to the handle and also quickly further warms up to your hand temperature.

They are quite flexible, more than wooden needles, and are very light weight. I think they would be kind to sore, arthritic hands.  The plastic has a slight grip to the stitches, about the same as, or maybe a little more than, some wooden needles.  The tips are well defined, but not actually sharp. I like really sharp points, but in fact, I find these are good for knitting yarns that tend to split the ply as you work.  Less good for Kidsilk Haze which seems to ‘grip’ as the stitch goes over the tip.

When I first used them, I was put off by the bendy feel.  But I now think it’s a bonus for me, as a harsh and ‘clashy’ knitter.

The ‘best bits’:

  • warm
  • flexible
  • very light
  • smooth but not slippy
  • grips the stitches
  • inexpensive – the  DPNs (set of 5) and short single point pairs retail for under £4
  • great for hands that are sore, or for children as they are nowhere near as bendy as the so-called child-friendly super-bendy plastic needles (almost unusable in my view), but they are still light and flexible for small hands

Drawbacks:

  • supply is patchy and limited in the UK but I did find some UK websites with Quills at under £4 for single point pairs – Google will reveal this to you
  • the smaller sizes that I favour are harder to find
  • for heavy projects, they may feel too bendy, but I have only ever used DPNs and short single point needles
  • they will really bend if they get too hot, e.g., if left in front of the open fire, as I did with one pair and though still just about usable, they are really deformed (I may use them for the Halloween Workshop), and I dare not re-heat them to bend them back.  Possibly, this will never be an issue for you…

Quills get 7 out of 10, and it would be 8 if I could get the smaller sizes more readily.

 

Needle Review: Knitpro Karbonz DPNs

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

I love knitting needles.

Well, no shizzle, Sherlock?

Yes, but some people don’t seem to mind which needles they use, do they?  I really do.  In this new and I am sure you will agree, absolutely riveting blog series, I will review knitting needles.  And no, this is not just a thinly veiled excuse to buy more needles.  It’s not.  I honestly wouldn’t bother with the thin veil.  I’d just buy them.  I’m like that. Un-veiled.

Anyway, first to be reviewed are a new brand to me, Knitpro Karbonz.

I am familiar with Knitpro, of course, but I had not tried their fairly new carbon needles.  Now, I am going to ask you to do as I did and please overlook the terrible punnage of the word carbon, tortured to the form:  Karbonz.  I know.  Just try.

I have knitted with the DPNs, in size 3mm, 15cm length.  With these I have now knitted two pairs of mitts, involving knitting in the round, adding beads, bobbles, cables etc.

They are carbon with nickel plated brass tips.  The carbon is warm to the touch, and soft in the way that wooden needles can be, but yet it also feels stronger.  The tips are long, tapered and sharp (but I was using 3mm needles, bear in mind) and the tip joint is really very smooth.  It’s there, but I have had no yarn-snagging.

They cost £7.50 plus P&P.  I think this is very good value for money indeed.  I really loved using them and will certainly get other DPNs in my favourite sizes and also try the single points and the circs.  They also do the Karbonz as interchangeables.  I never use interchangeables, but I do often use fixed cable circs instead of single points.  Or for Moebiuses.  I will get one for this purpose and that will be an acid test – will the needle/cable joint be smooth?  On the carbon to metal point with the DPNs is is.

Best things:

  • good value, at £7.50 for a set of 5 DPNs
  • attractive – this matters to me
  • warm and with a soft ‘handle’
  • sharp tips
  • smooth transition
  • slight ‘grip’ on the yarn, not so much as wood but way more than steel – I liked this
  • very light weight
  • strong – less likely to snap if you sit on one.

Not so good:

  • obvs, they are dark grey, except the tips, so this might be an issue if knitting with dark grey or black yarn
  • the needle size, printed on the side of each needle, is already worn away in several places.  In a few more mitts, it will be gone.  Not a big deal, and I am a harsh ‘clashy’ knitter, but it’s nice to be able to identify needles without a sizer to hand.

Overall, I really rate these needles.  I love DPNs, break wooden ones for a past-time, and these are perfect:  economical, stylish and a pleasure to use.  I’d give them 9 out of 10.

I got mine here.