Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

Tools of the trade

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So far, I’ve not talked about knitting tools.  But as I was knitting and admiring my lovely casein needles last night, I thought that perhaps the time had come for a little discussion!   

Knitting needles are the vital link between yarn and finished project.  You need a whole bunch of them to knit various projects and yarn weights:   

The Tools

You  may gasp at this image, like my family and friends do, and say “How many needles to you need!?”  But I say to you that I actually need more.  I don’t yet have a complete set of all the needle sizes.  And I’m still coming to projects where I find I have to go and buy a needle.  I have several sets of the most common sizes because I sometimes have several projects on the go, using the same sized needle.  And I have one (or more) or each of the DPNs, circulars and straights.  Because you need different tools for different projects.   

This situation is aided by the fact that if I happen to pass a charity shop, I have to go in, just to make sure I haven’t passed a fantastic treasure trove of vintage needles that need my attention.  At 20c a pair, it would be madness not to get some.    

This train of thought was inspired by my meeting a girl whose newly purchased KnitPro needles snapped clean in two after only one use.  Apparently, it’s a common fault because the wood is cut on the grain, making them prone to breakage.  But these needles are coveted and highly valued by knitters.  And not cheap!  I had considered adding them to my ‘I want’ list, but have decided against it now.  I don’t want to stress about my needles suddenly snapping mid-row.   

Wooden needles are already on my “hmm, not sure about you” list.  Even though they are very beautiful to look at, note this interesting phenomenon:   

Wooden needle tips

It appears I’m heavier on the needles either knitting or purling.  I suspect knitting.  The tips on some of them have worn almost clean away.  After only one use!  I’m very disappointed.  The most badly worn ones are the cheap needles, but even the more expensive ones have suffered damage.  Look how they’re quite a bit shorter than the other!  I can’t be running off to the shops to buy needles every time I finish a project!   

Here’s one of my luxury purchases:   

Chip in wooden tip

I can’t remember the brand’s name, but they have very distinctive heads:   

   

They were so pretty I couldn’t resist buying myself a treat.  But because of that darn chip, I doubt I’ll be able to use them again without snagging my yarn.   

I don’t think I’m a particularly violent knitter.  I don’t chew my needles, or throw them around.  They are stored very carefully in a nice case.    

My conclusion after seeing that even expensive wooden needles have flaws is that wood is not a good knitting tool in general.   If I was a continental knitter, it would probably be a different story.  I suspect that style of knitting is less stressful on the needles. 

So which ones do I like?  I think my favourites would be these:   

Addi circulars - need I say more?

Addi needles get my vote because they have great connections, which allow the knitting to slip from cable back on to the needle with catching or snagging.  The metal is very light and smooth, and projects seem to knit up very evenly using them. 

Bamboo needles

Bamboo needles are light, and very durable.  They’re great for chunky knitting, which is already heavy.  So the less weight in one’s hands the better.  They’re good for small gauge knitting too, because they grip the yarn (without snagging it or making it hard to feed along) so you get less stitches bouncing off the needles.  You can also see that the tips have not suffered the same fate as my wooden needles.  I’ve bought both Naturally and Clover bamboo needles, and like them both.   

Swallow casein needles

Swallow needles are another favourite.  Made from milk protein (casein), and very like plastic.  They’ve got this cool tortoise shell effect.  I’ve heard that they are recommended by the Arthritis Foundation because they are flexible, and therefore gentle on the wrists.  This is the major reason I like them – they’re so comfortable to knit with!  The Wool Company sells them and I have seen them in a number of yarn stores too.   

The only drawback to this needle is that it’s just a fraction larger than an ordinary sized 4mm or 3.25mm (for argument’s sake), which means that your tension could be a bit off what you normally get for that sized needle.  However, it’s also a good thing for that yarn that’s proving tricky to knit to the right gauge.  As you can see, I’ve bent one of mine a bit through pressure whilst knitting.  Which can also happen in steel needles.    

They are breakable, so do take care of them.  I took mine on a road trip and foolishly threw them in the trunk.  I think I may have slammed the boot on the tips… as one had snapped off when I arrived at my destination.  And I didn’t have a spare pair.  Guess who spent a few hours combing town looking for a knitting shop!   

I also bought some Swallow circulars, but I do NOT recommend those.  I think they have actually ceased manufacturing that particular needle, which is good.  The connections are badly designed, snagged horribly and the cable kept popping off the needle.  Disaster.  Don’t let that put you off the straights though, which are very, very nice.   

CraftCo Circulars

My ‘go to’ standard for circulars will always be CraftCo.  They are good value, and perform very well.  The join between cable and needle is done well, so you don’t get snagging.  I can’t really say anything bad about them.   

Aero and CraftCo straights are my “bog standard” needles too.  Except that CraftCo has recently done a very silly thing by manufacturing large needles in extremely heavy metal (Inox).  What were they thinking?  I’d get an immediate case of RSI knitting with one of those! 

Just because they were so sparkly and pretty and for the pure fun of them, I recently purchased some Birch plastics:   

Sparkly Birch plastics

    

When I got them home, I was surprised at how bendy they were and wondered if they’d be that good to knit with.  But they seem to be not bad at all.  I don’t think you’d want to knit anything too heavy with them though. 

And finally, a look at vintage.  Charity and hospice shop finds that I am so grateful for:   

   

These are an old English brand that I don’t think you can buy any more called Double Century.  They are a steel needle encased in a thick soft plastic.  Extremely comfortable to knit with, and great for people like me who are constantly piercing fingers on hard needle tips.  These tips are pointy enough to slip easily through the loop but soft enough to prevent injuries.   

Milward circulars

Milward needles are very good.  Light, with good tips and a nice coating, I think you can still buy Milward, but it’s not easily found new in New Zealand.  I did buy some new Milward crochet hooks recently, but that’s all I’ve seen.   But the mint-condition Milward needles that I’ve found in charity shops are fantastic!   

I often think that needles are much like a chef’s knife.  If the knife is good, the food preparation experience can be made so much more efficient, precise and enjoyable.  I guess I’m a bit of tool freak.  I can’t travel without bringing my professional chef’s knife with me either – those motel knives are enough to send me screaming to the nearest takeaway.  And the tools in the various kitchens of my family aren’t much better!   

So too, the humble knitting needle, often ignored, is a vitally important part to an efficient and enjoyable knitting process. You’ve gotta have the right tools!

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Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

14 thoughts on “Tools of the trade

  1. Wow great post, really interesting. I’m personally a huge fan of the Knit Pick Nickel circulars and I don’t really use straights. I’ve got casein 7mm from when I was a beginning knitter and 4mm for dishcloth knitting which I haven’t actually done yet (Let’s Knit 2gether particularly recommended them).

    The wooden needles with the funky ends are called Art Viva, they were the first pair of needles I bought but unfortunately sat on one 😦

    • Thanks so much for your feedback! I’d say the nickels must be as good as my Addis, given how much people do like Knit Picks/Knit Pro needles. Perhaps I should indulge in a pair of those! I wouldn’t be so afraid of losing them to breakage then. 🙂

  2. I love my KnitPro’s – all I use these days as they are so light and smooth to work with – I have arthritis and now find metal needles hard on my hands, and I have always disliked using plastic needles. I hadn’t heard of them splitting, hope it doesn’t happen to me. Haven’t tried Addi’s but friends with them love them. I will have to look in second hand shops now to see what treasures are hidden within!

    • Great feedback! Thank you for reading my post. 🙂 I too, am not fond of metal for the same reason that they are hard on the hands. Metal circulars are better – you get more flexibility. And the Addis are exceptionally light. I think they must be hollow. Flexibility is why my casein needles are favourites too. I’m glad to hear that you’ve had nothing but good experiences with the KnitPros. As I said to Celeritas 2, maybe I should give the nickel or acrylic versions a go – still rather wary of wood, given my experiences with it to date!

  3. Great topic!

    Interesting as well since I’ve just now been trawling the internet trying to purchase large size (12mm, 15mm, 19mm & 25mm double pointed needles). I can find them in the USA but shipping is so huge. In the end I purchased some wooden ones from an independent person/shop on http://www.etsy.com I have those sizes in circulars but they are no good when I get to just a few stitches.

    Can you recommend any good online NZ knitting needle shops?

    I must admit my favourite needles are my interchangeable Knit Pro Symfonies – I find I use their ‘chunky’ set mainly. I LOVE them! But I knit very slowly and so probably do not put that much strain on them?

    I have some Addi Circulars but I must admit that I find them more difficult to use as they are so slippery.

    I would love some of those ones that have lights in the end so I can knit in the dark!

    But very much in awe of your collection!

    • Thank you! It’s really great getting all this fantastic feedback.

      Wow, you are looking for large needles! I suspect your etsy find was the best. Large DPN needles are very difficult to find. I’ve seen them up to 10mm (I think) in some knitting stores, but not the really huge sizes you are looking for. Sometimes you do have to go with DPNs, I agree! Different tools for different purposes. 😉

      I’m sure you know about Vintage Purls – she sells a good selection of KnitPro needles at reasonable rates (including the nickel and acrylic) but the bigger sizes (she goes up to 15mm in some) are only in circulars. http://www.vintagepurls.co.nz/16-interchangeable-circular-needles

      Also, they don’t have them on their website, but I’ve come across Hallblacks selling very interesting needles at Dunkleys shows. If you dropped them a line, you might find they have something that interests you: http://www.hallblacks.co.nz/

      Not much use am I? You’ve given me something to think about now!

      Those knitting needles with lights are amazing. Sometimes you do need that extra bit of lumination, even with the lights on – knitting with dark yarn is quite hard unless in full daylight I think! Someone should start selling them here.

      Hahaha – you’ve given me more cause to add to my collection now! :o)

      • I buy from Morag at Vintage Purls regularly and have also had great service from yarnqueen.co.nz who have the Clover range as well as the KnitPro’s. Isn’t it great that we can buy online and not have to rely on the local LYS especially when there isn’t a good one nearby.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations. I just have to chime in to rave about my new needle organizer from Namaste. I got nearly all of my entire rats nest of circulars organized in a very classy-looking case. Love it!

    • Hehe. You spotted something I lack – an organiser for my circulars! (At the moment, they’re kept in a separate cloth bag of their own). The Namaste case sounds great. I’m going to have to look it up! Thank you so much for adding to this post.

  5. No – those links are fab! I hadn’t heard of vintage purl, being fairly new to NZ and it hasn’t come up on any of my NZ google internet searches. So big thanks for that – I’m off to check it out! And the Hallblacks.
    V x

  6. Wow. What a cool blog. I really enjoyed reading through some of your posts. I got into knitting almost accidentally 🙂 but it’s interesting and inspiring people like you that make me want to learn more. I look forward to your new posts.

    • Thank you! I think your blog is great too. Reading other people’s blogs is such a nice way to connect with the real world of individuals.