Sunday, August 14, 2011

Compare and Contrast

I've worked with several different kinds of knitting needles over my short knitting career, and at Sock Summit, I was blessed with the opportunity to get a new kind of knitting needle. One considered to be the best of the best.

In talking with a dear friend of mine (a knitter, fortunately, so she didn't think I was crazy) yesterday, we got to talking about the advantages and disadvantages of different needles. I have discovered that I am very opinionated about my knitting needles.

When I first started knitting, I didn't know anything. I just went for cheap(there's a big story there, but we'll save that one for another time) and available. Well, at my local big store, that was Boye. After knitting with Boye straights for awhile, I began to switch to Clover bamboo. This happened at first only because the local store didn't have the Boye in the size I needed. But after the first one, I started switching all my needles to Clover, because I discovered that they didn't hurt my hands as badly as the metal Boye's. I have sensitive hands. Also, I didn't get so frustrated at the stitches slipping off the needles. I loved the softness, warmth, and stickiness of the bamboo/wooden needles. (I got a pair of US 4 Birch dpns somewhere in there too, but they kept snapping. I am hard on needles when I cable.)
The differences in the Boye and Clover were big for me at the time. The difference in the slip of the yarn on the needle was immense. I needed the yarn to stick a bit. I didn't know enough to care about the tips. Neither needle was particularly sharp, in my opinion. The Clover especially has a blunt tip. I have also discovered that I am very very hard on the tips of my needles. The Clover tips would eventually become spade-shaped. I never used Boye circulars, but I was always frustrated at the Clover circulars, because if it was longer than a 16" circular, the cable was twisted and very hard to work with no matter how much I soaked it in hot water.

When I discovered KnitPicks Harmony, I immediately set about replacing all my needles with them. I loved that they are soft, warm wood. I loved that the wood is slicker than the bamboo, because I was ready for just a bit more slipperiness. I loved that the cables are wonderfully flexible. But the longer I've worked with them....I hate that the cables pull out of the needles so easily. I hate that the tips start getting snaggy as soon as I start working cable stitches. I hate that the small sizes snap if I try to work a p3tog more than once in a row.

Quite honestly, the Harmony needles worked very well for me for a long time. But then I learned to knit differently. My old throwing method, holding the yarn between my thumb and forefinger was thrown out the window. I learned Lever knitting from the YarnHarlot, and it changed so very much about my knitting- and the needles that work best for me. The Harmony stopped being as effective. They were no longer slick enough. They snagged and dented and snapped too easily. I had to move back to metal needles.

I got some Addi Lace. I switch needles by getting what I need for the project I'm working on. At the time, I needed US 0's because I snapped my Harmony's. I like the Addi Lace. I like how sharp the tip is. I like how smooth the needles are, and how well the stitches move on them.
But I have a couple issues with them.
See the cable in the picture to the left? It's got kinks. That's from transferring stitches from one side to another in Magic Loop.
Also, the needles are hollow. Not a big deal, right? I'm hard on my needles. My 0's bent. I can bend them back, but still. Sometimes the bend gets pretty bad; and the longer that keeps up, pretty soon, it'll break too. I think the 1's will probably bend too. And maybe the 2's. So I haven't bought those sizes in Addi Lace. I probably won't. I will eventually replace my 0's. But I do like the Addi Lace in the larger sizes.
It's hard to see in this picture, but there are actually 2 different cables on the Addi Lace needles. I'm not sure why the different circulars come with different cables, if it's an old/new thing or a size thing or what; but I have a definite preference of cable. The blue cable is by far the most flexible, with the least amount of memory. The gold cable is flexible, but kinks easily. The red cable is alright, just a tad stiff; it might soften if I soaked it, but it hasn't been bad enough for me to feel the need for that yet. You can test flexibility and memory by pulling the needles out of the package and seeing how straight they fall when you just hold one needle.

Theses needles by far fall the straightest. There is no memory in this cable after being coiled in a package for a long time. These are ChiaoGoo.

I bought a few of these at Sock Summit because I've been hearing good things about them. I'm 3/4 of the way done with a sock using them, and I have been favorably impressed.
The needles seem strong- minimal bending on the 2.5mm even with hard cable work. The tips are nice and sharp- but the are shallowly beveled(short tips), which makes cabling without a cable needle a bit more difficult and time-consuming. It's not drastic, but I notice it.

The best part about these needles is definitely the cable. I really really like it. I do think it has the ability to kink if I'm not careful, but it won't kink as readily as the gold cable on the Addi Lace.
Look at this. The cable is flexible, and has no memory, but it's just a wee bit stiff. The stiffness is what keeps it from having memory. I have heard a complaint that the stiffness causes ladders when Magic Looping, but I'm not having that problem personally. And I have to say, I absolutely love the way the stitches slide on the cable. Because it is slightly stiff, and quite smooth, the stitches glide beautifully and don't need any extra manipulation to get them around. The extra manipulation has to happen on the needle, just past the join of the cable. There's a bit of a ridge there. On the small sizes- sock needles- it's minimal, and not enough to bother me to badly. But I won't buy this needle in the larger sizes no matter how much I love the cable, because the ridge is so defined that I think it would aggravate me.

I've been moving up the scale of knitting needle quality in my knitting career, I think. You get what you pay for, and needles are no exception. (That said, I really have to point out here, that the Chiaogoo cost less than the Addi Lace, but I think I am more impressed with them. At least so far. We'll see how they stand up to 2yrs of cable work and p3tog.) At Sock Summit this year, I received the ultimate in needles.
Thank you Signature Needle Arts, for sponsoring the teachers!
I was especially excited about this, because I had been saving up to purchase at least one pair, as I have heard SO much about them! The hype is not exaggerated, folks. Yes, they are expensive. But they are tools of the trade. How much does your husband spend for a good table saw? Way more than the cost of these needles- which will probably last longer than the table saw, by the way.

Anyway, I got the circulars. 6" needle length, 47" cable length. US 3's and US 5's. The stiletto tip is what you get on the circulars, which I am thrilled with. I love this tip. I can't tell you how much I love it. It is so perfect for cabling without a cable needle. P3tog's or k3togtbl? Not an issue. Love, love, love.

The cable? No memory, utterly flexible. The most flexible cable I've ever seen or used. Very impressive.

The join? Smooth, seamless, struggle-less. And, pivotal. Literally. The cable is not fixed in the needle. It swivels. No more untwisting the cable by spinning the needle in the stitches. The cable doesn't need untwisting.

I have to be honest in my review, though. I do have one problem with these needles. (no, not the price, although it does limit how many I will purchase at a time. )

My issue with these needles is the cable.
It is sticky.

I know, I just told you how amazing the cable is. It is amazing. It's great.

It's just sticky. I have to manipulate the stitches around the cable. I know, I have to do that on just about any cable needle. But on this one, I actually have to set the needles down, and work the stitches around the cable in order to continue working them. It slows me down. It's annoying. It is not annoying enough for me to stop using these needles. I love them, but it is a hang-up I have with them.

Please note, this would only be an issue with the circulars. I personally prefer circulars. It's all I normally use. But if you like straights or dpns, there is no sticky cable, and I have to say, the needle quality is unsurpassed. Utterly worth the money. (The circulars really are too- I fully intend to save up and get the US 4's when next I need the 4's- I just have to tell you what I've discovered in my "research". ;D)

The end of all this? For me, I'm ok with the Addi Lace. I won't replace the larger sized ones I have now unless they break in some way. I will replace the sock needles. I don't like dealing with the bending and the kinks in the cables.
I'm fully pleased with the Chiaogoo. I won't replace them unless they somehow break. I will use them to replace the Addi lace sock sizes. I won't buy them in larger sizes.
The Signatures? Too good not to use. I'll purchase them in any sizes I don't currently have needles that I'm happy with. I'll use them to replace any broken needles - if the size is available. Definitely my go-to needle of choice. I do hope they can fix the stickiness of the cable, though. But if they don't, I'll still buy them.

What needle is your fave?

1 comment:

Virginia said...

I have tried the big box brands which I dont like at all, Knit Picks are what I use most of the time now, both for sock and I have the interchangables. I have the Chiaogoo in 4 US, 40" circ which I love. I hope to someday get the Signature needles.