Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Needle-y Goodness

Normal blog followers: this is long and will bore you. Sorry.

Recently, I posted a long entry sharing information about my search for the perfect wooden interchangeable needles. While the internet is a lovely resource for researching, there's nothing like touching something to figure out if it will be perfect. After all, information on the internet is either objective or subjective from someone else's perspective. But I need subjected from my perspective. So I decided to buy some needles.

Interchangeable Needle Face-Off
Needles from top to bottom: KA Switch (US9), HiyaHiya (US10.5), Addi Natura (US8), Colonial Needle Company Rosewood (US3), KnitPicks Harmony (US6), Knitter's Pride Dreamz (US5), Knitter's Pride Cubics (US11)
Cables from top clockwise: KA Switch, HiyaHiya, Addi Natura, Colonial Needle Company Rosewood, KnitPicks Harmony (my Knitter's Pride cable is in a project right now so it is unpictured, however it is just like the KnitPicks Harmony cable but colored liked the Colonial Needle Company Rosewood cable)

I realize this might be going overboard but I think a full set of interchangeables is a big decision so I'm okay with going overboard.

KA Switch
Pros: They feel very smooth, especially for bamboo, but they still have a nice, warm "wood" feeling about them. I'm particularly pleased with how smooth the taper seems. The cable is flexible and supple and it doesn't seem to want to curl up on me, even right out of the package. The swivel of the cable is very smooth - Dan found this particularly fun. The connector on the cable is nice and heavy and overall, these feel nicely solid and very quality made. Also, I think these are pretty - a nice, smooth-looking blonde.

Cons: I have two reservations about these which can only be addressed by knitting with them for a bit. First, the tips seem fairly blunt. However, I have read that having a longer taper and a lack of ridge between the taper and the shaft makes blunt needles knit like a pointier needle and these needles have no ridge and a slightly longer taper than, say, the pointier KnitPicks Harmony. Second, there is a slight indent where the metal connector attaches to the bamboo. One of the needles had a little bit of glue (?) here and my thread caught on it but the glue (or whatever it was) flaked off easily and I couldn't repeat the problem. So technically the join doesn't seem like it will be a problem, but I want to test them a bit more before I write off the potential for a problem.

Verdict: I really like these. They've got a good feel to them and, while I have two concerns, I think there is a good chance those concerns will end up being irrational worries. We shall see!

Pros: These have a very nice join - there is a slight indent but it isn't as pronounced as the KA join and the edges feel very smooth. The cable is thin and flexible - it is a tad thicker and not quite as supple as the KA cable but no so much that I think it would create a problem (though the cable seems to have a bit of memory, unfortunately, which might be problematic). The taper is nice and there's no ridge between the taper and shaft.

Cons: These are impregnated with resin to leave them smoother than typical bamboo and they are smoother than my Clove Takumi, but they aren't as smooth as the KA. Also, I think it is the resin, but they do look and feel a bit plastic-y. The connector sleeve is made with a light-weight metal (aluminum?) which isn't as heavy as the connector on the KAs. I suppose this could be seen as a positive as it makes the whole needle lighter but, to me, it makes it look and feel a little less quality (though I can't say if that impression is accurate - it's just my impression). Also, the swivel isn't very smooth. It does swivel fully but it feels a little rough and, particularly when I first started messing with them, the swivel would occasionally catch.

Verdict: All in all, I don't think these are bad needles but they don't feel as nice overall as the KAs (assuming the dent in the KAs doesn't cause a problem) even though they cost a tad bit more. I don't hate these but I don't love them either.

Addi Natura Click
Pros: These are just as smooth as the KA Switch needles are - in fact, the color and texture matches them almost exactly. But these have a smoother join - and no dimple - where the metal and wood connect. The point is not super pointy but it's pointier than the other bamboo needles I've picked up during this experiment (though I did get these in a US8, but the KAs are US9, so not a big difference in size but the Addis are noticeably pointier). I also like the cable quite a lot - it's flexible and supple and I think it's pretty super cool that they have the length printed on the cable. The way the cable and needle connect is pretty neat, too. It reminds me of how my stirring attachments connect to my Kitchen-Aid mixer.

Cons: Dude, these are long. The wood parts are longer than the wood sections on any other needle I have and the metal connector adds another inch to them. And that's without the cable attached. The metal connector on the cable adds another half inch, putting the total size of these needles at 5-1/2" long. That's a quarter inch longer than my long needles (KnitPicks and Knitter's Pride, which measure exactly 5-1/4"), half an inch longer than the HiyaHiya (which measure in at 5" on the dot) and over an inch longer than the KAs (which come in at just under 4-1/4"). [I know there are those out there with a preference towards longer needles but for me, I tend to go for shorter - not only does it feel a bit less awkward in my hand but the way I hold the needle means that the Harmony and Dreamz are just the right size to hit my palm to where I end up bending down the cable at the join. It's not a hard bend and doesn't damage the cable, but with the lack of swivel it can be a bit of a hassle to fight against. It is possible, though, that the extra half inch on the Addis will make them long enough where I won't have the cable bend problem occur so I'll only have to see how tired my hand gets holding them when knitting for long periods of time.] My second problem here is that the cables don't swivel.

Verdict: If they made these in a shorter size and had swiveling cables, I'd be all over these. It's possible the size thing won't be the issue I think it is since they aren't the same length as the Harmony and Dreamz needles, but that still leaves the swivel thing. I suppose if I don't bend the cable at the join, though, there might be less annoyance with fighting the cable. So I'm going to have to knit on these for a bit to see what I really think.

Lantern Moon Rosewood/Ebony
Yeah, I would love to be able to try these out (even after reports of a too-thick cable) and include them in my massive interchangeable face-off, but they don't sell these individually and I'm not going to drop $300 (and more!) just to test something. I will say, however, that their case looks super neat. They do sell that separately and I'll admit, the turquoise tempts me!

Clover Takumi
(The information here actually refers to the fixed circular I have since I assume the tips and cables are the same material, leaving only the connector to address. But since I hate these so much, I refuse to buy any more of them, even for comparison purposes.)
Pros: There is no ridge between the taper and shaft... That's all I got.

Cons: These are rough and draggy and dull. The cable is thick and stiff and constantly curls. The needles are light and feel hollow and gritty when they touch or rub each other.

Verdict: I keep these only because they are the only US11 needles I currently have. I actually have purchased another US11 and, once they arrive, I will be tossing these. Hate them. If someone actually liked these needles, though, I can't say if the interchangeables would be a good choice as I know nothing about the join (or if they are really anything like the fixed... I'm just assuming).

Colonial Needle Company Rosewood Interchangeable
Pros: These have a good, pointy point (as pointy as Harmony and Dreamz but not as sharp feeling, if that makes sense) and a nice looking taper. I really like the cable, too - it's thick, like the Clover cable, but it's flexible and supple so it feels more like a Harmony or Dreamz cable. It's kind of the best of both worlds - flexible but sturdy. The join is smooth, too, with a really interesting join for the cable. The cable has a screw tip poking out of the end of it (no other metal surrounding it) and that screw tip slides up into the metal connector jacket on the cable about a quarter of an inch or so and screws in. I find it pretty neat since it prevents the potential catch line of where the metal jacket of the cable hits the metal jacket of the needle. I do wonder, though, if it might lead to some unscrewing-while-knitting problems. I haven't ever run in to those before but I understand that it can be a common issue with interchangeables if the cable isn't tightened enough... and I'm not sure how tight this type of connection can really get. Lack of a metal sleeve on the cable also means that the needle length isn't extended when the cable is added (these measure 4-1/8") and I really like the overall size of these.

Cons: Unfortunately, it seems like there are some quality issues here. One of the needles I received was noticeably curved. It makes holding it fairly awkward and knitting can feel pretty funky because of it. I contacted Webs (the company I purchased the needle from) and their customer service was great, as always, but unfortunately they were out of stock on that size needle so wouldn't be able to replace it for a couple of weeks (until their restocking shipment came in).  I decided to just return the needle and cable for a refund instead of waiting for a replacement. This makes me a little sad because I think I could learn to like these but I don't think they are the needle choice for me, so it'll just be quicker to resolve it this way instead of waiting. (For the record, I really like Webs' customer service. Responsive and very helpful.) Theses also seem to feel a little light and have an almost acrylic-needle-like stickiness to them. I am guessing they have a required breaking in time. As for the lightness, I did get a US3, so naturally it isn't going to be the sturdiest thing, but it feels a bit lighter and less dense than even the US1 fixed Dreamz circular I have. (The Dreamz, though, feels more dangerously flexible than this one. But even with that oh-my-gosh-is-it-so-flexible-I'll-break-it feeling, the Dreamz still feels a bit more solid.)  Also, the cable doesn't swivel which makes me sad (but it seems that the thicker cable helps it not get crimped which might lead to less fighting the cable when MLing.)

Verdict: The more I think about it, the more I am a bit sad I didn't just wait for a replacement for the bent one. I think there is a lot of potential here with these once they are broken in (and thus a bit slicker) as long as the bend is the only quality control issue. I still do feel a little hesitant about how light they feel, but they feel good in my hands so I'm torn.

WEBS Interchangeable Bamboo
These can be purchased individually so I could have gotten some to test them, but honestly, I didn't want to. And since I picked up a pair of the Colonial Needle Company Rosewood needles and the pieces are apparently interchangeable, I thought that would count enough even though bamboo... rosewood... yeah, big difference but I'd rather take the chance on rosewood, so I did.

KnitPicks Harmony
Pros: I love the cable. Thin, supple, flexible and it never stays curled up. I even like the color (it's purple) more than the clear. The join is very smooth and the needles are smooth and nicely slick. I have heard that with lots of use, these can get stickier because of the laminate coating rubbing off, but I've not run into that problem, though I haven't had them very long.) These are also very pointy, which I count as a positive, but not everyone does. These are so pointy, though, that sometimes (particularly with splitty yards) they make it too easy to pick up just a partial stitch.

Cons: The main issue I have with these that most makes me not want these as my go-to needle set is that the cable doesn't swivel. I spend too much time fighting with the cable (especially when doing Magic Loop). Very annoying. My second problem with these isn't really an issue because it is more of a cosmetic (and personal taste) thing, but I think these needles are ugly. I'm cool with Dymondwood-type colored woods but I prefer the less obnoxious ones. Yuck.

Verdict: Honestly, if these cables swiveled, I probably would pick these up in an entire set. I've heard of quality issues with them (and I've had issues with KnitPicks Zephry needles) and I've had some problems with the Dreamz (which I view as basically the same needles) but KnitPicks has good customer service so the potential quality issues aren't that big of a deal to me.

ETA on 2/4/13: KnitPicks now has Sunstruck wood interchangeables, which are basically the Harmonies but in a pretty pale wood instead of the obnoxious Harmony colors.

Knitter's Pride Dreamz
Pros: Most of the things for KnitPicks Harmony above hold true for Knitter's Pride Dreamz. They're manufactured by the same company (and the pieces are interchangeable between sets) but have slight differences (colors mostly, from what I can tell) which allows them to sell the needles in the US. (The metal connector is also a little shorter on the needle of the Dreamz, but I don't think that makes a real difference between the two sets.) The cables are great because they are the same (though Dreamz cables are black) and the needles are nice and pointy (and yes, even too pointy at times). Unlike the KnitPicks, however, some sizes (US4 - US10) come in shorter needle lengths (good for making a 16" circular and good for folks like me that prefer shorter needles) and, unlike the KnitPicks, these aren't ugly!

Cons:Just like the KnitPicks, these cables don't swivel. Frustrating. Also, I've had quality issues with the brand. I've had two fixed US0 circs that snapped and I have some DPNs in US1.5 with some nicks in them. They aren't the interchangeables, but it is the same line so I worry, even if I think the issue is more with the material in that small of a needle size versus just the material alone.

Verdict: Even though I've said (over and over) how I clump KnitPicks Harmony and Knitter's Pride Dreamz together, I am slightly partial to the KnitPicks. Maybe it is their jaunty purple cable. Or the ugly obnoxious needles (I like Sharpei dogs, too). But yeah, I lean in the KnitPicks direction. Though really, because of the lack of cable swivel, I'd really prefer something else.

Knitter's Pride Cubics
Pros: Pointy, good cables, there are some shorter sizes available (but not in the US11 I picked up)... Pretty much all the same things as the Harmony and Dreamz. But these are square. They are also pretty - I like the darker tones of the wood grain and I'm a-ok with all of the needles being the same color, especially when they aren't an ugly color like the Harmony.

Cons: These still have the lack of cable swivel like the Harmony and Dreamz. And, unlike the Harmony and Dreamz, these are square.

Verdict: Okay, I knew these would be basically buying another Harmony or Dreamz needle. But I did it anyway because these are square. Holding them, they seem to feel more secure in my hand, but they are still square so I'm going to see how they knit before I can say if square or round Knitter's Pride needles are the way to go.

Knitter's Pride Symfonie Rose
I haven't tried these out as I imagine they aren't sold in individual pieces and, like Lantern Moon, I'm not going to drop a nice chunk of change (though this one is a smaller sized chunk) just to test out needles. I imagine, however, that they are just like the Dreamz, but a bit prettier.

DyakCraft Darn Pretty Needles
Since bad customer service led me to cancel my DyakCraft order, I (naturally) cannot include those needles in this comparison. Ah well.

ETA on 5/16/12: There is also another wooden interchangeable set, Plymouth Yarn's Rosewood set. Sadly, the reviews online trend towards the unhappy (mostly damaged or broken needles) and they don't sell these individually for replacement or testing. So there's another set that is out there.

ETA on 6/10/12: Thanks to a new Ravelry group dedicated to interchangeable needles, I have learned of another wooden (bamboo) needle set out there, Caron Tulip Carry C. Sadly, looks like these only come in a set so I won't be able to get a single needle pair to test them out.

So there it is, my massive wood interchangeable face-off. It's been kind of insane and honestly, I've probably spent what a full set of interchangeables would cost (depending on the set) just buying these individual pieces to test out. But I'm okay with that because I won't ever wonder if the grass is greener on, say, the HiyaHiya side of the fence. I know it isn't. Also, it means when I get my full set of interchangeables, I will already have a second set of back-up needles just in case I need more than one US6... or US8... or US7... or, well, you get the idea.

And what will that back-up set be back-up set to? What is my choice out of all these needles? Well, I've got one more test before I pick. Keep an eye out for that blog post! (Here it is!)

Other posts in my needle hunt saga:
Part I A and Part I B
The current post is Part II
Part III
Some gushing about the big winner
My KA Switch Short set review
And my Chiaogoo Spin and Twist review is here


  1. We now have a $117 store credit to the Bead Place! and they have listings of their yarns, so I could pick some up for your if your heart so desires! Love you to pieces, MIL

    1. Well you know me, I enjoy almost any yarn goodies! (Though if any of Zauberballs they have are pretty, I wouldn't say no to one!) (edited for spelling - oops!)

  2. Bad customer service from DyakCraft? Sorry you feel that way. Never has a company gone more out of their way to make me happy. I'd say they are just about the best I've ever dealt with. Sure, I had to wait, just like everyone else. That's just how it is. You won't be able to make a complete comparison without these needles. I've tried many of the brands you've tested yourself and I easily picked DyakCraft, despite the wait.

    1. I'm glad you are pleased with them - I know a lot of people are happy with not just the needles but the personal service. However that wasn't my experience (at least as far as the service goes) so we'll just have to agree to disagree on that. I'd still like to try out the DyakCraft wood needles, just to have a comparison, but I'm more than pleased (to the point of gushing) with the needles I ultimately picked, even if they did come out of left field as far as what I thought I was looking for. :)

  3. Great reviews thanks. If another review would help you out, I recently posted a full review of Knit Picks Options in Sunstruck wood. Here is a link if you would like to check it out.http://billiescraftroom.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/product-review-knit-picks-options-sunstruck-wood-interchangeable-needles/

    Yes they are prob giong to come under your another varient of the Harmonies, they are basically the same thing but with natural wood colouring NOT candy or vibrant colours of Symfonies/Harmonies or Dreamz ;) I find them a joy to knit with and the colouring on them is great in lower light levels too.

    1. Yeah, I would consider them a variation on the Harmonies since I'm pretty sure they are the same thing, just a different color. But I do agree that they are very pretty!

  4. Hello, I just thought I'd leave a line to let you know that Lantern moon now sells individual interchangeable tips, cables, and stoppers. They are a bit pricey, but they are very nice. The only thing that I don't like about them is that the larger sizes have a pot belly type bump in the connector which causes me to have to fight to get my stitches back on the needle sometimes. Also, the cables are at least twice as thick as the Hiyas and some of them don't swivel well. Still, even with all of that, the needles are amazing and the joins are just beautiful. The set was worth every penny.

    1. Awesome! Thanks for sharing that information. I might have to hunt down a pair to try them out!

  5. Just thought I'd mention it - Clover Takumi Combo set uses a different cable material than the fixed. The cable in the set is superb! flexible and strong. Absolutely awesome! I highly reccomend Takumi combo set - no quality issues, made in Japan and to me, as a bamboo lover, no cons at all.

    1. Hey, thanks for sharing that info - it's good to know about the cable!