Welcome to Part Three of our series on Interchangeable Knitting Needles. If you're coming late to the party, check out Part 1 to get an introduction and Part 2 to see all of the different needles sets on the market. In this article, we're going to talk about all of the different options and features available in interchangeable knitting needle sets. The options to consider are materials, needle joins, cords, needle pointyness, and cost. Click here to continue reading Part Three of the Interchangeable Knitting Needle Guide...
Materials are important because you'll never use your new needles if you buy them with materials that you hate using. Interchangeable knitting needle sets come in bamboo, aluminum, nickel plated aluminum, acrylic, rosewood, and wood. Each material offers a different knitting experience and benefit.
Bamboo is light in the hands. The hand feel is a little softer than wood. Bamboo is an excellent choice for any yarn, but especially if you're knitting with silk or cotton because there is just enough traction to keep the yarn from being too slippery. The downside is that on occasion bamboo points can deteriorate over time and splinter off. This has only happened once or twice in the history of my knitting needle stash, but it is something to be aware of. Frequently this isn't a problem because many of the interchangeable knitting needle sets are backed by a reliable customer service policy. If you report a defective needle, most often it will be replaced.
Aluminum is found in some of the lesser expensive knitting needle sets. They're the same materials used in old school aluminum straight needles. They're lightweight, hollow and cool to the touch.
Nickel Plated Brass
Nickel Plated Brass is a little heavier than the aluminum knitting needles and the finish seems a bit more slippery than aluminum. One good thing about the metal based interchangeable knitting needles is that you're not trying to keep two separate materials from snagging, generally speaking the join and the needle tips will both be metal. With wood and bamboo, you have a metal join attached to the natural needle tip, which opens up more areas where the yarn can snag.
Acrylic - The points are so super pointy, you could poke an eye out. the needles are so light as to be practically non-existant. The finish is so slippery that it could loosen the tension of the tightest knitter. The cool part is that these needles sets are typically the least expensive.
Rosewood is considered a premium wood for its sweet smelling properties, though some companies simply refer to any dark-hued wood as a rosewood.
Regular wood seems harder than the bamboo needles. Typically the wood is pressure treated and then shaped to form the needles. These are not as slippery as metal needles.
Which material is right for you?
Think about your knitting needle stash. Which needles do you use the most often? Which feel the most comfortable in your hands? Also consider your knitting style. Are you a very tight knitter? If so, wood may be too hard on your hands. If you're a very loose knitter, acrylic may turn your knitting into noodles. Also, consider the type of knitting you plan to do with your interchangeable knitting needles. Are they going to be for socks and lace, or for big sweater projects? For socks and lace you may want to go with metal needles. Their points can be sharper for intricate stitchwork with finer yarns. For big sweater projects you may want to use plastic as larger sized metal or bamboo needles can be more expensive.
The are other factors that can affect which interchangeable knitting needle set you choose. The type of needle join and how it connects the cord to the needle, as well as the length of the needles themselves are things to evaluate. You may also want to look at needle pointyness, cords and the easy availability of replacement parts.
Needle joins are the parts where your interchangeable needles connect with the circular cables. Needle joins that are clunky can interfere with how the stitches pass over your needles as you knit. If they get stuck it will cause hours of annoyance and will be a waste of your money. Some needle joins connect with the cords with a key mechanism. Others with proprietary screw in systems. How well the joins are designed and manufactured will determine how often you have to tighten the joins or check to make sure your needles are well connected.
Some kits come with short needle tips and others with long needle tips. This often depends on what you're making. If you're knitting a lot of hats and socks, you don't always want to have long needles getting in the way of your knitting, especially if you're knitting something extra small. Shorter tips allow you to knit 16" or even 12" in the round without so much stress on your hands and wrists.
Cost to Replace Parts
If you use your knitting needles often eventually something may break. When bad things happen will you be able to get replacement parts easily and inexpensively? Some manufacturers will replace things at no cost, others may charge shipping and others don't have any replacement plan whatsoever. Also, you may want to purchase additional connecting cords/cables so that you can work on multiple projects at the same time. Keep those costs in mind when choosing your needles.
There are two things to think about when checking out an interchangeable knitting needle set's cords. Firstly, how flexible is the cord. Is it going to interfere with your knitting, or is the cord so thin and lightweight that you barely notice it. Additionally, you'll want to investigate the lengths of the cords available for your set. Certain knitting techniques require extra long cords. If you enjoy these methods you need to make sure that the set includes the lengths or offers them as an additional purchase.
Each needle set has a varying degree of sharpness. Some people find overly pointy needles to be too sharp on their fingers and difficult to use with plied yarns. Some people prefer an extra pointy tip for lace knitting and socks.
Cost may be your most important consideration. Fortunately, there exists a wide variety of needles in a broad range of prices. For every set that costs $140 there is another that costs half that and even a third. You can even get a trial set of some needles for as low as $20. That might be your best bet in helping you determine what works the best for you, try out everything and see whether the cost of the more expensive needles is worth it.
There are so many things to think about when choosing an interchangeable knitting needle set. There are many factors to consider which is one of the reasons why people frequently wonder which set is the right one for them. They don't even know where to begin, but in the next part of the interchangeable knitting needle guide we'll take a look at which needle variety is right for what type of knitting style. Keep in mind it might be a while... I have to find all of these needles!