Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Which Needle, When


I hope some knitters will remember these. This is a Boye Needle Set – one of the first interchangeable knitting needle sets. I thought they were wonderful. I could change the cable for almost any length I needed. No more running to the yarn shop at the last minute for a new needle. These needles could also be used as straights (AKA single points) by attaching a needle point at one end and a knob at the other.


Now we have multiple types of interchangeable needle sets to choose from. The joins are better and the cables are more flexible. There is even a lace set with sharper points. 


Not all needle sets are interchangeables either. I love this little sock needle set.
Of course, everything has its downside. The disadvantages to needle sets:
·         If you are working on more than one project that project may call for the same needle size you are using on another project. Several companies will let you buy extra needle tips for your favorite sizes – a great idea that eliminates this problem.

·         The joins on interchangeable needles are not always secure. Some loosen while knitting. Some actually break or come apart. It seems this plagues some knitters more than others – maybe due to knitting style? Almost all companies will replace a broken needle at no extra charge.

·         Until recently needle sets had sizes 4 up 15. There were no interchangeable needles for sizes less than 4.  Now a few companies have created smaller sets specifically for lace and fine knitters in sizes 0-4. Lovely!


Wood, Metal or Plastic

Some knitters do not care what the knitting needle is made of while others absolutely swear by bamboo or nickel plated or plastic. Sometimes it does matter. For beginning knitters I recommend bamboo or plastic needles. The stitches slide a bit more slowly but they do not fall off as readily as they do on metal. It also matters with slippery yarns such as bamboo, linen and some silks. A few dropped stitches might be prevented by using a wooden needle. The laminated wood needles like those from Knitter’s Pride make a nice smooth surface – not as slick as metal and not as slow as bamboo.

Dark or Light

A cautionary note on colored needles, these are usually woods but some metal needles also come in colors. It is more difficult to knit dark yarns on dark colored needles. Of course, they are perfect for lighter colored yarns. What a surprise to find that now we have to match our knitting needles to the yarns

The Point
For knitting that does not require a lot of manipulation, i.e., increases, decreases, twisted stitches; the point of the knitting needle does not matter. For lace knitting, some sock knitting, knitting with the manipulations mentioned above, a longer, more pointed tip can make all the difference in easy knitting or knitting filled with frustration. I struggled long with a pair of socks before I figured this out. I felt vindicated when the “Lace” knitting needles were produced. I cannot be the only one.
Choose your needles wisely.  Happy Knitting.

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