I still remember the frustration of my first project on circular needles. I bought cheap-o needles from Zellers, and cursed them with every stitch. The joint between the needle tip and the cable was so jagged that every single stitch had to be pushed onto the needle with a fingernail or a tug at the project. Can you imagine what that does to the yarn? My project was already pilled and worn before it was finished. The cable also coiled on itself terribly. I tried all kinds of tricks to straighten the cables: ironing on a low setting (thereby slightly melting the cable!), hanging the needles vertically, twisting the cable in the opposite direction. Nothing worked, and the cables kept tangling. I couldn’t understand why anyone chose circular needles!
Then came my first experience with the wonderful Addi needles. They were still fairly new to North America then, and I reeled a bit at spending that much money on a single circular needle. But they felt so nice in my hand, and the cable was so flexible, and stitches slipped right onto the needle, with no tugging.
Since then I’ve built two collections of needles (one is in storage in my dad’s garage back in Montreal, and one is here in Melbourne), though it seems like I’m always buying more 3.5mm needles (where do they go?). I’ll occasionally pick up a pair of Clover wooden needles if I’m working with something particularly slippery, like silk, viscose or bamboo, but that’s it.
Lace, Nickel, Interchangeables?
I ask that students in my lace knitting workshops use Addi Lace needles. Learning to knit with small needles and tiny yarn is difficult, and new lace knitters really don’t need the added frustration of blunt tips or snagged cables.
Addi Lace needles have a sharp point and a long end, making it easy to insert into small stitches. They are also coated in brass, giving them a slightly stickier finish than nickel needles, without the risks of splinters from wooden needles. They can be a bit too sharp: these aren’t the best fit for splitty yarns like worsted-spun cotton, as the point can go through the yarn. I’ve also worn a hole in my index finger many times from knitting with these — if you have a habit of pushing stitches off the needle with your finger, using these needles might hurt!
The standard nickel-plated Addi needles are perfect for projects that don’t need a sharp tip, and for yarns that tend to split. I prefer them to the lace needles for working with wool, as the nickel plating is less grabby than brass, and stitches slide smoothly. I always buy needles in the longest cable available in the shop—usually that’s an 80cm or a 100cm cable— and use the Magic Loop method if I’m working in the round.
I love my interchangeables (I have two sets, one in bamboo and a set of the Addi short tips), but don’t recommend using them for fine yarns or detailed work. They aren’t usually made in the small sizes needed for fine yarns, and the cable join is never quite as smooth as on fixed needles.
That being said, the KnitPicks/KnitPro interchangeables do have a nice detail that is useful for lace knitters: there is a hole in the base of the needle (where you insert the key to tighten the needle). If you thread a piece of cotton yarn through it, then knit as normal, you wind up adding a lifeline to that row without the extra step. Neat!
Which tools have become indispensable for you? I’d love to know what I should try out next.