I’ve been wanting to delve into the world of interchangeable knitting needles for a while, but the set I had my eye on is $115 and I seldom see it on sale. So when I saw this set of Knitpicks Options needles on sale for $35 (Regularly $49.00), I decided it was time to give them a go.
What are interchangeable needles?
Circular needles come in two forms, fixed and interchangeable. Fixed needles have a needle permanently attached to either end of a cable. For interchangeable needles, various mechanisms are used to detach these needles, meaning you can change the length of the cord between them, swap out needles for a larger or smaller size, hold the project on the cable alone with the aid of stoppers, remove one needle and use a stopper to create a pair of flexible straight needles, or work with two different sized needles on the same cable.
Obviously, this give you a lot of different options, but in theory it’s also much easier to store, since most kits come with 5-7 different pairs of needles and 3-4 cords of different lengths (plus the additional accessories, like the stoppers for the end of the cables, keys to make attaching/detaching easier, and a tool to attach multiple cables to make one super long cable for afghans or other extra large projects). For example, the Knitpicks set contains 9 different needle sizes, 4 cables in 2 lengths, 4 sets of stoppers, two keys, and one of those connector thingies in a slip plastic case just a little larger than a mailing envelope. I’m not the best at math, but according to my calculations, this basic set could replace up to 3,888 fixed straight and circular needles. Adding one extra connector to the kit (spare parts including keys, connectors, cables, and needles can all be purchased individually, not just as part of the kit) brings the total to over 38,000.
I don’t know about you, but I have enough trouble storing the needles already in my collection, and despite what my friends and family thing, I don’t have anywhere near 3,000.
Usage and Durability
I’ll confess, I was not hopeful going into this. The last time I bought needles from Knitpicks was about ten years ago. I ordered two circular needles. One broke on the first row I knit, and the other I had to switch out after only a few rows because the join between the cable and the needle were so rough that the yarn kept getting caught. I will say they had great customer service and replaced them, but I wasn’t impressed with the replacements and never used them. Four apartments and a cross country move later, I recently found them in my needle stash.
But that was ages ago. For $35, I was willing to give them another go.
I’ve had this kit for a bit over a month now, and have used the 4, 5, and 6 needles (I might have also used the 7. I can’t remember).
The joins are not the smoothest, but they aren’t bad. The bigger problem is that the needles occasionally become loose. So far I haven’t had a problem with the cable falling off, which would cause a dropped stitch. Usually as I’m moving the yarn around the needles, it will catch in the little gap that opens up, alerting me to the problem. It’s quite annoying, especially when I have to twist the needle back without catching the yarn.
For some reason, I have this problem the most with the US4 tips, and especially the one in my right hand, though it can happen with either tip, though it might be exasperated by the way I knit.
Overall, I would say that Knitpicks still has the same consistency problems with their needle production that the did a decade ago. But, for $35 I do think they are a good introduction to interchangeable sets as they’re about $15-$60 cheaper than all the other sets I’ve looked at. Even the Boye kit is $75, and their cables aren’t nearly as nice.
Based on the amount I’ve used them in just the last month, I don’t think they will replace my collection any time soon, but I’ll probably pare down a little. I’m also looking at the Chiao Goo interchangeable set of smaller needles for socks, since those are already my favorite sock needles. If nothing else, they have whetted my appetite for a better set.
Will I replace or get rid of the Knitpicks set? Not any time soon. Their set is only for sizes US4-10.5, which are not sizes I use often. I’m okay with continuing to use these.
But I did just cast on an afghan with the Knitpicks US4 interchangeable, so I’ll let you know if I change my mind.
Like what you see? Check out Non-Wool Yarn Recommendations, Part I.