Durable Interchangeable Needles: A Buyers Guide

I own and have used almost every type of interchangeable needle set, from square to round, from carbon fiber to wood, from standard length to shorties. And many of these sets of needles, over my many decades of knitting, have been put to heavy use.

The biggest difference? Durability.

Yes. Knitting needles DO wear out. They break, bend, dent or become unusable in some other way. Some much more often than the should.

Why do a guide?

On a recent post in the All Free Knitting Community group, a new knitter asked which were the best interchangeable circular knitting needles. Because of the expense, she didn’t want to get it wrong. And like most knitters transitioning from new to intermediate, she realized that interchangeable can be a more practical and space saving way to go.

There are lots of reasons to select one or another set, which is why I own so many. But since cost was a factor, my recommendation was for a lower priced, but fairly durable set–not the most expensive, such as KnitPicks’s Short Radiant. Then when they wear out, she could upgrade.

Lots of thoughts went into this recommendation—from practical to psychological.

  • Why wood? Wood has more “grab”. The yarn stays on the needle better than other materials making it easier for newer knitters to avoid dropping stitches. And they are warm to the touch.
  • Why shorts rather than mid or full-size needles? Shorts, usually around 3” or less, provide versatility at the expense of speed. Longer needle shafts make it harder to do smaller work (socks, collars, etc.). And shorter is more durable (less chance of bending or breaking).
  • Why Knit Picks? Price and a handy, see-through carry case.

Buyer’s Guide

This guide will only be covering standard needle types. Most of these manufacturers offer lace and various length options, so those factors are preferential rather than about durability and price. The prices are as of May 22st, 2020 and they are based on the number of needle pairs in the set—not whether they come with notions, have a nice case, etc. Value should be placed on the needles, rather than the extras.

Knitting needles are a bit like wine. The price does not necessarily match quality and what matters most is whether you like it rather than what comes with it (it is what’s in the bottle, not on the label).

Here’s a chart of how the major needles (I have used) stack up based on my research:

BrandShaftCableGrabFeelPrice*DurabilityComments
Knitter’s Pride KarbonzCarbon FiberStandardStrongWarm$ 15.57Very HighVery grippy on yarn, lightweight
ChiaoGooMetalProprietarySlickCool $ 11.36HighProprietary cord system                            
Hiya HiyaMetalStandardSlickCool $ 10.43ModerateSwivel cable can catch
Knitter’s Pride DreamzWoodStandardModerateWarm $   6.67ModerateBreak mid shaft. Loosen periodically
Knit Picks AluminumMetalStandardSlickCold $   5.55ModerateJoins less smooth, Loosen periodically
Knit Picks WoodWoodStandardModerateWarm $   6.62ModerateLoosen periodically
KnitPro CubicWoodStandardModerateWarm $ 16.19PoorBreak at metal. Loosen often.
addi turboMetalStandardSlickCool $ 9.37Very PoorCoating peels off under heavy use
Clover TakumiBambooStandardStrongWarm $ 15.45Very poorTend to dent and fray under heavy use

* Price is gotten by dividing the total cost by the number of needles in the set

My Metal Preference: Hiya Hiya or ChiaoGoo

If you like metal needles, I recommend HiyaHiya’s—even though they seem fairly high-priced “per tip”. What makes the cost effective is they work with standard cables. If money were no object, I would choose ChiaoGoo. They have raised the bar with knitting needle technology by changing the material in the cables. And those cables are amazingly great! The problem is that they don’t work interchangeable with other sets—not even other ChiaoGoo sets—meaning you have to buy a full set of cables with each set you buy. I guess that’s why they are called “Premium”.

I do not recommend addi’s given they are most expensive AND of the high-end needles, least durable. I find the “turbo coating” peels or flakes off under heavy use. And while I carry Knit Picks with me almost everywhere, it because I use them as a “notion” rather than for projects because I find the cables loosen during knitting (both wood and aluminum).

Natural Materials Preference: Knitter’s Pride Dreamz or KnitPicks

For the price and utility I prefer Knitter’s Pride. They are really my “go-to” needle, mainly because they stay screwed together when I knit. Knit Picks seem to come loose while I knit, but not as often as KnitPro’s Cubics. I love a square needle for stitch consistency, but it has to stay screwed together!

I did not test HiyaHiya’s bamboo needles, only Clover’s Takumi. And from using them, my feeling is that bamboo should not be used as a knitting needle material—ever. Bending instead of breaking is not beneficial when the ends fray and snag yarn under heavy use.

Best of Both Worlds: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz

If I have to select one and only one set, it would be Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Unlike metal, carbon fiber is cool, but not cold to the touch. And after snapping my wood needles and bending several metal ones, I enjoy that they take a licking and keep on knitting. Hands down–they are the most durable needles I own. And though the cables aren’t even remotely as nice as ChiaoGoo’s at least I can reuse those from other sets. My ideal set would be if Karbonz would work with a ChiaoGoo cable.

Karbonz do have one downside (besides being expensive)–they feel slower than my woods or aluminums. Though I admit I also seem to be more prone to errors because of mindlessly zooming along. So in the end, giving all the tearing out, they might just help me finish sooner.

Using ChiaoGoo needles in tandem with Karbonz. I prefer the stronger, slower Karbonz to turn the heel.

Final Thoughts

I hope you will find this useful. It was helpful to me to (re)test my sets for this blog. Doing a side-by-side comparison really helped me figure out which needles were best for different types of projects.

And that really is the crux. No one interchangeable needle set can do it all. But are best suited for some than others.

If I l’ve missed a set you’d recommend, I’d love to hear from you.

More than I can Chew

Last week was Paris fashion week and though I’m a practical knitter, I like to view the Fall collections since that’s usually when designers show knits. Not so much this year. It seems that funny hats, brown latex, poofy sleeves and sloppy fits are “in”. If you are curious, Paris Fashion Week Instagram showed a good variety of looks: https://www.instagram.com/parisfashionweek/.

Part of the reason to scour the looks was to break out of a knitting funk, since all my projects seem long and boring. On the needles are requests: an afghan for mom, another pair of socks for a friend, and a wrap made of tiny yarns on tiny needles. If keep on this tack, I won’t be using up any of yarn I’d hoped to destash, and I won’t hit my goal of 20 completes this year.

Last night, I found myself looking at the inventory (online) of two of my local yarn shops (LYS) for inspiration. I even thought to drop by, because retail therapy is what I do when I feel the need for something “fresh”. The queue gets longer; the stash grows; more WIPs.

Frustrated by fashion, fatigued by projects on the needles, I went to my stash to stop myself from breaking my New Years’ resolution not to buy more yarn. As expected, I was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer volume—and the ideas came pouring out.

An Inspirational Disaster Area

All the inspiration I need is there. Now, I’m wishing for more hands and more time to knit it all up!

What’s inspiring you this week?

Getting Organized

In the run-up to Spring knitting events I went through all my yarn, notions and needles. The purpose was to remind me what I have, so that I wouldn’t double (and sometimes triple or quadruple) my supplies.

The most challenging thing was being a “weekender” on Orcas Island is that my knitting goodies were not in one place. Fixing that took some coordination, but to reduce extra spending, it was well worth the effort.

Nick enjoying the sunset at West Beach in his “Island Sweater” knit with local wool from island sheep.

I’d like to have my yarn and supplies on Orcas Island since I knit more there or on my commute to and from. However, I do more project planning on the mainland. So, when I had to decide where to take inventory, it made sense to move to the smaller concentration to the higher.

It’s no surprise that I have a terrifying amount of yarn (it actually was… a bit), as most of my stash had been logged in Ravelry. What surprised me most was the quantity of needles and notions. Partly this is because I pick them up as I travel and partly it is because I inherited loads from my grandmother along with her stash. Some of these notions are antiques—which I will not part with—but an equal amount went into the donate pile along with some my own purchases.

Old plastic needles–handy for travel

Probably the best thing to come out of sorting all of my bibs and bobs was the creation of small organized packets of notion kits—four in total—so that I have virtually everything I need to hand, whether it is in the car, island or mainland, or for traveling with individual projects. Some well-chosen Tom Bihn knitting organizers really helped.

Tom Bihn is a local bag maker in SeaTac, who in addition to luggage, makes specialized knitting bags and accessories. And if the luggage at Red Alder Fiber Arts Retreat is any indication, both types of bags are very popular among the knitting community.

Anyone else doing Spring notions cleaning? Any interesting organizational ideas?

Sock-a-Rama

Though started before the Blacktop Ferry Socks, the Ultra-fitted socks took considerably longer. Thinner yarn, smaller needles, more stitches to the inch; it all adds up longer time on the needles.

I’m headed back out on my international travels so I swung by my LYS and picked up more (not needed) wool and another set of size 0 wood needles (since I broke my last pair). Not sure which ones I’ll take for the trip, but I think I’ll stick with my new ultra-fitted pattern.

Which would you choose?

And yes, I am on a German sock yarn kick. It’s because I’m feeling too lazy to cake the locally made and dyed sock yarn hanks. 🙂