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Thursday, April 19, 2007

knitpicks review... finally!

(Sorry, but this is a photo heavy post - if your on a slow connection please give it a minute or two to load. Also, the skullcandy banner is still awaiting your click over in the sidebar!)

These needles can almost be summed up completely in the two words my favourite 2yo says everytime he sees me using them:-

  1. shiney
  2. pointy

I'd have to add one other word to that:

  • smooth

But these are so good, that I have to use a few more words....

BKP (Before KnitPicks) my favouritest needles were tulip bamboo (circular and DPNs) - so I am using these for comparison...

The Join...

The most important part of circular needles is how the cable joins the needle.

As you can see on the left - the transition between the cable and needle on the tulip bamboo has a rather sudden bump in it. In this size needle (4.5mm) this was not a problem - however, in the smaller sizes, the bump in the cable made it difficult to get stitches past, and in the larger needles, the transition from cable to needles was sometimes too sudden and you had to work to get the stitches back on the needles.

As you can see, there is no bump in the transition from cable to needle, and out to the needle size, is perfectly smooth. I haven't had any problems with the joins coming undone or snagging stitches, provided I used the small wire key to tighten the screw into the needle.

Due to the screw on the end of the cable, the smallest in the interchangeable set is 3.5mm (the exact same size of the screw housing - it couldn't get any smaller). However, there are smaller circulars available. I have not had the need to use these yet, nor purchased any but I assume that they have similar attributes.

And as far as that smooth transition out to the needle diameter - it is still fantastic for the larger needle sizes. Shown left is an 8mm needle, and you can see that the angle out to the full diameter of the needle is nice and gradual. The needles go up to a chunky 12mm and the taper from cable to needle makes for great knitting.

I have knitted a sleeve and back on the 8mm already, and found the larger needles to be quite comfortable to knit with (and any joins invisible)

The point....

This is where knitpicks holds all the cards - a nice sharp point on the needle which makes it perfect for lace knitting, splitty yarns and cables-san-cable-needle

This is a fairly new bamboo needle, and as you can see it is rather blunt in comparison - fine for most DK yarns, but sometimes it is just a tad bit blunter than I would like. Of course, there are two problems with the points on bamboo needles once the have suffered a bit of use - firstly, the points tend to get blunter with general wear, and secondly, with further use they can begin to split - causing terrible knitting heartache.

But what I did like about the tips of these bamboo needles was the angle from the needle diameter to the tip. This angle is incredibly important when knitting - to sharp and it can be hard to get the needle through a stitch, and two shallow and you may end up knitting with a section of the needle smaller than your desired diameter. Knitpicks has done their research well - take note that the angles of the knitpicks and bamboo are almost identical (there is something magical about this angle, knitpicks uses it as the transition from the cord to needle - if you are thinking of making your own needles you may want to measure this angle!)

The cord...

No pictures for this section - but knitpicks claim that the cord is kinkfree with as little memory as possible... and I fully agree. The only problem I had with the cord is that in the deluxe set I started with I received 60, 80, 120 and 152 cm cords. I would have preferred the 100cm instead of one of the longer cords. However, at less than 5bucks a pop that was a problem quickly rectified.

The DPNs

These come in 15cm lengths for the smaller sizes (2-3.25mm) which I really love. I have stated before, that I am a rather tight knitter - that means that when I have used bamboo and rosewood DPNs previously I could feel a bit of strain in the needle. I haven't had the misfortune of breaking one, but I can understand how it could happen. (however, these don't come without their own hazards - see here and here!)

The also have the same point as the interchangables, so perfect for cables-sans-cable-needle, because, lets face it, you're already juggling 5 needles, why add more into the mix?

These are excellent value, they start at just under $8 for a set of 5 incredibly sturdy needles. (I love that they come in sets of five. I have in the past bought two packets of four DPNs so I could knit with five.)

And slightly off topic - I finally started my phallic sock - I had to buy DPNs in new sizes for the rockin' sock club patterns, and so far am loving the yarn, and this pattern. I will always be smiling when I wear these socks because I will have the thought I am walking over all men!

The feel..

My mum has often had a bit of a laugh at me because I don't like using metal needles on cold days. Indeed, this is one of the reason I preferred bamboo or wooden needles - they are warm to the touch. So was this a problem with the knitpicks???

Surprisingly, no. As the knitpicks needle tips are hollow they are quick to warm up while you knit.

And the other complaint I have heard mention is that the knitpicks maybe too pointy. Did I have this problem... Well, initially yes, but I have developed a useful "knitting callus" on my index finger and thumb. There are a couple of tips I can give you to help while your callus is developing:-

  1. for prevention: handcream, often - when your fingers are dry, it is easier to poke between the ridges on your fingertips.
  2. for first aid: bandaids, when needed - I'd suggest the kiddie-sized waterproof ones... I prefer the sesame street one, but really, each to their own...

The accessories...

Where to begin! I got so many with the set.

I guess, first of all we will have to talk about the handy organisation system. There is a place for everything in the binder I got with the deluxe set - The needle tips fit nicely into the triple pockets, the cords do well in the double pockets, and the DPNs are at home in the single pockets. (BTW - I am using the packaging for the extra needle tips I bought to hold the DPN sets altogether. It seemed easier than having to fish them out of the pocket one by one)

At the back of the folder there is a pen holder, and room for a notebook or pattern photocopy. In the front, there is a zipper pocket (perfect for PTYS stitchmarkers - couldn't resist a plug) and an expanding pocket which holds your needle sizer/ gauge ruler.

All together the folder can be a bit bulky, but I intend to leave this at home and just take the needles in use with my when I go a-travelling with my knitting.

Now, I have to talk about the needle sizer/ gauge ruler.

Knitpicks were incredibly smart when then designed the set - not only did they recognised that the US system of needle sizing wasn't standardised, but they decided they could count to ten, and use the metric system to get exact needle sizes.

This was quite a bold move - and to try and integrate their system into the US market, they made this great needle sizer that has both US and metric needle sizes on it (and also show just how inexact the US system is - just what does a US 1 or 2 convert to?) Okay, so I hear you say 'so what!' - after all, myself, I already had 2 needle sizers with metric, english or US system on them. But what makes this really cool is the magnified gauge ruler incorporated into the same tool.

And this also utilises the metric system - it is a 15cm ruler, label in both cm and inches - and the magnified part has a red line marking out both 10cm and 4". Quite useful to use as gauge is usually referred to in inches, while tension is usually in cm. Yes, I know they are the same thing, but 10cm is not quite 4" - and perhaps that half stitch may make a big difference. (And yes, that is my holey argyle - growing oh so slowly!)

Of course, there is one other reason knitpicks had to make this tool...

Unlike the nifty tulip bamboo needles that have the size printed on them, knitpicks don't. Quite a problem if your DPNs are all floating in the same plastic pocket, or you mix the tips up a bit. Luckily this comes with the set.

Also included with the set are the needle size ID tags and cable end caps. It is understandable that, if you are not a monogamous knitter like me, you may have more than one project on the go at once, and may need the same tips you have on another cord. The idea is that you take off the needle tips, slip an ID tag on the cord (preferably one that correlates to the size needles you were using) and then put the stoppers on. The needle ID tags have the US sizes on one side and the metric on the other, and currently, I use each tag in the pocket with the relevant size needle tip.

I find the end caps very useful to convert the cables into stitchmarkers. In the picture to the left, I am actually trying my hardest to force the stitches off the cable, but the end caps work very well!

The Price...(this is in AUD - please ignore this if you are not purchasing in Australia)

The RRP for the deluxe set is $129, but because I pre-ordered my set through Tapestry Craft I was lucky to get it for $99 (although this is a moot point - someone else paid for the set as a birthday present). If you can't afford to by the big set all at once - don't worry. You are really only saving about 70 cents over buying the pieces separately (YES - I worked it out!)

However - DO NOT bother buying either the Entry or Chunky set. These work out more expensive than buying the pieces separately (by about 10 bucks!) and they vinyl case you get with it is not worth it. I'd suggest using the extra 10 bucks to by a couple of sets of plastic pockets so you can start building up your own 'deluxe set'. I haven't tested this, but I am pretty sure that the pockets will fit into a filofax system, so if you can't afford a knitpicks folder this may be a good storage alternative.

I found it useful to buy the 4 size needle tips I didn't get with the set (3.75, 9, 10 & 12mm) so I would have the full system available, as well as a couple of extra cords in the shorter lengths and extra pockets so I could store it all easily. As mentioned, I also bought the full range of 15cm DPNs (2 - 3.5mm with increments of .25mm) - mainly because I wanted to be ready for whatever the rockin' sock club gave me this year in any gauge. I aim to get the complete set with the classic circulars in smaller diameters, and the 20cm DPNs - but that will be a long time work in progress, as I will only buy those sizes as I require them.

As previously mentioned, I bought mine at Tapestry Craft, but I have also heard that Doni has come through with the goods. Prestige Yarns is the distributor and will have the info if you require a stockist closer to home. There is also a full price list on their site.

And now for something completely different...
This is my secret knitting - I am sharing here because I doubt my Pop (maternal grandpa) will read the blog, and am hoping that Mum won't show him until after I have finished them.

Fingerless mits, in manly olive green and brown - they are massively big for me, so I am hoping they will therefore fit him. These will be for his birthday next weekend - which I will hopefully make it down to Geelong for.

And this is the beginning of a noggin warmer for Dilby... I love the way flash photography makes you want to reach for your sunglasses..

And here is Pierre - wanting to know why I have been blogging for 3 hours and if I am ready to go to bed yet. Didn't realise I would take so long to write this up!


Kate said...

Another great review - thank you for that detailed analysis - including cost effectiveness. I plan to add the Tags and Ruler to my kit as soon as possible - I know Anita has them at the Wool Inn at Penrith.
I didn't get the Dpn's because I had a bad experience on the train with a bamboo set and never want to go through that again - magic loop for me.

Jejune said...

THANK YOU so much for this in depth review - I now know what to order! Very useful information.

Your knitting is all looking good too! Yeah, flash photography is tricky, and many digital cameras don't handle reds well.

Poor Pierre, not the centre of attention for a few hours! Poor puppy .

Lynne said...

Kate took the words right out of my mouth: "another great review". I'm sure knitpicks will be very impressed - are you going to send them a link to your blog? You should, you know!

The review made me think about things I've never thought about before - like point angles - and I've been knitting for a loooong time!

I now want a set! (And that's why knitpicks should be so grateful!). I have a "big" birthday coming up next week - one that ends in zero -so maybe DH will buy me the deluxe set! LOL To be fair, he will buy me whatever I ask for - and these are so reasonably priced! Look out, Anita - here I come!!