Circular Knitting Needles

Long straight needles for knitting a sweater or even a scarf are awkward after having used tiny little sock needles. I find myself worrying that I’m going to poke Speck’s eyeballs out with those very long needles.  I love the little short double point needles (DPN) for knitting socks but for most anything else, I prefer the circular needles.  Circular needles are also considered to be more ergonomic and I do find them much easier to hold than long straight needles.

There are many kinds/brands/lengths of circular needles.  While I will tell you the ones I like best, don’t go out and buy a bunch of any of them until you’ve tried them to see what you like.  I’ll share a bit of my thoughts here about the circs I’ve used but remember, this is just my opinion.  This is not an all inclusive list of circular needle options because I surely have not tried them all.

Straight up, I will tell you that I am not a fan of bamboo needles.  It could easily be the way I knit but I find the points, while not snagging, don’t stay real smooth after a lot of use.

Based on the needles I’ve tried, here are my thoughts.

The circular needles I use the most are KnitPicks Harmony Wood.  I have become such a fan of Knit Picks for so many reasons.  The wood used in these is described as laminated birch and I don’t have a problem with the tips of these like I do with bamboo tips.  My Knit Picks Harmony needles, both straight and circular, have held their points and stayed smooth.  The cable on the Knit Picks needle is a dream!  It’s flexible and never gets tangled or kinks.  I don’t think you can beat Knit Picks’ prices and their customer service is amazing!   The only cons I see with these needles are (1) they are dark and if I’m working with a dark yarn and don’t have perfect lighting, I find that I struggle to see what I’m doing and (2) there are no markings on these needles as to their size.  I keep a needle sizer hand so that isn’t a problem.  And, if I don’t have my needle sizer handy, I always have my iPad with me.  I have the needle sizer app on my iPad and have found it to be pretty accurate.

My favorite double point needle is the Quicksilver by Susan Bates.  There are also Quicksilver circs.  These are my favorite tips — just enough resistance to keep my yarn from falling off but it takes no effort at all to slip the stitches off.  They are made with a “heat treated aluminum alloy” with a “glass-like finish”  but their cables are tight and do not want to unwind.  I can steam them and get them to relax a little but eventually, they want to go back to their curled position.  For the shorter cables, 16″ or 24″, it’s ok but for the longer lengths, I find them difficult to work with. The cables are enough to keep me from buying these needles in the longer lengths.  Also, I find these hard to find.  I rarely see them — straights or circulars — at online shops.


The camera makes the needles look bent but they are not.  These are the Addi turbo circs.   The cables are flexible and do not kink.  The points are metal and smooth and I’ve had no problems with any wearing at all with these.  On the cables are printed the size of the needle and the length of the cable.  The cons for these are (1) they’re slippery and though that makes it great for speed knitting, it’s very easy to lose stitches and (2) they’re expensive.  They’re about twice the cost of the Knit Picks Harmony circs.  The Addi needles do have a lifetime warranty so if the cable breaks or the join becomes  loose or rough, these needles will be replaced .. forever.  Addi also makes a turbo lace circular needle with a brass point that is sharper than the traditional turbo circ.

These are Clover bamboo needles and they are my least favorites, though many love them!  As mentioned earlier, I’m not a fan of bamboo needles but the cables on these are so darned stiff.  I’ve steamed and even soaked these in warm water and they just will not unwind.  I have several pairs of these and all are the same.  No matter what I’m making with these, I never get very far and I give up and switch to something else.  I guess I keep hoping the cords will relax but so far, they have not.

There are also interchangeable needle sets where you get several lengths of cable and can buy additional lengths and you get an entire set of different size needles.

Knit Picks has a “Try It” set shown above.  It contains two 24″ cables, and one set of tips in Harmony wood, nickel plated and Zephyr acrylic.  I’ve not tried my set but have heard just a few complaints about the cables coming free from the metal where it is attached after quite a bit of use.  That would not be good because you would lose your stitches!

Addi has an interchangeable set but lately I’ve been reading that folks have had a problem with the join not being smooth on the newer Addi sets.

The beauty of having an interchangeable set is that you have almost every size you could ever need.  Just to use the Addi set for an example, it comes with 10 different sizes of tips and 3 cable lengths, 24″, 32″ and 40″.  It sells for about $170.  One set of Addi circular needles sells for about $15.  For the 10 tips, if you bought those as individual cables, that would be $150.  But, that would only give you one length.   If I had one of every size in a 24″ length, I probably would not buy the 32″ but I might want a few popular sizes in the 40″ cable.  It wouldn’t take but a couple of extra sets to make the price of the whole set worth the cost.

Same thing with the Knit Picks Harmony wood Options set.  It comes with 9 tips and four cables (2 each in 24″ and 32″) and sells for about $85.  You can order additional 24″, 32″, 40″, 47″ or 60″ cables for $4.99 each.

In my opinion, the sets are a deal IF the joins are smooth and the cables stay connected.  I’m going to use my “Try It” set for a while and I will report back to you my feelings about it.

Comments

  1. 1

    Gail says

    I have the KnitPicks Harmony set of interchangeables and love them. I haven’t had any problems with the joins in the 2-3 years that I have been using them. I bought a few of the zephers to try and have to say that 1) I like the ‘feel’ of knitting with them, just the right slip and hold 2) I went cross-eyed and crazy from seeing a stitch through the clear needle and trying to knit through the needle. Apparently not everyone has this problem, but my eyes didn’t adapt to them. Maybe a larger size would work, I’ll have to try it again. Love Knit Picks, for just about everything.

  2. 2

    says

    Thanks for the tip. I have many old sets of Susan Bates circular needles. Mine are called “Silverado.” I just got one out, had been in the original package for a long time, and a brief soak in hot water stretched them enough to feel OK for me. I am knitting a diagonal baby blanket (free pattern from lion brand, but you need to register) and will end up with 207 stitches on size 8 needles, flat knitting (not knitting in the round).

    I am using a long cable, 40 inches. I get what I call an “undulation” in the cable when I turn the work, but I always manage to place it in the back, out of the way. Before I soaked in hot water, it was wound much tighter.

    Cris

  3. 3

    says

    I love the Knit Picks interchangeables. My only problem is that they don’t come in smaller–sock-knitting–sizes. I also have a set of HiyaHiya interchangeables because it begins with size 2 needles that I can use for knitting socks. The HH cables are pretty flexible and the join is good, but the needle part it pretty short for my largish hands. You can also buy HH cables and points separately if you can find a vendor(not that easy). I use both sets and like them both.

  4. 4

    Mary D says

    I have a few of the nickel plated fixed circs from Knit Picks and love them. I have been looking at the interchangable sets from KP but have not decided on which ones, I might have to get the ‘Try It’ set to help with my decision.

  5. 5

    Jo says

    For circs, I enjoy using the Addi turbos. I do have a couple of sets of KnitPicks Harmony, and am looking forward to trying them out. My experience with the interchangables is that they come undone…..

    But for socks, I recently purchased the ultimate in needles – a set of Signatures. This company has a very interesting story – they make precision instruments. These are REALLY pricy needles, but they are amazing! I like a good sharp point and they have a point called Stilleto. If you are looking for a decadent little present, this would be it! Gave a really good friend a set for socks as her Christmas gift – she said it was the best gift she received this year. They sell circs and straights, but I don’t see myself investing except as a very rare treat 🙂

  6. 6

    cindy Lubbert says

    i’m using the 9″ Hiya Hiya circulars for a sock – and so far I LOVE IT – will have to use double points when I turn the heel – then back to the circular – so far – so good…

    also – how many skeins of the Knit Picks Wool of the Andes did it take to make the HollyGrove scarf ??? i’m thinking of trying the new yarn at Knit Picks – Chroma – but not sure the changing colors would be all that good on the cable pattern – but it would definitely work well w/ the entralac pattern i’ve been doing over and over !!! 🙂

  7. 7

    Kristin says

    I have a few pair of Addi Turbos and I love them, but they are pricey, pricey. I started with Clover and don’t mind using bamboo. A friend told me about buying bamboo needles on eBay and I found U-nitt. You can’t beat the price and it’s so nice to have every size available. http://u-nitt.com/ I’ve gotten 16″ and 24″ circulars from them and 6″ DPN’s and a set of single points. Considering the price, I’ve been thrilled.

  8. 8

    says

    I’ve recently discovered Addi bamboo needles and they are wonderful. I never liked bamboo until I knitted with these. Nice sharp killer points, flexible cable, size written on needle. Pricey, but less than the other Addis.

    I also like Knit Picks, especially the fixed circs. I wish they made them in larger sizes.

  9. 9

    says

    Back in my Icelandic Sweater knitting days, I used to love the Boye Baleen circular needles. I think they’re actually pretty cheap, but I found them sturdy, smooth, quiet, and warm to the touch. Just enough grab to hold the yarn, but smooth enough to be able to slip the stitches off quickly. I think I still have some somewhere. Hmm, maybe I could use a new sweater!

  10. 10

    says

    I have Denise Interchangable circular set that I bought during a great sale at a yarn shop. I just used them for the first time. They are fine, but I love the feel of my Harmony Wood needles better, I just don’t happen to have Harmony circulars, only the straight sets. I prefer straight needles but I have a friend who doesn’t like straight ones and almost always knits on circulars. I guess it’s a to each his own on that subject. I just finished knitting a sock hat, my first, and my first time to use circular needles. I wasn’t sure what to do at the very end when I was decreasing and it became difficult to hold the needles in the position to move stitches from one needle to the other ond. I know an experienced knitter would know but I am not one and had to struggle to finish. I still have lots to learn about knitting and needles. but I discovered that I really love knitting a lot and will be continuing.

  11. 11

    says

    Can’t wait to hear how you like the KnitPicks interchangeable. Before I got my Boye interchangeables, I had thought about getting the KnitPicks set but saw all the complaints about the cable coming apart.

  12. 12

    Kat says

    Referring to an earlier blog you posted about things you don’ know: I am not a knitter but I have come across the term circular needles several times while reading a book. It’s nice to know what they actually are. Nothing at all like I pictured.

  13. 13

    says

    I also love circular knitting needles! When I was little I was obsessed with Nikki Epstein because she wrote the Barbie knitting book… anyway, I read in an interview that she uses Addi and insisted on my own set! I have been using Addis for so many years that I don’t think buying the interchangeable set would pay off for me. Most of my projects are #4-#8 anyway.

  14. 14

    Kelly says

    I just got an email from Dream Weavers that their interchangeable sets are on sale so I did a search to see if the Knit Picks Harmony sets have ever gone on sale. I’ve read the posts above and I’m very surprised that no one has commented on the Susan Bates Velocity circular needles. I absolutely love them! I equate them to Addis but incredibly affordable in comparison. The biggest down side is that they only come in one length – 29″; I was very excited recently that they’d added sizes 1-5. I have a couple sets of Harmony circulars and love them too – the points are great. A friend in one of my knitting groups knits a lot of lace and recently purchased the Signature circulars – she absolutely adores them. They’re crazy expensive so they definitely aren’t in my immediate future!

  15. 15

    says

    I’d read a bit about Addi-turbo needles so when my son went to Germany I requested a set. About $75 but the cost of the flight and 3 weeks there….a bit prohibitive. I really like the cable and the feel of the needles but found that I could not use them with all yarn, they are not pointy enough for fine yarn and they only go down to size 4. So my plan to never buy another needle did not work. 🙂