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.