Saturday, 26 October 2013

Ally Pally and Choosing Knitting Needles

Well I've had an action packed couple of weeks which included a trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace - worth a trip even just to admire the grand architecture of the building set in extensive Parkland with views across to the city's be-gerkined skyline. But that of course wasn't the main attraction for those attending the show, and there was plenty on offer to feast the eyes on or indeed relieve the pocket :)

My mission on this occasion was to buy some more knitting needles to extend my range of sizes, but also to consider some new options. I gave up the long straights a number of years ago in favour of using Knit Pro Symfonie interchangeable wooden circulars for a number of reasons:
  • I have  recurrent tendon 'issues' and a touch of carpel tunnel syndrome so circulars are a more comfortable option as it reduces strain caused by the weight and 'leverage' of the long straights. The actual knitting rests on your lap, thus further relieving your hands and wrists of the weight.
  • For similar reasons I favour wood which is kinder on the joints & tendons than metal, but I also just prefer the feel of wood over metal.
  • Circulars are great for knitting in transit as they take up less space (to the relief of the person seated next to you), and also if you drop your needle it can't roll away down the length of the carriage thus avoiding the embarrassment of having to do an ungainly duck dive to rummage under the other passengers' seats to retrieve it - not that that's ever happened to me of course (cough cough!).
  • They are pretty and a gal's gotta have some knitting bling right? 
  • If you have 80cm length cords you don't need dpns as you can use the Magic loop technique, so you really can knit anything with these needles.

We have all heard the old adage 'a bad worksman always blames his tools', and whilst many a good crafts woman can work with less, life really is made much easier if you have good quality tools, and the right ones for the job. I have been increasingly working with fine yarns and like many knitters, have been enjoying the resurgence in more traditional  skills such as lace knitting so had been deliberating over getting some lace needles. What are lace needles I hear you ask? They are much like other needles except you have a longer, pointier tip, the purpose of which is to make stitch manoeuvres that often feature in lace patterns (such as knitting several stitches together, passing slip stitches over, or knitting through the back loops) a lot easier. you don't have to have special needles to knit lace but pointier tips definitely make this an easier and therefore more pleasurable experience. Also lace needles are not just for knitting lace - they are great for all types of knitting.
The picture to the left should hopefully show the difference comparing these to 'ordinary' needle tips - From left to write, 3mm knit Pro Symfonie; 2.5mm Addi lace fixed circular, 3mm Knit Pro Karbonz, bamboo ordinary straight 3mm, metal vintage size 11 (3mm).

As you can see the the ordinary needles are  less sharp, and I think the Knit Pro Symfonie & Karbonz tips are very much akin to the Addi lace. The difference looks fairly subtle but the effects are significant. You don't have to have special needles to knit lace but pointier tips definitely make this an easier and therefore more pleasurable experience.

I've been more than happy with my Knit Pro interchangeables, but as with all sets of interchangeables they only start from a 3mm and I needed finer for some projects I have in mind. You can get from 2mm in fixed circulars, but although I love the wood I find they tend to break easily. So I have tried an Addi Lace fixed circular, which does make for a smooth knit, and unlike other metal needles I have used previously they feel warmer to the touch and are less 'clanky'. There is a lot to commend them, as you can see in this review, however the Knit Pros continue to compare favourably. Having read this needle review by West Sussex blogster Sarah Knight of Crafts from the Cwtch I had been deliberating over acquiring a set of these Addi Click Long Lace needles.

However, they only range form a 3.5mm - 8mm, and I think my Knit Pros offer a more extensive size range. What is great about Addi's though is the needles and cables are clearly marked with the relevant sizes so you don't have to figure this out each time with a needle gauge or tape measure. Having said that Knit Pro have now started to mark the tips with the size, but the cords remain unmarked. This is no doubt something that they may well tweak in future. Another feature I like about the Addi's Click Long lace is the slit they have designed in the ends of the cords to aid in the placement of  life lines and, as with their fixed lace circulars, the cords feel exceptionally flexible. That said, I think the Knit Pro cords are really pretty close in terms of flexibility, and you can thread your lifeline through the little holes in the cable fittings that are designed for tightening with the little metal 'keys' - check out this video to see that in action.

I was able to have a look at these at the show, and although I was very tempted to buy a set, after much deliberation I just concluded I prefer the feel & lighter weight of wood over metal, and I have to say I think the stylish and sturdy case appealed to me as much as anything.

So I opted instead to try out some of the new Knit Pro Karbonz which are made from high-tech carbon fiber with tips in nickel plated brass. I'll let you know how I find them, but early 'tests' look promising. I doubt I'd replace my much loved Symfonies, but these may well offer a great solution for me for the finer sizes.

Whilst Knit Pros have many pros the con, if any, is that I do not like the case much and older sets do not have the size on them.What I really liked about the addi click set was I think the rather lovely case - but pink is not my colour  - so I'm on the lookout for the perfect interchangeable needle case that: also holds a number of fine fixed circulars; comes in a lovely shade of fresh green, teal, raspberry or purples; and that I can put custom labels on the pockets for sizes - not at all fussy then, am I? If you see anything that fits that description, please let me know - I would love to hear from you :-)

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