Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Needles, Needles, Needles

I quite firmly believe that if you are going to invest a large amount of time and energy into something you feel passionately about than you should invest in the best possible tools that you can afford.  Much as we would sometimes like to believe otherwise, the end results DO depend on the materials that you use. 

I was also raised to believe that it was better to have one really nice (fill in the blank) that would last than to have multiple cheap (fill in the blank) that would fall apart with little use.  It's all connected...quality matters. 

Where am I going with this?  Well, to state the obvious, my knitting needles are a very important part of my life. Back in 2003, when knitting became my primary hobby/craft/art form, I spent some time testing out the various types of needles on the market to see which worked best for me.  Ultimately, I decided to invest some serious money into building a complete set of Addi Turbo original circulars, and I have never regretted that decision. 
Then Came The Princess.

I did the border with a standard 2.0 mm, 24 inch addi circular.  At only 20-30 stitches wide, this wasn't a problem at all.  The stitches stayed on the needle tip and I never had to worry about moving them back and forth over the join. 

This changed when I picked up the 865 stitches along one side of the edging to do the feather border.  It quickly became apparent that the joins on my needles were not at all smooth enough to handle that quantity of wee tiny stitches made from wee tiny yarn. 

I did two things.  First, I ordered a set of 2.0 mm needles from The Gossamer Web on Etsy.  Then I went to a local yarn shop and bought a set of 2.0 mm addi turbo lace needles.  What followed was mostly chronicled in this blog post about facing my worst possible with the Princess

What I should also add is that after I fixed the mistake I continued to work with the addi lace needles until it became blaringly obvious that the metal in the needles was reacting to my hands and was blackening both the knitting and my hands.  This was not entirely unexpected.  When the addi lace needles were first released I tried them...and had the exact same thing happen.  At the time there were reports that this wasn't that uncommon, that there had perhaps been a manufacturing problem with the first few batches.  Problem or not, I returned all of the lace needles I had purchased.  I had been completely grossed out by the tarnishing needles, and couldn't imagine what horrors that tarnish could cause in the yarn.  I noticed 'grunge' showing up on the Princess right before the break happen, but thought maybe I had just not washed my hands well.  When the problem didn't go away but got worse, and when I had black streaks show up on my hands where they came into contact with the needles I knew it wasn't a fluke.  Lucky me, my body chemistry hates the addi lace needles. 

So I transferred the needles to the Gossamer Web needles.  Let me say first of all that the joins are beautiful.  I was STUNNED when the needles slid back and forth from cable to needle tip with absolutely no problem at all.  The bamboo was smoother than I expected, which was very nice, and the tips were very pointy indeed.  It lasted only a few rows, though.  The big problem was the actual cable.  I think perhaps it was a tad wider than the 2.0 mm needles, and it was most certainly made of a very 'sticky' plastic.  While I had no problems sliding the yarn over the joins getting them there was a nightmare.  (My guess is that on the bigger needle sizes this isn't a problem at all.)  Quite literally the stitches were getting very stuck on those the point that I was actually worried that they were going to break.  Also, I couldn't get past the fragility of the needletips.  I felt like I was doing some fairly drastic compensating with my normal movements to make sure I didn't break a needle...and eventually that would have effected gauge. 

Fortuantely, the wonderful Bonnie of Blue Penninsula had made a suggestion in the comments of my last post on the subject.  She suggested Hiya Hiya stainless steel circulars.  I admit that at this point I was becoming a bit desperate and was also sceptical as h***.  However, I ordered a set from The Loopy Ewe, and waited patiently for them to arrive. 

Dear friends and family, I am in love.  The pointiness of the tips falls somewhere between the Gossamer Web bamboos and the addi lace needles.  The stainless steel is ever so slightly roughed up so that it's not quite as slick as the original addis, but it's nowhere near the annoying gripiness of the addi lace coating.  The important part, though, is that the joins are absolutely perfect.  I've literally cut 10-15 minutes of knitting time off of each and every row because I no longer have to stop and coax the stitches over the joins.  This has made me a very, very happy knitter.  I've now done about 20 rows on the new needles, and so far the joins are holding up just fine.  While there isn't a lifetime guarantee on the Hiya Hiyas (and God Bless Addi Turbos for that guarantee!), they are about half the cost of my if I do have to occasionally replace them (which I'm starting to think I won't) than it's not going to be tragic.

So I'm back to happily working away on my Princess shawl....problem solved.  Now that the needle problem is fixed I'm cruising along at a really nice pace and am now about half way through the feather border.  (Which is 200 or so 865 stitches/row)  Pictures will come soon....promise!

I thought seriously about taking some comparison photos for this post....but given my camera it's really tough to get detail shots sometimes and we are talking about needles that are practically the size of toothpicks.  I know my own limitations!


Bonnie said...

I'm so happy the Hiya Hiyas are working out for you. I would have felt terrible if you hated them!

Shelda said...

Very interesting! I've been wondering about those needles, and figuring if Loopy carries them, there must be a reason why ;)