Cheap Circular Knitting Needles – Say No!

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Miss P recently blogged about her latest knitting revelation – that it’s worth investing in good wool. I couldn’t agree more and wanted to add my own four penn’worth. Avoid cheap circular knitting needles at all costs!

When I had to frog back my Miette cardigan at Christmas, my festive knitting sanity was saved by Mum lending me a pair of her circular needles in a size bigger. Now, don’t get me wrong – I was very grateful to my mother and carried on knitting all through Christmas. But, jeez. Those needles. Even after weeks of use, they refused to give up the rigid bends in the plastic strand, see picture above. Where the needle points meet the strand there is the most heinous angle to get your knitting around:

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I finally ran out of patience last week and ordered a duplicate pair in bamboo from Clover. My work’s transferred over now. So much nicer to work with, so much more relaxed, a barely discernible join between needle and tube.

There are some things I won’t spend money on. Clothes covered in designer logos. Energy drinks. There are some things I will spend money on. Decent knitting supplies and good coffee.

What about you?

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69 Responses to Cheap Circular Knitting Needles – Say No!

  1. gmariesews says:

    Oh good topic – won’t spend money on ~ gym memberships. I’m with you on the wills ~ good knitting and sewing supplies and a lovely meal. g

  2. Sam says:

    Cheap circular knitting needles are the pits! As you’ve discovered. I love my Knit Pro Symfonie interchangables. Lovely to knit with and pretty too!

  3. Cheap thread is a false economy in my book, I’d rather pay more for decent stuff that doesn’t snap or twist in knots. I’m with you on spending money on good coffee, also good tea (Taylor’s of Harrogate), proper Sellotape, Heinz ketchup and well fitting bras! x

  4. kokorimbaud says:

    Just as with sewing, I resurrected my knitting mojo after many years of neglect, and so didn’t have any of my old gear left. And not knowing how hard the bug would bite, I was not inclined towards spending a huge amount of money on my first project(s).
    So I got a collection of needle sizes from ebay – and they had the same issue you experienced, the bends in the cables would not budge, no matter what (I even tried to soak them in hot water, which did help a teensy bit).
    Then I discovered my love for lace knitting, and treated myself to a pair of Addi Lace needles – Oh.Em.Gee. The Bliss!
    Or, in shorter words – I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Zoe says:

    I agree that good circular needles make such a difference: I’d have Addi turbos in every size if I could. But in a pinch, cheap circs can be made more friendly by dipping the rigid cable in boiling water and straightening it out. It does make them a bit better.

    Also worth spending money on a good coat, bag and shoes; good writing paper and good coffee.

  6. Ursula says:

    You can also straighten them by pulling them over your ironing board, put a cloth on top and heat them up with your iron. Sometimes I do that when they’ve been kept in a confined space for too long.

  7. Erin Cumming says:

    I just started a learn to knit class where two pairs of these needles were supplied. Our teacher informed us that she had soaked them in boiling/hot water for us so they would soften up and loose their kinked-up shape from being in their packaging. They seem to work fine for me (although as a beginner, I don’t know any better) 😉

  8. Portia says:

    Maybe that’s what put me off circulars in favour of DPs! The one I was using was exactly like the offending set in your photo and those were my issues too. Perhaps it’s time I tried again….

  9. grtescp says:

    I have a fancy circular needle, where you can change needles and wire for different sizes, but they have come disconnected at least once, half way through every project I have made on them to date… they drive me crazy!

    • Sewingjen says:

      If these are the lovely Knit Pro interchangeable circular ones, are you tightening them before beginning? They are supplied with a little metal tool. This is meant to tighten the tip onto the flexible cable, by inserting into the small hole on the metal shaft of the needle. Then twist the needle one way adm the tool the other way. It tightens the tip. You can also “tweak” this throughout your knitting. This should help

      • grtescp says:

        Yes – my needle has the metal tool – and a hole – on one end, not the other! The end with the hole that I tighten never falls apart, the other end falls apart every time! I do ask myself if there is a “direction” I should be using them in, and maybe I am using them back to front?? I am a complete knitting beginner, and just jumped straight into the deep end with no training or real knowledge of what I am doing 🙂

      • Sewingjen says:

        Not sure I can help you as all Knitpro cables have the hole on the metal part of the flexible cable, into which you insert the small tool to tighten. Sorry I may have misled you as I previously said the hole was on the tip! There is no wrong way to knit with Knitpro.

      • Carol S. says:

        and get a really tight twist by holding the side withouth the hole with a piece of rubber like a rubber band. The extra grip really makes a difference

  10. Elena says:

    The cheap needles are also more likely to break at the join. The last time this happened to me I was halfway through a top-down sweater–stitches everywhere but on the cord!
    Some other things worth spending money on: bras, shoes, and mayonnaise.

    • Faith says:

      I’m making a blanket and my knitting needles snapped at the joint. They keep doing that and I can’t find ones to get that don’t

  11. twotoast says:

    I love Knit PIcks Options. They are the best that I’ve used. The cables are soft and flexible and the joints are smooth. I use them for shawls and socks and having knit well over 100 pairs of socks, they are my preference! I think some yarn shops now stock them in the UK. Not sure what price they would be for you, but Knit Picks sells them for $6. Addi Turbos are also OK but three times the price! If you would like some KP 2.5mm circulars (for sock knitting) let me know and I’ll send them over (I have rather a few!)

    • Molly says:

      Knit Picks are branded as Knit Pro over here. I get mine from Woolstack which is one of the cheapest suppliers around and do free postage over a fairly low amount. I nearly always end up buying more cables with my needles because I have so many sat in half finished knitting projects! I’ve been happily using their Symfonie range but thinking of getting some metal tips too as I’m starting to get friction burn!

  12. Pat says:

    You are absolutely right – you should use the best needles you can afford. You spend a lot of time handling them so you might as well have good tools. Cheap circulars are the work of the devil! I like KnitPro Symfonie and Addi Turbos because the cables are lovely and flexible and the joins are really smooth. Not a big fan of interchangeables – too fiddly for me.

  13. I probably splurge more than I should, but most definitely on good coffee, nice yarn, good interfacings, and locally made vodka. I skip designer purses and brand-new cars. I’d say my interchangable circular needles are middle-of-the-road. Someday i’ll upgrade, but in the meantime, so long as my yarn is nice, they are adequate to do the job without making me crazy.

  14. Lisette says:

    I got a pair once at a thrift store that were all metal! Where it became the flexible loop part was like twisted metal rope. They’re really neat and I’ve never seen another pair like them since. I prefer DPNs just because the plastic circulars drive me crazy and I’ve never made anything big enough to need circulars.

  15. Helen Made says:

    I completely agree with you – the plastic ones like in your picture above never lose their kinks! Total nightmare.

  16. Sewingjen says:

    I also agree, why spoil the pleasure of knitting with lovely (expensive) yarn just for the sake of a few pounds. You will have the needles forever and it makes the process of creation so much nicer! I say buy the best you can afford!
    May I also add that you should apply that to buying a sewing machine and tools!

  17. Sabs says:

    I try not to spend my money on anything, ha ha! But I will spend my money on fruit and veg from our local fruit-and-veg-man (that’s what I call him anyway), good quality M&S underwear and cat treats! Definitely don’t do brand names, except for maybe electrical goods.

  18. colleen says:

    Absolutely. I just spent a fortune on multiple skeins of Madeline Tosh wool because I am making a sweater out of same and it is the most wonderful fun knitting. Also: needles. I have a zillion pairs of bamboo, mostly, needles in all flavors, straight up, double pointed, circular of all lengths. I’ve also inherited a zillion more sizes from my mother. Still, I’ve noticed that whenever I start a new project I inevitably don’t have either the size needle or the right size cord and have to buy, yet again. So….I just spent 70.00 on a needle kit, the Dreamz kit to be exact. I LOVE IT. The needles are very glossy wood and so pretty and smooth. The only problem thus far is that the needles will slowly unscrew as the project is underway and I’m learning to always check for that. Otherwise, I’m in love waiting desperately for my new Tosh wool to get here so I can use my new needles for new project, specifically this sweater:

    http://www.purlbee.com/the-purl-bee/2012/5/3/lauras-loop-cap-sleeve-lattice-top.html

  19. 5currantbuns says:

    Knitpro interchangeables are my poison of choice or Addi Turbo…rarely need any intervention…Addi turbos if you don’t need to extend cable

    Other needles may need soaking in hot water to improve flexibility…

    However any tool is worth it if you are able to keep going for a short time

    Good yarn pays dividends. like good fabric…but it does depend on what you are making…for example children have usually grown past the size you’ve knitted before the cons of knitting in plastic wool become an issue…

  20. I don’t knit much but I sell gorgeous alpaca merino yarn, and the ladies who make the yarn said to me, only buy good circular needles with a nice smooth join, this brand here! So, I did. And they are dear. I hate that part. I tell every knitter that comes in about how lovely bamboo is to knit with – its perfect combo of slide and friction giving you control and ease. But I find the older knitters in particular are so used to ropey grey plastic, they won’t spend the extra. Having said that, we sell three times as many bamboo needles as metal or plastic ones.
    As for me, good coffee, YES. Good fabric only, I won’t wear unbreathy things that pill so I won’t sew them, easy. Good thread – my machine refuses to sew with overlocker thread anyway even if I wanted to – and good scissors. Not necessarily expensive, but SHARP – my home ones are, but in the studio we use Mondial 660’s, a good basic scissor, and keep a sharpener there too so they always have a nice edge and no nicks.Life’s too short!

  21. RosyJess says:

    Have you tried soaking the needles in very hot water? That has always worked for me, as the bamboo and wood versions give me horribly sore wrists and I can’t use them. Sob. They look terribly pretty! I’ve also heard (but never tried) that you can steam the kinks out. Desperate times, I suppose…

  22. gingermakes says:

    I’m with you– good needles make knitting much more comfortable and speedy. I started out with a cheap set from eBay, and several of those have broken (always at a really inopportune time) or the join is rough and it snags the yarn.

    As far as other things go, I don’t like to spend a lot of money, but I firmly believe in spending more on a good haircut. Life is too short to have perpetually bad hair! Plus, a good haircut grows out nicely, so you can go longer between trims. 🙂

  23. zozo says:

    I agree with you about good coffee, the best coffee of th day is the first one so it might as well be a good one. Start th day right

  24. alibobs says:

    Yup, totally agree. I have a lovely set of Hiya Hiya interchangeables that are such a joy to knit with. They were very scary to buy but such a good investment.

  25. Roobeedoo says:

    I love my set of Denise interchangeable circular needles, though they occasionally disconnect and cause me traumas!
    I am gradually coming round to the idea that it is worth buying “posh” wool for big projects. I previously economised on big things while spending a lot on single-skeins for smaller things. How does that make any sense?! All those single skeins added up to big £s and my big projects didn’t stand up to wear and tear. Silly!

    • LinB says:

      Oh! My Denise needles also constantly unplug themselves! It’s annoying in the extreme. I tend to snap bamboo needles, at least, the little ones. Must be a too-vigorous knitter … though, in my defense, the 3-inch long size 1 bamboo doublepoints were not much bigger than toothpicks. With which I have also knitted. Ditto jackstraws (does anyone else remember playing jackstraws? I am older than dirt, and perhaps children don’t play this ancient game anymore). The toothpicks were dreadful, too rough for the yarn to slide across, too small to sand. The jackstraws are lovely, smooth and well-oiled by all the wool that has passed over them. Well, the wooden jackstraws are lovely. The plastic jackstraws are nasty, brittle monsters.

      • Molly says:

        I can snap bamboo US 7s with ease so no bamboo for me either! I’ve always been impressed at how secure my KnitPro (KnitPicks) interchangeables are – as long as I’ve tightened them correctly with the tool. Skip that step and there’s trouble! I do find with the finer needles they can lean towards wanting to undo, even when fastened correctly.

  26. kaitui_kiwi says:

    Coffee too 🙂 Good pins, they are sharper and finer, scissors and also sewing thread – The cheap stuff looks ok but the fluff is so bad for your machine. A little bit more $ and it’s easier to hand sew with and also for unpicking. I do use cheaper thread on my overlocker because it eats anything plus you can clean the tension discs easily and I haven’t found any difference in quality when I’ve spent more.

  27. Rhi says:

    This is quite a timely post for me, I’ve been researching different brands of circs today! I’ve just finished a jumper on my Pony 2.75mm needles and it’s been so annoying, every few stitches the yarn catches on the join and I have to scrape the stitches across. I’ve enjoyed making the jumper (my first on such a small gauge) but have been so frustrated by the needles that I really think it’s worth spending a bit more money and getting ones that’ll make knitting that bit more enjoyable.
    I’m undecided as to whether I should get a set of interchangables, but the sizes they come in are usually bigger than what I need for the next jumper I want to do, so I think I’m just going to buy a couple of decent fixed circs and have done with it for now.

    I generally don’t like spending money on anything, but I’m trying to break that a little bit since coming to uni because I’m realising that certain things (shoes, coats, socks, knitting supplies…) are just false economy when you buy them cheaply. And these are all the things I use often, so it’s well worth it really. On the other hand, I won’t spend much on one off things like fancy dresses or whatever, simply because I just don’t get enough use out of them to warrant it.

  28. Amanda says:

    I’m still working on my first real project (lovely herringbone cowl) and it is on circular needles and after a couple of months they still have bends in the plastic. I thought this was normal. And am so glad to hear it is not. Come pay day I am ordering some new ones!

  29. Alice says:

    I love Addi Turbo circulars and Addi Lace are fantastic for lace projects. I don’t drink coffee but I love to eat good chocolate!

  30. andresue says:

    I always try to talk new knitters into investing in a good pair of circular needles… My first foray into knitting with cheap inflexible cables almost made me give it up because it was such a pain.

  31. hannybobbins says:

    Being able to knit, sew or craft generally is a treat so I think it is important to have the ‘bits’ to make it feel as special as you can. I’m very new to knitting but love the knit picks circular needlesas have been mentioned already so ofen. They are just so beautiful! Shame the stuff that comes off them isn’t as beautiful but I’m still learning and one way knitting trumps sewing is you can just rip it out and start again good as new!

  32. sewbusylizzy says:

    My mother always told me if you are going to spend time making something then it’s worth having good quality tools and materials – this coming from the world’s most economical person! It’s great advice and I never feel bad about buying quality fabric, wool or supplies. The hours of work deserve a great result.

  33. huggiebaby says:

    TOTES has to be bamboo circulars. But then I use circulars for all my projects. The more you use them the better they get as they get all nice ‘n’ smooth from use. I’ve tried many different makes and they have all been fine. One thing I found is I don’t like interchangeable ones; the yarn always gets stuck or it comes undone which is a total pain.
    I hate artificial fabric cue spending money of nice yarn and Jigsaw clothes.

  34. Lizzie says:

    Agree with the comments above regarding the KnitPro interchangeable needles, they are great and never have an issue with them falling apart. Other things I am happy to spend money on: scissors, fabric, shoes and decent pizza.

  35. Colleen says:

    Amen, sister. I have some cheaper Red Heart, Susan Bates, and Aero circular needles. I knit with them, but they kind of drive me nuts. I far prefer my Skacel, Addi Turbo, and Inox needles, particularly the first two.

  36. Jenny says:

    I love my bamboo circular needles, I use them all the time – including for straight knitting as the work can sit comfortably in your lap so takes the weight off your arms and wrists.

  37. shivani says:

    I’m a believer of the old “buy cheap buy twice” adage. So I’m prepared to spend a bit more for tools (and that includes knitting needles!), shoes, jeans and knitwear. And I think it makes a real difference. I also won’t buy cheap fabric or yarn, because in the past I’ve done so and then not wanted to wear the finished item: so I’d rather spend a bit more to have something that I’d love wearing. And while they don’t fit in with the “buy cheap buy twice” saying, I will pay more for better quality choclate, tea, bread and veggies.

  38. LLADYBIRD says:

    I use the Denise interchangeable needles, and I like them fine enough – having all the sizes to swap out is super convenient! The only thing I don’t like about them is how stiff the cable can be, but I guess that’s to be expected with interchangeables. I recently bought some lovely circulars at my local shop, bamboo with a very flexible cable – and I can magic loop on them! Yay! I agree that nicer needles are well worth the investment.

    As far as what I won’t skimp on (aside from sewing and knitting supplies, because eeeeyouuuuuu haha), that would be toilet paper, coffee, shoes and good cheese. I’m ok with cheaping out on most beauty/hair goods, except for liquid eyeliner. lipstick, and conditioner.

  39. Mary says:

    I don’t buy cheap knitting needles at all anymore. The join has to be smooth and the cable, if its a circular needle, must be supple. Fave finds that work for me include Hiya Hiya metal or bamboo, Knitpicks Harmony metal or bamboo, and Crystal Palace bamboo. Also don’t stint on scissors, thread, or coffee.

  40. Clio says:

    Oh. If only I had read this post yesterday! It would have saved me from a very frustrating commute this morning – I cast on a new project with new (very cheap) circular needles. I was cursing a blue streak by the time I made it to the office and vowing to buy bamboo dpn’s at lunchtime.

  41. Jane says:

    Good quality thread and scissors, and loose green tea with jasmine.

    Just to let you know, I’ve nominated you for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers award.

  42. Lisa says:

    Agreed! I use Addi-Turbo needles & won’t look back! 🙂

  43. tracy says:

    i decided a few months ago that i was big enough and old enough to try circular needles, i bought some horrific cheap ones from ebay, and cursed and swore my way through a cowl (which was ok when it was finished)and i could’nt see what the fuss was about using circulars! i then bought some lovely bamboo ones and yep i get it now! i’ve just started cast on for my first Miette.
    Sewing thread, knitting needles, teabags, digestives and ketchup cannot be stinted on!

  44. susew says:

    Oh yes I have one set of circular needles like that and hate them. Most of my circular needles came to me from my grandmother. What a revelation when I put out the money for Addis- what a joy to knit with.

  45. I’m definitely guilty of being a knitting needle snob!! I highly recommend the KnitPro interchangeable needles – all sizes and lengths in one perfectly portable pouch! And I just love the rainbow colour of the wood.

  46. Hate hate hate cheap knitting needles! And I admit: I personally can’t deal with Clovers either, and I don’t like much-loved Addis (I hate the cables, too stiff). My absolutely favorite to date are ChiaGoo red lace needles. OMG they are just fantastic. Metal (which I prefer) but not too slick (which some people don’t like about metal) fancy schmancy red cables and peeeerfect joins. I will never look back.

    I try to never buy bottled water unless I absolutely have to. Makes me crazy spending money on water!

  47. The best advice I ever received was to buy the best quality loo paper and bath soap you could afford (and perhaps a shade better, because of what it saves in medical expenses having to buy salves and unguents and whatnots to cure those nasty rashes caused by the cheap products). That aside, yes, has to be good coffee and, in my world, good tea. Also, good olive oil and good wine (because life is too short to drink bad wine, right?). Other things can be brought up to speed by various infusions of any or all of those.

    I have what are probably cheap, fixed circulars – Aero and Birch – in a variety of sizes and lengths. I can’t say any problems I’ve had with them have related to their quality but then again, if I ever used anything that most folk would consider better, I might well change my mind. Having said that, part of the reason I have the needles I have relates also to availability: I’ve gone out with the intention of purchasing bamboo needles and been unable to find any in the requisite sizes (I always need them yesterday, so there’s no point purchasing online for immediate use; and then the crisis is over, so what’s the diff?).

    To be truthful, I suppose I tend to be one of the school that’s grateful to have needles that aren’t chipped and crooked (although, if you could see my set of DPN UK 14s – with which I knitted fishermen’s guernseys many, many years ago – you might wonder why I still have them; they are so crooked now that I can barely get them back in their packet). They’re not chipped, though, and they still work.

    • Molly says:

      I must agree on the loo paper, that’s one thing I refuse to skimp on! And while coffee has to be good, actually I manage very well on cheap supermarket ordinary black tea – a necessity with the amount I drink every day or I’d be bankrupt very quickly. But I never drink tea from a cardboard, plastic or polystyrene cup or a branded coffee shop, it tastes so wrong. I do enjoy indulging myself with Chai or Assam or Lapsang Souchong every now and then…

      • Ah, I’m really a coffee drinker most of the time. But tea is making a comeback in my life because YoungB’s girlfriend is a serious tea-drinker. Specialist chai, super extra dooper jasmine teas with instructions for making carefully – I’ve had to buy a new infuser! (My Dad, when hospitalised after being badly burnt in 1983’s Ash Wednesday bushfires, may well have been the only patient in the very large public hospital to have his own special cup and saucer – bone china. Tea from that rubbish crockery the hospital provided? Never!) My pedigree is good even if come off the rails now and then! 🙂

  48. Claire S. says:

    Same experience as you over Christmas. 🙂

    Traveled with my ‘on-needle’ projects. While packing I decided to NOT take the Addi-Click interchangeable set (I had my projects, so no need for the set – HA ! famous last words LOL)

    My friend asked me to show him how to make fingerless mitts. We wouldn’t be there long enought to teach him either circs or DPNs so I volunteered to do them> We went shopping for yarn – and, you guessed it – I needed a darned needle ! Bought a cheapie circ (although not inexpensive at $10) and knit the mitts, cursing throughout. Will never buy another one. In hindsight, while the shop did not have spares for my addis, they did have KnitPicks and I could have picked up a cable and just the needle tips I wanted. It would have been more expensive but it would have been worth it ! Don’t know where my brain was – you should see how thick the cable is on the cheapie. Practically a rope compared to the addi or knitpick cables – oh well, live and learn – the hard way apparently 🙂

  49. bagqueen says:

    Im with you all the way, especially needles, knitting is a pleasurable pasttime so using tools that spoil that pleasure seems pointless to me!! I just wish I could find one set of needles that does all jobs! but sadly I seem to prefer a variety for different tasks!!

  50. Becky says:

    Sorry you had such a terrible time with the needles.Plastic circular needles can be straightened by placing them in a sink of VERY hot water. This softens the plastic and you can then pull them straightwith your fingers. Hold them taught until they cool. It may take several tries but this usually works for me.

  51. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the tip! I just took up knitting and needed size 19 (metric 15) circulars for my first project. The only set I could find quickly was from Boye and the cord was just like the one you showed. Such a pain! Then, I saw this post before I bought my needles for my third project and went straight for the Clover bamboo. I agree, much nicer 🙂

    As for what I’m willing to spend more money on: closet staples, “tools” (sewing, cookware, etc), fabric, tea, and vodka come to mind.

  52. I spend on undies, perfume, a fountain pen, and a hairbrush, but my car is 14 years old, my not-handmade clothing is thrifted, and I found my sewing machine abandoned in shrubbery.

  53. Pingback: Miette Cardigan | Did You Make That?

  54. Wendy lyon says:

    I have several pairs of red heart circular needles, but I can’t see a size written on them anywhere,,,,,how am I to know which size is which?

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