Interchangeable needle sets are a staple in the pantry of most serious knitters. The hitch: there are about as many sets out there as there are knitting preferences, and they're not cheap! So, we are here to try to make the decision easier for anyone pondering taking the plunge.
In a perfect world, you would by law be gifted a set of interchangeable needles when you go to start your first project on circular needles! However, the usual truth is that it is at the moment you are buying the umpteenth needle that you are sure you already own but not sure you can find... THAT'S when you’ll be tempted to bite the bullet and invest in an interchangeable set. And, it's true, they can be a godsend.
- Projects like sweaters and hats often call for several different needle sizes for different parts of the garment - not just the needle, but also the length of the cord. Interchangeable needle sets quickly cut down on the need to buy multiple needles for the same project because you're using the same tips and cords, just in different combinations.
- Interchangeable sets make swatching for gauge SO MUCH EASIER (and potentially cheaper!). You will almost always have on hand the full range of sizes to try. This encourages you to do a gauge swatch (always do a gauge swatch!) and decreases unnecessary needle purchases. Especially since most needles, like ours, are non-returnable it's nice not to have to purchase needles for swatching that you won't end up needing.
- Traveling with an interchangeable set can make life easier. Whatever unexpected wrinkle life throws at you, you'll be ready. And if you happen to run into a cranky TSA agent you can easily and quickly take off the tips (though they may make you throw them out in some countries) and keep your project safely secure on the cord alone.
- Most sets are easy to customize and add on to by purchasing additional cords, tips, and accessories.
- Interchangeable sets are expensive. While the combined value is many times that of individual needles, it's still a big one-time investment.
- They also have, inevitably, some additional texture in the join between tip and cord compared to a high-quality fixed circular.
What's Out There?
Friends, there is about any size, style, and brand of needle you could want available in an interchangeable! We carry Hiya Hiya and Addi and, within each of those brands, you still have a number of choices on styles of needles themselves.
What Type Should You Get?
Now we are getting down to brass tacks. What to get depends, as usual, on your own needle preferences.
- Brand - Start with a brand that you particularly like. (Or rule out brands you know you dislike.)
- Material - Next look at the options available. Metal? Wood? No wrong answers here, just preferences!
- Tip Length - This is a big one. Be warned that 5" long needle tips cannot make a 16" needle to make a hat. The longer tips just doesn’t leave room for enough cord to make a functional 16” needle. So, knit lots of hats? Go with a set that has shorter 4” tips. Or, do you hold your needles such that shorter tips make you want to tear your hair out? Definitely stick with those 5”-ers. You can always buy individual tips that work for a specific project, but buy what you love and will use most for the main set.
- Tip Point - Regular or sharp? If you're going with metal, most brands offer both. Wood needles don't tend to be as sharp because that would make the tips too fragile.
Here's an overview of the interchangeable sets that we carry:
- Hiya Hiya - This set has excellent versatility. It features three base sizes (sock, small, and large), with which you can create a larger range of total needles. The sock base fits US 0, 1, and 1.5 tips; the small base fits US 2-8 needle tips; US 9-15 needle tips have a larger base. Adapters (sold separately) allow you to put larger needles on to smaller cords. Other than that, all the parts work together so you can mix and match easily among the styles below.
- Bamboo - textured, easy to hold, good for slippery yarns. Pick between 4" or 5" tips, and small (US 2-8) or large (US 9-15).
- Steel - smooth and sturdy. Pick between regular or sharp tips, 4" or 5" tips, and small (US 2-8) or large (US 9-15).
- Deluxe Set of sizes 2-15 - contains both small and large sizes, available in Sharp only.
- Sock Set - contains the special smallest sock cord base to make sizes US 0, 1, and 1.5, as well as an adapter to use US 2 and 2.5 tips.
Addi Click - German engineering at its best, featuring a lifetime warranty.
The Addi Click family of interchangeable needle sets is the only complete system which provides a patented click-in tip that will never come unscrewed while knitting. No tools are required to make a quick tip change and the motion is similar to opening a pill bottle; simply insert the cord firmly into the tip, twist and release.
Twistedista Thoughts On Both
On Hiya Hiya: Twistedista Dawn went with the 4" Small Sharp Metal set partly on price- they are cheaper than the Addis- and partly because they offer the most flexibility. For every additional needle tip you want to buy, you have 6 different types to choose from! And if you like a sharp needle, these are the sharpest we carry in the store.
On Addi: Twistedista Emily has the Add Rocket short-tip set. She says she's been pleased that the needle/cord connection has never failed mid-project and, even with mild arthritis, she has never had any trouble putting them together or taking them apart. Emily knits a lot of hats, so the short-tip set that allows for a 16" needle was best for her. She does note that, personally, she prefers the ultra sleek hardly-there join of a fixed circular... even the tiny ridge of an interchangeable bugs her sometimes. BUT she says she couldn't survive without an interchangeable set around as a backup and gauge tool. Aaaaaaand this, my friend, is why that woman has ten bajillion needles...
The Bottom Line?
An interchangeable needle set is definitely an investment. And once you start down the path with one brand, it's hard to switch. No needle set is cheap and they rarely go on sale, however they can ultimately be a money-saver AND a way easily keep your needles organized. Also, for real, you can never have too many needles... ;)