How to not break small knitting needles
March 17, 2018 2:23 AM   Subscribe

So far I have only used wooden needles for knitting. I recently began my first project with small needles (size 2) and promptly broke one of the needles. Should I consider metal needles, or is there some other way to protect the needles?

This particular project is a hat with lots of cables, but the needle actually broke while doing stockinette. The cables cause more strain on the needles and I can see them bend slightly, and I am afraid I will break another one. If it matters, I am using 47 inch circs with magic loop, and the yarn is fairly "sticky" wool.

Should I switch to metal, and if so do you have any particular recommendations? (Addi? Others?) Or do you have any other suggestions to avoid breaking more needles?

While I am at it: do you have any particular recommendations for metal cable needles? I like my u-shaped plastic cable needle, but I can feel it bend as well in the course of this particular project. Are the metal cable needles with a V-shape in the middle good? Are there metal u-shaped cable needles? If so I haven't found them.

posted by 2 cats in the yard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I use wooden needles for everything over 3mm, but smaller wooden needles are fragile twigs, so I switch to metal. I have 2.75mm Hiya Hiya for socks, and I love them. I hate making cables, though, so I can't recommend a brand, sorry.
posted by snakeling at 4:19 AM on March 17, 2018

Are they breaking while you’re knitting or when the project is in a bag (or whatever)? If they’re breaking during use you can try loosening up your tension. Bamboo needles will bend a lot before they break and they feel a lot like wood, but in my experience non-metal needles in those weights are basically a consumable product. Small steel needles will bend but not break, but they’re fine to use bent and you can usually mostly bend them back.

FWIW I use metal tip circulars for everything now. I usually cable without a needle or with a double-point needle for very large cables. It’s ok if cable needles get bent. I’ve seen U shape cable needles in metal at basic craft stores, maybe Susan Bates brand?
posted by mskyle at 4:34 AM on March 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

+1 for Hiya Hiya's metal DPNs for small sizes – I use them exclusively for socks and other projects using fine yarn. In my experience their interchangeable and fixed-tip circulars are also good value for the money; I actually prefer them to the more expensive Addis.

I use an extra DPN as a cable needle. If you want to go cable-needle-free, there's always cabling without a cable needle, which works especially well with "sticky" yarns.
posted by notquitejane at 4:46 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a set of carbon fiber size 1.5 dpns that I use for thicker sock yarns like jitterbug and Patons Kroy. I love these needles. Because I am on a budget and knitting from stash and not buying new needles, for thinner sock yarns I use bamboo size 1. If I lose or break a needle I make a Franken-set with leftover needles from last breakage/loss incidents. My motto is never throw away a dpn.

For knitting in the round I use only metal now. I have never even looked to see if there are carbon fiber circular tips. I have a pretty good size collection of Hiya Hiya and Addi. My Addi needles are old enough that I’ve worn the finish off most of them where I hold/rub the needles. I understand they changed the needles a while back to make that harder to do. Something about the ph of my hands

As for cable needles, in order of preferences, I prefer to cable without one, there are YouTube tutorials for that. Next I will use whatever dpn I have nearby that is close-ish to the right size. The. I like the wooden cable needles made by Brittany (do they even still make them?) then the metal straight ones with a little dip. Finally, I actively dislike the fish hook looking ones. I’ll isenthem and I won’t fonplain about it for a large cable.
posted by bilabial at 5:09 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding bilabial's suggestion of carbon fiber needles for small diameters, specifically the "Karbonz" brand. I break everything below a US5 in wood or plastic because of the way I hold my needles and pull my yarn when I knit.

The Karbonz needles hold up well (I have several sets I've been using for years), have nice pointy tips, and are relatively affordable. Plus, they have a warm feel in the hand, similar to wood, and are perfectly smooth, yet slightly "grippy" so they stay in the work without slipping out like metal needles. I like them for socks especially (I prefer DPNs but they make fixed circulars and interchangeable sets as well).

For cable needles, I actually prefer the wooden ones with the carved ridges in them over metal ones. The ridges grip the lives stitches, and the needles don't fall out as easily (for me).
posted by turtlegirl at 6:45 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I echo the metal suggestion. I love hiya hiya. But I also inherited a large pile of miscellaneous metal dpns from various brands. They're fine. If you are using circulars, definitely get metal! I also use a spare dpn for cables.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:17 AM on March 17, 2018

For small sized needles, I primarily use Hiya Hiya or ChiaoGoo fixed length metal circulars. Both brands are nice needles that cost much less than either Addi or Karbonz needles. I prefer ChiaoGoo since they have a smoother join and more flexible cable than Hiya Hiya.

I've had issues with the metal tips falling off on two sets of Knitter Pride's Karbonz needles (happened during the first project I knitted with one set, another set after 6 months of use) and decided not to purchase a third set.

As for cable needles, you could try Boye Metal Cable Needles or Susan Bates Cable Stitch Holders. I have the Boye cable needles which include two u-shaped needles and a regular straight cable needle. The smallest of the u-shaped (silver) has the same diameter as my US 2 needle but you may need to bend it slightly to get the fishhook shape you are familiar working with.
posted by bCat at 7:53 AM on March 17, 2018

I recently got a set of Chiaogoo interchangeables for socks, and I highly recommend them. Usually I am a bamboo dpn kinda gal, but these are really nice needles.
posted by fancyoats at 8:27 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a pair of flexible plasticish dpn that I loved when I was knitting socks, I can't find the package but poking around on line I think they may be Bryspun needles, though my points don't seem to be as sharp. Anyway, I loved the shorter version for socks and they're not expensive, definitely worth a try. They don't feel cheap and icky like regular plastic needles and though it seems like plastic would be the worst at breaking, these just don't feel like they would. They're also not at all slippery, more grippy like wood. Wow, I totally forgot how much I like these. I think they might be perfect for you.
posted by BoscosMom at 11:27 AM on March 17, 2018

Assuming you’re using dpns:

Bamboo is really strong. My favorite sock needles are 2.0mm and I have literally never broken one — and I’ve used them regularly for more than 10 years. (I actually have 5-6 sets just because I use them so much.). I’ve also used 2.0mm bamboo crochet hooks and haven’t managed to break one either.

I also really want to like Karbonz dpns — but the metal tips just don’t stay on, in my experience.

Metal feels a little harsh to me in a dpn because it has no give (although I prefer metal when I’m knitting with circulars). When I do use metal, I like ChiaoGoo because they have nice, sharp tips, but aren’t too slick. Slickness is bad in a dpn.

For circulars, I can’t recommend ChiaoGoo metal needles highly enough. I love them. They’re light, not too slick, and have great, flexible cables.
posted by liet at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2018

For double-pointed needles, I like bamboo down to about size 1. Any smaller than that, you need metal.

I like addi circular needles, though I haven't experimented with some of the other brands recommended here. The Turbo line is not as pointy as the Rockets; you may prefer the latter for finer work.
posted by yarntheory at 4:21 PM on March 17, 2018

I don’t like Hiya Hiya or ChiaGoo because it’s so hard to know about conditions in Chinese factories. I like Addis. Especially the Rockets. But if you’re breaking wood needles, metal is the solution. bCat has good suggestions for cable needles, though with a little practice, you can cable without a cable needle.
posted by rikschell at 4:32 PM on March 17, 2018

Down to about a size 2 I like laminated birch needles, like these, or these are the fancy USA handmade equivalent. Anything smaller than that I tend to break if it isn't metal, and even metal dpns I occasionally bend.

Maybe keep your broken needle, sand off any splinters, and use that as a cable needle? I'm a fan of the straight ones if I can't avoid a cable needle altogether, and at that small a size I'll use a tapestry needle in a pinch.
posted by clavicle at 6:04 PM on March 17, 2018

I loooooove my Addis! They also make pointier ones to make cable and lace work easier. I only use my wooden needles (dpns and circs) when I’m using slippy yarn.
posted by like_neon at 1:49 AM on March 18, 2018

I love my Addis but I also love my Inox metal needles (which are a slightly cheaper option). But to tell the truth I mostly stick to my Knitpicks interchangeables -- I actually have the Knitpicks sets with both nickel and acrylic so I can use whatever suits the yarn better. (Although it appears they don't have the nickel as a set now, only individual tips now, and I don't see the acrylic at all.) The Knitpicks metal circs are at least as slippy as the Addi turbos which makes them delightful to use, and the great advantage of the interchangeables is that you can have all the long cables for magic loop or medium for socks on two circs or whatever you like, without dropping a small fortune on every size needle on every length cable.
posted by sldownard at 11:23 AM on March 18, 2018

I'm also metal only below about 3mm. Not that I've very broken anything whilst knitting, but I sit on them or step on them or they get a drawer shut on them or some other small disaster. Metal bends.

I don't have a favourite brand, as I buy most of my dpn's secondhand in op shops. For interchangeables, I have the knitpicks set, and I'm slowly changing the fine ones to metal as they break, or if I need a second set.
posted by kjs4 at 5:38 PM on March 18, 2018

Thank you all - you've given me several new brands to explore. My wooden needles are actually all Knitpicks and I would have gotten their metal ones for the smaller sizes - except they don't make these smaller sizes in metal. So I will have to pick another one.

I like 47 inch so I can do magic loop and I don't see the Karbonz in that length so it will probably be metal for me. I'm not sure yet which brand I will pick though.

If I'm allowed to piggy back on my own question: Any thoughts on the Addi lace vs. rocket? Looks like they are both the pointier tip of the lace but the lace are bronze while the rocket are nickel.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 2:41 AM on March 19, 2018

So I have a pair of the lace ones and they are "stickier" compared to the nickel. So I guess it depends on what you are using it for. I find the bronze ones good for when I'm knitting with silky yarn. I stick with the nickels for socks.
posted by like_neon at 4:21 AM on March 19, 2018

Yeah, the difference between the Addi (Sock) Rocket and Lace needles is in the coating -- the Rockets are very slick, whereas the Lace is grabbier/stickier; both are relatively pointy. Perhaps you might like the stickiness of the Lace needles, if you normally prefer wood? But the Lace needles might only come in smaller sizes.

I use Addi circs (magic loop as need) most of the time because I love slippery, pointy needles (and hate having DPNs poking me in the palms) -- and on that count, I can also enthusiastically vouch for the old KnitPicks interchangeable set. I'm not sure if they sell it anymore, but they are (were?) also nickel-plated and very pointy. The original cords broke long ago, but my LYS sells Knitter's Pride cords, which fit perfectly into the KnitPicks tips. They aren't as flexible as the Addi cords (nor were the original KnitPicks ones), but the only time I really find the slight stiffness to be a problem is with socks, and I'm not sure that anyone actually makes interchangable needles in sizes that small anyway.

I think you'd have to try pretty hard to outright break a metal needle. I have occasionally bent the really tiny ones in my knitting bag, but only slightly, and they're easy enough to bend back. I also haven't used wood or bamboo needles in forever (so maybe it is just much easier to break them than I realize), but if you're knitting tightly enough to be snapping them regularly, it might be worth trying to loosen up your knitting a bit -- in addition to allowing a little more room in the stitches to do the cabling, it would probably be easier on your hands.
posted by cellar door at 6:57 AM on March 19, 2018

The Addi Rockets are amazing; I bought them after using the Turbo Lace ones for sock knitting for years and liking them, but disliking that the brass finish would tarnish and make the needles less slippery. I too either snap wooden needles at that size OR I chew the tips up and that makes them frustrating as well.

I've stayed away from KnitPicks after getting a set that had multiple needles/cords that wouldn't join, and my friend had the same thing happen to her. Yes, they'll replace them, but come on, they should just work in the first place.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:38 AM on March 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Out of curiosity I checked, and Karbonz do make a 40" fixed circular in small diameter sizes. I don't know how important that extra 7-inches of cable length would be to do Magic Loop.
posted by turtlegirl at 9:35 AM on March 19, 2018

Thank you all again. I got some addi rockets and they are working well. The pointy tips are nice because this is pretty tightly knit, but they also catch a bit with this yarn so I will have to be careful of that. I tried cables without the cable needle and, at least for this project, can't pull it off. I found a u-shaped metal cable needle that is working pretty well for me.

btw the broken wooden needle was from Knit Picks, and they sent me a replacement with no fuss and at no charge.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 12:03 PM on March 31, 2018

« Older Strategies for Remembering Dreams ≥ 3 Minutes...   |   Where can my family go this summer? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments