Saturday, September 27, 2008

Needles for Magic Loop: A Review

I was PMd on Ravelry Friday night by flowerdancer asking my opinion on the best needle configuration for Magic Loop. I'm going to give it a shot! I've used a lot of needles in a lot of different lengths, so I feel like I might have some insight into needles for projects. I will provide a review of Inox Express, Susan Bates Quicksilver, KP Harmony, and Addi Turbo Lace in lengths ranging from 24" - 47" for socks, mittens, accessories, and a sweater.

I learned about Magic Loop in January 2008 when I realized I didn't bring the right needles with me to Wisconsin for a felting project. Since I knew I had double-points in Rhode Island, I refused to buy another pair. Instead, I looked up Magic Loop in earnest, and thus began my ML love affair!

Inox Express Circulars

Needle Review:
The Express line from Inox/Prym are, by far, my favorite needles. They have a nice sturdy heft for use with light and heavy yarns. The tips aren't super pointy, but I have never had them split yarn even with lace. The join is fairly smooth. I hear that others have had a little trouble with the last stitch catching non the join, but I have never noticed this. Finally, the cable is my favorite of all the needles I have used. It's flexible, yet sturdy, and it's a stylish black. For about $7 for the biggest, longest needles, it's a great buy! If you want to make fingering weight socks, however, and you use US 0 (2.0 mm) or US 1 (2.25 mm), you'll have to use their original line, because they do not make Express in these sizes. I wish I could get the ear of the Inox folks, because I think these two sizes are essential to their line. But I am just little ole me:)

Project Performance:
I used Inox Express US 10 24" needles to make my Double-Cuff mittens and Felted iPod Cozy. They worked for the mittens, but I have to admit these mittens required more effort than was necessary due to insufficient length. If I were to make these mittens again, I would go up to size 29" or even 40", although 40" might be a smidge too long. The length worked quite well for the smaller-sized cozy.

Inox Express Grade: A

Inox Needles
Needle Review:
These are Inox's original needles (silverish cable). When I first started knitting sweater and such on these needles, I did not like them. The join was not very smooth, and my yarn was always catching on it. In fact, I started using these needles to knit my 1930s sweater, and I think it contributed significantly to the delay in advancing this project. BUT - once I switched to magic-looping socks, I found these needles to be quite sufficient. Because you have to shuffle stitches back and forth anyway, the couple extra seconds it takes to slip the stitches over the join is negligible. The cable is a little stiff, but works well enough for Magic Loop. As mentioned above, Inox does not make Express US 1s, so I used my left over needles. I have since bought additional pairs just for socks! While I do like these needles, the day Inox makes these in Express, I will be sending them to the needle graveyard.

Project Performance:
I used US 1 24" needles to make my Business Collection: Part I. I can't talk about the project itself, but I will say that these needles worked really well and I plan to use these needles again for Part II.

Inox Original Grade: B

Susan Bates Quicksilver Circulars
Needle Review:
These needles are a good workhorse. (Disclaimer: I only use the US 1 size. I really have no idea how the larger sizes perform.) Nice, smooth join, firm but flexible cable, and adequate tips. Nothing fancy about these needles, but if I only had access to Inox Originals, Addi Turbo Lace, and these,
I would buy these.

Project Performance:
I am using US 1 29" needles for my Vinterblomster Mittens. These needles have worked incredibly well for these mittens. The length is perfect for these mittens, and allows me to work each row quickly. I haven't noticed any significant catching on the join, and the cable is just flexible enough to stay out of the way without being too limp. Apparently I have kinked this cable too, but it doesn't affect the performance of these needles.

Susan Bates Quicksilver Grade: B+

KP Harmony Circulars
Needle Review:
These needles are a close second to my babies (Inox Express). I haven't used them for long enough or on socks to know if they are the best needles ever made, as some claim, but they are darn good. Let's start with the pointy, wooden tips. Great for faster knitting. The join is as smooth if not smoother than the Addi Turbo Lace. This is particularly great for those who like the feel of wood. Be warned though. These needles are slippery, unlike traditional bamboo needles. The cable on these needles, is quite possibly the best I have ever seen. It's super flexible, but not at all limp. It's also a lovely purple color for those of you who are fashion conscious. A wonderfully constructed wooden needle with a superior cable and impeccable join.

Project Performance:
I am using these needles for my 1930s Striped Sweater. As mentioned above, I was using Inox Original for this sweater, but the join caught the stitches to such an extent that I had to spend minutes getting the needle through. I also hated the idea of putting 200+ stitches on waste yarn to try it on, so instead I thought, why not Magic Loop? I bought the US 1 47" needles so I could slip it on as I made progress. These needles have certainly sped up my knitting. As I switch from back to front, no stitches catch! Now I just need to figure out a better way to work intarsia in the round:)

KP Harmony Grade: A

Addi Turbo Lace Circulars
Needle Review:
My dislike for Addi Lace Turbo US 0 40" was mild before. I am using these needles to work a pair of socks at the same time.

I find that the tips aren't pointy enough, so you have to work harder to make each stitch. At least this is true for the way I knit. I also am not fond of the cable which is too limp to use to as a conveyer of stitches between sides, but too firm to hang loosely while you work each side. What I find myself doing with these needles, is putting my work down or holding one end against something, and physically sliding over the stitches. I also have to twist and turn and tuck the cable while I am knitting because it constantly juts into the space where I am trying to knit/purl the stitch. I will say that the join is like butter. Be careful though! If you let the needles slip out of your hands, which I often do accidentally while switching to the back needle, your needles will slide right through your stitches and you'll have to pick them all back up. The worst part, for me, about Addi Turbo Lace needles, is the kinking!

Project Performance:
After a few more weeks working with these needles, having gotten the hang of 2-at-once Magic Loop, my disdain has increased to not-so-silent hostility. I can't even bear to work on my Roundabout Socks because the needles have kinked up in so many places that it is actually difficult to use them. And they kinked up from sitting in my knitting pouch! Not even from vigorous knitting. I mentioned this at SnB Wednesday and showed folks my needles. The other knitters apparently have never had this problem, but several people on Ravelry have, so now I know I'm not alone. It was suggested that I contact Skacel and ask for a replacement. I think I will. I can only work a few rows before I have to put them away!

Addi Turbo Lace Grade: D

The Magic Loop Verdict
Fine-gauge Socks/Mittens
I would purchase Susan Bates Quicksilver needles in 29".

Fine-gauge Sweaters
I would purchase Knit Picks Harmony in 47" or 60" depending on your chest size.

Regular Socks, Mittens, Sweaters, Hats, Accessories
I would purchase Inox Express needles in 29" or 40" depending on the size of the project.

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Until next time...


the Shapka said...

Very thorough and helpful. I haven't learned Magic Loop yet, so it's good to have some recommendations for when I start. :o) Maybe one of these days I'll make it back to stitch'n'bitch!

Pepper said...

What a great review! I have been coveting the Harmony Options needles for quite a while now. Maybe if I ever decide to do some magic loop I can convince myself that I need them... right? Ha ha.

(p.s. finally catching up on a giant backlog of blog commenting!)

Siga said...

Hi! You've been tagged!

Jennifer said...

Very nice reviews! I like Magic Loop myself and find that the regular Addi's work pretty well for magic loop, but I do agree with you about the Addi Lace.

Stell said...

ce review - I just wished my local LYS's had a range of all in stock - still reading this makes buying over the net easier.
and you asked about sweater construction, I've got a few, but I think the nicest are PGR Knitting the old way and Knitters workshop by EZ. both will work you thru a bottom up yoked sweater - and use short rows to shape the top nicely. The math is pretty simple for bottom up about 5 %'s need to be calculated - thats all. Top down - with a fit as nice in a circular yoke - thats a little more tricky.