Friday, December 27, 2013

Tool review - Bamboo knitting double pointed needle set and case

Ever since I figured out how to knit, I love looking at new yarns and patterns.  I think that choosing what I'm going to make is the best part.  Yeah, I love having finished knitwear, and I do like the process of knitting (most of the time), but there's nothing like poring through books, magazines, and patterns on Ravelry (if you missed my explanation of how to search for patterns on Ravelry, you can check it out here).

The one thing that's always challenging is having the right thickness of yarn and the right size needles for a pattern I love.  When I started knitting I had a few different sizes of straight and circular needles.  However, every time I wanted to start a new project, it seemed I had to buy a new set of needles.  My mother bought me a great Boye interchangeable set for straight and circular knitting so I wouldn't have that problem anymore:

In a perfect world, that would have been all I needed, but then I started making socks and baby hats.  You can't use circular needles for such small circular projects, so I had to buy double pointed needles (DPNs).  I have referred to them before as medieval torture devices.

They get the job done, though, so when my stepfather asked me to update my Amazon wish list for Christmas, I thought I'd look into what DPN multi-size sets were available.  My goodness, there are a quite a number of options.  You have your choice of needle size and how many different sizes are in the set, material (wood, bamboo, metal), and length of the needles (4", 5", 6", 7", 8"...).  Prices range from $7.88 (6 different sizes) to $179.33 (15 different sizes).  Interestingly enough, both the low and high end sets are made with bamboo.  After looking at a number of different lower mid-range options, I found this set from Stanwood Needlecraft:

There are fourteen sizes (1-15) and five 7" needles per size.  The sizes are etched onto the needles, which is great, because I have to try to remember the sizes on the metal DPNs I have.  Yes, there are needle sizing tools out there, but it's much more convenient to have the sizes on the needles themselves.  The reviews are mostly very good for the set, but what really tipped me over to add it to my wish list was what was in the "Frequently Bought Together" section:

I had been wondering how I'd keep 70 needles corralled and organized by size.  This case is made specifically for the above set of needles by the same vendor.  This got added to the wish list, too.

And on Christmas day, I was thrilled Mom and John gave me both items!  (Thanks, Mom and John!)  Yes, it takes very little to make me happy.

Each size was individually wrapped in clear plastic bags that are recloseable, so if you choose to get the DPNs without the case, there's no worries about getting the sizes mixed up.

Here's a look at three of the different sizes:

(not actual size)

Here's a closer look at the etching:

For the most part, the needles look completely straight.  The thinnest ones have a very slight bend to them, but I don't think that's going to interfere with knitting.

When I decided that this would be today's review, I started thinking of what I could start knitting to test the needles.  Could I start my new winter hat?  No, the hat pattern I've chosen starts with the brim, and I don't have time to knit the whole thing to get to where I'd use the DPNs.  Maybe I could start a pair of socks?  Duh!  I'm in the middle of a baby hat using size 3 DPNs.

That was a good test because I could easily compare the metal needles against the bamboo ones.  I worked off of the metal and onto the bamboo.  When I was done with one round and all the needles were replaced, I realized that I needed to take a picture with the needles in the case, and I couldn't very well show an incomplete set.  Argh.  Since the next round was a cabling round, which would take me a while to do (I'm not comfortable with it yet), I just moved the stitches back onto the metal needles.

While the bamboo needles do feel smooth, the yarn doesn't move as nicely as on metal needles.  I also think it's a little rough where the etching is.  It's going to take a bit of getting used to, but I've worked with bamboo needles before, and they were just fine.

The one benefit of the needles not being as slippery is that they won't easily fall out.  I have that problem all the time with the metal needles.  When I picked my project up today for testing, I dropped four stitches because the needle moved around too much.  Also, I can't count the number of times that the needle fell out when I was on the last two or three stitches.  That won't happen with the bamboo needles, which makes them well worth any loss of slickness in my book.

Now, on to the case:

I wish there were different color or fabric choices (you know I'm partial to purple), but the blue flowers are pretty.  I'm more concerned about how the case works.  The pocket sizes are perfect for the different sizes.  They're loose without being too loose.  I like that there's a lining and that it's a solid color so the inside isn't so busy.

When you're ready to close things up, you fold the flap down to protect the points of the needles:

The case could probably work with DPNs up to 8" long.  Longer if you don't mind having the middles of the needles not covered with fabric.

The case rolls up from end with the thinnest needles, and there's a strap to hold the case together.  There's Velcro in the middle of the strap that attaches to Velcro on the case:

Based on reviews on Amazon, I think that the ability to Velcro the strap to the case is relatively new.  People were complaining that there was nothing to keep the strap attached to the case.  I think this will work just fine.

Here's how the case looks all rolled and strapped up:

You can tell in this last picture that the inner flap peeks out.  It does wrinkle a bit when you're rolling the case up, but I don't know any way around that.

All in all, I'm very pleased with this DPN set and needle case (the links go to the Amazon listings).  The quality of the DPN set is great for the price.  At the time of this writing, it works out to $2.05 per size - you can't beat that!  I no longer have to choose the pattern based on the needles I have available because I either don't want to buy another set or just want to start knitting right away.

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