I think we all have our own sweet spot in knitting whether we realise it or not. When you first start out knitting, you will probably try all types of knitting: chunky yarns on big needles, double-pointed needles and a self-striping 4ply for your first sock, scarf knitting using textured yarn on straight needles and so forth. Some people will continue to bounce back and forth, but most knitters will find their preferred type of knitting eventually. My sweet spot? I rarely use anything below 3mm (US 2) and above 5mm (US 8). I prefer circular needles above anything else - 80 cm (32") being my preferred cable length. I do not get along with interchangeable needles - an expensive lesson to learn - but want my circs to be fixed. As someone who designs and knits a lot of lace, I need a smooth join between needle and cable as well as a pointy tip. I'm less fussy about the material of the needle - wood, bamboo and good quality metal all work well for me.
(As for brands, there is a certain sense of one-upmanship in knitting (a bit like Top Trumps for crafty grown-ups) and I'm always a bit reluctant to play along with this. Apologies if the next bit reads like me slamming down a card or two.)
Until recently my go-to needles have been Addi Bamboo circs. They are not always ideal as the bamboo can be a bit soft and easily scratched, but I like how they feel in my hands. They are lightweight, yarns pass smoothly across the needles rather than slip across, and the cable has a pleasing solidity to it whilst still being flexible.
Addi Bamboos are not as easy to get as KnitPros and I have a fair amount of wooden KPs as a result. The needles themselves are smooth and the tips are nice and pointy. I am less keen on the cable which does not feel as high quality as the needle part. This was recently confirmed by a KP cable snapping at the join. If I were a DPN user or a straight needles gal, I'd probably like KPs more.
Addi Turbos form another big part of my tool box. The needles tend to be on the blunt side and the cables can have kinks (the latter is easily rectified by strategic steaming) but they are good workhorse needles. My 3.75mm (US 5) Addi Turbos remain my Beloved for no apparent reason other than 'they fit my hands so well'.
And then at Woolfest I decided to try out Chiaogoo needles after hearing friends talk about them like they were the second coming. I switched needles on a project so I could test them almost immediately and I've been in love ever since. They really, really hit that sweet spot for me.
The tip are pointy and have a nice, long angle to them which means I can quickly move from stitch to stitch (especially noticeable when working decreases into the back of the loop). The needles themselves are smooth but with the tiniest hint of grip which means slippery yarns stay put and my rhythm remains the same regardless of type of yarn. The join is equally smooth and allows for easy movement of stitches from cable to needle (always key).
But I am deeply impressed by the cable.
The cable feels substantial, but not weighty. No memory means no potential kinks and no curcling around when I magic-loop. I have also tried walking around whilst knitting an almost-finished top-down jumper(!) and the cable + join do not feel unduly stressed. The cable may feel slightly bulky for some knitters - especially if you are used to KPs - but I really like it. I have also road-tested the cable with flimsy lace knitting and it still outperformed.
To absolutely nobody's surprise, I have since added Chiaogoos in most of my preferred sizes to the toolbox. It was a bit of an indulgence but having proper tools make such a difference to me. I have finished two pieces of sample knitting since the needles arrived and a third is almost done. They have really enhanced my knitting joy.
What tools are essential to you? What sort of needles fit your hands and your style of knitting? What do you look for in a good set of needles? We are all different and I'm curious to hear about other people's sweet spots.