Quite often I get asked which are the best needles out there. It's never a straightforward answer because different types of needles do different kinds of jobs. Some knitting needles are versatile workhorses, whilst others excel at taming temperamental yarns. I'm a big believer in keeping my toolbox well-stocked, but I cannot always keep up with what's on the market. So, when the lovely folks at KnitPro asked if I wanted to test-drive any of their needles, I asked if I could trial three of their more recent types of needles: the Karbonz, the Symphonie Cubics, and the Nova Cubics.
I tested the needles on a) lace knitting, b) magic loop, c) garment knitting (to see how the cables reacted to weight), d) very fine yarn, e) slippery yarn, and f) sticky double-knitting yarn. It was interesting to see how the needles behaved.
KnitPro Karbonz - as the name suggests, they are made from carbon fibre and have nickle-plated brass tips. They are very lightweight and while some people might need to adjust to the relative weightlessness, I enjoyed working with them. The carbon makes the needles feel warm and smooth in my hands, but the surface has a good amount of stickiness.
When working with them, I liked the long, pointy tip and the carbon's intriguing mix of smoothness & grip. They did not perform as well as the other needles when I tried very fine yarn on them - the yarn kept catching on the transition between the carbon and the metal tips - but they worked a treat with regular yarns.
Verdict: The Karbonz are very good workhorse needles that will serve knitters well for most jobs (except working with cob web or laceweight). If you are not a specialised knitter, you can do much worse than invest in these.
KnitPro Symphonie Cubics - these needles are a variant upon the wooden, multi-coloured needles that made KnitPro so famous among knitters. I was happy to see KnitPro had improved the cable as that was always the weakest point of the earliest Symphonie needles (I am hard on my needles, it should be said). However, the most intriguing thing was the shape of the needles. They reminded me of the triangular pencils I used in school when I first learned to write - and yes, the needles were designed to aid a more ergonomic grip. I enjoyed working with them and quickly forgot all about shapes. They just felt good in my hands.
Verdict: The Symphonie Cubics were my favourites of the three needles, simply because I enjoy working with wooden needles. I am not sure I'd buy the Cubics over the regular Symphonies but I really appreciate KnitPro trying to deliver a product for people with arthritics.
KnitPro Nova Cubics: these are made from hollow brass pipes that have been coated with nickel. Out of the three needles, these took me the longest to adjust to using simply because of the disconnect between their solid appearance and their very light weight.
Again, great long tip that worked really well for lace knitting (these needles performed best at lace knitting out of all three) and a very smooth surface that worked equally well with fine/slippery yarns and rustic double-knitting yarn.The square shape seems more noticeable with these metal needles than with the wooden ones.
Verdict: I tested a 5mm needle, but will be buying a few smaller sizes as they are good alternatives to other metal needles in my toolbox. Definitely a 'try before you buy' needle but while not my favourite in this test, I'll probably use these more than the Symphonie ones.
I do think it's important to note what kind of knitter you are and realise that what works for one person isn't necessarily what works for others. I like to have a wide range of needles in my own toolbox because I knit a lot of different things with different fibres. You may find that you are best off just buying one set of interchangeable needles or straight needles. I urge you to try friends' needles (maybe set up a knit night with needle tasting?) to see what you enjoy.
PS. Photos? You try to photograph things in the middle of a Scottish winter!