Transcript: Mythical Makers Episode 14: How Many Different Knitting Needles?

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Welcome to Episode 14 of Mythical Makers Podcast. Today, we’re gonna be talking about a variety of interchangeables and cables and things that we like to use and we’ll talk about some different brands.

Hi there and welcome to the Mythical Makers Podcast. These are weekly ramblings from myself, Babs Rudlin, Fiery Phoenix, and…

Karen: I’m Karen Moffett, Mama Dragon.

~ Short Musical Interlude ~

Babs: There are several different types of needle that you can use when you’re knitting. We’re focusing on knitting today, and we’re gonna be looking at which we prefer, and why, of the different types of needle that you can use when you knit. Double-pointed needles, or DPNs, you could use circulars.

Karen: Let’s talk about straights!

Babs: Talk about straights as well.

Karen: Yup. Yup.

Babs: And also, these boomerang needles that I’ve only just been exposed to, so I shall be experimenting with those. I think I’m going to buy myself a set and see what they’re like and they’re kind of a… They’re a DPN with a cable in the, really short cable in the middle. So they’re kind of wobbly it looks. So I need to do some more investigation, with that. And then you can also have interchangeables. For people who don’t know, what are interchangeables, Karen?

Karen: You have a cable that can be attached and detached from all of the different size tips. So you can have a variety of lengths of cables and then you have different diameter tips that you can use and they usually go from, oh, about a size four up to maybe a ten or eleven US which is three and a half millimeters up to what is it eight or nine millimeters I think.

Babs: Yeah, I think that’s about right.

Karen: Something like that, anyway. It’s several, several different sizes, comes in the set usually. And it’s costly to get a full set, but it’s cheaper than buying individuals of each one of the sizes. So if you do a lot of working with circular needles, that’s definitely the way to go, ’cause then you’ll have all the sizes that you need.

Babs: That is true. There are pros and cons to both. And, as with anything, you can buy quality makes and you can buy cheap and nasty makes. I’m going through recording a series of reviews, in-depth reviews, if such a thing can be made for knitting needles. But in terms of what works, what doesn’t work, whether I’ve injured myself, whether I’ve managed to damage the needles whilst I have used them, and you’d be surprised at how many needles I bend and break and so forth. I’m not particularly violent with my knitting, I think it’s fairly, fairly gentle work, but I do have a high tension and I knit quickly, so that will make a difference. And also I knit on an almost daily basis, I’d say almost daily basis, as in I met almost all day, every day, so some days I don’t knit all day long. So I am a very high usage knitter, when I do have a needle. And so I had some that were bought for me. It was cheap and nasty set that my brother bought me. They weren’t interchangeables, they were just circulars, and they were awful. They were absolutely awful. The, the cable was a sort of rubber which grabbed onto the yarn, and then actually broke, it split in half, it sheared off the plastic because it was just such a weird rubbery plastic.

Karen: The cable itself did?

Babs: The cable itself did. Which did not make me a happy bum.

Karen: Yeah, that’s bizarre.

Babs: So yeah, keep your eyes out for that review because you definitely don’t wanna be using those needles again. (Karen chuckles) And as a result of that, and also, I had a set of interchangeables that my mom bought me, and they were from Knit Pro I think they were rosewood, they were really expensive, they were absolutely gorgeous, but they were squared off. And I actually quite liked the fact that they were squared off, it was unusual and it helped them keep the point. They were very nice, but again, they just shared twice. Both of them were 4.5 mil needles and I have to say Knit Pro were ever so good. They immediately sent out replacements for free. They were absolutely excellent; their customer service was second to none, it was brilliant. But it did make me a bit wary of using them, because they just kept shearing off and also those particular interchangeables kept undoing as I was knitting, and I was working on my pi shawl at the time, which is quite a large one and I didn’t want it to keep undoing in every round or so I was having to do them back up again before they would just sort of drop off.

Karen: Did they have one of the little, the tool that helps to twist it tighter?

Babs: Yep, they did, but…

Karen: And it just didn’t wanna stay.

Babs: It did not want to stay. I don’t know whether I was knitting the wrong way round, or whether I should have been knitting in the other direction for that particular interchangeable because I could understand that your hand action might undo it, but that seems a little bizarre.

Karen: Yeah, that is weird.

Babs: I’m overthinking that one. It’s to try and find a reason why it would.

Karen: I think you are. (chuckles)

Babs: Why it would keep undoing so much. But there we go. And then you have the cables with the needles attached. So that they’re not interchangeables, they’re just standard cable needles. And the the ones that I got for, for knitting socks and let’s be realistic, I knit four pairs of socks in about a two-week window. So I really use these heftily. And these were Hiya Hiya, I think. Let’s just double check. Yeah, there were Hiya Hiya Sharps. And boy, I mean, I specifically bought them because they had sharp tips

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: Because the sort of bog standard needles that I’ve been using in the UK were so blunt. They were the grey ones and they’re really drab looking, but they were so blunt that I was trying to pick up my really teeny, tiny yarn for socks and they just couldn’t pick them up. And it was just slowing me down so much it was getting quite annoying. Whereas these sharps were really sharp, and they really did the job. But yeah, I did injure myself because I kept stabbing myself in the same place on my finger over and over and over again. Which shows that I am very consistent in my knitting, but it was incredibly painful.

Karen: Yeah. Yeah.

Babs: And I had to wait, I had to wait to heal before I could start knitting with them again. I’ve tweaked my technique for these needles now, so that I’m no longer stabbing myself in the finger, on a regular basis, but that wasn’t fun, that wasn’t a fun process to go through, but I still do love thme, despite the fact that I’ve bent them. I’ve bent one of the needles…

Karen: You need to relax!

Babs: You know, like I said, I could, I used to bend, I thought, I thought my days of bending metal needles were behind me, but it was the same with crochet hooks. I used to bend crochet hooks as well. Which is awful. I’m just the Hulk in female form.

Karen: (laughs) We wouldn’t want to see you when you’re angry.

Babs: (laughs) No! No you wouldn’t. Last year, I remember I went to open the back door, and I just ripped the back door handle off in my hands, and I was just standing there holding the handle with the door shut, and it was like, ‘What is going on?’ and I’m talking about an external patio door. I’d just taken the handle off in my hand, it was like, yeah, I don’t know what I’ve done now. Rob was in another country at the time so it’s not like I was even cross with him or anything. (chuckles) But there we go. The other needles that I got recently with an enormous cable on aAnd I don’t know if I’m pronouncing this right. Chee-ooo, chee-ow, chee-ow-goo? (Chiaogoo)

Karen: Yeah, I think that’s right.

Babs: Yeah, have a go. You try and pronounce that.

Karen: I think it’s chee-ow-goo.

Babs: Chee-ow-goo, see you pronounce it so much better than me. And I bought these specifically on Karen’s recommendation because she said that the cable was something to behold. And boy, is she right. Unlike all the other cable needles that I ever worked with, this one actually has a cable inside the cable. Which sounds weird, but it’s got a metal cable, inside the plastic cover. You know that they are Chiaogoo because they’re red. Their red cables are very, very distinctive, but having this extra metal inner means that it has no memory, so you can roll it up and work with it. Mold around multiple times, and the next time you come to use it, it’s just a nice straight cable and you work it any way you want. Which I think is a massive bonus. It’s still got quite a sharp tip. It’s not as sharp as the Hiya Hiya sharps, but it’s definitely very usable, but it’s significantly sharper than the other ones that I was using that were very blunt.

Karen: Now, they do, they do have two different tips styles, they have some that are specifically meant for lace that are sharper and then they have the regular, their regular tip, that’s not quite as sharp. So.

Babs: Ah!

Karen: But yeah, that cable with no memory is so important when you’re doing Magic Loop, which is what I… Which is what I do pretty much all the time. In fact, you said you mentioned straight needles earlier. I almost never use straight needles anymore. I use a circular needle, even when I’m knitting back and forth.

Babs: This is why…

Karen: Because I find that they’re easier to travel with, because they’re short. And you can put ’em in one of the little tubes, and keep ’em protected and it’s just, it’s so much easier to work with, I think, than the big long…

Babs: This is why I wanted to mention the long ones. Not because I love long needles, but because that’s what most people start off using. They’re taught on long needles, that’s what they learn with in school, it’s what their nan teaches them nine times out of ten. But for me, they would always stab me in the, in the…

Karen: In the arm?

Babs: …in the arm. So every time I’m trying to knit, I’m stabbing myself with the back of the needles, it’s just knocking into my arm.

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: Rather than sort of poking off at an angle out to the side, I obviously, I learnt to knit in a very small space, and I couldn’t poke the person next to me with my long needles, so they start travel down my arm and then stab into my… I keep trying to say calf, but that’s my leg… the buff front of your arm. (both laugh)

Karen: Your forearm.

Babs: …not your calf. Your forearm. My bicep! There you go! They keep stabbing me in the bicep.

Karen: Oh! Oh! That high?

Babs: That high. They keep poking up here. And that’s really not pleasant at all. So I went to slightly shorter straight needles and that didn’t work ’cause I could never work on anything of any decent size, and then I found circulars, and I have not gone to a straight since. I absolutely adore working on circulars.

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: It’s fabulous and it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a bent needle. Which is just as well, because I mean, the cable on a circular is nothing but a bent needle. It’s very floppy. A very floppy, bendy needle. So having a bent needle really doesn’t matter. So that’s a fear that beginners can just put out of their mind. It does not matter at all. It’s not quite as pretty, but it really doesn’t make any difference whatsoever to your Finished piece. So I adore circulars, and I apparently have been knitting Magic Loop without realizing it for, since day one of me using circulars. (Karen laughs) I had no idea that’s what it was. I was looking up so I could see all these courses that took, you know, thirty dollars to learn how to knit Magic Loop. It’s like, “Oh should I try? That sounds interesting. What is that?” And then looked into it a bit more and realized, why would I pay thirty dollars for that, that’s what I do.

Karen: That’s how I do it.

Babs: That’s what most people would do, I would imagine. So yeah, if you are looking at those courses? Kind of save your money and just have a look elsewhere, there’ll be some other place where you can find that information.

Karen: You can look up the info.

Babs: That one really is money for nothing. That is money for old rope. But that’s just my opinion. It’s not the opinion of Karen, it’s not the opinion of anyone else, just my opinion. Sorry if that upsets people.

Karen: Well, some people do, when they’re using when they’re knitting a hat or something, some people like to use a very short cable.

Babs: Yes.

Karen: So that you’re just going around and there’s no excess cable twisted in there like you would do with the Magic Loop. But you still, when you get to the decreases, or when you start out, if you’re starting at the top of the hat, you still need to do something different, because…

Babs: Yes.

Karen: You know, it’s not gonna be a sixteen-inch diameter for the entire length of the hat.

Babs: No, that’s right.

Karen: Unless you just gather it at the top. (both chuckle)

Babs: Old fashioned.

Karen: Some are designed like that, but that’s not usually how it is.

Babs: Yeah, I um…I’ve tried using DPNs. Quite a lot of people say that they use a circular for the main body of the hat, then as soon as they get into the decrease, they switch over to DPNs of the same size.

Karen: Yep. Mmmhmm.

Babs: I’m always a little bit wary of switching to something the same size, unless it’s the same manufacturer, so I wouldn’t slip. switch from a Hiya Hiya circular to a Knit Pro DPN, I would rather go Hiya Hiya circular to Hiya Hiya DPNs, because then you know they’re absolutely the same size.

Karen: Yeah.

Babs: And I wouldn’t switch from metal to wood, because that has a difference on how it works.

Karen: That’s what I was gonna say. The materials are important.

Babs: Mmmhmm. Exactly, so you do need to keep all of that in mind. But DPNs for me, especially when you’re on the teeny, tiny number of stitches is actually…

Karen: They’re very fiddly.

Babs: I find more difficult and it feels like you’re knitting with a spider and its fighting you every step of the way. (Karen laughs heartily) And there’s, rather than just two needles that could poke me, I now have six, or eight, or ten needles that can poke me. And it becomes significantly more dangerous for me, because I seem to injure myself for every given opportunity anyway.

Karen: I’m knitting with a spider. I don’t think I ever had that thought before.

Babs: Sorry, I’ve just put you off for life now.

Karen: No, no, no, I like spiders.

Babs: Oh, that’s not so bad, then.

Karen: Actually, when I first learned how to knit, I started with DPNs. I didn’t try circulars for quite a while, and so that was what I was used to, but I had so much trouble with laddering in between. You know, when you go from one needle to the next.

Babs: Ah, yes.

Karen: You have the gap there that you’re trying to overcome. And I didn’t know at the time, but the problem was that I was knitting so tightly elsewhere. The other stitches were so tight that when I came to the join between the two needles, it was just like, please, I’ve got to relax. And so that’s why I had so much trouble with the laddering. So when I switched over to using Magic Loop, a lot of that went away, because it’s a lot easier, to me it’s a lot easier to…

Babs: Yeah.

Karen: …make sure that they’re really close and, and a more consistent tension from one stitch to the next, especially those cross-over stitches between the needles.

Babs: Yes, definitely. One other consideration which probably not very many people will take into account is that also using Magic Loop when you’re doing work in progress pictures, makes for a lot prettier and more impressive photograph if you’ve got all those loops of cable coming out. It actually looks ridiculously impressive, even though we all know that it isn’t that complicated at all, it’s just I pulled it out and laid it down and made it look pretty.

Karen: Mmmhmm.

Babs: When you’ve got all these straight needles just sort of sticking out, it’s very difficult to lay the work neatly and nicely. Even if you’re working on DPNs, it doesn’t make for as aesthetically pleasing an image as using circulars which then have loops pulled out.

Karen: And it looks like a porcupine.

Babs: Exactly. All you can see is like fingers sticking out everywhere, you can’t even see what the piece is supposed to be. So if you are working and you want to have work in progress pictures if you want to put them on to Instagram and share them around and build a following that way, then definitely circulars are going to be more your friend than DPNs at that point. I also like it when, if you’re making a shawl in the round, you can actually put some serious tension into that by sizing the amount of cable that you’re letting the stitches on the outside, sit on. So for the, the pi shawl that I was working on for the center piece up until I actually reached the limit of my eighty centimeter cable needle I could… That’s my reminder to take my children up from school. I, I could actually force it to stretch out to show the stitches in the center really nicely for photography which obviously I wouldn’t have been able to do if I wasn’t using a cable needle. If I was using some other form. You’ve got to have more squished in because otherwise they just drip off the end of the DPNs, even if they’re really long DPNs. They’ll just sort of dribble of the end, which isn’t so useful. So I think that is also a sort of hidden bonus that the cables give over other needles. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really like cable needles.

Karen: Yes, yes. Ah,the unfortunate thing is you use the term cable needles for both a needle that you work in the round with and the tiny needle that you use when you’re creating cables in your knitting.

Babs: Yeah, it’s about three inches long with that little ‘vee’ in the middle of it. And that’s not what we’re talking about. I think we definitely need to have some photographs with this podcast so that we can explain what we’re talking about. So this is a cable needle for knitting in the round, this is what DPNs look like, these are those weird cable needles, that sort of really tiny but more DPNs. And then we’ve got a cable needle looks like that’s actually used to create the cable. I don’t know. Why would it have all the same name over and over and over again?

k’ Yeah. Now something I haven’t tried that I think a lot of people do is, especially when they’re doing socks. Will do two cable needles so they use, instead of Magic Loop, they’ll work on two shorter length cable needles. And I haven’t tried that before. Have you done that?

Babs: I haven’t. I do know a lot of people talk about working with two cable needles and I think I need to do some experimentation and playing with that. Because I can’t quite get my head around how that would be a benefit, and it’s probably because I am just imagining it the wrong way, but I’m kinda seeing it as these two socks that are worked on a loop that looks like the two ‘Os’ in the word look or loop. So you do one sock and then it’s cabling around and doing another sock, sort of socks next to each other. And I’m sure that’s not how it works.

Karen: Oh no, I think they’re parallel to one another. I think they have them parallel to one another. So like what you would normally have it go, like if you were doing two socks at a time you would normally have it go around like this. But I think they have just parallel.

And then, so you work down the front side of both socks and then you work down the backside of both socks, just like you would if you were doing one big… I think. I don’t know. Like I said, I haven’t tried it before.


Babs: I think I’m going to have to investigate that technique.

Karen: Yeah, I don’t know, maybe it’s… It seems to me like it would be pretty much the same. So to me the only drawback is that means I have to have two copies of the exact same type of needle.

Babs: Yes.

Karen: You know, so to me, that’s a drawback because…

Babs: Unless it’s gonna give, unless it’s gonna give you a big advantage in terms of speed. I can’t really see what the point of doing it is because, you know, using a circular works perfectly fine.

Karen: Yeah, I dunno.

Babs: Using a Magic Cirlce method works reall, really well. But um…

Karen: Yeah, just thought I’d throw that out there. (laughs) ‘Cause I haven’t tried it.

Babs: Oh no, you throw away. Throw, throw, throw. It is something to… So what we can do is we can both have a little experiment and then come back and let people know what we thought about it. Did you think that it was worth doing, or was it just a load of old guff? I don’t know. We can work it out. Or at least work out what we think. That doesn’t mean that that is the answer, but it’s what we think.

Karen: Yeah. Well, some people adore DPNs.

Babs: Yes.

Karen: And like I said, that’s where I started, but once I started doing Magic Loop, I decided I liked that better, it worked better for me in the way that I knit.

Babs: No, that’s fair enough. Okay, so I think that is the majority of things that we can say about cable needles, without getting into specifics of make, and that’s not really what we were aiming for today. It was just talking about the differences between the straight needles, the cable needles, the DPNs and the strange new little boomerang-y DPN-cable hybrid things. Again, more research will be done on those as well, to let people know what they’re about.

Karen: Now, as far as, as far as materials go, I really, really prefer bamboo needles. But the problem with that is, once you get to the really small diameters they’re super fragile. And so, I find…

Babs: Yeah, I can’t go near them.

Karen: …for my sock needles I have to have metal because I’m gonna break ’em. I guarantee you I’m gonna break ’em.

Babs: Yeah. I, it scares me. I’ve got a set of needles, um bamboo needles and they go from what look like half or a quarter of a match stick, up to really nice chunky solid ones. So I’m really happy to use the solid ones. I’ll probably go down to about four, four and a half mil, but anything below that, I get really nervous. You know, like I say, I’ve managed to bend metal needles, so I would just be snapping these poor little bamboo things, and that doesn’t make me feel a good person that makes me feel a bad person.

Karen: It’s ’cause you’re the Hulk!

Babs: And I don’t want my knitting to make me feel bad.

Karen: No! No. It should never, never make you feel bad!

Babs: That’s where we are. If um, if you’ve like today’s episode, can you give us some of your thoughts on your favorite type of needles? Are you a devote of DPNs or do you absolutely adore circulars? Or unlike me, do you think that straight needles are the way to go and you would never knit in the round anyway, so you just absolutely love the straights, because you can make everything you actually want to make using straight needles and don’t need to even think about using circular techniques. So please give us some feedback, because it’s always interesting for us to hear what other people think and other people’s opinions, it’s not just about what Karen and I think, it’s about what the community thinks as well. It’s very important to us that everybody is talking to community.

So please, hopefully you have liked today’s episode, and if you have then please share, comment, subscribe to the podcast and maybe let some of your friends know, your knitting friends, so that others can get to hear Karen, and my rambling. And also share their thoughts on the different topics of the day. So if you have enjoyed this, then you can take a look back at the other podcasts in the series, and hopefully you’ll be back for some in the future. But until then, we’ll say bye for now!

Karen: Bye!


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Mentioned in the episode:

Straight Needles








Circulars or cable needles








Interchangeable needles








‘Boomerang’ Needles (Curved DPNs) Tutorial at Crafts from the Cwtch

Knitting with Neko curved double pointed needles - Crafts from the Cwtch blog

Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)  Barad-dur DPN holder crocheted by Kit Moffett, aka Baby Dragon








Cable needles (used to create cables in knitting) These are just a couple of the possibilities.

Bye for now,

Babs    &  Karen 

Intro and outro music by Agenda 23 provided under creative commons sharealike license

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