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Ernst glass circulars
Needle Profile:
Sheila and Michael Ernst Circular Glass Knitting Needles

How much attention do you pay to the needles you use? Are you fussy, or will you knit with pretty much anything? Have you even paid that much attention to your needles lately?

For fussy and oblivious knitters alike, a few minutes with these needles will change everything. They are made not out of wood or bamboo or some super-strong aircraft-grade carbon polymer...but glass. Just like Cinderella's slipper.

The Specs
The Ernsts offer three basic types of glass circulars: clear, which is just like it sounds; standard colors, which range from solid to slightly variegated overtones (including the ones shown here); and designer colors with brilliant swirling, zigzagging stripes that run along the first few inches of the needle.

tips on the glass circulars

With the first two types, the needle is completely smooth. The designer colors, on the other hand, add a faint textural wobble that does more to grip your stitches than it does to slow your knitting. In all three cases, if the needles get too draggy for you, the Ernsts recommend a very light coat of silicone lubricant.

The taper on these needles is short but subtle, and it leads to an invitingly precise yet durable, lace-friendly tip. The join looks more pronounced than it actually is when you're knitting.

joins on the glass circular needles

As for the cord itself, it's made from a clear hollow tube that has the same lightness and flexibility of the Knit Picks or Kollage circulars, but with more body and substance to support your stitches.


Material Matters
Not all glasses are alike. These needles are made from borosilicate glass, which is the original material used to manufacture Pyrex bakeware. In the U.S. it's now made with tempered soda-lime glass, but you can still get borosilicate glass Pyrex in the European Union.

This particular type of glass is commonly used in lampworking for items like jewelry and scientific glassware. If you're the Ernsts, you also use it for your knitting needles. The primary benefit of borosilicate glass is its low coefficient of thermal expansion, which makes it far less likely to shatter when exposed to temperature extremes.

Most of us don't routinely take our knitting from the freezer to the oven, so a low coefficient of thermal expansion means little. But borosilicate glass is also extremely strong—and that's what matters.

Breaking Up
In my own experience, the only thing that will make these needles shatter is a sudden and forceful encounter with a particularly hard surface—being dropped on a tile floor, for example. Even then, if the needles are fully embedded in a knitting project, they may still survive with just a chip.

Even better, if your needles chip, crack, snap, or shatter, send them back with $10 for shipping and handling and they'll be repaired or replaced, no questions asked, no eyebrows raised. This is a lifetime guarantee, and it applies even if you break your needles doing something you know full well you shouldn't have been doing.

A Glass Act
Glass needles (from the Ernsts or anyone else) will not be for everybody. If you tend to strangle your yarn or keep a death grip on your needles, you may want to skip these. Likewise, if you're known for flinging your knitting bag onto every possible hard surface, these may end in disappointment.

Even if you are one of those people, hear me out. There are times when we need to crank mindlessly through our knitting like lawnmowers on autopilot. But there are times when we might enjoy slowing down, paying closer attention, and being more present to the experience. When you hold a pair of these needles in your hands, you cannot help but slow down and pay closer attention—in a pleasurable, dare I say, meditative way.

Material
Glass

Available sizes
Cord lengths: 24, 29, 32 inches or "any reasonable" custom length (specify in Comment section on order page)
Needle lengths: 5 inches
Clear: US 6 (4mm), US 8 (5mm), US 10 (6mm), US 11 (7mm), US 10.5 (8mm), US 11 (9mm), US 13 (10mm), US 15 (11mm)
Standard: US 4 (3.5mm), US 5 (3.75mm), US 6 (4mm), US 7 (4.5mm), US 8 (5mm), US 9 (5.5mm), US 10 (6mm)
Designer: US 6 (4mm), US 7 (4.5mm), US 8 (5mm), US 9 (5.5mm), US 10 (6mm)
Average retail price
$35 (clear and standard colors), $60 (designer)
Where to buy online
Sheila and Michael Ernst
Made in
USA
Review date
3/10/2011
Size/color needles reviewed
US 5 / Amazon Night
Source of review needles
Purchased from Sheila and Michael Ernst at NY State Sheep & Wool Festival

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