My house is full of knitting needles, yet I never seem to find the exact size and configuration I need. It’s been a lifelong challenge, and I know I’m not alone.
For those who enjoy working with circular knitting needles, interchangeable sets offer hope—the illusion of hope, that is. Imagine being able to carry all the needles you need in one small case, cords and tips alike. What’s that? You’ve fallen in love with a new yarn and want to cast on before you get home? No problem, just unzip your trusty kit, pull out your needles, and cast on. Gauge too tight? Swap one tip for another until you reach the gauge that’s just right.
That’s the promise. Of course what usually happens (and what happened to me last week) is that you pull out your kit and prepare to cast on, only to discover that the slot that should hold the needle you need is, alas, empty. Those tips are currently engaged elsewhere.
Of course none of this happens if you’re one of those disciplined knitters who only has one project going at a time. For the rest of us, interchangeable kits are still a delight for many other reasons—just as long as you don’t bet everything on those needles alone.
ChiaoGoo is a needle manufacturer based in China. For years, the company has offered fixed circular needles, but recently they expanded to interchangeables. Supply is still iffy, so don’t be surprised if you see these needles on backorder.
ChiaoGoo offers two kinds of needle sets: those with bamboo tips and clear cords (called “Spin”) and those with stainless steel tips and red cords (called “Twist”). Within each set, you can either go with the “Complete” and get 13 tips or the “Small” with just 7 tips.
All of the cases, whether they contain 13 tips or just 7, and whether those tips are stainless steel or bamboo, come in an attractive, slender black floral fabric case. Inside, it has 29 inner pockets for tips. An outer zipped pocket is perfect for slender accessories like cord joins, ends, keys, and stitch markers—all of which are conveniently tucked inside for you.
There is one small difference: If you’re getting the set with the stainless steel needles, your case will have a red ribbon sewn across the front. Bamboo needles? You get a black ribbon.
Both the bamboo and stainless steel needles have well-defined tips, the stainless steel ones with a slightly more elongated taper than the bamboo. Neither is pointy enough to irritate your finger if you’re one of those knitters who pushes the tip with your index finger. Still, there is enough of a tip definition to allow easy stitch manipulation, whether you’re working cables or the elusive P3tog.
All of the needles use a screw-and-key mechanism that will be familiar to you if you’ve used the Knitter’s Pride Symfonie Dreamz or Knit Picks Options needles. You screw the tip into the cord and then insert a fine metal rod through a hole in the join to tighten.
The key hole serves a second function for those knitters who love to work intricate lace. Every few dozen rows, or perhaps every pattern repeat depending on what you’re doing, simply run a thin strand of yarn through that keyhole and then proceed as normal. As you go, you’ll be quietly stranding a lifeline into that row so that you can unravel any future mistakes back to that point. In technology terms, you’re making a backup of your project—any changes made after the backup will be lost, but it’s a whole lot better than having to erase and start from scratch.
If you look closely at your needles, you’ll notice that the smaller ones have tiny screws and the bigger needles have larger screws. The small needles require an “S” cord connector, the larger ones an “L” cord connector.
Switching to a smaller screw allows ChiaoGoo to go down to a US 2, but it does mean you’ll probably want to double up on cords.
Which brings us to the cords. The red cords in the Twist kit are made from a strong, slightly firm nylon-coated multi-strand steel cable. The Spin cords, on the other hand, are made from a slender, flexible clear cord.
The clear cords are ideal for things like lace or other lightweight knitting projects where you don’t want a heavy cord kinking up on you. But as your project gets heavier and bulkier, the flexibility of the clear cord becomes a drawback. It doesn’t hold up when you try to slide your stitches from the cable onto your needle. Instead, the cord goes right along with the stitches, its end popping out and forming a giant loop. The heavier your yarn and the more stitches on your cable, the more troublesome this becomes. Soon my cord was permanently bent at a 90-degree angle to my needle, at which point I gave up and swapped out the clear cord for a red one. I had the luxury of both kits at my disposal, not everyone will.
ChiaoGoo currently offers both its Twist and Spin interchangeables in three kinds of sets: You can get all the needles in the Complete kit, which is shown and reviewed here. Or you can get the Small or Large sets, each essentially the small or large-sized half of the Complete kit.
The Complete set retails for $150 and contains 13 needle tips in US 2 (2.75mm), US 3 (3.25mm), 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), US 10 1/2 (6.5mm), US 11 (8mm), US 13 (9mm), and US 15 (10mm). Each needle tip measures 5″ (13cm).
The Complete kit also comes with two sets of cords, one set for the needles with S screws, and one set for those with the L screws. Each set has three cords, one each measuring 24″ (60cm), 32″ (80cm), and 40″ (100cm). In addition, you also get two S and L end caps, one S and L cord connector for making even longer cords, two cord keys, a ruler/needle sizer, and a collection of charming, colorful stitch markers.
The Small set retails for $80 and contains 7 needle tips in US 2 (2.75mm), US 3 (3.25mm), US 4 (3.5mm), US 5 (3.75mm), US 6 (4mm), US 7 (4.5mm), US 8 (5mm). Ditto the Large set, which contains 7 tips in US 9 (5.5mm), US 10 (6mm), US 10 1/2 (6.5mm), US 11 (8mm), US 13 (9mm), and US 15 (10mm). In either set you also get three cords, one each measuring 24″ (60cm), 32″ (80cm), and 40″ (100cm), in addition to two S end caps, one cord connector, two cord keys, a ruler/needle sizer, and that same collection of charming, colorful stitch markers. It comes in the same case as the Complete, just half full (and loudly beckoning you to fill the empty slots).
Bottom line? I like the slender and convenient carrying case. The tips are good, the needle materials solid. There’s nothing here to make you swoon, it’s all about efficiency and functionality. I just wish the clear cords had a little more heft to them.
Hangzhou Westing Bridge LLC, distributed by Westing Bridge LLC
Either stainless steel or bamboo
Complete kit $150, Small kit $80
These needles appear to be backordered in a lot of places. If you get impatient, do a Google search and you may find someone else who has them in stock.
ChiaoGoo/Westing Bridge LLC