Blue Sky Alpacas
Not because of the needles themselves, which I didn't really get to see, but because of the gorgeous tins they came in. They're all the same narrow rectangular shape, but each has a different design and color depending on the size of needle it holds (view the whole set). Only months later did I have a chance to actually use the needles, at which point my tune reluctantly changed. But first, the good stuff.
What You See
The handmade nature of these needles is immediately evident. Each tip in the set I played with was slightly different—not in a way that interferes with your knitting, mind you, but in a way that says "Hello, a real person made these!" each time you use them.
These needles are available in sizes ranging from US 0 to US 6. The smaller sizes and five-inch length make them absolutely ideal for knitting socks or even narrower baby items. The needle's size is printed in black ink along the side of the needle. When I ran my fingernail lightly along the surface, however, the print immediately came off in tiny flecks.
The wood is given a smooth, polished finish without the use of any harmful chemicals. The feel-good spirit behind these needles is embodied right on the tin itself, where it reads, "Made in India by people who are treated well and fairly." I decided to cast on a pair of socks and see how they enjoyed the journey.
What You Get
It takes a lot more than bloodshed to keep me from my knitting, so I simply swapped out the bad needle and used the extra that was still in the tin. I continued, but after a few more rows it became evident that another needle was developing a hairline fracture near the tip.
According to an email sent to one of its customers (and forwarded to me), wooden needles will not have longevity and these needles are only expected to last approximately three to five projects. I should note that since this review was published, I've been told that this is not the company's position. The email must have been an anomaly, because they expect these needles to last far longer.
Having only lost one Brittany Birch sock needle to breakage, ever, I found this alleged statement a little astonishing—especially since we're talking about needles that cost $28.50 per set.
While it'd be easy to conclude that the splinter problems stem from shoddy workmanship or poor materials, I wonder whether the problems are actually caused by the needles rattling around, unprotected, in their tin. Each time the tin moves around in your knitting bag, those sharp needle tips are hitting against the tin's metal ends.
It'd be easy enough to pad the top and bottom with some fiber (perhaps Blue Sky has some extra alpaca in the warehouse?) to protect the needles. For those who've already made the investment, I'd recommend padding your tin immediately just to be safe.
If your needles have splintered and you don't want to try and get a replacement set, I can only advise chemical warfare: seal the tips with a very fine dab of clear fingernail polish. Or abandon the needles and consider yourself the proud owner of a lovely $28.50 needle tin.
Needles marked in US and metric sizes.
US 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Average retail price
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