Circular Needle ID Tags

When I first started acquiring knitting needles, I religiously kept all their packaging and vowed to keep each needle in its corresponding package for safekeeping. It seemed like brilliant idea, but entropy got the best of me.

Some 20 years later my house is overrun with stray circulars snaking their way behind couches and under bookshelves. On those rare occasions when they manage to stay in the boxes and baskets assigned to them, they still wriggle into tangles that would make wire coathangers proud.

Simply extracting the needles is a chore. And then figuring out what size they are can be equally complicated.

On the wood and bamboo needles, the sizes tend to wear away almost immediately. And on the metal needles, some have no size marking at all, others are marked only in US, and yet others marked only in mm sizes.Such chaos is hardly a tragedy, but it does lend itself to the invention of such organizational devices as these Circular Needle ID Tags from Nancy Shroyer of Nancy’s Knit Knacks. (These tags won’t make the tangles disappear—for that you’ll want to look at the Circular Solution, not reviewed here.)

A Simple Idea

Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest, as with these tags. They are approximately 3/4-inch long strawlike tubes with a slit along the side that has been crimped.

When you slide the tag over the cord on your circular needle, the crimp snaps over it and holds the tag in place. They are a bright yellow color with large black text that’s easy to read.

The numbers are printed on the tags in a semi-pixellated industrial font. Despite my best attempts, I was unable to wear off the numbers. As Nancy says herself, these are permanently marked.

Vital Stats

The Circular Needle ID Tags come in two size groups: the small set (29 tags for US 0 to 6 needles) and the large set (29 tags for US 7 to 35 needles). They are in long strips, and you separate each one simply by bending until the cut connection point snaps.

The IDs are numbered with the US number first, then millimeters. The number of tags varies depending on the needle size, with more tags for more popular sizes.

In my small set, I had three tags of each size with the exception of US 0 (2.0mm) and US 1 (as manifested in 2.25mm), where I only had two tags. I did have four US 1 – 2.5 mm, however.

For the tiny sizes (US 0 and US 1 – 2.25mm) there was no crimped slot in the tube—you simply slide your needle through the tube instead.

The large set comes with:

  • four each of US 7 (4.5mm), 8 (5.0mm), and 9 (5.5mm),
  • three each of US 10 (6.0mm), 10.5 (6.5mm), and US 11 (8.0mm),
  • two each of US 13 (9.0mm) and 15 (10.0mm),
  • and one each of US 10.75 (7.0mm), US 17 (12.0mm), US 19 (15.0mm), and US 35 (19.0mm).

When you’re using the needles, Nancy advises you to remove the tag and tie it to the cast-on tail of your yarn. I think I’d probably just put the tag back in the bag for safekeeping, or put it on one of the many other empty unidentified needles waiting its turn in my stash.

Each tag kit retails for $7.99 [up to $10 as of 2017] and can be found at most major retailers. You can also buy directly from Nancy’s Knit Knacks. I bought mine at Halcyon Yarn.

My only concern is that these tags may become brittle and crack over time, especially if I pop them on and off the needles regularly. I haven’t had two years to test this, but I’m guessing they’ll give you several good years of use—and even more if you aren’t constantly pulling them on and off the needles—before selectively breaking down.

A Must Have?

As with any organizational tool, these ID tags will only work if you commit to their process. That is, get a needle sizer, go through all the needles in your stash, and methodically assign a tag to each one. (If you have a cat at home, be aware that they may interrupt this process at regular intervals.)

If you run out of tags for one size, you can always cheat and carefully slice open a coffee stirrer straw, marking it with a permanent pen—but it won’t be nearly as stylish.

And once you’ve marked all your needles, you need to commit to keeping them marked, keeping your unused tags in an easy to find place and not losing them along the way.

Maybe that’s where Nancy got the idea to have you tie the tag to your yarn when using the needles. But I fear my tag would still disappear. The cast-on tails of my projects tend to wither away. Or maybe that’s just because my projects stay on the needles for years at a time?

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