All of my motorcycle friends know, carbon fiber is cool. Carbon fiber is light weight and strong and has a cool distinctive look. It is also rather pricey, but really, can you put a price on cool?
The first appearance of carbon fiber in the knitting needle world is Blackthorn DPNs. These have nothing but the most favorable reviews, but a few problems for my tool bag. First is the price, for $35.00 a set these are a premium priced set of needles. Signature needles DPN’s are $47.00 /set and they are considered the elite needles. Addi, the work horse of the needle world price their steel DPN’s aroung $11.00 /set.
The second problem with Blackthorn is they only offer 6″ DPNs. I rarely use DPN’s these days. I tend to do my socks 2 at a time on a magic loop circular. This ensures my pair of socks are the same size and any design features (because we don’t make mistakes right?) are the same for both. When I do use DPN’s I tend to go for 5″ or even 4.5″ lengths and find 6″ needles to be awkward for sock knitting.
So I was intrigued when Knitter’s Pride came out with their Karbonz line that includes circular needles as well as DPN and I’ve been watching for Karbonz interchangeable tips. In celebration of a recent holiday, my husband gifted my with a set of Karbonz circulars, size 1, 24″.
The first thing I noticed is each tip is 5 1/8″ long so the 24″ length doesn’t leave much room for magic loop. I was able to work one sock, but for two at a time you need at least the 32″ length and the 40″ would probably be better.
The connections where the nickle tips and the nickle cord seat are smooth. Running my fingers across I can feel a slight bump where the carbon fiber shaft meets each end, but it is not enough to catch yarn.
The carbon fiber itself is smooth and has a soft matte finish. It is between metal and wood in that wools and other “grabby” yarns slide smoothly across, but it have just enough texture to hold slicker silk and rayon yarns. It is comfortable on the hands, not nearly as punishing at steel, but not quite the give you get with plastic or casein, or even wood. As a primarily steel needle user, I really enjoy the slight give and more comfortable feel of these needles and I think those who choose wood or acrylic (plastic and/or casein) would find them comfortable.
The real pleasure of these needles is the tip. I know the nickle tips is an afterthought to remedy problems they were having with breakage of the “raw” carbon fiber and a lot of people wonder what the point (pun semi intentional) if a carbon fiber needle is if it is going to have a metal tip, but these are far and away the best geometry of a knitting needle tip I have had the pleasure to use. They are super sharp, which I require for lace, cables w/o a cable needle and any tight gauge knitting like socks. Rather than having a steep angle to the full diameter, they have a rounded gradual increase. The tip is 3/4″ in total length, and the taper is 1/2″ making it a great transition to the full diameter.
The last great thing about them is the price. At $15.00 they are close to many good mid-line needles.
Overall, I love the feel and performance of these needles from the cords to the tips.
Now, I have concerns. The first being the cords, specifically where the cord joins the tips. The cord itself the same cord Knitter’s Pride uses on all of its circulars and it is great. It is flexible and doesn’t hold to shape from being wound up in storage. However, you can feel a “catch” where the cord enters the metal attachment and it does snag the wool as you slide the knitting onto the tip. I have had problems with this spot on other Knitter’s Pride needles. The cords tend to wear at this spot and break, one set broke on the second project! So, until I know that they have solved this wear problem, I will be keeping a close eye on this join.
My next problem is with Knitter’s Pride customer service and warranty. Yes, we are all spoiled by Brittany’s “no questions asked lifetime guarantee”, but a needle company needs to have a good process in place to back up their product. Knitter’s Pride requires you to return defective needles to the place of purchase with the original packaging and receipt.
How many people keep the original packaging for a set of needles? I usually don’t (though I do now). I would think they would be able to identify them as KP needles without the packaging. Receipt is somewhat more reasonable, but what if you received them as a gift? Which is also one problem with the “place of purchase” portion of the requirement. TBH, I source needles for 7 different local shops as well as online and when I travel. If I bought the needles on vacation, I need to travel back to return them?
I also dislike the burden this places on Local Yarn Shops (LYS). They are operating on thin margins as it is and handling the quality control and returns for a needle company seems just a ridiculous expectation. I know several of my LYS’s will exchange the defected needles with out original packaging and receipt whether purchased there or not as a service to the customers. I really appreciate them for going above and beyond like this, but it tends to make me more likely to swallow the loss myself and avoid Knitter’s Pride needles in the future.
I like the direction they are going with the tips. I would like a 4″ option for 16″ and 24″ lengths. However, until the cord attachment and customer service deficiencies are remedied I would not recommend the needles universally.