KNITTING NEEDLES VII – BRITTANY, CLOVER AND CRYSTAL PALACE

I have to admit that I’m no longer a big fan of wooden and bamboo
needles. I liked them when I was just starting out, but as I got more
miles under my fingers, I developed a serious desire for speed. These
days I stick to shiny, lethal looking metal needles, and only pull out
the woods and bamboos when I have to tame a particularly nasty and
slippery novelty yarn. Since I detest working with those yarns, my
non-metal needles are no longer part of my first bench team. Still, I
do have some experiences to report. Note that elswhere on String I’ve got more on comparative sizes and their metric equivalents, and on comparative needle lengths for circs.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace markets Japanese-made bamboo needles of several types:

  • Single point, 9 inches long, size US #0-19
  • Single point, 12 inches long, size US#0-19
  • Double points, sets of five, 8 inches long, size US#0-15
  • Double points, sets of five, 6 inches long, size US#0-8

In
general, these are smooth, nicely finished bamboo needles. The single
points have rounded wooden beads on the non-business end. Tapers are a
bit less pointy than metal needles. I’ve found the smaller sizes to be
a bit less fragile than the same size needle in wood because the bamboo
tends to flex and stay bent rather than bend and (eventually) snap, but
even so – if you are someone who routinely finds that your metal
needles sport a scimitar-like curve after use, you might find these in
sizes smaller than US #3 to be too fragile for extended use.

One
other word about bamboo needles in general, sometimes the tips denature
a bit, especially if they get damp. When that happens the consituent
fibers that make up the bamboo fuzz out a bit and begin catching on
one’s work. I haven’t knit with enough Clovers and CPs to be able to do
a comparison between the two lines, but this has happened often enough
to be noticeable. A smooth down with very fine emery paper helped get
rid of my tip burrs.

Takumi Clover Bamboo

Very
similar to the Crystal Palace bamboos, the Takumi are smooth finish,
with moderate tapers, and wooden beads on the ends of the single
points. The beads are more barrel than round, but the look is very
similar. They come in a wider range of lengths, but fewer diameters
than CP. Current offerings on their home website include:

  • Single point 13-inch long, size US#0-10.5
  • Single point 14 inches long, size US#11-15
  • Single point 9 inches long, size US #3-10.5
  • Double point sets of four, 7 inches long, size US #0-10.5
  • Double point sets of four, 16 inches long, size US #3-10.5

I also see these other sizes listed at various vendors

  • Single point 16 inches long, size US #17-19
  • Circualrs 16 inches long, plastic cables, sizes US#3-15
  • Circulars 24 inches long, plastic cables, sizes US#3-15
  • Circulars 29 inches long, plastic cables, sizes US #3-15
  • Circulars, 36 inches long, plastic cables, sizes US #3-15
  • Flex (Jumper needles), 20 inches long, sizes US #3-15

The
largest difference between the Crystal Palace and Clover circulars is
the nature of the join. CP uses a metal cowling into which fit both the
needle end and the cable. Clover slots the cable into the butt end of
the needle itself, tapering the cable so that it joins the end of the
bamboo part smoothly. I can’t speak to which is better because I have
not used them extensively. I will say that the Clover cable seems a bit
stiffer than the Crystal Palace cable.

The Clover form factor
I have used quite a bit is the Flex jumper needle. Jumper needles are
sort of a hybrid between circs and straights. They’re used like
straights, but being flexible and whippy at the end allow the weight of
the work to puddle on the lap similar to circs. I have several friends
who prefer straights, but because of limited hand mobility find even
short straights tiresome or painful because of the leverage caused by
the weight of the project on the ends of their needles. They greatly
prefer jumpers to classic straights. I also liked them because I used
to knit quite a bit while riding on the Washington, D.C. subway.
Jumpers minimized the threat level for the rider sitting next to me. No
needle ends were waving about at the edge of his/her space. (Yes, using
circs flat is good for this, too.) I did have problems with my Clover
tips furring, especially in the humidity of a Washington summer.
Eventually I switched entirely over to metal needles, using circs in
the flat rather than jumpers.

Brittany

I
adore the look of Brittany needles. I’ve broken about a dozen over the
years. Some died in the course of normal knitting. Others were in-bag
or sofa-side casualties. Again, while I like the look, these aren’t
among the needles I reach for first.

Brittany makes several styles of needle:

  • Single points, birchwood, 10 inches long, sizes US #3-17
  • Single points, birchwood, 14 inches long, size US #3-17
  • Double points, birchwood, sets of five, 7.5 inches long, sizes US #0-17
  • Double points, birchwood, sets of five, 5 inches long, size US #0-17
  • Double points, birchwood, sets of five, 10 inches long, sizes US#0-17

The
birch single points have simple but pretty turned ends. Tapers are
slightly less pointy across the line compared to bamboo needles. They
also tend to be a bit more slick than bamboo, but are still nowhere
near as slippery as metal. Some people who are fond of wooden needles keep a piece of nice lanolin-rich fleece or roving around, and rub their wooden needles with it after use. I’m not entirely convinced that this helps, as most of the wood and bamboo finishes used appear to be some kind of polyurethane or other plastic. I doubt the moisture can penetrate the finish, but I guess special care can’t hurt.

Brittany
also used to sell walnut
single points with more ornate turned ends. It doesn’t look like they
still carry the line. I’m not surprised, as my walnut needles did tend
to both dry out and break more than did my birch ones. Over the years I
am responsible for the demise of about five pairs of walnut needles,
ranging in size from US #10s (trodden upon) to US #5s (mashed when my
knitting bag got clipped by a revolving door). I’ve also snapped quite
a few birch single points. I took to using them for traveling back
before
metal needles were added to the list of allowables on US domestic
flights. I must have the finger strength of a moose because I can break
birch up to size US #5 clean through just by knitting with it. I
do prefer these harder woods to bamboo though. They’re smoother,
especially at the tip, and their finish is more satiny. They’re nice tools. Now if
only I could learn to knit gently.

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