Introduction to Interchangeable Knitting Needles
Interchangeable Knitting Needles are much like Circular Knitting Needles, in that they are made up of a pair of needle tips joined in the middle by a flexible 'cable', or cord. In fact - they are typically used in place of Circular Knitting Needles when a pattern calls for them. Just like circular needles, Interchangeables are most commonly used for knitting in the round, which refers to knitting items without a seam. This could include smaller projects like sleeved gloves and hats, or larger projects including sweaters and jackets. However certain interchangeable needles can also be used for larger flat projects like blankets and shawls.
The key difference between the two is that with interchangeable knitting needles, the cable can be detached from the tips and interchanged to adjust the size, depending on the project being knitted. The tips are available in a range of sizes and the cables are available in various lengths. Many of the major brands also make cable connectors, allowing to to join 2 x cables (or more) together for even more flexibility. More on choosing the appropriate lengths and size to below…
Interchangeable Knitting Needles are a great choice for those more avid knitters, and a set of interchangeables is a great investment for anyone intent on knitting multiple different projects in the future.
Choosing the Cable Length
The cables for interchangeable knitting needles are usually available in various lengths, starting at around 40cm (16") and increasing through to around 150cm (60"). Which length to choose depends on the project being knitted, however remember that the great thing about this type of knitting needle is that the length can be adjusted using different cables, or joining multiple cables together.
Most patterns will identify which length circular needles are suggested. Combining and switching cables with the required knitting needles can save a knitter from having to purchase new sized circular needles every time they start a new project.
Whilst the patterns will usually tell you which length to use, the following general rules apply:
- Longer cables (greater than 90cm) are typically used for heavy or larger projects most common knitted in the round, such as sweaters and jackets or flat knitted projects including large shawls and blankets.
- Medium length cables (60cm - 90cm) can be used for mid-size projects, also knitted flat or larger tube knitting projects, like shawls and bigger scarves.
- Shorter cables (up to 50cm) would be used for smaller projects requiring tube knitting, including hats, children’s scarves and headbands.
Choosing the Needle Tip Size
Before we get to selecting the right size, it is important to note that the size of a needle refers to the diameter of the thickest part of the needle tip.
Much like the length of the cable, the size of the needle tips will depend on the project you are intending to knit, and more specifically on the weight of the yarn you will be knitting with (and even your style of knitting if you want to get technical). Most knitting patterns and yarn specifications will provide a guide as to the recommended size of needles to use.
To truely assess which size needle is appropriate for your project, it is best to knit a small 10cm test patch with the yarn you intend to use. From this patch you will be able to count the gauge (or tension) of your project. The gauge refers to the number of stitches or rows required to knit a 10cm section of garment. A knitter’s gauge is a combination of their style, the needles used and yarn selected. Once the yarn is selected, the needle size is the only true variable in a project. Thus a test patch can determine if the needle size (and thus gauge) is right for you to easily follow the measurements in your knitting pattern.
Given this natural variation between knitters, it can be useful to purchase a set of interchangeable knitting needles, so that you have a range of sizes on hand should you need to swap sizes.
For a useful guide on which size to choose with each weight of yarn, please refer to our Yarn Size Chart, remembering that the best way to select needle size is by knitting a test patch before commencing your project.
Interchangeable Knitting Needles are available in a range of materials, including Metal, Wood and Plastic. Each material is more appropriate for different knitters and generally, the preferred material is down to personal preference. This makes it hard to say that any material is “better” or “worse” than another, or more or less appropriate.
For this reason, we have created an entire (albeit brief) buying guide to help you select you Knitting Needle Material.
KnitPro - Made in Germany, KnitPro is one of the most popular brands of knitting needles, with their interchangeable needles coming in a variety of ranges, covering all of the major materials available. Perhaps the best selling range of all of our needles is the KnitPro Symfonie Interchangeable Knitting Needle range. This is a colourful, polished wooden needle range and is available with individual tips, or as sets. Also popular in the Knit Pro range are the Karbonz lightweight carbon-fibre needles, the Nova Metal needles & the Trendz Acrylic needles. For a more detailed review on KnitPro Knitting Needles, please click on the link provided.
ChiaoGoo - The result of centuries of hand knitting by a small family in regional China, the luxurious ChiaoGoo interchangeable needles have become famous for their attention to detail. Not only are their needles available in a wide range of sizes and cable lengths, but the cables even come in both small and large sizes, to be used with different sized needle tips. This ensures a smooth transition from tip to cable and makes the ChiaoGoo interchangeable needles unique in the marketplace (to our knowledge - please correct us if we’re wrong in the comments below). ChiaoGoo needles are available in Twist and Spin models, with the Twist needle range being a very slick metal make and the Spin range made from a warm, tactful Bamboo material. These needles are available in individual tip sizes or as a set, complete with all accessories and a gorgeous carry case.
HiyaHiya - Started over 15 years ago in 2002 in the booming town of Shanghai, HiyaHiya is the handy work of the Huang family. It has grown to become one of the world's pre-eminant Interchangeable Knitting Needle brands, with the sharp steel tips among the most popular. HiyaHiya also product Bamboo & Steel needle tips, as well as their world-first interchangeable single point knitting needles. HiyaHiya are extremely well regarded among knitting experts and novices alike.
Denise - Direct from the USA and famous for their colourful Acrylic Interchangeable Knitting Needles, Denise are behind both individual needle tips as well as conveniently assembled sets, complete with all of the most popular sizes and lengths of needle tips and cables, together with some useful accessories.
Addi - Made using German precision, the Addi Click range of Interchangeable Knitting Needles utilises a patented connecting system, which does not require any tools and rather allows the cable to be inserted and twisted in order to 'click' the cables to the tips. Not only is this more convenient, but also ensures the smooth sliding of yarn across the join, a key consideration when choosing interchangeable knitting needles.
Clover - Japanese craft supply masters Clover have been incredibly focussed with their range of knitting needles. They only have one key range, called Takumi and made from a sterdy, smooth finish Bamboo. Japanese attention to detail comes to the fore with the Takumi needles, and they are a great choice for anyone seeking wooden interchangeable needle tips.
Other - The above list of brands is by no means exhaustive. We know we have missed many, but have attempted to touch on some of the more popular ones. If we have neglected to discuss your favourite brand, please comment below - and be sure to let us know why you love them. We will continue to refine this article in the future and would be only too happy to include your favourite brand in the list.
Links to Useful Info and Reviews of Interchangeable Knitting Needles