The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Harmony Needle Review October 13, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:13 pm
Tags: ,

Recently, I ordered some Harmony DPNs and circs from Knit Picks.  I know that many people think these needles are beautiful, but I thought they really weren’t my style.  I like the simple, classic look of bamboo or birch needles.  The multi-colored Harmony needles didn’t look as good to me.  My friend Kady had some though and when I saw them in person, I really liked them.  I’m still not over the moon about the colors, but I don’t really notice them as I knit.  And the smaller needles that I use for socks are mostly one color anyway.  I thought I’d put my thoughts about the needles into an easy to read review format for anyone else who’s still on the fence about them.

 

 

Harmony Wood Needles

At a Glance

  • The Good: Smooth surface; stitches slide quickly across needles without being too slippery.  Sharp tips.  Strong, durable material.  Lightweight.  Small sizes come in 6″ length, larger sizes in 8″.  Comparably priced to other wood needles.  Flexible cable in multiple lengths for Magic Loop or circular knitting.
  • The Bad: Multi-color look can be off-putting.  Can feel more like plastic than wood.  Can feel sticky when too warm.  Only available through Knit Picks.

 

The Review

The Harmony needles are made of laminated birch.  As far as I can tell, laminated birch is mostly used for flooring and furniture, meaning that it’s strong and long-lasting.  Knit Picks says that this material allows them to make the points sharper on smaller sizes without sacrificing strength.  As I said above, the colors of the Harmony needles kept me from buying them for a long time, but I don’t really notice the colors anymore.  And, really, they’re usually covered in stitches of pretty yarn.

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Harmony DPNs are divided into two sizes, 6″ and 8″.  Sizes 0 (2mm) -3 (3.25mm) are 6″ and sizes over 3  are 8″.  The ones in the pictures are size 1 (2.25mm).  Sizes are not written on the needles as is often the case with bamboo needles, but the writing/impression usually wears off my needles anyway.  I’d love some 5″ DPNs in the smaller sizes, which are my favorite for socks and glove fingers, but the 6″ is close enough.  The small sizes cost $6.79 for 6 needles, instead of the normal 5, and the large sizes range from $6.99-$9.99 for the normal 5 needles.  Of course, you can only order Harmony needles through Knit Picks whereas other wood needles you can buy through any supplier.  The Harmonies are slightly cheaper than bamboo needles from my favorite yarn shops.

 

Wooden needles are so light that gauging the difference in weight between brands is nearly impossible without a well-calibrated scale.  The Harmony needles feel as light as my Takumis or KAs.  Knit Picks advertises these needles as “unusually durable” and I believe them.  These needles are strong and sharp.  Sometimes when executing a tricky knitting move, I worry about my bamboo needles breaking, although it’s never happened.  I haven’t worried about the Harmonies- they just feel more stable.

 

The surface of the Harmony needles is as smooth as can be.  They aren’t as slippery as metal needles, but slicker than normal wood needles.  They slide through stitches like butter, especially when I was knitting with Essential.  They still retain a nice gentle “grip,” though, so stitches don’t fall off needles.  I don’t know if it’s the material, the way the wood is cut, or the finishing technique, but these needles seem incapable of splintering.  I’ve had that happen at the tip of some of my bamboo needles, but these are incredibly smooth.  So smooth that they initially feel like plastic when I pick them up.  Once they warm up they have a more wood-like feel to them.  However, when my hands get really warm, the needles feel kind of sticky.  The stitches don’t slide very well which isn’t as much of a problem with bamboo needles (although knitting with any needles when things get too warm can be annoying).

 

100_3900    100_3898

 

The best part of these needles is the tip.  The Harmony needles, even in small sizes, are just as sharp as metal needles.  They’re great for lace and cables.  K2togs and even k3togs are a breeze.  I used my KA bamboo circs to knit my Danube socks and had trouble with the blunt points trying to do the twisted stitches.  The Harmonies knit up a swatch of twisted stitches like a dream.  I cannot stress how great the points on these needles are.  (Show in the first picture, from top to bottom: KA, Takumi, Harmony; shown in the second picture, from top to bottom: KA, Harmony, Takumi.)

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A quick word about the fixed and interchangeable Harmony needles.  The interchangeable needles are pretty much the same as the DPNs, just with a smooth join to connect to a cable.  The fixed circulars use the same cable as the interchangeable needles, even for the smaller sizes.  Unlike other wooden circ manufacturers, Knit Picks offers their fixed circular Harmony needles in lengths up to 47″ for sizes under 3.  In other words, Harmony fixed circulars are long enough for the Magic Loop.  Their cable is very flexible; I’d say it’s comparable to the Addi Turbo cable.  The join is very smooth.  I’ve been knitting my socks with 2 Harmony circs and they’ve been great, although I miss the swivel join of the KAs.

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Conclusion
The Harmony needles are a great value, especially for sock knitters who get 6 DPNs instead of 5.  The needles are slick, smooth and lightweight.  They still retain the slight grip of a wooden needle, but are faster than most.  The needles can feel sticky if the knitter’s hands are too warm, though, and sometimes the needles feel more like plastic than wood.  The circulars have a flexible cable available in a wide range of lengths.  The overwhelming advantage of these needles is their sharp point, which makes knitting lace and twisted stitches as easy as can be.  If metal needles are too slick for you and wooden needles are too dull, these are the right needles for you!

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First Review June 16, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:58 pm
Tags: , ,

Since I’m nowhere near done with even the first Lupine Sock yet, let alone the pair and the write-up, it’s time to start a new feature! Book reviews. I love to go to the bookstore; it doesn’t even matter if I need a book, I just love the atmosphere. It’s especially great to browse through the craft books (and maybe buy a few of them.) But sometimes there’s a book that I really want to look at and the store doesn’t have it. I imagine this happens to a lot of crafters, because there are so many cool books and such a tiny section of the store devoted to our passion. (Really, why do programming and philosophy get more space than crafting? Those are far less important subjects.) We’re stuck buying the book online, where we can’t look at all the projects or read an excerpt (most of the time.)

I’ve amassed a decent collection of craft books and, while I’m not a professional reviewer or anything, I think I’ve got a decent grasp of what a crafter wants. As a public service to others of my ilk, I’ll be posting reviews of my craft book collection. (Let’s be honest, this is really just an excuse to buy more books. “Look, DH, I need this book to review on my blog! People have been asking for it!”) As this is my first review, I think I’ll choose my first knitting book that wasn’t Stitch & Bitch. I, of course, have chosen a book that already has quite a few reviews on Amazon. Go figure.

The Big Book of Knitting Stitch Patterns

At a Glance

The Good: Colorful, clear photos. A good sampling of knit/purl, lace, cables, and slip stitch patterns. Contains some very unique patterns. Uses both charts and written instructions.

The Bad: Charts and written instructions don’t always match. Charts can be hard to follow. No glossary of chart symbols. Index could be more useful.

The Review

I bought this book because it was the only stitch library at the bookstore and I really wanted to have one. I didn’t like it much right after I bought it, but it’s really grown on me. The pictures are bright and colorful. Each pattern is knit in a random color yarn (if there’s a theme to the colors, I haven’t figured it out yet.) Most of the photos are clear and it’s easy to see the stitch definition; there are, of course, a few photos that are a little hard to see but not many. It’s very fun to flip through, thinking of projects to make or laughing at some of the more outrageous patterns. Honestly, I keep it in my bathroom much of the time to look through and inspire me.

The Big Book has a wide variety of stitch patterns; it includes a little bit of everything. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that if you can only choose one book to buy, you don’t have to choose which pattern type you want (i.e. cables, lace) like the Harmony or Vogue guides. You get some of everything and the patterns range from easy to challenging. It also has some really interesting patterns (they categorize them as “creative stitches”) that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Unfortunately, because the book samples a variety of stitches, it can be hard or impossible to find something if you’re looking for a particular cable or lace pattern. The patterns are all named and there is an index in the front; the index is not a pure alphabetical index, though. It is divided into the same sections as the book. This isn’t a problem if you know the pattern you’re looking for is a pure cable, but who can remember whether that lace stitch is listed under lace or creative stitches? Not much of a complaint, but something worth mentioning.

I am a very visual knitter. I would rather work from a chart than from written instructions. Luckily, the Big Book has both. The charts can be crowded and hard to read on some patterns. The Book uses a horizontal line for purl stitches and a vertical line for knit stitches. For a pattern like Parallelograms, the chart looks like a magic eye. It’s very hard to decipher and would be easier if knit or purl stitches were a blank or shaded square instead. While there is a key for each chart, the key only shows the name of the stitch and not how to perform it. The written instructions have the steps for the special stitch though. Sometimes the written instructions and chart won’t match. I’ve heard that this book is actually a translation from an Italian book, so maybe some things slipped through the cracks. In cases where they don’t match, I usually go with the written instructions or I wing it. It can be highly annoying.

Conclusion

I’m not really sure what to say about this book, honestly. I think this is a good book if you’re looking to try out a bunch of stitches, looking for inspiration, or a gift (there’s bound to be something that pleases!) But it does have some problems that can be really frustrating. It’s also a good book if you’re like me and must be able to look through every pattern ever invented. I’ve seen better compilations, like the old Harmony Guides, but at least this one is still in print!

Next review: Favorite Socks