Fun with interchangeable needles

I could say to you that I love interchangeable needle sets because they are more cost-effective than buying each size needle individually. But that would be a big, fat, Fritos-eating lie. They are more cost-effective, but that is not why I love them.

No, I love interchangeable needle sets because I also love Legos. Pieces! That fit together! And then can be taken apart! And put back together again in new ways! I never get tired of it! Nor, apparently, do I tire of exclamation marks!

But perhaps you do!

So much does the interchangeability of the pieces intrigue me that I’ve stumbled upon a few tricks that you can do with these sets. Some of these I picked up from others, and some of these you have perhaps figured out on your own.

  1. We may as well start with the obvious, just in case it isn’t obvious: Let’s say you need to change needle sizes mid-project, like when you’re switching from ribbing to stockinette. With fixed needles, you would need to knit the stitches onto a new needle. With interchangeables, you can simply change the tips on the very cord that’s holding your project.
  2. But you can also change cord length. Let’s say you start knitting a hat on a 20″ needle and now you want to switch to a 16″ length. You could simply knit the next round on the new length, as above, but why? You’re switching because the stitches are already too tight around the needle, yes? Why muddle through one more round, cursing your fumbly fingers? Instead, pop the needle tip off the right end of the needle you’re using, and pop it onto the new cord length. So you’ll have one of your size 6 tips (say) on the old cord, and the other size 6 tip on the new cord. The other end of each cord is left bare. Work the next round onto the new cord length. Just watch to make sure the stitches don’t go flying off the exposed ends. When you have gotten all the stitches onto the new cord length, switch over the other needle tip. Hey presto.
  3. Do you have the common problem where your purl stitches are looser than your knit stitches? If you’re knitting stockinette back and forth on an interchangeable circular, try putting a needle size smaller onto the end of the cord that you use to purl your stitches.
  4. This trick is specific to the KnitPicks interchangeable sets, but works with any of them (metal, wood, or plastic). In fact, I picked up this tip from the business’ owner, Kelley Petkun, on her podcast. There’s a tiny little hole near the join on KnitPicks interchangeables. Next time you’re knitting lace on one of these needles, use that hole to create a lifeline. Simply thread some dental floss or embroidery thread through that little hole before you begin your next row. Then work across the row as usual, and the floss will pull right through that row as you knit. Instant lifeline.

Got any good tips of your own?

9 thoughts on “Fun with interchangeable needles

  1. When knitting in the round, use your desired needle size in your right hand, and one size smaller in your left hand. I also use a nickel plated in my right hand, and a harmony in my left – the combination is quiet and speedy slick … I have so much more to say I may as well write my own post.

  2. When using the cord to thread through a lifeline, be sure that you do not let the lifeline go through your stitch markers. Just remove the stitch markers and put them back in on the next row. Otherwise, your stitch markers will be stuck on the lifeline. Don’t ask me how I know…


  3. Hi Elizabeth,
    Which set(s) of interchangibles do you have?
    I have so many single circulars that I have no business buying a set but would that really stop me?

    Knit on, Latifa

    • Hi Latifa! I have an utter embarrassment of riches, because my very generous mother (who is also a knitter) has gifted them to me. I’ve had two sets of the KnitPicks interchangeables for a while (the Harmony wood ones and the metal ones), and I especially love the Harmony set. Super pointy tips, a great feel in the hands, and very affordable to boot. I also have two sets of the Addis (the lace and the regular). The joining mechanism on them is really cool and the overall quality is primo Addi, though I’ve been a bit disappointed to discover that the tips are even blunter in the interchangeable set than they are in the regular needles.

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