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Knitters tend to have strong opinions about needles. Some are fiercely loyal to bamboo or wood, others wouldn't dare touch anything other than flexible plastic, and some argue strongly about the merits of coated aluminium.
Then you have another group of knitters, a small but fiercely loyal bunch dedicated to interchangeable needle kits. Denise needle owners are particularly loyal.
Interchangeable needle kits are based on the concept of a cord being able to attach and detach from its needles. In this way you can get endless needle size and length combinations out of one simple kit.
With no sharp or particularly threatening-looking metal parts, the Denise kit has been extremely successful for knitters wishing to bring their knitting on airplanes.
The Denise Story
The original interchangeable needle kit concept was developed by Lorraine and Robert Linstead for Boye. Called the Needlemaster, it featured multiple needle sizes that screwed onto a central cord.
Over time, knitters reported that their needle connections came unscrewed mid-project and that the needles became discolored. So the Linsteads set out to improve upon their original design, and thus was born Denise.
The Linsteads manufactured these kits for more than two decades, until a fateful day in early 2002 when Linda Krag -- a second-generation Denise fan -- called them to purchase a gift kit. Instead, she ended up buying the company.
What You Get
Each kit comes in a rectangular plastic booklike case (similar to those for books on tape) containing 10 pairs of needle heads (sizes US 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10 1/2, 11, 13, and 15), six cords (5", 9", 12", 14", 16", and 19"), two extenders, and four end buttons.
The extenders allow you to connect one or more cords together to create a longer working cord, while the end buttons allow you to use a cord as a stitch holder or single-pointed needle.
Each item has its own special place in the needle case, eliminating the mayhem usually associated with storing circular needles.
The kit has a very plastic, synthetic look to it, from the case to the actual kit pieces. But everything feels good in the hands - lightweight, warm, and flexible, especially the smaller-sized needles. Such flexibility is a welcome feature for anybody with arthritis or other hand problems. In this way they are similar to Bryspun.
The tips have a medium taper and nicely defined tip. The larger needles (sizes 11, 13, and 15) have a longer taper leading to the same well-defined tip. The cords are actually lightweight tubes.
Setting up my needles was a snap, literally. You simply insert the end of the cord into a tiny hole in the end of the needle, and then twist until you hear a click. The extenders and end buttons function on the same principle. Even with fairly rigorous use, I was unable to make the ends come undone.
The connectors presented little obstacles for my knitting. They introduced a small amount of drag as I slid my stitches along, but less than I've experienced with Inox and others.
I did notice that the tighter my stitches, the greater the drag at the juncture of cord and needle. Again, this is a common circular needle phenomenon.
I also noticed that a fine ridge running lengthwise along a few of my needles, most likely the result of the molding and unmolding process. It didn't pose any problems, and after a while I stopped noticing it at all.
By using the cord extenders in your kit, you can have circular needles in lengths of 17", 20", 22", 24", 26", 28", 33", 40", 50", and 58". You can also use the needles as straight needles simply by attaching an end button to each cord end. With end buttons you can have working needle lengths of 9", 13", 16", 20", 30", and 34".
The end buttons also allow you to detach a project completely, using the cord as a stitch holder. When you're ready to pick up the stitches again, just detach the end buttons, reattach the needles, and start knitting.
The Denise kit costs $49.95. If the initial investment seems daunting, remember that this averages out to far less per pair of needles, especially if you consider the multiple lengths each needle size can have.
Denise needles are guaranteed for life. If you encounter any problems with normal wear (using them as puppy toys or cooking utensils may not count), you can return them for replacement.
Care and Feeding
The Krags recommend that you keep the needles away from extreme heat and the curious hands of toddlers too young to knit, and that you return them to their case when not in use.
Don't Be Afraid to Accessorize
I have a bad habit of starting projects and then setting them aside, leaving them on the needles for long periods of time while I work on other projects. The kit comes with five cords, two of which are too short for comfortable standalone use. Many projects may require you to link more than one cord together.
If you truly want the use of all 10 pairs at any one time, you may be well advised to stock up on extra cords (priced at $6.00 per pair).
You can also get a new companion set featuring all six cords, the four end buttons and two extenders. It retails for $20 at shops everywhere.
I tend to start random projects in the middle of the night, long after my local yarn shop has closed. And almost always, I end up needing a different size of needle than I have in my stash (or the one pair of needles I need is housing another unfinished project).
I can see this kit coming in extremely handy at times like these. If the one-needle-fits-all concept appeals to you, and if you aren't opposed to using man-made materials, think about adding a Denise kit to your wish list.
They're an ideal gift to give the knitter who has (almost) everything. You never know when they'll come in handy. I know I'll make good use of mine.
Knitty's favorite things
By Amy R Singer
When I started knitting again after a long hiatus, I started hunting for new tools. [I'd picked up a little tool fetish during my time as a quilter.] Certainly there'd be new products to try, right?
The first thing I came across were casein needles. And I liked them. But I was still annoyed with the perpetual need to constantly buy pair after pair of needles when I didn't have a certain size in my already embarassingly large collection.
I first turned to the well-known Boye Needlemaster, thinking it would solve my problems. But I hate knitting with clinky aluminum needles and found out quickly that I really hated this set. Coarse joins, scratchy surface. Just not for me. I sold my set to someone who likes aluminum and went back to my caseins.
Soon after, I spotted an ad for Denise Interchangeable Needles in the back of a knitting magazine. How good could they be? They were half the price of the Needlemaster and I hadn't heard much internet buzz about them. But in the interest of knitting science, I wanted to test them.
I am in love.
In this small blue kit [about the size of a hardcover book] you get 10 needle tips from sizes US5 to 15, 6 lengths of cord from 5.5 to 20 inches, 4 end buttons and 2 connectors. For a mere $44.95US. You may never have to buy another needle or stitch holder ever again. Though you can make nearly an infinite number of combinations of cord length and tip size, the basic set is the equivalent of:
Yes, that's at least $1000 worth of needles you won't have to buy. And it doesn't even begin to cover the condo needles, stitch holders and other neat tricks it can do. Join various lengths of cord to get just the length you want; leave your work on any cord, twist off the knitting tips and twist on the end buttons and your work is safely held until you need it.
Interestingly, I learned that the Denise system was created by the original designers of the Needlemaster. It was their second go at developing the perfect knitting set and it's my opinion that they got it right this time.
The tips are made of a smooth lightweight resin that's easy on your hands. The cords are made of a smooth, flexible blue plastic and a simple twist joins the tips to the cords. They do stay put! I found myself knitting more quickly and more comfortably with Denise needles than with any other type of needle I've ever used.
Denise needles are so light that I was certain they were even lighter than Addi Turbos. To satisfy my curiosity, I weighed two similar-length circulars -- one 4mm [Addi turbo] and one #6US [Denise]. Both weighed exactly 6 grams. There you go. Science in action.
To test this set, I cast on for the Sitcom Chic pattern featured in our last issue. You'll see it calls for quite a few different needle sizes. With the Denise system, I was able to create just about every size called for in the pattern [except the double points]. I knit the body on the longest cord, switching tip sizes when called for in the pattern. And when I started the sleeve, I found I was soon able to switch to a tiny circular made up of two 5.5" cords joined with one connector. Very enjoyable working on these sleeves this way.
The joins are not perfectly smooth [they've got a little indent to make it easier to grip them as you twist on the tips], but I found that this took very little getting used to. I knit on the set with pure cotton and cotton/acrylic of all different weights and had no troubles slipping the knitting past the joins.
Hint: If you cast on too tightly as I do, you might want to choose the next size larger tip for your cast-on row. Then switch to the size called for when working the second row.
The only negative I've experienced is that the smallest tip size [3.5mm or US5] has occasionally come unattached while pushing my stitches over the join, usually on my [too tight] cast-on row. It's because this tip is virtually the same diameter as the join, so slipping snug work from the needle to the cord is a little fiddlier. It's not insurmountable...just be a little more careful when using the smallest size if you're a tight knitter.
Customer service note: The original Denise set I received had troublesome cords. My stitches wouldn't slide easily along them and knitting got caught in the joins. It turns out that the Denise folk had a bad batch last fall/winter and I had accidentally received a set of cords from the bad batch. A quick call to Linda at their toll-free number and replacement cords were sent to me with no fuss. As promised, these were very smooth, slippery and worked perfectly.
Wishlist for future versions:
I have never enjoyed working with a knitting product more than with the Denise Interchangeable Needle system. It is unquestionably the best knitting product I've ever encountered in every possible way.
Postscript: Long after the original writing of this article, I'm still using the Denise needles on every project I knit. I'm a convert.