Aluminum vs. Bamboo Double-Pointed-Needles

March 8, 2014

I knit my first two pair of socks on metal needles, and mostly, I liked using them. For a recent gift, (recent being in the last year or so), I received a set of double-pointed bamboo needles in multiple sizes. Being quite excited about receiving them, I began knitting my third pair of socks with them. At first, they worked quite well. But I travel between my home and my boyfriend’s home often.  My boyfriend’s home also has two large dogs that are hard on any set of knitting needles, but especially the bamboo ones. I also substitute teach in various schools, so I take my knitting projects with me. I knit while on breaks or when the kids do not specifically need my direct attention.

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So, which is better, bamboo needles or metal needles? I would have to say it depends on your project, where it is travelling with you and your preferences. As a disclaimer, I have only used acrylic needles once, they were straight and used for knitting the dolls I made for my nieces. They were straight needles, and do not compare to the double-pointed needles. I will say that they didn’t allow the acrylic yarn I was using to slide as well as the other needles. Other than that aside, I will not be comparing acrylic needles at this time.

In my excitement, I cast on 80 stitches to make a lacy sock. Yes, I said eighty stitches, I have large calves and widening feet as I grow older. I began to knit the cuff on bamboo and enjoyed it. I continued with the pattern for the calf/leg of the sock, and while it felt as if this one was taking a long time to knit-likely because I managed to complete two rows a day in a half-hour break while exhausting myself assisting in teaching preschool four days a week, I likely progressed about an inch a week unless I sat down one morning on my weekend and knit away. I even took it to do laundry with me. I accomplished two rows there as well, until I got to the heel flap. Then I knit the heel turn on Christmas morning. I was still knitting on the bamboo needles at this time. However, one of the needles were starting to bend.

Shortly after carefully knitting through the gusset with the half-split bamboo needle; the needle actually cracked one day. At that point, I had no choice but to switch to my metal needles. I could have knit with one metal and three bamboo needles, until the rest of them broke. I decided it would be easier to switch now, rather than hope they don’t break and lose my stitches.

As I was knitting very carefully through the gusset, I was chatting with an acquaintance who also knits. I mentioned my bamboo woes to her as I held up my very periscope looking sock. I suggested just going back to aluminum needles to avoid the breakage. I could not think of any way to seal this bamboo needle without changing its size or shape in the area it broke. Kerri, however, reminded me that she doesn’t like aluminum because the stitches slide off. I do recall having more problems with that on the previous sock, but it was a knit 6, purl 2, pattern and not too difficult to pick up. This pattern was a ten stitch repeat with knit two togethers and yarn over, and so pick up must be meticulous.

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Once I had switched to the aluminum needles that are still intact, I did have some stitches slip off the needle, in the pattern work, of course. I carefully placed the stitches back on the needles, and knit around very carefully, counting, and re-counting, checking for dropped stitches. As a result, I began looking for stitch holders, or considering the tiny rubberbands used with braces. I did end up picking up rubber point protectors, or stitch-holders that you may have noticed in recent blogs.

Most of the time, they are quite useful, unless you forget to put them back on the needles when you finish knitting the row. I had middle and high school band, with someone coming in to lead them through music I couldn’t lead them through as well alone. At the end of 7th grade band, which played with great enthusiasm, I forgot to put my knitting back together. They were playing such fun songs, I didn’t even remember to knit as I did through other classes.

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After school, I drove to my interview, then back to my boyfriend’s for the evening. During that evening, I realized that I had to pick up twenty stitches in this pattern as I had forgot to put the point protectors back on the needles. Any other time, I’m grateful I spent the money on these silly little alien points. I think the point protectors are a great investment if you continue using aluminum needles.

If you knit at home, or have a better travel system, bamboo works great. However, if you are on the go, I do recommend the aluminum needles.

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One Response to “Aluminum vs. Bamboo Double-Pointed-Needles”

  1. Crooked Tracks Says:

    I like your socks. Myself I like bamboo needles but I think knitting is great because of all the choices of yarn and tools 🙂

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