Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Needle Review - Signature Needle Arts

Photo credit: Signature Needle Arts Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Signature-Needle-Arts-205933660615/)

Anyone who knows me (and/or Alisa) knows how seriously we take our knitting. So much so, we've taken these past few years to test a variety of available knitting needles. Now, with that said, we haven't gotten through ALL available needles yet, however, we have found some we are particularly partial to, those at the top of the list include the amazing Signature Needle Arts collection.

For me personally, there's a reason why I sought after specialized needles that made my life easier. Most of you are already aware, but for those that aren't, I was in a car accident December 2014 where I was hit head-on and suffered numerous injuries, one of the worst ones being a double fracture to my right wrist. Convenient right? Well it was just as horrifying as it sounds and honestly, my right hand has never been the same since. I have a lot of difficulty knitting now, my speed has been affected, tension, and consistency of my work is still a little off, so out of frustration I went looking for ways to try to help alleviate the side effects of my new disability.

Being the scientist that I am, I decided to take a systematic look at what my abilities are, and how I could improve without hurting myself. I learned quickly that my tolerance for very tiny knitted work (doll clothes, etc.) and for very large/heavy knitted work (blankets, throws, etc.) was extremely low. Fatigue and pain hit me like a brick wall (and still does), so I needed to find a way to make my life easier. This is when I started to look at my tools - mainly the needles I used.

I really didn't think much of the needles at this point, since I didn't have an issue with pain and fatigue prior to my accident, but I did learn very early in my knitting career, that there IS a noticeable difference between wooden, plastic, and metal needles. Little did I know, that this was only scratching the surface of my new needle preference exploration project.

I began my adventure in knitting needles by asking local artists what their preferences were and why. Prior to this, I knew my preference was going to be in metal needles, so that automatically removed all wooden and plastic needle options going forward, but that didn't narrow it down much. I had actually first heard about Signature Needles through online reviews when I tried to search people who had similar conditions as me (wrist fractures, arthritis issues, pain, speed issues, and other medical conditions) but when talking to locals, who had heard of Signature, nobody had ever had experience testing them out, and I quickly learned this was because of their exuberant price tag. Availability was also an issue, being that they are manufactured in the USA, not many independent knitting spots carry them for sale.

Work on a tiny baby hat with Signature dpn's several months after my accident.

Lucky for me, I found one. One vendor in all of Ontario carried the brand and could conceivably give me more information about these needles. Obviously, I wasn't about to put up $300+ USD for a set of needles I knew nothing about aside from some Canadian knitting enthusiast gossip, and online reviews. I wasn't about to drive all the way to Waterloo to visit this tiny knitting shop with no guarantee they would have any in stock, so at this point I was pretty discouraged. Until a stroke of good luck and this tiny knitting shop in Waterloo was to come to my end of town for our local annual Knitters Frolic. I was overjoyed! But that still didn't guarantee they would be bringing any signatures with them.

I went to the Frolic and made a point to look for this vendor and crossed my fingers they had something for me to look at. Sure enough, they had a few sets of corded circulars I could 'review' and immediately I fell in love. Although circulars weren't what I was after, I got a chance to observe the construction, weight, and aerodynamics of the needles and knew immediately these were the ones for me, and to my luck, all the reviews were true.

A month later, my Signature stiletto double point needle set arrived in the mail at a price I was sure I would immediately regret paying. The ordering process is very simple and straight forward. Their website is very elegant and provides adequate descriptions/photographs about all their needles and their features, as well as the customization options for each type of needle. I suggest you read reviews about the needles to determine which ones are going to be suitable for you before customizing your set/pair. I purchased the double point needle set which includes 6 sizes of 5-dpns each, you can also buy them individually if you wish. Whats unfortunate is the largest size available in dpns is US 8. I would have preferred sizes up to 10 but I guess you can't have it all. Sock knitters are in luck as they provide smaller needle sizes down to US 0. You can also select the length you wish your needles to be, I had no idea which length I would prefer, so the larger needles I got in the largest length, and some of the smaller sizes I got in a smaller length (all sizes are available from 8"-4"). To me, the length really didn't make much of a difference, but if it's an issue for you, I suggest you take that into consideration when customizing your set as well.

Work on cabled hat on Signature dpn's. Yarn is Malabrigo worsted weight.

The box & tissue packaging for these needles is less than impressive, honestly when I opened it I expected something a bit more "luxe" for what I paid, but that's besides the point. The double points arrive each set in their own "test" tube packaging which I have since kept them in. I like it. It keeps all 5 needles together, and they are very easy to find in my jumbled disorganized box of needles I have at home, they stand out. If you don't like the tubes, they also come with a fabric rolled case you can put them in, personally I've never used mine. I like the tubes.

The needles themselves are colour coded, so each size comes in a different colour. You don't have the option of changing the colours, but you can get them individually monogrammed at an extra cost if you really want them to be personalized, which is a really cool feature Signature offers! Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of it, but still, it's a great option for gift idea's or just to add a personal touch to the needles. They offer this service on all their needles as well, not just the double points. Colours are standard to I've noticed which makes it easy to see which ones are which without trying to find the number written on the side (example; all size 4's are the same colour straight, double pointed, and corded). However the colours are repeated, so your size 2's could be the same colour as your size 8's.

Another thing that's good about these needles is that they are extremely light, but very sturdy. A friend of mine in the metalworking business and I tried to analyze the material of these needles. We did some weight tests and calculations determining they're (likely) made out of an aerospace solid piece of aluminum that's been milled to shape and anodized for colour. Obviously Signature doesn't disclose the exact material they're using, nor their manufacturing techniques, but for anyone who is curious, I've had professionals in the industry analyze the needles and confirm they are impeccably made, and experts can immediately tell a lot of work went into the development of the manufacturing process. This also justifies the price as the needles are seamless, perfectly balanced, and the colours are vibrant and consistent.

Photo credit: Signature Needle Arts Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Signature-Needle-Arts-205933660615/)

But, the best part of these needles, in a practical sense, has got to be the tips. The tips I ordered are stiletto which happen to be their best seller (not hard to see why), but they do have more blunt options available if you prefer - I haven't tested them. From a structural perspective the stiletto points are smooth and consistent across all needle sizes, which I learned the hard way, is so important for speed and tension. I use them consistently and they have never worn down, chipped away, or been damaged since I've had them (3 years now) so they are very well made. The tips are not coloured, which is a smart move on Signatures part. You don't get any chipped colours or snagging yarns from worn tips. I've never tested it (nor would I want to) but I can imagine these needles can take quite a beating before these tips "wear" out.

Best of all, if you're a fast knitter like me, and tend to knit without looking at your work, (watching TV or something else) these tips are a dream come true. They always find their place even if you have tight tension, and the maneuverability is very smooth. Knitting annoying stitches like K2tg, K3tg, Kfb, P2tg, cables etc, become just as smooth as a garter stitch. This was especially noticeable for me, since prior to these needles (and post injury), I would have a very difficult time knitting some lace patterns, cables and bobbles as my wrist would cramp up very quickly with the tighter stitches. These needles help minimize the pain.

Overall, there's not many drawbacks to these needles except the price, but after looking at the manufacturing capabilities that had to have gone into making the product, the price is 100% justified. If I had to say anything negative, the needles can be "silky" with some yarns, and if you're not careful your work can slip off, but I think that goes without saying for most metal needles. If you have a huge issue with this, I would recommend switching materials to either wood, or plastic which, in my opinion, tend to hold onto the yarn much more securely. Also, if you plan on storing any WIP on these needles, think about getting needle caps, I don't know if Signature sells them, I use an old pair I found in grandma's stash just because the stiletto points can poke through anything and everything! I usually have several projects going at once, and I store my projects together most of the time (which probably isn't smart in the first place), and I've noticed these points jab into everything. If you keep them in separate project bags away from other work, they should be fine.

Some fingerless glove work on Signature dpn's. Yarn is Caren Simply Soft.

Thankfully, I've never had to deal with the customer service at Signature (because my order went perfectly and was delivered on-time) therefore I can't comment on that. I've since had a few friends (including Alisa) order from their website and haven't had any experience with customer service since it was not necessary. I will update this blog if I have any customer service comments in the future as I plan on ordering their complete straight needle set, and some circulars I need.

To conclude, if you're thinking about ordering these, I highly recommend it. If you've been through a terrible injury, or if knitting causes you pain and problems, I also highly recommend these. They worked for me, and helped me to enjoy knitting again! But I understand they may not work for everyone's ailment. My tension is a bit on the "looser" side, and I tend to use very unique fibres and these needles have been an absolute dream.

- Jenna.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid to promote Signature Needle Arts. I have not been in contact with any representatives at the company nor have I received any  free product or incentives to post this blog. My thoughts about this product are sincere and truthful. I suffered an injury and thought I would never be able to knit again, and these needles inspired me to keep doing what I love so I felt the need to share with anyone else who suffers wrist pain or sudden injury and loves knitting! 

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