Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

The first Hot Tip I ever posted was about using two different-size needle tips if knitting on interchangeable needles. When you’re knitting in the round, you only use one end of the needle for making stitches, and the other end is essentially just a stitch holder, and it’s easier to work the stitches off of a smaller tip. Many of you responded at the time that you also mismatch your needle tips for working flat to make up for gauge differences between knit and purl rows, which I found completely fascinating and sensible! (Bonus tip!) And then on Instagram over the weekend, I saw a whole ’nother angle on this from my friend Veronika of YOTH Yarns.

Ve is knitting what appears to be a cardigan with the body knitted in one piece, flat, so she’s got about 48″ worth of stitches on a long circular needle, and she’s working a lot of cable crosses on top of that, which causes her wrist strain. To help with the strain, she puts a smaller needle tip on the left end (or non-working tip end) of her interchangeable and the proper gauge needle on the working end, again making it easier for her to work the stitches (and especially the cables) off the smaller tip. That does mean every time she gets to the end of a row and is ready to start back the other direction, she has to swap out her needle tips. Seems tedious, yet according to her wrists it’s well worth taking the 30 seconds to do. But on top of that, she had a really clever tip for how to simplify that process, which you can kind of see in my screengrab of her video above. She slides the needle key doohickey through the hole in both tips at the same time, unscrews one, unscrews the other, then screws them back on in opposite positions. Like most great tips in life, that seems so obvious now that I’ve seen it!

Ve is a fount of stuff like this, so make sure you’re following her on Instagram @yarnonthehouse. Thanks, Ve!

p.s. If you’re not using interchangeables, I highly recommend them, and we stock the Lykke Driftwood beauties at Fringe Supply Co. If you’re reluctant to commit to a full set without trying them, I always suggest buying a pair or two of needle tips in your most-used sizes (which means you’ll want extras of them regardless) and a couple of cords. Then if you like them, you can either build a collection of the sizes you use, or invest in a set, which really does pay off quickly. Says the person who bought an ungodly number of fixed circs in her first couple years of knitting …


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29 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

  1. I would prefer to just use two different cables. Each with the two different sizes and just switch them each row. Then you don’t have to unscrew them. The more you screw and unscrew the interchangeables the more you risk damaging the screw parts.

    • That was my first thought, too, but when you turn the work to start the next row, it’s at the end of what was your working tip. So no matter what you’ve done with a second needle, if you want the stitches sitting on the smaller tip, you have to swap it out.

      On Wednesday, September 19, 2018, Fringe Association wrote:


        • Yeah, that’s what I also understood the suggestion to be, and what I was replying to. I had the same exact initial comment, but when you stop and visualize it, you realize the stitches wind up on the larger tip at the end of the row, so if you want to knit them off of a smaller tip, you have to swap them out.

          • Doh! I guess I was overexcited by the idea of using different size needles to adjust for flat-knit stockinette (a constant personal struggle). Granted, you don’t get the benefit of always working stitches off a smaller needle

    • I think you missunderstood what I was getting at, which is my failt as I cannot explain it. One day I’ll have to film the way I do it, because I just cannot explain it. I lack the English words to say what I mean.

  2. Very interesting. I’m a beginning knitter and have a difficult time with double pointed needles. And I didn’t know you could buy thecords seperate​ from the tips. Thanks for the information!

  3. Somewhat related: I’ll use needles made of different materials when yarn is being uncooperative. Some yarns want to stick too much to wood or bamboo, but also want to slide and slip around like crazy on metal needles…so I’ll keep a wood/bamboo needle/tip in one hand and a metal needle/tip in the other, and damned if the yarn doesn’t then behave! No more wonky, gauge-ruining stitches.

    • Oooo, I love that idea. A smaller metal tip on the left would make things govso much faster.

  4. I am curious whether there are very many knitters who use 2 different needle sizes to improve the appearance of stockinette fabric by tightening up the purl stitches with smaller needle.

    • I hadn’t heard of it until I did that original post about mismatching your tips for circular knitting and several commenters noted that they do it when knitting flat due to gauge differences between their knits and purls.

  5. Thanks, Karen! I’ve done it while working in the round when I’ve needed the tip elsewhere, but have never thought of doing it while working cables flat and I’ve just finished the cable heavy Adult Gramps ( , for son’s GF) . It would have been an amazing help. What an ingenious idea! I’ll use this on the next one (for daughter’s BF). Also, the switching with both at the same time, I’ve done that after the ribbing to switch up to the next size, but that’s a great tip to keep the right size on the working needle in this instance.

    • I feel like it would be tedious if you were working with a small number of stitches at once (like the 47-st vest front I’m currently knitting), but for long rows like a sweater body in one piece it makes sense to take a second to do this.

    • Mary, way off topic but wondering…..does the boy friend sweater knitting curse extend to knitting for your daughter’s boyfriend?

  6. I am so (almost) ready to buy a set of these beautiful needles! Purchasing circular needles is such a strange business; you need to buy not only the correct size but length of cord – next time, you’ll have the right size but the cord isn’t long enough. I’ve never liked the idea, but hitherto I’ve only seen the speedo metal ones, which have too much slip for me – they make me nervous! These look fantastic.

    • Oh yeah, I resisted for a long time and found myself at the yarn store buying new needles (often more than one, because of lengths) for every new project. It adds up to the cost of a set in no time!

  7. Yep, I do that when switching tips (like going from ribbing to body). Haven’t tried smaller needle on left, but definitely will; because cables make my hands ache. This sounds like it would solve that.

  8. Hi, I love this tip and do the same thing, specially for knit and purl rows. But I don’t swap the tips at the end of the right side row. Normally you have 2 needletips of the same size. I just grab 2 cables and arm them with 2 different tips, just how I want them to be. When they are very similar, I mark the working needle with a bit of masking tape. Then I work 1 row on 1 cable. The wrong side row I work with the right needle of the second cable. So I never have to change the needletips. And it’s sometimes easier to try your work on, when you have the stitches distributed on 2 cables.

    • Right, in that situation that would work. It’s if you’re trying to keep the working needle one size and the non-working needle the other size that you have to switch them. (And yeah, 2 needles for try-on is my favorite tip.)

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