Gear review: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz Interchangeable Needles Kit

TL;DR: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz are becoming a staple of my knitting arsenal, and I think they’d make any pointy needles fan happy.

I purchased for myself the Starter (3.0, 3.25, 3.5, 3.75 and 4.0mm) and the Midi (4.5, 5.0, 5.5 and 6.0mm) kits. 6.5, 7.0 and 8.0mm needles are available separately. This is a pretty small range, especially on the larger side: most interchangeable needles are available up to 15.0mm. From the same company, the Royale (same tip, but made of wood instead of carbon fiber) goes up to 12.0mm. Fixed circulars go down to 2.0mm, and double pointed needles down to 1.0mm. For the hat knitter or the shorter needles fan, a special 10cm needles kit (from 3.5mm to 6.0mm) is also available.

Opening the box: first impressions

Karbonz are pretty slick needles, and the packaging is designed accordingly. You get a metallic grey pocket with a transparent plastic window showing the needles. Behind the needles holder, there is a pocket to hold cables, cable stoppers and some sort of cable markers with the needles sizes stamped on them. I haven’t found a real use for the cable markers and they can get cumbersome as the opening is too small to slide on anything but the smallest needles. A set of instructions teaching you how to attach and separate the needles and cables as well as using the end caps is provided for convenience.

2017-11-26 16.14.12.jpg
A sample of what is offered. The neon cable is a nice touch. Note the small opening of the cable markers.

The needles fit like most Knitter’s Pride products: you’ll get the occasional dud, needle or cable, but their generous lifetime warranty and their ubiquity in local yarn stores will make replacement a breeze. I didn’t run into any trouble with any of the needles or cables that came with the set, but some needles purchased separately didn’t fit quite right. You can use a little bit of grease to help the screwing process, or even apply a little force. The worst that could happen is an under-warranty replacement.

Once they are assembled, take a good look at them: those are some beautiful needles. The contrast from the shiny tips to the matte body is absolutely striking and they hold beautifully in my hands. Carbon fiber seems to have the advantages of plastic without the uncomfortable clamminess that can occur. You have (very) pointy tips and a medium taper.

Cables are standard and I happen to personally like them. They are sturdy and don’t kink too much, while being smooth enough to do magic loop with. They are also very cheap (<$4) compared to the alternative (Addi, ChiaoGoo and HiyaHiya and even Denise often go for double or triple that amount!). They are also compatible with Knit Picks and Lykke interchangeable needles, a nice perk should you want to branch out and explore other finishes.

Jumping right in

I used my Karbonz to knit a few projects, most noticeably my first garment. I can say that, after this battle test, I enjoy knitting with those needles. The pointy metal tip is speedy, splitting only the most difficult yarns. The smooth texture of the carbon fiber adds a slight grab that improves control without being annoying. They feel solid in the hands, almost like solid metal needles, without putting on the weight.

Something that was a concern for me was the different thermal expansion coefficient for the two materials. Carbon fiber will actually shrink in the fibers direction as it heats while metal will generally expand. Since there is a good difference between room temperature and body temperature, I was afraid you would start feeling a bump where the materials meet. While you can feel it when you’re running a fingernail on the needle, even the grabbiest yarn didn’t pose any problem. Any needle that isn’t continuous is susceptible of that problem, and Knitter’s Pride did a good job at solving it.

On top: yet unused 6.0mm needle. On the bottom: used 4.5mm needle.

The needles have the sizing (US and metric) printed on the body, as well as on the metal part connecting to the cable (US only). I found the printed white characters rather unappealing, so I was rather happy to see it was peeling off after a few dozen r of knitting. To avoid the flakes sticking to the yarn, I make sure to scratch it before using a new size. The printing on the metal fades after a while too, so be sure to carry a needle gauge with you. It is an annoying design flaw, but not a showstopper.

Pricing and availability

Those prices were checked on 2017-11-26.

Karbonz are the most expensive needles in the Knitter’s Pride portfolio. You can find the starter set for $92, and the midi set for $84. The deluxe set (starter+midi), apparently discontinued, will pull you back $165. Knitter’s Pride recently launched a $203 box of joy, putting the needles (9 pairs from 3.5mm to 8.0mm) in a beautiful ‘see-through’ laser-cut box and including a shawl pin (why?). I am rather annoyed with this under-handed price increase, and I believe purchasing the starter and midi kits is a better bargain. Individual pairs are from $17 to $25 depending on the size. Cables and accessories are on the cheaper side, which can lower the ownership cost on the long run.

Final thoughts

Overall, I really like my Karbonz. They definitely are expensive needles, but I think it’s a fair price to pay to hold a futuristicly-made product in your hands. They are well-made, look sharp, perform admirably and are backed-up with a great warranty.

We expecially like

  • The beautiful, very slick and professional look
  • The lifetime warranty
  • Their sturdy feeling and lightness

We wished

  • A non-flaky, more precise sizing information
  • They kept the deluxe kit instead of the box of joy
  • Perhaps a better individual pricing scheme?

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