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Everything you need to know about interchangeable needle sets

Everything you need to know about interchangeable needle sets

Interchangeable needle sets are about the best investment a knitter can make. Whether you're starting out on your journey or have been knitting for years, an interchangeable knitting needle set is an essential tool that you'll return to again and again. 

Figuring out all the different options for interchangeable needle sets can be daunting. You might be reading reviews, but not really understanding what kind of kit is best suited to your particular needs. If you're curious about which interchangeable needle set to choose, keep reading!

So what exactly are they? 

Interchangeable needles are circular needles, and like circular needles you can knit flat on them (indeed, sometimes circular needles are essential for knitting back and forth, as they provide the length necessary to accommodate many more stitches than straight needles). The key difference is that they needles come apart - the tip (the hard part you knit with) and the cable (the cord that runs between the two tips) are separate pieces that can be joined in various configurations.

There are two ways to look at what this offers you, the knitter.

The Needle Size View: You are knitting a sweater, from the bottom up. The ribbing is knit on 3.5 mm needles. Then the pattern says "change to larger needles." You can simply detach your 3.5 mm tips, replace them with 4 mm, and keep knitting. Without the kit, you'd need to have both a 3.5 mm 32" circular and a 4 mm 32" circular. Your kit has just saved you the money and the trouble of needing both those needles.

The Cable Length View: You are knitting a shawl, which starts with just a few stitches, but quickly grows with multiple increases every other row. Soon, you are squishing your stitches to fit on your 24" circular needle and worry you will lose stitches if you put it down. You unscrew the working needle tip from the short cable and replace it with an end stopper. You screw that tip onto a longer cable (and if you are really smart, add an end stopper to the other end) and start knitting your next row onto the longer cable. When finished, unscrew the other needle tip and move it to the longer cable. Without the kit, you'd need to have a 24" length and a 32" length (and maybe even a 60") all in the same needle size to work comfortably on your shawl. Your kit has saved you the money and trouble of needing one or maybe two extra sets of needles.

As you can see, interchangeable needle kits offer dozens (honestly, hundreds!) of knitting needle options. Having one of these kits means never* falling in love with a pattern and digging around in your tools to find you have the right size needle, but not the right length. Or you have one of the required needle sizes, but not the other. Or the pattern asks for a 3.5mm but you have a 4mm and you're pretty sure you can make it work. Or... or... or.... we reckon it's time to check out interchangeable needle sets. 

* Never is a long time. For sure, at some point, no matter what kit you buy, it will not have what you need in it. Which is why there are add-ons!

So which one is right for you? 

There are many (many!) interchangeable options out there - practically every needle brand has its own offering. We stock a range of sets from the needle suppliers we carry, and we stock a wide variety of extra tips and cables too so you can expand your kit as you need. 

One thing to note is that most needle brands are not compatible with each other. Whichever set you go for, you'll end up sticking with this brand. For this reason, it's a good idea to confirm with your LYS that they plan to keep stocking this brand in the future (we can tell you as of 2022, we're committed to the needle brands we currently stock!) and to try one or two fixed circular needles from the brand you're thinking about investing in, to make sure you know you like them before you invest. 

So without further ado, we present you our comparison table for our interchangeable needle kit range!


Brand Needle material Smallest needle Largest needle Tip lengths Join type Cable type Key feature

Metal (hollow, various finishes)



3.5 mm /

US 4

12 mm /

US 17



Click Fixed Click connector

Metal (solid surgical steel) 


1.5 mm / US 00 10 mm / US 15





Screw - 3 sizes

Torque key provided



Sharp tips
Kinki Amibari Bamboo 2 mm / US 0 10 mm / US 15





Screw - 3 sizes

No torque key required

Swivel Widest bamboo range
Many interchangeable sets are available in specific sizes, or a full range - you can work within your budget and your most commonly-used needle sizes to find the right set for you. Maybe you know you'll never use those tiny needles, so a set with larger tips only might work best. 

Screw-type interchangeable needles usually come with different cable sizes (as well as lengths) to accommodate different tip sizes. This provides a smoother join between needle and tip - see below for an example from ChiaoGoo. The larger tip has a larger corresponding cable and screw, so that the knitting flows smoothly. Sets that include large and small tips will always contain cables compatible with each size. You can also buy adaptors to turn a smaller cable attachment into a larger one.

ChiaoGoo Interchangeable Knitting Needles [Review 2022]

You'll also notice different tip lengths. This is getting into the real knitty-gritty of your purchase decision, so here are some points to consider: 
  • 5" tips are the standard among most fixed circular needles, so you're probably already used to this length. They are great if you like to have a good firm grip on your needle in the palm of your hand. 
  • 4" tips are just a bit shorter, and most knitters get used to them quickly. The main benefit is that you can use them on smaller circumferences. For example, if you knit a lot of hats and top-down sweaters, a 4" set is a better investment: you can't knit 16" circumferences with 5" tips, as there isn't enough slack in the cable. 
  • For this reason, 4" tip sets are the most versatile. We always recommend 4" tip sets for your first kit purchase! 
  • You can always add additional 4" tips if you buy a 5" set, and vice-versa. The different tip lengths from any one company will always fit on the corresponding cables.
  • Smaller tips are often used for small-circumference knitting: you can knit a sleeve super-efficiently with 2" or 3.5" tips, but it's probably not your first choice for detailed colourwork or those endless swathes of stockinette.

Once you get going in the world of interchangeable knitting needles, you may find you never pick up a fixed circular again... the opportunities are truly endless, as you can easily work the magic loop technique for any project or even turn your interchangeable tips into DPNs! (Just attach several tips onto shorter cables and you get a FlexiFlips-esque creation!) 

You can shop all our interchangeable needle and add-on options here. We're always happy to chat about needle sets and the right choice for you, so get in touch if you have any questions!