Seems like about once a month I get a reminder as to why I decided on HiyaHiya interchangeable needles rather than the KnitPicks I had been leaning towards. Usually I’m lucky enough to have it be by way of a Ravelry post, and I just feel vicarious relief that I’ve never had a needle randomly separate, dumping a shawl’s worth of stitches into my lap.

KnitPicks is like the Walmart of the knitting world. There are plenty of people who are satisfied with their stuff, but generally the only thing they rave about is their prices. And generally, rock-bottom prices come at the expense of quality. And, like Walmart, KnitPicks’ return policy is generally pretty liberal. (The exception being, of course, if you bought one of their products at a LYS. I have a feeling you could buy a 5-pack of Fruit-of-the-Looms at a yard sale for a dollar, shit yourself wearing them, and then get $5.96 for them at Walmart. But I’ll get to that.)

Back at the beginning of the year, I did a lot of research on what kind of interchangeable needles I wanted to buy. I already had a fixed KnitPicks fixed that I used for socks, but I had read a lot of horror stories about the needle joins coming apart or unscrewed (or just breaking outright). I eventually decided on Knitters Pride, but they were backordered into oblivion, so I went, sight-unseen, with HiyaHiyas. It meant I had to order two different sets (well, I didn’t have to, but I wanted to have the full range of sizes), and deal with a shipping fiasco from, but I eventually wound up very pleased with my purchase. HiyaHiyas are super smooth, the cables swivel, and the tips screw in and tighten with grips, which is a definite advantage over KnitPicks and the other types of needles that tighten with a key. When the HiyaHiyas are coming loose (which has happened to me once, and only because I didn’t use the grippers to fully tighten in the first place), there’s a gap between the cable and the barrel that catches the stitches, so you have plenty of warning. Not only that, but they offer different tip lengths (which is good for bigger hands) and a better range of sizes (theirs go down to US 2, where most interchangeable sets stop at US 4).

I still wanted to try those laminated wooden needles and see how they compared to the slickness of metal versus the grip of bamboo. I also wanted to buy them locally, because the idea of paying $4 for shipping on a 1-oz item that already cost $9 was not really appealing to me. (At the time, I was still reluctant to shop on ebay. I have since remedied the situation and bought, among other things, a Knitters Pride US 1½ for $8.50 and free shipping. Great Job, Internet.) One of the shops nearby that I had wanted to visit had KnitPicks needles, but it wasn’t until I got there that I realized they only sold wooden Harmonys as a set. Their individual needles were all metal Options.

But I was there (and I had driven the half an hour), and I wanted to support a LYS, so I bought one in a size I needed, which I later used to try and make a pair of socks. I hadn’t even gotten down the cuff all the way before the needles started squeaking, but I figured it was just the yarn I was using (a cotton/acrylic/nylon blend). It wasn’t until I went to use the needles for something else that I realized something wasn’t quite right – Cascade Heritage Silk should positively glide across the needles. I’d never had this issue with the Options I already owned, a US 1½ I’d had for over a year and made probably half a dozen things with.

Upon inspection, I realized that the finish had rubbed off in spots. Now, I’m no stranger to that predicament – practically every single “beginner” pair I owned or threw away in frustration (mostly the Susan Bates box-store variety) had the same problem. But with those, the finish came off at the tips, and that problem corrected itself once my gauge evened out and my knitting became less tight. The KnitPicks needles were losing their finish on the barrels. Clearly this was a QC issue, which seems to be KnitPicks’ biggest issue.
I had long ago thrown away the receipt and the package, so I figured the LYS would tell me, albeit in more polite terms, to go fly a kite. And I wouldn’t have blamed them if they did, since I had no way of proving I had even gotten the needles from them. So I emailed KnitPicks’ famous customer service, asking if I could exchange the needle.
And they told me, albeit in more polite terms, to go fly a kite. Rather, to go to the LYS where I’d bought the needles.
I guess I could understand the impulse to pass the buck. But in this case, the buck is (or should, ultimately, I’d hope) going to get passed on to them anyway, when the shop returns the defective needles for credit. I hope that’s the case, anyway, although I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that KnitPicks just makes their dealers eat the loss, in exchange for the high brand recognition of KnitPicks needles. However, KnitPicks seems not to be too worried about the reputation of their brand, given how many times I’ve seen the same sob story: “Was knitting, needle broke, called KnitPicks, got replacement, repeat ad nauseam.” I guess their reputation isn’t as valuable as the profit from producing as cheaply as possible and dealing with a lot of defective product. Awesome business plan, guys. See ya at the bottom!
Again, so glad for HiyaHiyas. Not only is their shit just better, but when it’s not, they fucking care about it. I had a cable break, I posted about it on Ravelry, and they had me send it back. Now, maybe they just threw it away, but at least they give the appearance that they want to know what they fucked up so they can avoid it in the future. The Internet is bursting with KnitPicks tales of woe. They don’t give a shit, they’ll just send a replacement. It’s like their products are disposable, and anyone who has a problem is just a cautionary tale. But if enough people get burned, who are they going to sell to? ¹
PS: If I hear one more person act like “free shipping on orders over $50” is some sort of fabulous deal, I’m going to punch a baby. It’s a marketing gimmick, and you are a lemming. Spending more than you intended to just to get something “free” is generally never a good deal, but it’s especially asinine when you know exactly what the savings is (usually something like $5) and do it anyway.
¹ Actually, sadly, I know the answer to that question: newer knitters, who don’t know any better, haven’t done the research, or just want whatever’s cheapest because they’re not sure they want to sink a bunch of money into an activity they’re new at. And people who think Walmart offers great deals, without realizing that it’s because they sell cheap and poorly-made products that don’t last very long.