I will start the promised series with the Clover Takumi Combo set that I have had the chance to try out in these past two weeks. First, a little overview of why I have come to use bamboo needles. If you told me three years ago that bamboo would be my preference, I would most likely laugh in your face but time has a funny way of changing things. Anyhoo, 3 years ago I had a terrible episode of tendinits that rendered me unable to knit for three months. Yes, three long months of longingly staring at my giant stash, ravelry favourites, unfinished projects, you get it...let's just say I was miserable.
Prior to this I was a die hard metal, slippery needle fan, though I did have few pairs of Clover bamboo for travel, I didn't prefer them because they weren't slippery enough for me.
Two years ago, I started hearing about all kinds of interchangeables on the market and purchased 2 sets that I have since destashed, because they were too sharp and had too long of a taper for my knitting style. I am a Combined knitter, and I find I need a short tapered, somewhat blunt needle with a bit of a grab, but not too much grab. As the time went on, I found myself reaching for these few Clover pairs I had - after few months of knitting, they became super slick and I no longer had an issue with their grabbiness. New preference has emerged! I have since tried several bamboo brands, both fixed and interchangeables. As I talk about the Takumi set, I will be briefly comparing them. The ones I tried are: Clover fixed, Hiya Hiya bamboo tips, Chiaogoo fixed bamboo, Addi Natura fixed and KA fixed. I find that it's useful to do these little comparisons to give the reader (you!) an idea of how the set in question compares to the needles you may already have.
Let's start, shall we?
First, I would like to note that not all bamboo needles are created equal. There are two kinds (basically): treated (usually carbonized or it could also be resin impregnated - both of these are darker color) and natural, untreated bamboo which is light. Takumi Combo set (like all Clover needles) falls in to the second category.
Packaging and items included
This set includes, 12-Needle sizes (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11, 13, 15), 5-cord sizes (16, 24, 29, 36 and 48-Inch ) - 60 combinations and a synthetic leather case.
The packaging looks and feels high quality, with a nice sturdy zipper, and there is a plastic sleeve for your cables which is nice. The sleeve goes in the pocket inside the case. I also like that this is a full set (unless you are a sock knitter who uses super small needles but most sets on the market don't have these either). Once you have this set, chances are you won't need to purchase many needles.
After using Clover fixed, I was pleasantly surprised to see that these cables are nothing like the ones in the fixed needles! They are flexible, lack memory but not floppy at all. I think most of knitters would find these really great. No issue with cables here!
As many of you may know, a join is uber important part of any needle, be it fixed or interchangeable. It can really make or break a needle. I have used Lantern Moon with their gorgeous ebony tips only to be severely disappointed with a really poor join which made knitting a frustrating experience. So how do these stack up? First of all, let's make sure we compare apples to apples as in a interchangeable join will never be as smooth as fixed, but these come pretty close! On the scale of 1 to 10 these get an 8. I found the joins pretty smooth and the yarn glided on nicely for the most part.
Another pleasant surprise - they swivel! Kudos to Clover on this one, they should really put that on the package!
These are bamboo so they start out grabby and get smoother as you knit with them more. Clover bamboo is on the grabbier side compared to KA and Addi. As I mentioned earlier, after few projects these will get super smooth, but if you're impatient, use wax paper and it will speed things up. I have heard that Takumi Velvet are smoother but haven't had the chance to try them yet. I find that bamboo smoothness is a factor that changes while other needle attributes such as join and cable quality can not be changed so for this reason, the smoothness it's a non issue.
Also, something to keep in mind regarding smoothness - untreated bamboo tends to be grabbier, but it feels like the real thing as opposed to resin impregnated such as Chiaogoo that feels like plastic and almost turned me off bamboo altogether. But many prefer treated bamboo so this is something to keep in mind. In this review, I am concentrating on untreated bamboo needles since this is my personal preference.
Tip sharpness and taper
These have your standard taper, somewhat blunt as most bamboo needles out there. The taper is a bit longer than Addi and KA. No bamboo needles will have a sharp lace tip and Clovers are not an exception. IMO, these have the sharpness and taper that would work nicely with most projects out there unless you're knitting some complicated lace with lots of p2togtb....well, get yourself a lace set then. This is not a lace set - it's a multi-purpose set and I am not aware of any lace bamboo sets actually existing. I think that this has to do with the fact that bamboo is a bit more fragile than wood hence no super sharp tip is possible. My personal preference is a blunt tip (I am a finger pusher and lace sets have literally made my fingers bleed!), so this tip is perfect for me.
I think this is a great set! In fact, as far as bamboo interchangeables go, this is the best, IMO. I will elaborate why. As far as untreated bamboo goes, there are few available sets out there: Addi, KA and Tulip. Addi has a join that is a source of many complaints - I have seen it up close and I know it will be a real issue for me as I am a tight knitter. Clover set has a smooth join that I (a tight knitter!) have no issue with. Big plus! Don't get me wrong, I love fixed Addi Natura, but we are comparing apples to apples here. KA has thick inflexible cables which is a shame because the rest of the needle properties are great. Caron Tulip is not a widely available product and I haven't had a chance to try it. All in all, Clover set earns the most check marks that I look for in a bamboo interchangeable: flexible cables, smooth high quality tips, swivel smooth join and nice case.
The tips, when joined to the stainless steel end are 4" which appears to be comfortable length for me, though I prefer longer 5" tips, these didn't cramp up my hands like 3.5" Hiya Hiya tips which was a nice surprise!
Things that could be added/improved
There aren't many, frankly. But if I am pressed, I would have to note that the tips could be made a tad smoother out of the package. It would also be nice to have a rubber gripper tool to tighten the cables - I have had the joins loosen once if I didn't use a rubber band. When I did use it, the joins were intact throughout the whole project! Again, not a big deal, one can just use a rubber band, but it would be nice to have the gripper added. Also, and I know this has been voiced in many threads on Ravelry, we really want spare parts!!!! I would love to purchase extra cables/tips for the set.
UPDATE: As of September 2015, tips, cables, stoppers and connectors are available separately! Woohoo! This pretty much makes the set perfect:)
All in all, I give it a 10/10. Well done, Clover!