Addi Click Interchangeables
Considered the Cadillac of nickel-plated circulars, Addi Turbo needles have long enjoyed a comfortable position at the top of the needle chart. The mere notion of these same slick, super-fast circulars in interchangeable form has many knitters chomping at the bit—myself included.
This review is based on a near-final set of needles that Addi kindly sent in time for the Knitter's Review Retreat, allowing me to collect the feedback of 90+ knitters while testing the needles myself. What follows is our collective response to the Addi Clicks.
Out of the Box
The first thing you'll see is the box—a large black padded case in which you'd expect to find your grandmother's silver or a really, really fancy diamond necklace. You can't help hearing angelic choir sounds as you open it because the feel of luxury and anticipation is just that great.
But it is a big box—about as wide as most standard laptops and not quite as deep. While it'll fit into most knitting bags, it's not quite the kind of thing you can easily toss in your bag as you run out the door to a guild meeting. At almost $150, this elegant kit isn't a toss-and-go gadget. It wants to be slowly and appreciatively fondled.
The second thing you'll see are the needles themselves, each pair tucked into slender padded slots and protected with two sheets of padded foam on top. As orderly and elegant as a collection of beautiful silver knives, only far less dangerous.
Uh-oh... What's This?
Once the angelic music has cleared and you begin your descent back to earth, your eyes start to wander and notice other things: the cute heart-shaped pin tucked into the middle of the case. The handy-dandy needlesizer tucked into the lid is very practical once the printed needle sizes wear off of the needles themselves.
And then you'll realize something. Every single person who played with this kit at the retreat noticed it immediately. Inside the clear plastic pockets running along the inside top of the box, you'll find the clear plastic cords. These are light blue and have the same degree of softness and flexibility as the pink cords in the Addi Lace needles. And there are three of them.
To the casual observer, this is no big deal. But the whole point of interchangeable needle sets is to buy ourselves options—to be able to pull out our kit at a moment's notice and assemble just the right pair of needles for any project. But if our cords are currently wrapped up in another project (and how many of us only have one project going at a time?), our options quickly become limited.
We often justify the high cost of interchangeable needle sets by saying, "But if you combine all the cord and needle options, it's really 42 sets of needles at...$4 apiece!" In theory, the Addi Clicks would cost upwards of $230 if you bought each needle separately. But you aren't getting 10 sets of needles. With three cords, you're getting three circular needles. If you use the single connector included in the kit, you get two circular needles at a mere $75 apiece.
In an ideal world, Skacel would rectify this situation very quickly by adding at least one more cord to the kit and making additional cords available now. Realistically, I know Skacel is working overtime to test every single kit before they ship it, and they may not be able to make this change until early 2009. I've been assured they will do this, and I sincerely hope they're able to make it happen quickly. I've also been told that they'll provide a US 5 (3.75mm) needle in early 2009. It was omitted from the kit because it is a US size and the kit was made for worldwide use.
The Click Mechanism
The Addi Clicks don't use the typical screw mechanism to connect cord and needle. Instead, they use what appears to be a spring-based, push-twist-and-release mechanism that is far more likely to stay put while you knit. It doesn't require a key to tighten, and I was unable to break it no matter how hard I tried.
The join mechanism has a brief learning curve, two or three minutes tops. If you know this on the outset you're much less likely to give up (as some Retreat folks did) and declare the needles a total failure. Which would be a pity.
First, you will need good eyesight to spot the notch in the cord and match it up with the two little dots on the needle. Then you insert the needle, pushing hard to activate the internal spring, then rotate it and release. If you've made the connection, you may even hear a faint "click" sound—though sometimes not. Give the needle a little tug, and if it comes undone, just repeat the process. It takes a little time and a little practice, but once you get it, it becomes swift and intuitive. One recommendation: The needles are slippery, so try to abstain from putting lotion on your hands right before trying to attach the needles.The Join
Here we have another example of not judging something until you try it. Several people ran their fingers along the needle join, shook their heads, and said, "Do you feel that?"
I agreed, you could feel a bit of a join where the needle attaches to the metal cap on the cord. So I cast on and started knitting, at which point the join ceased to exist. My yarn slipped along without so much as a pause—the join was seamless.
I forced the issue by trying a fine sock yarn on the smaller-sized needles, at which point the join did come back into focus. My stitches paused ever so slightly as they went over the join, making a little snappy noise as they passed over it. They did not get stuck, I did not have to stop and nudge them with my finger—but they did pause slightly. This would only be a potential issue if you use these needles to knit lace and if you happen to be a very tight knitter.
Which brings us to the next, nearly immediate cry from almost all the folks who tested these needles: I want these in the Addi Lace! I understand Addi has already heard our cries and is looking into this.
Behind the Price
I've heard a lot of people ask why these needles cost what they do. The answer is a complicated one that's open to debate depending on a lot of potentially conflicting issues—but the white elephant on the table would be the Knit Picks Options, which look similar and cost significantly less.
The Options and Clicks are both nickel-plated interchangeables but with varying thicknesses of nickel. Beyond that, they vary. The Options have sharp, pointy tips; the Clicks have more rounded tips. The Options have a fine, extremely flexible purple cord (think fine licorice); the Clicks have a slightly thicker and firmer flexible clear blue cord. The Options needles screw into their cables; the Clicks use a spring-based, push-twist-release mechanism to connect to the cables.
But what people keep coming back to is price. A full set of Options comes with 9 needles (sizes US 4-11) and 4 cables, 8 end caps, 2 cable keys, and a clear plastic carrying case, and it retails for $59.99. (Buying each piece separately would run you $82.87.) The Addi Clicks come with 10 needles, 3 cables, 1 extender, 1 needlesizer, 1 pretty little heart pin, and a big black fancy box for $150.
The first difference: Knit Picks is both manufacturer and retailer of its needles. This means the company does not sell its products to your LYS, which needs to mark up the price to cover its cost of doing business. Instead, it sells its products directly to knitters at the manufacturer's price without LYS markup. Skacel does not sell directly to the public—it only sells to local yarn shops and online yarn stores. These stores then add their own markup to cover such costs as rent, heat, electricity, health insurance, living wages and continuing education for employees, etc.—all those invisible but necessary things that create the LYS stage setting we so enjoy. That markup increases what you must pay, but the assumption is that you also benefit from the services offered by that LYS.
And second, Options needles are manufactured in India. The Addi needles are manufactured in Germany, where working conditions include healthcare, paid vacation, and a 40-hour work week—all of which translate into a higher cost to produce goods. Germany also has extremely high standards for factory safety and environmentally friendly production processes, which adds to the tab as well.
Another issue has arisen with other online vendors—most of whom are located in Hong Kong or Europe and operate on eBay—offering Addi needles at dramatically lower prices than what you'd pay in the U.S. How do they do this, and is it ok to buy from them?
Hopefully my answer to the first question will help you formulate your own answer to the latter. First, any kits from those sources will be slightly different. They will not come with the flexible blue cord, nor will they come with any warranty. (Skacel will guarantee your needles for life. Just keep the receipt.) You make the purchase at your own risk and have no recourse if anything goes wrong. The cost of returning a kit to a Hong Kong address (if any has been provided) may cut deeply into any savings gained from the order. And if you try to return imported low-cost needles to your LYS, you'll accrue more bad karma points than you may want.
Most of those low-cost kits are being sold by distributors who are skipping the LYS and selling directly to the consumer, hence less mark-up. They are technically supposed to keep their sales to their own territory, but as we see, that is only a technicality.
Getting those products to you can also pose a risk. Skacel pays heavy duty and brokerage fees to legally import these products into the country, and those fees are factored into what we consumers pay for a kit. The discount Internet vendors overseas tend to slip orders through customs by marking them as gifts and not including a receipt in the package. Were customs to decide this wasn't a gift (which they are always at liberty to do), or if the vendor actually reported the price of your Click kit on the customs form, you'd likely be hit with hefty duty and brokerage fees.
I'll let you choose what to do with this information. Money is tight for a lot of people right now, and I know that this can make ethics-based spending decisions a little harder—and bargains that much more tempting. I invite folks from all sides to share their viewpoints and help paint a fuller picture.
As for me, I congratulate Skacel on meeting a very major milestone with this product. And I humbly, sincerely, and oh-so-seriously beg them to bring out those extra cords soon. It's the only weakness in a product that is otherwise, for Addi fans, absolutely flawless.
Addi (distributed in U.S. by Skacel Knitting)
Hollow brass with nickel plating
Three cords: 24, 40, 47 inches
Ten needles. My kit included US 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.75, 11, 13, 15
Many yarn stores are already accepting preorders for the Addi Clicks, so check with your LYS. Online, you can check out Jimmy Beans Wool and Addi Needle Shop or do a Google search on the term "Addi Clicks" and choose the vendor that looks best to you.