Great customer service should be shouted to the rooftops.

I have mentioned before how much I love my Signature circs. The points are perfect, the needle tips are smaller than many and thus fit my smallish hands perfectly, and the cables are incredibly flexible.

But not indestructible.


When the cable broke I immediately went to the Signature website to see if the needles had a lifetime guarantee. Nope, only a 21-day return policy if a needle appeared to be defective. Still, in my mind a $40 needle ought to have some sort of guarantee, so I emailed the company and got this response:


Thank you for contacting us.  I have attached a prepaid shipping label for the return of the defective needle.  Please fill out the attached form and include the RMA# in your package.  You do not need to fill out the payment information as there is no charge associated with this.  Thank you for your continued support of our product and  I apologize for any inconvenience.  

Thank you

 V*** C***


I wrote back:

Thank you! I will mail the needle back tomorrow.

I have defended the high price of Signature needles on my blog, saying that they are made in the US, probably by union labor, so their manufacturing cost is higher than those made in China or Bangladesh or some other third world country. Was I correct? In any case, I will also blog about your excellent customer service.

Signature needles are worth every penny 🙂
Thanks again,



What was even better was the email I received this morning from Cathryn Bothe, the president of the company (reprinted here with her permission):

Good morning,

I see all the emails and wanted to personally answer yours.

Signature is the “child” of our 62 year old US manufacturing company. Bothe Associates Inc ( has been making high tolerance metal products since 1950.

When Signature was starting up we bought samples of many of the cheap “box store” needles and were beyond shocked to see their tolerances were horrible, that is, if you thought you were getting a US 7 needle which is a 4.500 mm size you could be off by a large amount. There were even differences from one in a pair to the 2nd. Then we cut them open to see what metal was being used. That, too, was a real surprise.

We know what the cross section of a bar of aluminum should look like but what we saw was astonishing. We think they threw many scraps of various alloys into a furnace and came up with a mess but one that could be covered with the anodizing. We even found one that was sort of powdery. I had them stop working with that and put the pieces in a Hazmat bag.

We also know that only 1/3 of the zillions of Chinese have good drinking water. Some of that is because they just throw any excess or used chemicals literally, in some cases, out the back door. We have had people here who have traveled to the big manufacturing centers in China who say the air is so bad it looks like heavy fog.

And then..there are the workers: Being a student of history I know that many mill towns in the East in the 1800’s employed young women who came from their poor rural families with the hope of earning hard cash but were exploited along with children.  You don’t have to read much to see that is exactly what is happening in China.  Even worse is that the “low cost” manufacturers are moving to India or Thailand where they can get even cheaper labor!

Here at Signature we pay US wages and healthcare and unemployment taxes. We provide a clean, well lit, air conditioned factory. I know every person and for many a lot about their families. We even found someone to sew our bags in Milwaukee.

Our processes are controlled by OSHA and EPA. Any water that leaves the plant where the anodizing is done must be cleaner than when it came in the building. We go so far as to collect any “drippings” of coolant and oil (needed for machining metals) from the chips that are made. We then send the barrel when filled for proper disposition (at a cost of almost $1000.00) but we don’t let it soak into the ground. Actually we have the chip hoppers inside and should they have even a pin prick leak we have grates on the floor that collect the drips and pump into that barrel.

Every single needle is hand polished on the point. I know the people who do it and would [not] allow any scrimping. I

I am proud to say that our products are made here. Yes they certainly do cost more but we are making steady, secure jobs for the families of those that work here. I know that the company could make more money if the needles were made abroad but I won’t do it. They know I mean it when I say that I will go out of business before I go to China.

I know it seems like I am rambling but I wanted you to know a bit more of the background.

Cathryn Bothe

Signature Needle Arts
6901-46th St.  Kenosha,WI 53144
Ph: 888.656.1113   Fax: 262.656.1858


In this world of often shoddy workmanship and indifferent customer service and help lines staffed by (admittedly hard-working) people who perhaps cannot speak English as well as one might hope, I cannot let this incident go unrecognized. I love a bargain as much as the next person, but products manufactured in such a way as to degrade the earth and abuse its people are not bargains.*

I salute this company, its products, and its people.

Now, to put my money where my mouth is, I shall offer an incentive to y'all. Mention this incident on your own blog and provide a link both to this post and to the Signature site and I will put your name into a hat. Winner will receive the skein of Twisted fingering weight that I got in my mailbox a few days ago. If you have ever attempted to buy Twisted yarn, you know what a sacrifice this is 🙂


You can see it on the Twisted site here – scroll down to Netherfield Self-Striping Yarn. The colors in my photo are more accurate, on my monitor at least.

Deadline is, oh, um, let's see, Sunday, February 11, midnight CST. Blog away, people, and think about buying some Signature needles!

(You might say that this contest is a bit self-serving, in that it will draw people to my blog. To that I say,  And your point is…?)

* I did a tiny bit of research. Knitters Review says that Addi needles are made in Germany, Knit Picks are made in India, Crystal Palace in Japan, and Lantern Moon in Vietnam. Hya Hya needles are made in China. Presumably the inexpensive needles found at Wal-Mart and Michael's and Joanne's are the ones Ms. Bothe refers to in her letter and are probably made in China, as well.

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0 Responses to Great customer service should be shouted to the rooftops.

  1. k says:

    Do you remember the exploding circular needle incident over at KR many years ago? Now we know.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Great post! It’s made me think about my tools. I use Knitpicks dpns the most, although I admit to liking the slickness of the cheap Boye needles, too. I’ve blogged about this here: Thanks for discussing this and being willing to part with a skein of yumminess.

  3. k says:

    Done deal.

  4. Chris says:

    Isn’t Lantern Moon’s thing that they make sure workers are paid well, etc?

  5. Cookie says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, sweetie. I think we need to be reminded that it is possible to buy high quality US made needles without dealing with those other people. I need another circular for sock knitting. I’ll go see what I can see on the Signatures site.
    We have to encourage the good companies so they stay in business and they know we appreciate them.

  6. Soxanne says:

    Thanks for sharing – I’ll post a link but please send the yummy yarn to someone else (I’m trying to downsize)

  7. Carrie#K says:

    That’s very, very cool!
    Crystal Palace is made in Japan? I thought that was a local Berkeley company. (Not that I buy their needles…..but I do buy Addi’s. Supporting the one of the branches of my family at least, I suppose.)

  8. Natalie says:

    That’s wonderful to read. I *love* my Signature needles & I’ve been expanding my collection gradually. I love how the circular needles swivel!

  9. kellys says:

    omg as soon as I need more needles I know where I’m buying from! Tempted to toss my uber cheapos in a hazmat bag now!

  10. ellen says:

    I’ve posted the links – put my name in the hat!

  11. Kitten says:

    Lantern Moon is supposed to be fair trade and helping low income rural poor. Good to know about Signature needles. Next time someone asks me about gift ideas I’ll be pointin them there.

  12. Yummy yarn; makes me wish I had a blog! I’ve been lusting after Signatures; now I can justify it. Hmmm … Lemme check the budget (and the needles collection, so see what’s missing).

  13. Heather says:

    I’m a fan of Addis, but I’ve heard very, very good things about the Signature needles. But usually I buy Brittany birch needles – even though they have to be replaced fairly often, I like that they’re a sustainable North American brand.

  14. mrspao says:

    What a great company!

  15. Teri S. says:

    Blogged at
    Thanks for sharing your experience with Signature needles. I now want to get rid of all my needles and knit only with Signatures. Sadly, it will be many, many years (if ever) before I can achieve that dream.

  16. tammy says:

    Signatures = best.needles.ever.

  17. Chelsea says:

    Today is Sunday, but it’s also the 12th, so I’m not sure if I’m in before the deadline, but it’s a righteous cause nonetheless.
    I’ve come close to ordering a set of Signatures a few times, but I’ve never seen them in person, so haven’t quite yet. If you bring yours to Friday knitting sometime, I might just complete the weakening process. 😉

  18. bullwinkle says:

    I give up: I ordered a set. And posted 🙂

  19. Carleen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing a good story of customer service. Too often we hear the bad and not the good. I appreciated the additional info about working conditions here and abroad.
    The husband of a girlfriend has worked many years for a company who has shipped its manufacturing oversees to Southeast Asia leaving blocks of empty factory facilities behind in the Twin Cities area. His job was to help brand new factories from day one of opening handle any problems that arose. He has been making several hundreds of thousands of dollars plus incredible benefits for many years doing this type of work – while he aids manufacturing facilities that pay people $5 per day and the management $100 per week.
    At the beginning of the year my friend’s husband was excited that the company was going to be acquiring many new plants already up and running in Southeast Asia. He envisioned many more trips to the area staying at luxury hotels beyond anything I’ve even imagined – far from staying in. He figured he’d be troubleshooting as he’s done before. But, it turns out these factories, already up and running, don’t need his first day services.
    My friend’s husband has been told his services are no longer needed as of a day in early May. He will be given a year’s salary as a parting gift. They have a HUGE home in the suburbs (each of 2 stories are more square feet than my entire house counting all 3 floors), and contracts with companies to have “Fresh” groceries provided on a semi-weekly basis (butter is $5/lb. and a 1/2 gallon of milk is $7 to mention only a few items). With the current job market and his age at nearly 60 they are worried about being “poor” soon.
    To sum this all up, her husband was part of the problem that created the job shortage here, and now he’s about to reap the rewards of his work. Karma?
    We are blessed for every company and job that stays here. Although I care deeply for those in other countries, I think we need to take care of our own home too.

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