Daily Archives: April 19, 2012

Tools of the trade

Every so often, over the course of posting photos of works in progress, I get questions in the comments about the kinds of tools I’m using – knitting needles and so on. So, I thought I’d show off a few of them while they’re being deployed. (It helps that I currently have approximately eleventy million projects in progress). This is what I use – it’s not necessarily the same stuff that you should use, of course, but it’s the tools rhythm I’ve developed over a few years.

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I’ve got several kinds of needles in my stash, accumulated over about 8 years of pretty hard core knitting – Addi Turbos (they’re smooth to work with and the cords are sturdy), Knit Picks nickel-plated interchangeables, and the odd set of Chiao Goo red cable circular or bamboo needles. I alternate between them depending on my needs at the time (Knit Picks‘ cords are nice and bendy, and they come in nice sizes and lengths for working Magic Loop socks) and, let’s face it, what isn’t already being used in a project or gone down a rabbit hole somewhere. Most of the needles I use are circular. I use circular needles both for working in the round and working flat, because I like the way the weight of the knitting is always kept in my “lap” when I work that way, and the motion of my arms is kept relatively stable. It also means that one circular needle can do the job of either flat or circular knitting, and I like that.

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The ones pictured in the two photos above and a few other similar pairs of pretty circular needles have been making increased appearances lately around these parts – they are from Signature Needle Arts and I’m here to tell you they are a pretty sweet ride. I hesitate to make you Want Things Like This, because they’re also far from the cheapest knitting needles out there, but I really enjoy their pointy Stiletto tips and the way the needle shafts hold the stitches. I didn’t think I needed these needles in my life, I scoffed last year – heck, I’ve got plenty of needles already and they do fine – and then my hotel suite-mates at Sock Summit last summer bought me one circular as a birthday present (handily, the size I was working with for my sweater in progress at the time), and man, I was toast. I have started adding more to my stash one circular at a time, in the sizes I use most often.

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I also use circulars in small, 16″ lengths, for working hats and the occasional tube scarf. I find these tend to escape into never-never land pretty easily, so I am less particular about what kind they are, as long as the tips are relatively pointy. I’ve got Knit Picks ones and Susan Bates plastic-coated metal ones, and I like ‘em.

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My sock knitting tends to be divided into two categories – ribbed socks (or Jaywalkers), and more-fancy-than-ribbed socks. Accordingly, my sock knitting needle needs are also divided along those lines. My fancier socks tend to be done with Magic Loop – i.e. anything with cabled patterns or something where there is an identical pattern on the front and back of leg where there are essentially two surfaces to the sock pattern. I like Knit Picks circulars and Chiao Goo stainless steel red lace for these the best.

If I’m knitting a simple ribbed pair of socks I still reach for a set of double-pointed needles. I think this is just the way my brain has arranged this, since i started out knitting socks with DPNs and I like the sort of tripod structure of that setup for a plain pair of socks. I prefer to use a set of 4 7″ double-pointed rather than 5 6″ DPNs, because I have long hands (and 5’9″ of vertical height on me, probably these two things are related) and the short needles have just never felt comfortable for me, and sadly my normal purveyors of circulars like Knit Picks or Addi or Signature (last time I checked at least), don’t produce 7″ DPNs. So this means I basically scoop up sets of pretty cheap Unique or Susan Bates DPNs in 2.25 through 2.75mm sizes whenever I can find them (because WHAT IF THEY STOP SELLING THEM AIEEE MUST STOCK UP), and I generally keep them and a ball or two of sock yarn at the ready.

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Any surface at home where I have established regular knitting activity is likely to be filled with a certain amount of clutter, which I am basically okay with. I like things like scissors, tapestry needles, measuring tapes, pens and post-its, stitch markers, and so forth, to be within arm’s reach, and so I generally feel like you can’t have too many of these in reserve. I’m pretty sure most of us have had the experience of rifling around for a tape measure when it feels like we should own twelve million but they have chosen that particular day to hide themselves, so.

In a portable sense, though, I’ve distilled the basic necessaries into a little Altoids tin kit that I carry around with me in my purse. Actually, I’ve started to put together multiple kits like this, because, well, backup options are reassuring. (See also: my entire yarn stash, needle collection, etc). My favourite recent addition to this kit is a little pair of Hiya Hiya snips, in place of scissors. I used to have a travel size dental floss in here as a yarn cutter (also the floss inside works as a lifeline if you need one), then a pair of actual mini folding sewing scissors when I started realizing that nobody in airline security had ever asked me about the contents of my Altoids tin kit (knock wood), and then I came across these Hiya Hiya snips. They’re not very sharp, but they do the job of cutting yarn just fine, and they come in cute colours, so. Done and done.

Phew. Who knew a person could go on and on about knitting tools.┬áDo you have a favourite knitting tool that you’ve discovered lately? Needles or notions? Enablers always love company!

Happy knitting today, with whatever needles and yarn you love the most.

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