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. Do 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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41 Comments

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41 responses to “Tools of the trade

  1. I’ve recently learned that stiletto-pointed Signature double pointed needles are FANTASTIC for socks with lots of intricacy. I own one pair and love them to the point of looking at possible projects with an eye toward the needle required. I keep scissors, tape measure, stitch marker, etc. in a cheap zippered make-up bag that I can throw into whatever knitting bag I’m using. The dental floss tip you give is a great one. Thanks!

  2. I love the Signature needles. A friend got me their dpns for Christmas and I love them, though recently I’ve been using size 1 and not 2, so I might have to expand my collection. My other favorite tool is my folding scissors that I got in Australia and would cry if I lost them because the folding ones here aren’t as small and awesome.
    Oh, and I have the exact same purple project bag as the first picture shows!

  3. I have recently converted to the “using circular needles for flat knitting” camp after I noticed that my wrists hurt more when I was knitting with straight needles. Of course, I haven’t been able to bring myself to destash the straight needles so I put them in a vase and use them as decoration.

  4. I love Prym circular knitting needles. The cord doesn’t twist on itself and the shaft is nice and slippery!

  5. I love my Signatures! I’m doing the same as you, slowly building up a collection. Can’t wait til they come out with the small needle sizes.

  6. walkablefeast

    I do love the little toolkit. I have always relied on a ziploc and a stash of oddities hiding in the bottom of my needle box. But someone who loves me bought me a great set of interchangeable circulars for Christmas and now my many, many, many other needles are languishing in their home, and I’ve got a tidy kit for tapes, markers, and so on.

  7. I know I could probably knit faster if I would get over this, but I just really aesthetically love bamboo needles and refuse to use anything else. And I’m another who uses circulars whether knitting flat or in the round — straight needles require too much effort on the part of my right hand, and make my wrist hurt really quickly.

    Love that floss-cutter as scissors idea — brilliant.

  8. Solarmama

    I love my Signatures, both DPNs and 14″ straights. I’ve been trying to teach myself to lever knit á la the Yarn Harlot, and those long straights are perfect for it. That said, my traveling sock is more likely to be on a circular because I am constantly dropping needles in places like movie theaters or over heating grates, Knit Picks 47″ circulars allow for great magic loop or even two-at-a-time socks, if I’m feeling crazy. I am going to totally start saving mint tins for put kits together, thanks for the tip!

  9. gwen

    For some reason, it’s so fun to read about all your favorite stuff — like those photos of someone’s refrigerator or purse that are so randomly fascinating, except the knitting stuff is even better! Thanks for this. (And I need to find one of those puppy snip things now!)

  10. Oh my. I’ve just checked out the Signature website…..those needles are amazing! Think I may have to have an early (in fact a VERY early) Xmas pressie…..lol x

  11. For years I carried around my knitting goodies in a Chinese food take-out container. It was plastic so it got cracked and torn over the years but never so badly that things started falling out. However as a yarn shop owner I felt that it was starting to be a little too shabby for public display, and that revelation came at the same time that Hiya Hiya sent me a complimentary roll-up fabric case with ingenious zippered compartments. I transferred my ‘stuff’ from the take-out carton to the new case and have never looked back. Now I gotta get some for the shop; customers see mine and keep asking me to stock them.

  12. Love the mini scissors! My gauge is terribly inconsistent, and I have an oversized wallet, so I keep my Goose Pond sheep knitting gauge in with my bills. It has lost one of its feet in the line of duty, but it’s still flat!

  13. Since I knit a lot of lace, I’ve recently been thrilled to find a cost-effective solution to my stitch markers challenge.
    I usually need around a dozen or so on the projects I need them for, and that makes cute sheep, much as I adore and desire them, not feasible.
    Now I’ve discovered spacer beads, with an inner hole of 5.9mm.
    They come in packs of fifty, are super affordable, light and don’t snatch. I am a happy bunny!

  14. Marsha C.

    Loved seeing inside your Altoids tin — thanks for sharing that! I notice you have a small needle sizer in there too. How/where can I find one of those? Who makes it? The ones I have are all too big for a small container like that, but now I want (need!) a small one like yours.

    Thanks for the great article about knitting notions.

  15. Another great use for an Altoid tin! I have a mini-travel kit for watercolors and made a colored pencil kit for my son. A knitting one would be nice… My latest favorite notion is the rubber tips connected with elastic. A set of number 1 dpns fits nicely inside the rubber tips and keeps me from losing stitches on socks while in transit. Thanks for the great post!

  16. FYI – Not sure about Canada, but American TSA allows scissors with blades shorter than 4″. I have a couple of tiny pairs that I fly with all the time, but any embroidery scissor or folding scissor should be allowed. Sometimes the flight attendants don’t know that, though! I’ve brought printouts of the TSA regulations on the plane, and I’ve had to use them.

  17. Amen to using circulars for flat work! I’m slowly replacing my acrylic KnitPicks circulars with the nickel plated tips since the smaller acrylics have started snapping in half on me. I guess I’m just hard on them. Then I also have a gorgeous pair of super loooong Lantern Moon needles. I wish I liked them better, but the tips aren’t pointy enough and the length makes them cumbersome.

  18. FoFo

    Very nice knits!

  19. Such yummy WIPs and pics!

  20. Leigh

    I really like short (9″) circulars for socks. Hiya Hiya makes a nice set. No juggling or tomfoolery. I have two in each size, so I knit two socks by alternating – cuff, cuff, leg, leg… I have square dpns for heels and toes. I love my Signatures, but they aren’t cheap. A nice alternative is the set of Hiya Hiya Sharps interchangeables. I find them plenty sharp, although I haven’t yet attempted a nupp…

  21. I’ve pretty much quit using straight needles after getting the knitpics interchangeable sets in the nickle and wood. I also have a bead jewelry making friend I talked into expanding her repetoire who is now making me gorgeous stitch markers and row counting bracelets.

  22. I only use circular needles because I like that my knitting is all contained, stitches can’t slide off, and the needles can’t get lost. I use the two-needle method for knitting in the round as I detest seams.

    I lost my needle collection just over a year ago when my car was broken into. I was working on replacing them a bit at a time when I discovered knit picks at my LYS and I’ve never looked back. I love the nickle plated ones, but do have a few wooden tips (they are so pretty!). I love the Altoid box idea. I keep my stuff in small baggies but they keep breaking. When I flew last year, I just took nail-clippers to cut my yarn. They work OK and no one asked questions.

    I will definitely check out the Signature needles – they look devine!

  23. Carla

    I’ve been known to purchase Altoids just for the box.

  24. hawknitr13

    i loved reading your and everyone’s comments about their knitting notions. no one has mentioned sticky notes. i use them constantly. my patterns are in sheet protectors. i note the pattern size, needle size, date made, who it is for, yarn used. then as i move thru the pattern i note changes i make & use one to keep track where i am in the pattern. any permanent notes can be slipped inside the sheet protector. i’ve made one particular baby sweater pattern so many times i had to get a clean piece of paper to post my sticky notes on!!! thanks for sharing!! ^)^linda

  25. Caitlyn

    When I was in middle school, I went through a phase where I consumed a shocking number of Altoids, and I had this inexplicable desire to save the tins even though I didn’t have a use for them. Even after recycling many of them, I must have two dozen left. It’s clear to me now that fate decreed that I should be a knitter, and prepared me accordingly. If I ever stray from project monogamy, I will be able to make many, many notions kits.

    My new favorite knitting tool, if you could call it that, is my Namaste Monroe in Eggplant that arrived Tuesday. I now have a bag large enough to carry my essentials, my Kindle in its hand-quilted sleeve, my knitting, and my writing pad. *Swoon*

  26. Cynthia K-R in Canada

    I find circulars the best all around, but dpns are great for ribbed socks. I am still a beginner sock-er, though. My interchangeables are wonderful! My notion bag is portable–it’s a kid’s zippered pencil case with different pockets I found at Walmart for $1. I use a Xmas candy tin for my notions at home, and then if I need to move it for company–on goes the lid, and VOILA! gone. Thanks for the tip of the dental floss.

  27. hsmyth

    You once posted about the tool you use for shaving off the pilly parts of a sweater. Could you remind us of which one that was? Thanks!

  28. I personally like bamboo needles but I’m always worried that when they’re in my bag they’ll snap.

  29. projectstash

    I was so taken by the needles in your last post that I had to ask! Thanks so much for answering in such a detailed and thorough way. I am going to let you enable me about those signature needles. I just found out that my LYS carries them, and I think I want to add something special to my needle stash (even though I probably have a million needles already, too).

  30. Mim

    The pics of your work make my mouth water – everything looks so lovely. Inspiring!

  31. wavelength5

    I use an envelop opener for cutting yarn. You know the kind you get as a “give away” from Office Depot or the bank or some other business. I use the point to pick up dropped stitches and the recessed cutting blade easily cuts yarn. Very safe to carry around and it fits in my notions kit.

  32. I use circs for pretty much everything, too. I still have a few set of DPNs around and they come out in a couple very specific instances, but it’s circs for me 99% of the time. I’ve given away all my regular straights.

  33. I love your altoid tin kits! I keep making myself little zipper pouches to keep all my supplies in :) I also like to have one in every knitting bag & my purse.

  34. Irrelevant

    TSA says that you’re allowed to bring scissors with blades less than 4″ in carry on luggage. I have a pair of folding sewing scissors that have accompanied me on many flights and I have never been given any difficulties.

  35. Pingback: Tips and Tutorials « Crafty Lady

  36. Kathy

    Since I discovered Signature circulars, I hate knitting on anything else. That stilleto point! That beautiful, soft, flexible NON CURLING cable! The color. I love everything about them. I swear I knit much faster. I, too, am trying to add some each month…slowly. K

  37. veldandi

    I know this is not about the post but did not know where else to ask this. I have made a few pairs of socks now and was just wondering what the best way to cast on for socks are? I find the cast on is very tight and it is sometimes hard to get the sock on the foot because of this.
    Love your blog and always find it a fun and interesting read. Thanks =)

  38. SewIknit2

    I am just beginning to amass a collection of knitting needles and appreciate their differences & qualities – newest I’ve added is the 9″ hiyahiya sock needle which took me a while to get the hang of managing the tiny needle tips and while I still prefer magic loop, I still plan to use them. Newest knit technique learning is continental & Norwegian purling.
    Good blog post! Sue x

  39. Madeleine

    Gorgeous knits, gorgeous needles! Thanks for sharing! :D

  40. knitting kitty

    My car was broken into and multiple electronic products were stolen (iPad, camera, company computer etc) but what I was most upset about was that my knitting tools bag was taken — alas to probably end up in a dumpster — but it had all of my favorite tools gathered over the years in the perfect little bag — some no longer produced. The insurance agent just didn’t get it!!!!

  41. Christine Baker

    All you Signature lovers (I’m one too!): has anyone tried the Hiya Hiya sharps? How do they compare?