Wash them

Wash your knitting needles people.  You spend hours holding them.  Anything that’s on your hands (lotion…hair stuff…chapstick…possibly that pizza you had for lunch) is on there too.

Just chuck them a sink full of warm soapy water (ahem, making sure you don’t send them down the drain…that’s no fun) and let them hang out for a bit.  You can use the same soap you use to wash/block your knits, I like Soak.  After they’ve sat for a few minutes, rinse them off, and dry them off with a soft towel.  They’ll feel so much better.  The only thing you have to watch out for is needles that aren’t plastic or metal.  If you got wooden (or bone, or horn, or some other natural material), you’ll probably want to rinse them and dry them quickly rather than soaking them.

But really…anything you touch that much can benefit from the occasional wash!

And someone asks every time so, yes, some of my needles are square! Kollage does them, and I do like them because they make a slight tighter fabric than the same size round needles do. And the others are some combination of Signature Arts Needles (the fuchsia ones and some of the green ones), Susan Bates (I especially love the pack they do with sizes 000, 00, 0, & 1), Hiya Hiya and ChiaoGoo (silver), and whatever else has caught my eye over the years (meaning there are some I just don’t remember).

And no…no there is no such thing as too many needles!


Once I decided that the initial incarnation of the gray socks had to give way to a new version, the next step was to free the yarn.  Now this is actually surprisingly hard for me.  I loathe ripping.  I always feel like I’m throwing away all that time I spent knitting.  But in this case, there was absolutely no way I was ever going to use (or even finish) the socks, and the yarn was too pretty to waste.

So out came the darning needle and the swift.  I picked out my ends (why on earth am I so thorough at weaving those in) and started turning away.

taking apart a sockIt’s fast.  Fast and surprisingly satisfying.  And I really do recommend using a swift (or a niddy noddy, or something else to keep the yarn under tension like the back of a chair), because your yarn is going to be seriously kinked.  Think ramen noodles.  If you just pull it out and pile it up thinking you’ll wind it up later, you’ll get hideous tangles (go ahead, ask me how I know).

piles of yarnThat unkinked pile is the yarn leftover in the ball, reskeined on the same swift, just for comparison.  All four of them are off for a nice long soak and will then get hung to dry.  When they’re done, they’ll be good as new.

And, in other sock-related news, Graupel are coming back out tomorrow.  This is the traditional ‘hey, if you’re on the mailing list you get the bigger discount coupon’ reminder (because someone always comes along and says ‘but I didn’t know‘ and then I feel bad, so consider yourself officially informed).

graupel 4 small


I distinctly remember, back when I was a new knitter, wondering why on earth people had so many knitting needles.  I could understand having different sizes.  Though I secretly suspected that you could probably make size 2 act like size 1 if you just pulled extra tight or like size 3 if you just kept your yarn a bit loose…I mean how much difference could a half a millimeter really make?  (Hint, new knitters, if you’re reading this, the answer is ‘a lot.’  Half a millimeter makes a lot of difference.  Save yourself the headache and be smarter than I was.)  But I truly could not understand why anyone would have more than one set of needles of the same size.

But the more I knit, the more convinced I became that needles were hugely important.  The texture matters.  The tips matter.  The shape matters.  Sometimes even the color matters.  So when I heard about the new FlipStix from addi, I pretty much had to try them out (erm, and it seemed important to try them in 3 sizes…for science you understand).

DSC_1360The idea is kind of genius.  DPNs with one pointy tip and one blunt tip so you can use whichever end is the best fit for the yarn and project you’re working on.

I totally love the idea, and addis are always marvelous quality.  I adore aluminum needles because they are light and comfortable in your hands, and these have the perfect amount of grip in the finish, grabby enough to hold the yarn but slick enough not to slow you down.  But there are a few tweaks I wish I could make.

The first and most important is the points themselves.  Take a look at the pointy and blunt ends of the 1.5s .

DSC_1351There isn’t really as much difference between the two as I’d like.  The blunt isn’t too far off what I’d pick for a blunt tip if I had my very own magic wand.  But the pointy end isn’t really terribly pointy at all.  It’s more what I’d consider normal.  To be fair, I like a very pointy needle.  For reference, the stiletto point on my signature arts needles is almost as pointy as I’d like.  But since the difference between the pointy and blunt ends is sort of the whole point of these needles, I’d expect it to be a bit more dramatic.  As it is, it was pretty hard to tell if I was using the blunt end or the pointy end.

My other concern is the colors.  I love the idea of a set of differently colored needles.  But I wish they’d chosen a more distinct range of colors.  You get a light and a dark blue, a light and a dark yellow, and a red.  If they’d gone with red, orange, green, blue, purple I’d be delighted.  I’d probably buy a bunch just for the color (I’m a sucker for rainbows, shameful but true).  But the two blue, two yellow, and red thing just feels odd.

So, as much as I was excited by the idea, I have to admit I’m sort of bummed by the execution.  I love the weight and the finish.  And if the pointy end were pointier and the colors a bit more differentiated, I’d buy a zillion of them.  But as it is, I don’t think I’ll find myself needing any more.

How about you guys?  Have you tried the FlipStix?  Do you have strong opinions about needle tips?  Know of anyone else doing double tips or different colored needles within a set?  Is my perfect needle lurking out there somewhere waiting for me?  Because I think it’s probably best for all of us if I avoid trying to make my own…

Tools, the blocking edition

I am particular about blocking.  It makes such a tremendous difference in how your finished knitting looks (and fits) that it’s worth taking a the extra time to do it right.  It’s only going to take a fraction of the time you’ve already spent knitting, so it seems well worth the effort.

I’ve been blocking things for the photo shoot (April 7, remember…you’re all supposed to be arranging for a warm, bright-but-overcast day, with no snow on the ground, ok?), and thought I’d take a second to show off some of the tools I like best for blocking.  You can see  four of my favorites here.

DSC_0661The most important bits are probably the blocking mats and pins.  I like the mats they sell for floors of play rooms or gyms.  They’re markedly cheaper than the ones they sell specifically for knitting (and generally come in  a wider array of colors).  I’ve had these for almost three years, and they’ve held up well.  You can see that I’ve stabbed them full of pins, but they still work perfectly.  I will issue a general warning that, if you have an insane cat who loves to chew foam (no flip flop or yoga block is safe in this house), keep them away from the cat.  But I think that says more about Kitten Overlord Barry and his odd predilections than about the mats.

I also have strong feelings about pins.  I spent the many years blocking things with the straight pins you use for sewing (the kind with the little colored plastic ball on the end that always melts when you accidentally iron over it).  I would like those years back.  T-pins are much much better.  They’re easier to grip, sturdier, less likely to stab you (someone tell me I’m not the only one attacked by straight pins), and just nicer to handle.  I strongly recommend getting the two-inch ones in preference to the shorter ones (you can drive really torque on your knitting and drive them into your mat at an angle).  I use these, and I’ve ordered at least three boxes over the years (pinning out a curl takes a lot of pins).  I’ve bent one or two, but I’ve never had one rust (you don’t want anything rusty near your damp knitting, that would just be heartbreaking).

The next two are maybe a bit more eclectic.  I confessed when I talked about my travel tools that I have a favorite ruler.  So perhaps it will come as no surprise that I have a favorite yard stick too.  And yes, yes I totally do use a yardstick when I pin things out.  For the love of yarn those points should all be the same distance apart.  Do yourself a favor and get two.  That way you can set your yard sticks up on your mat (just put pins on each side to hold them firmly in place) and pin your knitting out between them.

And that brings us to the last thing.  I don’t actually expect many of you to decide you need this, but if you’re truly, deeply obsessive, get yourself a pair of framing squares.  That’s what those L-shaped bits in the picture are.  Think of them as two rulers (in this case, one side 16 inches and the other side 24 inches, but they come in other sizes, too) held forever together at a perfect right angle.  You can use the two of them together to make small rectangles (they’ll make sure your corners are straight), or use them with yard sticks like I did above to make larger rectangles.  I know this is likely far more obsessive than any normal person needs to be, but I am rather smitten with mine.

Those four (plus the free custom graph paper I mentioned over here) let me block pretty much anything I need to.  So how about you guys?  Do you have any favorite blocking tools?  Do you measure it all carefully, or just pin things out by eye?  Are you using mats, or just pinning things out on the bed or carpet?  I know it can be a touchy subject (and I promise I’m not going to tell you you’re doing it wrong), but I’m curious how much time folks are willing to spend getting the blocking just right.

Tools, the travel edition

As I was packing my knitting bag for our recent trip, I realized that a rather substantial proportion of the stuff I tote about with me for travel knitting aren’t things you’re likely to find in your local yarn shop.  Sometimes you can get a version of them in a yarn store, but the yarn store version isn’t quite as good.  And some of it is just stuff you won’t find there.  So since I’ve finally gotten my knitting bag to the point where it’s pretty much perfect for me, I thought I’d share what’s in there!  You can see several of my travel essentials here.

toolsFirst up, that ruler.  Now, I know you’ll think I’m dorky to have a favorite ruler, but by all the woolly gods, I have a favorite ruler.  I love it for a few reasons.  First, it’s tiny (thinner than a credit card) and tucks in to my travel needle case with ease.  Second, it’s disgustingly precise (32nds and 64ths of an inch on one side, 10ths and 100ths of an inch on the other side).  Finally, the measurements go all the way to the very end of the ruler (which I know is controversial in the ruler world, but it’s what I like).  If you’re going to make a swatch, you might as well measure it exactly, and this ruler is the best way I know to do that.  If it encourages you to go ahead and make a 6 inch swatch instead of a 4 inch swatch, all the better.  I may have accidentally liberated mine from my college drafting lab, but you can find one over here (do yourself a favor and get a few, someone will want to borrow one and they do tend to walk off).

Next, those scissors.  Again, it seems like a really silly thing to care about, I know.  But so many tiny scissors are absolute crap.  Either they’re too small to use with comfort or the blades are about as sharp as a nail file or they get fused together the second time you use them.  These are proper (sharp, functional) scissors, with handles big enough to use that don’t stop working after three snips.  And while I can’t promise what the TSA will do on any given day, I’ve taken them on many plane rides with no problems at all.  You can find them here (they seem to have stopped making the blue and green ones, but I have the gray and red ones linked here too, and they’re just the same…I just match them to my travel case, which is totally normal).

And of course, my magic safety pin stitch markers.  I lov these enough I included them in the Curls goody bags.  They are light weight, fit more or less every size needle I ever use, take up no space in your kit, don’t snag, and can even serve as an actual safety pin in a pinch.  The only trick is they tend to be shockingly expensive if you buy a dozen in a fancy baggy in a yarn store.  But they’re super cheap if you buy a pile of them on amazon (300 or so for less than $10).  Get a bag and split them with a friend (or just hoard them for yourself, you’ll find all sorts of things to do with them).

And finally, and perhaps most shameful of all, graph paper post its and the One True Proper Pencil.  Yes…yes I do take these with me everywhere.  Most everything I knit is for a pattern, and that means I need to take notes as I work.  Those notes are often in chart form, and that paper makes it easy.  And that pencil is the only pencil I don’t end up wanting to use as a weapon, so better for everyone really if I stick with it.  But even if you’re not quite as determined about it as all that, an easy way to keep track of how many repeats you did on the foot or the clever thing you figured out about the thumb comes in kind of handy (and pens don’t belong near yarn).

So how about you?  Any non-knitting products you’ve seized upon for knitting?  Anything you simply must have in your travel knitting kit?  I can’t be the only one with strong opinions about these things.