Needles…so many needles

So, people ask, so let’s talk a bit about long dpns. I haven’t yet found a perfect source for them (translation, I buy them where I can and hoard them like a greedy dragon).

My very favorite ones are some bamboo needles I found at Daiso in San Francisco about six years ago. I’ve looked for more every time I’ve been back, but without any luck. But if you live near one, by all means look.⁣

I’ve also got some wooden ones from a vendor I won’t name that I thought would be great, but they ended up being so wildly inconsistent in size (a needle would be labeled a size 3 but was really a 2…or a 4…or a 5) that they were not practical to use.

I’ve got a lovely set from Indian Lake Artisans that are fabulous for plied yarns but a little grabby on single ply yarns (this is fine, it doesn’t mean anything bad about the needles or the yarn, some yarns and needles just need a little more care in pairing).

Then there are the metal ones. I’ve found a few sellers on etsy that sell some very very inexpensive metal needles. You can find the same ones on sites like ali express. They’re shockingly cheap (think ten bucks for a set of six different sizes), but they take a good six weeks to arrive and you get what you pay for. I basically order two sets and expect half of them to be bent or have the finish chipped or have rough spots or be otherwise flawed in some way…oh and they tend to have some sort of weird oil on them you need to wash off before you use them. Plus also they don’t exactly win you any points on the shop local/buy from small vendors bingo card.  But man…when a set of those works out to three or four bucks and fancier one is more like thirty (if you can even find it)…it has a certain appeal.

I’ve seen several recommendations to check out places that sell knitting belts (because you often use long needles with those), and that sounds very promising. But these are the places I’ve tried and can speak to personally.

So yeah…no one perfect one size fits all solution. But the search is kind of fun (and it gives you an extra excuse to check out the tools in every yarn shop you see).

Well stocked

Today’s Yarn Love Challenge prompt was multiples.  And it seemed like a fine reason to dig out some of my DPNs and show them off.

These are just my long ones (like 12 inches and up), and they’re grouped by size, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. You can see that I have several sets of at least a couple of those.  Especially the 3s as I find those are my favorite for hats and cowls (and I’ve got an extra set of 2 and a new set of 1.5s on the way).  The pile of short DPNs is even bigger.

But really…having the right needle for a project is just as important as having the right yarn.  I like to have metal, a smoother wood, and a grippier wood (or bamboo) to pick from if I can.  I get a different gauge with each material, and sometimes switching needle material (instead of needle size) is the way to get the fabric you want.

You can find me on instagram over here, and you can find the Yarn Love Challenge festivities over here if you want to follow along.  I’m having a great time seeing what everyone comes up with!

 

Pairing

Have I mentioned recently that I believe in swatching?  Swatching teaches you all sorts of things.  It tells you what size your finished thing will be.  But it also tells you if that yarn and that stitch want to play well together.  And sometimes…sometimes it tells you that your yarn and needle combo is not meant to be.

You’ll recall I was all excited to go back to knitting a hat on DPNs (after having grudgingly knit the last one on circs).  I had my awesome new Indian Lake Artisan needles all lined up and ready to go.  And I had some lovely Manos Silk Blend yarn all picked out.  And when I put yarn to needles, I pretty much instantly learned that this yarn and these needles do not want to play together.

Now, this is not the fault of the yarn or the needles.  They’re both lovely.  I like them both very much.  I will happily use both.  But the loosely spun, slightly grabby, single-ply yarn does not want to be knit with the wooden needles, no matter how silky smooth they’re sanded.  My stitches were uneven, I kept splitting the yarn, and the whole thing just felt frustrating.

I switched to metal needles and things instantly got easier.  No more splits and much more even tension.  Knitting this way will be a much more pleasant experience.  And I’ll save the wooden needles for the next project.

But this is the sort of stuff that you just have to swatch to figure out.  You’re not just swatching to check needle size (though of course that’s a big part of it).  You’re swatching to check the overall pairing between the yarn and the needle and the stitch.  That means you’re looking at the texture of the needle (grippy? slippy?), the sharpness of the tips (blunt? pointy? long or short taper?), and even the color, as well as size.

So swatch.  Swatch early, swatch often.  And don’t be afraid to have lots of needles to choose from.

Not purple…still a hat

So it’s been sort of all purple all the time around here.  The hearts and the hat and before that the slipper were all rocking the purple.  So I think it’s time we bring on some blue.  I mean not too much (we all know blue is not my favorite shade)…and not for too long (because that second slipper needs to happen and it’s firmly back in the purple camp).  But a little break from the purple could be good.

That’s Manos’s Silk Blend in (I think) Ice Melt.

And it’s getting knit up with my shiny new Indian Lake Artisan needles, because I have had Quite Enough Of Circular Needles Thank You and am ready to get back to my happy place.

Proof

There. I can now say, with certainty, that I am perfectly able to knit a hat on circular needles.

Turns out I can also say, with equal certainty, that it is not my preferred method of knitting a hat.  I figured out that I just really really REALLY dislike sliding the stitches off of the cable and back onto the needle.  The physical sensation of it is just unpleasant.  And I’m not a tight knitter, so I don’t think that is the problem.  So unless someone makes circs where the cable and the needle are nearly the same size, I just don’t think they’re going to be for me.

But, now that I’ve proven I can knit a hat on circs, I get to go back to my preferred method and try out these amazing new DPNs I got!  They’re from Indian Lake Artisans, they’re twelve glorious inches long, and I suspect I’ll love them to bits.  Fingers crossed this will be the end to my quest for the perfect long DPN!  Expect a full report once I get a project underway, but for now, I’m expecting good things!

And if you’re looking for the hat pattern, rest assured it will be coming out later this year (most likely early this spring if I have my way).  I know lots of you are waiting for it, and I totally want to get it out for you!

 

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Proof of Concept…

So I mean yes, it does seem to be technically possible for me to knit with circular needles…

But I’m still finding it deeply, deeply awkward.  But I still fail to have suitable long DPNs in this size, and I still do not want to knit a hat on short DPNs (I’ve done it, it’s pain).  So I’m still pretending this will work.

Tell me it eventually feels less like wrestling with an angry squid?

And in case it doesn’t, lots of lovely folks recommended the needles from Indian Lake Artisans when I posted about this on instagram.  They apparently make awesome needles and can do them in custom lengths.  I’ve placed an order and you can expect a full report when they arrive!

Edited to add:  Don’t worry folks, I totally am magic looping it when I’m actually knitting! I just have the stitches all slid together for pictures/trying on (trying hats on being one of the few places where I’ll grant that circs have the advantage).  I’m not trying to knit with one hat spread out over the whole cable, I promise!

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 (as always, amazon links are affiliate links).  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!

Suitably Matched

Way back when I was a brand new knitter (think ‘had to look up how to purl because it seemed sort of tricky’ level of new), I read a pattern that said something like ‘cast on 24 stitches with appropriate yarn and suitably matched needles.’  And somehow I got it into my head that ‘suitably matched’ meant ‘needles that look pretty with your yarn.’  I’ll just let you imagine how well that worked out.  It’s a wonder I ever got the hang of this.

But that incident has left me with a tendency to grin every time my needles happen to match my knitting!

And someone will ask, so these are the needles (as always, amazon links are affiliate links).  No they’re nothing fancy.  But I’ve had them for at least a decade, and they’ve held up perfectly (as have all the other needles of that brand I’ve used over the years…).  And the yarn is Silky Victoria from Blue Moon Fiber Arts in the color Sugar Plum Fairy Dust.  And the knitting is a swatch for Curls 3 (which should be next year’s book)!

Flake

Remember back in August, when I was so excited for lovely, long DPNs?  And bought three sets?  And loved them with an undying fervor?  Yeah.  So here’s how that turned out.

DSC_3076 copyIt’s a bit hard hard to take a picture of, but if you look closely, you can see that the tip is flaking rather badly.   It’s happening to all three sets.

I get that needles are tools, and that tools show signs of use over time.  I don’t expect tools to last forever.  But I’ve had the needles for less than five months, and they’ve only been used for two or three projects (depends on which set we’re talking about, but either way it’s not what I’d call heavy use).  And I do expect needles to last longer than this.

I’m totally bummed and once again on the hunt for sturdy, long DPNs.  Though I’m starting to think they just don’t exist…

Meanwhile

So, it’s been sort of all book all the time around here, but I have managed to grab the occasional spare moment and actually knit (not many mind you…but every now and then).  There’s a hat underway.

DSC_0500 copyIt started out something like that.

DSC_0513 copyThen it was more like that.

DSC_0600 copyAnd these days it’s more like this.

It’s the simplest little thing ever (two row repeat, mostly stockinette, easy to pick up and bang out a row when you have a minute), which makes it the perfect thing for the craziness of launch week.  All the interest comes from the yarn (Spun Right Round in the color Bug Jar), and I’m not actually sure I’d be up for anything more complicated at the moment!

And it’s the absolutely perfect project to break in my lovely new needles.

DSC_0488 copyEDIT: These, alas, fell apart after about five months of light use…details over here.

I’m a huge fan of long dpns (really long, 14 inches long).  But they can be shockingly hard to find, and the wooden ones I ordered most recently have given me no end of problems.  So I was absolutely delighted when a few folks on twitter pointed me to this etsy shop.  They have long dpns (both metal and wood) in a whole host of sizes for astonishingly reasonable prices.  Their customer service is great (I had a question about the needles and they helped me out right away) and the needles came quickly.  I’m completely smitten with them and will totally be ordering more.