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!

Kinked

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

Point

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.

Peek

You know those websites that show pictures of what’s inside other people’s fridges or purses or closets?  And you know how you’re always a tiny bit scandalized by something you see (how does anyone drink that much soda? Am I the only one with three chapsticks and no lipstick in my purse? Why am I not that tidy?).  I think the knitter’s equivalent must be your work basket.  Here’s mine.

basketWhat was that?  Why yes, yes that is all yarn for the gray curls.  And yes I do love them all.  And no, even in mid January, the gray is still not getting to me.  The real question is, what in there scandalizes you.  Or better yet, what’s in your knitting basket right now?

P.S. The needle organizer is by Zig Zag Stitches (one of the sock roll ones I think).  It’s awesome. I’ve had it since before I’ve been writing this blog, and it’s held up perfectly.  The basket is a dvd basket from Target.  It’s the perfect size (and it sits on a shelf on my end table and acts like a drawer…keeps the kittens totally out of it).

Small Things

I’m not sure what happened.  But somehow, I find myself not just in possession of a whole whack of stitch markers, but excited by them.  It could be because they’re so damn perfect.  They work as regular and locking markers, they fit up to about a size 10 needle, they weigh nothing, and they don’t snag the yarn.  And, most important of all, they’re about as streamlined and minimalist as you can imagine.  They look something like this.

Stitch MarkersExcept my pile of them is huge.  Alarmingly huge.  I didn’t show you the whole pile because a heap of black safety-pins looks distressingly like spider legs, and I wouldn’t do that to you.  But I assure you, I’m smitten with them.

Fever Dreams

So I seem to have lost a week.  Some time weekend before last, I thought to myself ‘hmm, I have a bit of a sniffle, perhaps I’ll lie down for a moment.’  Then yesterday I dragged my stinking carcass out of bed, blinked, grunted, and wondered what the hell happened to the intervening week.

That’s a slight exaggeration, but not much.  I more or less did the bare minimum necessary to be considered a functional adult for the last nine days.  Eat, shower, feed the cats, mind the blog.  That’s about it.  Alas, The Boy also got the same strain of death (though his went in a throat direction while mine did an exciting lung and ear combo pack).  This violated the household rule stating only one of us should be sick at once.  This rule exists for a reason.  When it’s violated, we have all sorts of scenes of stoicism and sniffles…it’s not a good combination.

But, we’re both (more or less) on the mend.  The fog has lifted and while I’m not quite well, I don’t feel the need to spend 14 hours a day passed out (no doubt snoring like a drunken sailor).

Somewhere around day 5 of the battle to the death with the evil germs (hint, they will always win in the end, you can only hope for a temporary cease fire), I became obsessed with the idea that I must knit.  Now, this wasn’t actually the best idea ever.  It may actually have been a terrible idea.  I was rather tremble-y around the edges and counting much past three was beyond me.  Somewhat to my surprise, something nifty started forming.  I’m giving full credit to the stitch markers.  I met the lovely Denise of Neese’s Pieces at TNNA and she pressed some into my hands and gave me no choice but to take them home (she’s nice like that).  They proved to be just the thing for what was bubbling away in my fevered brain.

Now I can’t show you much about it…I’m only going to show you part of a swatch, and I’ve even tweaked the color a bit to not give away anyone’s secrets.  But I did feel it absolutely necessary to document my first proper use of stitch markers.  I think you guys who use them all the time might have been holding out on me!

Oh, and don’t forget, you’ve got till Wednesday morning to enter for a copy of Rachel’s lovely book.  Don’t miss out, you want this one on your shelf!

More Tools of the Trade

So the other day you met Alphonse.  He’s quite dapper, and makes a perfect house guest. Today I’m showing off some truly funky sock blockers.

Now you know we’ve got some big feet in this house.  I wear a ladies’ size 11, and The Boy wears a men’s size 13.  These are big feet.  I decline to feel bad about this, as the size of a person’s feet is more or less out of their control.  The only thing I felt bad about was the difficulty in vigorously blocking socks in these sizes.  I had a pair of wire blockers in what they called extra large.  They more or less worked for most of my socks, but they didn’t really make much of a dent in The Boy’s socks.  Enter these guys:

My parents found them at an antique store, so alas I can’t tell you where to find your own.  They are labeled with the number 11.  I have no idea how, or even if, this correlates with a current shoe size.  They are just a bit big for my socks and the perfect size for The Boy’s.  I’m completely taken with the pointy toes.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, this parade of tools is a way of hiding that my knitting isn’t terribly earth shattering at the moment.  The louche socks are taller.  The secret socks are taller.  The pile of swatches for cough book two cough is growing.  With any luck at all, the pattern for truckle should be out early next week.

Have any of you guys used ‘antique’ knitting tools or put non-knitting supplies to work for you on the dark woolly side?

Nifty!

blockers_1Do you remember a month or so ago when I was wailing and gnashing my teeth over the distressing lack of mitt blockers in the world?  Ok, perhaps not actually wailing, but certainly carrying on in an unbecoming fashion.

Well, it seems that there are some people who, when confronted with such a distressing lack, do something other than cry in their cornflakes.  Some people choose to solve problems instead of just pointing them out and then standing around waiting for them to magically fix themselves.  It turns out that Lizzy of Yarnluvinlizzy is one of these exceptional people. She’s made mitt blockers!  Not only did she make mitt blockers, she sent me mitt blockers.

I have to say, they are pretty darn nifty.  They’re made of a lovely natural wood, sanded perfectly smooth, and varnished to make them waterproof.  Don’t be fooled by their delicate appearance, they are quite sturdy.  If you too have been plagued by a dearth of mitt blockers, I can wholeheartedly recommend these.  I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot of them as I continue to indulge my new-found fondness for fingerless mitts.

For those wondering, the mitts are Adumbrate, and this is the last day to get them as a free pattern.  Some time this weekend I’m switching it over to a for sale pattern, so go grab it now if you’ve been waiting.