Review: ChiaoGoo part 2 and a Slouchy Colour Story too!

Have you ever stood by a wall of hand dyed skeins of yarn and found yourself staring at one skein, thinking “Wow, that’s kinda ugly.” I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but that’s how I felt about one of the Estelle Colour Story colourways when they first arrived in my store. And you know when your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Yeah… I’m going to talk about that today.

And, as promised, here is part two of my ChiaoGoo review!

So let’s start with the ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel 40cm x 2.5mm circular knitting needles. I was very excited to try these out. I allowed myself a little extra time for this one because I wanted to knit a toque with sock weight yarn on this needle. I used the Sockhead Slouch hat pattern by Kelly McClure, downloaded free on revelry. The yarn is Estelle Colour Story in Bubblegum.

I cast on 160 stitches since I was using a finer needle than recommended in the pattern. I wanted something denser than the suggested gauge. I’m not accustomed to working with bent circular needle tips, so it did feel a little strange at first. The cast on was fine, nothing out of the ordinary. I found the nylon coated cord a little grabby when I was sliding the cast on along it. Joining in the round was a little awkward and I found myself fighting with the reach a little bit. However, knowing that the first few rounds are typically awkward, I persisted and tried to reserve judgment. By about round four the resistance from the needle stopped and it felt good. I did find that I had to stop frequently to move the stitches out of the way on the cord on the right hand side. If I were competing, this would bother me. That bit of resistance from the slightly grabby cord is not necessarily a bad thing. Your work is not going to slide off when you don’t want it to. With a larger gauge needle this would be a non issue.

Once I got accustomed to them, I liked the fact that these needle tips are on the longer side for this short of a circular.

It gives you something to anchor your hand to as you knit. For some people this can minimize fatigue. It didn’t take long until I stopped being aware of the bend in the tips. The tips are nice and sharp; this wasn’t really an issue for this yarn or the pattern. I personally like them this way; I feel like it gives me better control. Also, I usually grab a handful of the left hand stitches and slide them along the needle to progress my work. I don’t typically use my fingertip to push the needle further into the left hand stitches to do so. Therefore, a sharp tip doesn’t give me a sore finger as it does for other knitters.

I really enjoyed this needle.

I typically knit a lot of socks, so I am happy using fine needle and yarn gauges. I love that the work slides effortlessly over the junction between the needle and the cord. Catching stitches on a dying junction point is something that irritates me when my needles begin to show their wear. It will be interesting to see how the junction stands up over the long haul. I definitely recommend this line of needles. They are pretty darn fabulous. I probably wouldn’t use them for all my knitting, but I will definitely be using them in my complex fine gauge pattern work.

So, on to the pattern and the yarn.

Sockhead Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure of Boho Knits was my pattern of choice for this test. I wanted an easy, straightforward hat pattern in sock weight yarn. The pattern was super easy to follow. I’m not a huge fan of the slouchy hat, so I didn’t make it as long as the pattern suggested. I love that there was a quick start pattern option with very brief instructions for those impatient experienced knitters who want to just get down to it. It’s a great basic pattern. Kudos to whoever formatted the pattern. Nice job! If you have a gorgeous skein of hand dyed sock yarn that you can’t bear to make into socks because no one will get to see how pretty the yarn is, this is a great alternative to knitting it into yet another shawl. Top marks here. I used finer needles because I wanted a nice dense fabric. So I did modify it a little. I’m very happy with the outcome. Kelly has a whole bunch of patterns to offer and you can find them here.

And on to the yarn…

Okay so I confess I can be a little judgy when it comes to colourways. The truth is that we don’t all like the same things and that is not just okay, it’s a wonderful thing. I know what I like. That having been said… yeah… the book-cover thing I mentioned earlier. So, the yarn I chose for this project is Estelle Colour Story in the Bubblegum colourway. This hand painted sock weight yarn originates in Peru. I specifically chose to knit this colourway because I was feeling bad that I desperately wanted it to prove me wrong. It was the one I stared at, thinking it was ugly. I SO wanted it to prove me wrong. And I’m delighted to I tell you, it did. I’m so happy that I tried this yarn.

The Estelle Colour Story yarns do just that. They tell a story.

This one took me back to my childhood in a delightful and unexpected way. It reminded me of Bubble-Yum, Bubblelicious, Double-Bubble and more! Oh my, as every colour showed its little piece of personality I couldn’t help smiling. Every colour of every bubblegum I ever chewed as a kid was represented. Score! Happiness meter: maxed out! My inner child was seriously satisfied by this yarn. (Go ahead and laugh, but I suspect you know exactly what I mean.) And my conscience is now clear! 😀

I hope you’ll take a look at Kelly’s designs and see what she has to offer.

Hey, I love a free download, but I also respect the amount of work in getting a design from inside your head into pattern form. So, shout out to Kelly at Boho Knits! If you’re looking for a great needle in these shorter lengths, I do recommend what ChiaoGoo has to offer. And finally, in all humility, here’s a shout-out to the yarns that look better knitted up than on the skein. You just never know…

Happy Knitting!

Review: ChiaoGoo part 1 plus Distraction in Katia Camel Sock Yarn

I have been hearing lovely things about ChiaoGoo premium stainless steel knitting needles for some time now. My rep knows I’m a sock knitter and he has been encouraging me to test out the wee sock needles for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I had someone ask me about 40cm circular needles in fine gauges. Since Knitter’s Pride Dreamz (the main brand I carry) don’t come in those sizes, it leaves a gap; that sent me hunting. Today’s blog is part one based on the results from that search and a review of what I found.

ChiaoGoo makes those in-between needles that fill the gap that I just mentioned. So I figured I would order in the wee sock needles to try, as well as the sizes of 40cm circs to fill in the fine gauges that are not available in Dreamz. I figured I would test them out to see how I like them. I’m still in the process of testing the 40cm ones and I’ll fill you in on them in my next blog.

Today I want to talk about the sock circulars.

These needles are surgical stainless steel circulars. They have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and memory-free, multi-strand, steel cable cord coated with red nylon allowing yarn to slide right over the cord with ease. (…mostly a quote from ChiaoGoo)

I have a sock knitting customer in particular who brought in her Dreamz sock needles (the wee circs) to show me that she is actually wearing grooves into them. She knits a LOT of socks. I was astounded; I haven’t worn any of mine down so it surprised me to see this. I brought her in some Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina in the same style and she wore off the silver finish. That’s been floating in the back of my mind for a while. When I was looking at these ChiaoGoo needles it occurred to me that they may just fit the bill for her. Surgical Stainless Steel ought to be enough to stand up to this avid knitter. If she is wearing out wood needles, chances are other folks are as well. I haven’t called her to say these are in yet since they only just arrived. So I don’t have feedback from her yet.

Today is about my impressions of ChiaoGoo 23cm sock circs.

I cast on “Distraction” by Michelle Leanne Martin using Camel Sock yarn by Katia. The cast on was just what I would expect on this style of needle. It’s always a little awkward. No surprises there. They are very smooth. When I’m doing a complicated pattern with cables, twists and traveling stitches, I like to knit the socks one at a time on a wee circular. (Especially if they have a different chart for the front and back of the sock.) It’s just less confusing.

I truly have only good things to say about this needle. I used the 2.5mm. The cord is supple and moves nicely. The stitches never caught on the junction between needle and cord. I was anticipating that the stitches might slide a little too easily on the metal needle, but that was not the case. I did find the cord a little grabby on the yarn and maybe that’s why I didn’t find them to be as slippery as I expected. I was doing a lot of traveling stitches and I like a nice sharp tip when I’m doing this type of knitting. These were perfect for that. The length of the needle tip was what I expected for a product of this type. It was an absolute joy. I completed the sock on that needle and cast on the second one. Obviously, stainless steel needles don’t have the same warmth that wood needles have. I’ll continue using my Dreamz and I’m definitely adding this little beauty to my tool box!

Whenever I do complex geometric socks, this will be my new go-to.

Distraction is a well written pattern. It’s available on Ravelry as a free download. It is straightforward and easy to follow. As with any pattern of this complexity, I was grateful for my KnitCompanion App which allowed me to slide my vertical marker along as I worked the foundation rounds until the pattern began to emerge. Of course since I was knitting in the evening, that didn’t stop me from missing the cables in the ribbing on the first sock. Oops… I realized my error when I started the second sock. There’s no way I’m going back to change it. I figure: do like the Amish quilters who leave a mistake in their hand stitched quilts since after all, “Only God is perfect”. 🙂 I’m enjoying this project enough that I was inspired to check out Michelle’s other patterns. She’s got a lot to offer and I encourage any sock knitters to check her out.

Katia Socks – Camel is a blend of 55% wool, 25% polyamide and 20% camel. It comes in 100g balls with a gauge of 42 rows by 30 stitches in a 10cm square. It comes in a range of neutrals including grays, browns and blue. I chose gray (colour 74) for this project. I brought this yarn in because these are all the classy basic neutrals that you could want for men’s hand knit socks in one line of yarn. Katia yarns have never disappointed me and this yarn is no exception. It’s smooth, easy to knit and strong. The stitch definition is excellent and it gave me the result I expect from a high quality sock yarn. I love the resulting fabric. It has depth and personality despite being a neutral. And it’s soft. It feels so good. Full marks on this yarn!

A big thumbs up to this entire project. The needles: 2.5mm x 23cm Chiao Goo premium stainless steel circulars. The pattern: Distraction by Michelle Leanne Martin. The yarn: Katia Socks – Camel by Fil Katia of Spain.

I hope I have inspired you to try something new. See you again in 2 weeks. 🙂

Happy Knitting!