It’s Here!

One of the things I love about owning a business is that I get to choose what goes on the shelves and racks. In February I met with the rep from Katia Yarns of Spain to take a look at what they have in their Spring and Summer line. It’s exciting that their entire line of yarn and fabric is now being distributed in Canada. This is exciting! The yarn I ordered just came in and as of today it is on the shelves. As much as I really wanted to order a whole lot more, I resisted temptation and limited my order to three different yarns. I’m excited to tell you about them though!

Fair Cotton Craft

This fair trade organic cotton is DIVINE! It’s put up in 200g balls and the “mileage” is superb at 620m! Katia has a number of patterns for this yarn as well; gotta love that. It creates a striped border to a lovely neutral colour. It’s available in four colourways and I have them all in stock now. With a single ball you can make a large child’s sweater. You could get a small to medium ladies’ top out of one ball if you made it with wee cap sleeves or sleeveless. They have a lovely baby blanket pattern and it takes a single ball to complete it.

The price does reflect the fact that it is fair trade and organic. And when you feel it and you see what you can make with a single ball, you won’t care about the price. It’s worth every penny. Since it arrived, I’ve been obsessing over what I want to make with it… as soon as I clear off some of my currently occupied knitting needles. If you scroll down on the link below, you will see the patterns they have for this yarn.

See them here

Scuby Cotton

I have had a lot of people ask me about macrame supplies. My sisters and I did macrame back in the late 1970’s. It’s a lot of fun and easy to get the hang of. Over a year ago I spoke to my suppliers and at that time, they told me this “flash in the pan” fad was on its way out and all they had in supplies were the colours no one wanted any more. Yet, I still had people asking me for macrame supplies. I kept hounding my suppliers and clearly other people did too. Katia’s answer to this demand is Scuby Cotton. They even have a free pattern for a plant hanger that you can download off their website! They have patterns for bags and purses, pillows, a lamp shade and an artistic wall hanging. I am working on carving out time to put together a macrame workshop. (It is likely to be toward the end of May.) This yarn is available in a large range of colours. I only brought in six, and I started with neutrals. If I get enough people interested, I will expand the selection to include other colours. Here’s a link to the yarn and again, if you scroll down, you’ll see all the patterns available. (The free plant hanger pattern is called Kayseri.)

see them here

And last but definitely not least is the Rainbow Big rug kit. Oh MY! This is just so fantastic, I’m bursting with excitement! This gradient yarn comes in a kit with one 700g ball of yarn (YES, you read right!) It seamlessly shifts from one colour to the next. A crochet hook and an easy pattern that will result in a 48″ rug are included with it. That’s a decent size. The yarn is presented in a clear zippered pouch with a grommet in the centre so you can leave the ball in the bag and pull it through the hole to minimize risk of tangling. (If you’re anything like me, you’d be hanging onto that zippered pouch when the rug is finished, to use with other projects.) Think about it. No need to change colours; no big pile of skeins or balls of yarn to manage; an easy crochet pattern; the colourway shifts without any effort and just two tails to weave in when the project is done. It will make anyone look like a genius! I only brought in four of these to begin with, each in a different colourway. If enough people get as excited as I am about these, I’ll happily bring in more. Here’s a link.

At the end of April I’ll be attending Katia’s open house to view and pre-order yarns for next fall and winter. I’ll be checking out their fabrics and sewing patterns too. We’ll see whether or not I’ll dive into that pond when the time comes.

Happy Crafting!

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Mysteries of Gauge

There are a number of things that affect the gauge of our knit and crochet projects. Subtle things to consider that can help you to understand how your particular nuances can affect your gauge.

The Gauge Swatch

In terms of knit and crochet, gauge translates to how many stitches across by how many rows high fit in a 10cm x 10cm (4″ x 4″) square. Typically, the expectation is that you will knit or crochet a gauge swatch to identify each yarn’s suitability to a project. You may have seen memes that declare something to the effect that swatches are for sissies. Be aware that most of the people making these declarations are highly experienced. In all fairness, they already know how those different yarns will behave in their hands on their favourite hook or needles. There are times when it’s definitely in your best interest to take the time to work up a gauge swatch. Especially if you are making a fitted garment! Making a blanket or scarf? Gauge won’t be that critical.

So here’s the thing. Each one of us handles our tools similarly, but with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences. These differences ultimately result in variations in tension on our working yarn. That difference in tension subsequently affects the outcome of our gauge.

Breaking it down: Hands & Confidence

Some people have very relaxed hands and will knit with a very “soft” or “gentle” tension. On the other end of the spectrum, some work with an iron grip and stretch the yarn aggressively as they work. Their tension will be “hard” or “tight”. As you can imagine, someone with soft tension will end up with larger, softer stitches than someone with hard tension. I prefer to use the words “hard” and “soft”. Some say tight and loose. The terminology I use relates to how your resulting fabric will feel as well. Soft tension gives you soft fabric, hard tension gives you harder, denser fabric. Obviously, there is a range reflected here. Each of us is somewhere on that spectrum. Add to this that some people are naturally very coordinated and others are not. You can love to crochet or knit and not necessarily be a naturally coordinated person. If that’s you, then you will probably always work with a slightly harder/tighter tension.

It is very common for beginners to have hard tension as they develop the coordination required for either knitting or crochet. The tendency is to have a lot of physical tension in your hands (and shoulders) as you are learning. Your mind will also be working overtime. As you gain experience, most people will gradually become more relaxed both mentally and physically. As confidence grows, the mind, shoulders and hands are able to relax and tension naturally softens. Some folks will still keep a harder tension, even when they are relaxed. None of this is either good or bad, it is just information. What is important is to determine where you are on that scale and how it relates to the resulting tension on your yarn; this relates directly to the gauge you will produce. Hard tension will result in a finer gauge than suggested on a yarn label. If you know that, you can go up a needle/hook size or two to accommodate your tension and get the result that the pattern and yarn identify.

Breaking it Down: Needles & Hooks

Nowadays, you could write an encyclopedia about knitting needles and crochet hooks. You can purchase them made of a very wide range of materials. Each material has its own particular qualities. Talk to anyone who knits and crochets a lot and they will have their favourites. My go-to is generally wood. There are many brands out there. I like Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles for most things. They are finished wood (as opposed to being raw unfinished wood). I refer to needles on a scale that has “grabby” on one end and “slick” on the other end. I refer to the difference as a range of “smoothness”. Again, that’s my own personal way of describing it. For some yarns I prefer Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina needles. These are what I would refer to as slick. Some people really like a grabby needle that will hold the yarn firmly until they decide to move it. Other people like a very slick needle that will allow the yarn to slide with no effort whatsoever. The different materials used to make the various lines of needles allow you to choose what degree of smoothness you want to work with. When I say needles, I really mean both crochet hooks and knitting needles. It truly applies to both.

In regard to needles, another thing to bear in mind is that different fibres also have varying degrees of grabbiness. This refers to the texture of the yarn and the degree to which the fibres cling to the needle material as you work the yarn. I like to use a variety of needles relative to the project and the yarn I’m using. I’ll choose a smoother needle to work with grabbier yarn, and a grabbier needle to work with smoother yarn. The smoothness of the needles can affect how much tension you hold in your body as you knit. This can subtly affect your gauge as well. You may knit tighter with chrome plated needles than you do with bamboo needles.

How it all Relates:

Each yarn will indicate the gauge you can expect, with suggested needle sizes. The more comfortable and relaxed you are, the closer to the suggested gauge you will work.

Over the next few months I’ll be setting up a permanent “yarn and needle tasting” station in the store. I’ll have a number of baskets, each with a different style of needle and yarn so you can sit down and try them out to see what feels good to you. Stay tuned for updates!

I sincerely hope this information is helpful to you.

Happy Knitting and Crocheting!

Happy SPRING!

It has been gloriously sunny here in Revelstoke for the past week or so. After a winter of bundling up, our warm coats are leaving us looking like we’re hanging out in a sauna! I saw someone walking around in shorts, a long sleeved t-shirt, and winter boots on yesterday and thought, “only in Canada”. In the grand scheme of things it’s still chilly out. I looked yesterday and saw a few very brave little shoots peeping tentatively through the soil to make sure it’s safe to emerge. “Yes, little sprouts: I will be your personal cheerleader! Grow, GROW! “(Insert silly GIF here. LOL)

This time of year can be tough. Besides the time change messing with our inner clocks: don’t get me started on that. (I might just be a time-change-abolitionist.) March is great when it’s sunny, mind you. But yeah. As the snow melts we get to see how much sand has accumulated over the winter. Victoria Road is a very busy street and since we are located right across from the CP rail yard, we tend to get even more dust and dirt floating around our patch of Revy. The snow piles along the street look like they might be gravel piles for how filthy they are. (No pure white Olaf style snowmen dancing around here, singing about summer. Imagine Olaf as a chimney sweep and you’ll have the right idea.)

When I went out this morning to take a few photos I was impressed with the gritty perseverance of my perennial bed. Granted, it’s a bit patchy. But it’s also very early for anything to be green here. I love my perennial plants. They are bad-ass! They laugh in the face of frozen dirt and short days. As you can see in the photo, everything is just plain old dirty. And we won’t be able to do much about it until the snow is all melted. And once it’s melted, everything will be power washed and raked and cleaned up. But for now, we will just celebrate the sunshine and blue skies. Knowing our weather here, those will turn to rain and gloom soon enough. But you know, I won’t feel bad about that. The rain washes away the last of the snow. That my friends is a beautiful thing.

Last fall I planted at least a couple hundred new bulbs in the flower bed along the sidewalk. I think it was somewhere between two and three hundred bulbs. All different tulips, daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops. My soul is thirsting for some springtime flowers… and I’m not talking about those forced pots of crocuses in the grocery store. No. I’m talking about the flowers that earned their right to bloom in early April. So, if you are here in Revy, you will likely see me out checking the flower beds every morning, rain or shine, willing those flowers to rise up and bloom in all their splendor and glory!

I hear that the vernal equinox was on March 20th. So, were we supposed to go out and dance under the moon or something? I didn’t get a memo about it so I decided to knit instead. As I was knitting I realized I might have made a mistake in my blog about Sock Madness. I think I referred to what is in fact the qualifying round as round one. Consider that error corrected here. Since then, I completed a full qualifying sock and received my status as a Sock Madness Cheerleader! Yay me! I then completed sock 2 of the warm up round. Here is a photo of the completed pair:

I managed to get the cuff of the second qualifying-round sock done, but that’s as far as I am. I am not getting as much knitting done this year as I did last year. I’ve been busy doing a lot of paperwork, which is okay too. I really don’t mind it. I have another weeks’ worth of office work to get finished up and then my evenings will start opening up for more knitting again. I’m so glad.

I would like to dust off my Alecia Beth cardigan and get it finished this spring so I can actually wear it come May. And it makes me antsy to have so many pairs of socks on the go. I still haven’t completed the gradient red ones (the ones that I didn’t read the pattern for), the Dirndl socks, a pair of “Scandic” vanilla socks and the qualifiers. That’s 4 pairs on the go, and the pattern for the actual first round of Sock Madness dropped last night. It’s a great looking sock and I want to knit it too. I don’t generally like to have more than two pairs of socks going at a time so it’s irritating me. You know what I mean? I also have a “Close to You” shawl on the go. I’m knitting that in Mohair for my sister. (She graciously gave me a whole bunch of gorgeous pairs of leather boots when she moved last summer. This is my thank you to her.) My hope was to have it done in time for her birthday, but that is on April 5th, so unless I make that my new top priority (which, if I were a perfect sister, I would) it ain’t happening. Meh, it’s not like world peace is hanging on my capacity to complete my knitting on any particular timeline. Oh, Lordy! It’s a very good thing that world peace isn’t hanging on my capacity to complete my knitting in a timely fashion! We would all be doomed! Just sayin’.

I guess what I’m saying is that while the great outdoors is hovering between winter and actual, real, bonafide, genuine, true, beautiful, warm, lovely, green spring, I can take this opportunity to get some knitting done. Woohoo! When the time comes the battle will be choosing between gardening and knitting. That is a tough call. They are both pretty fantastic.

Happy Knitting!

Scrub-a-dub-dub!

For years, knitters and crocheters have been making cotton cloths for kitchen or bathroom use. Besides the obvious facecloths and dishcloths, many are also making reusable makeup pads. These are small but relatively thick crocheted or knitted circles around 2 to 3 inches across, specifically for removing makeup. Others also make pot scrubbers; the new yarns available mean you don’t even have to cut up any tulle to do so! Trivets, potholders, tea-cozies, placemats… whether a kitchen-specific bundle of goodies, or a spa-related combination of items, these make fantastic gifts that are quick, easy and inexpensive to make. Add to this that they are small projects that won’t make you sweat as the weather gets warmer and you have a recipe for some fun, satisfying, warm-weather crafting.

Around the time when I brought in over 50 colours of “dishcloth” cotton yarn, I also brought in a yarn that is specifically designed for making pot scrubbers. It’s a Rico product called Creative Bubble. It’s available in 23 solid colours and 5 multi-colours. (I don’t have all the colours in stock, but I’m happy to bring other colours in if people want them.)

Rico has a number of patterns to go along with this yarn. The pattern that we did up includes a watermelon slice and a pineapple. You could simply crochet little circles if you wanted to, but these are so cute that I challenge you to resist them! We were able to get two pineapples out of one ball of yellow and three watermelon slices out of one pink ball. The only thing was that the third watermelon slice was one round smaller than the pattern said. You’d never know to look at it. Clearly green was also used for these. (Oh and a quick note: The Rico patterns use UK terminology. Be sure you know the difference if you are used to North American terminology. It makes a difference!)

Each of these scrubbies are as big as my hand. I have been using a pineapple scrubby at home to get a sense of how it behaves and I’m loving it. They are double thickness; they feel soft and cushy under your hand and they are large enough that you can really get some work done with ease. My husband commented that he thought they felt softer than the puffs we use in the shower. Speaking of shower puffs. You know when you put body wash onto those puffs and they get nice and lathery? Well that’s what the scrubbies do when you put the dish washing liquid onto them. They are fabulous!

I did a quick search on Ravelry and found a few easy patterns for scrubbies. The first one is just a nice basic pan scrubby. The second one combines a dishcloth with a scrubby. I’ll be bringing in more patterns from Rico, including a doughnut with sprinkles. How fun is that? If you are inclined to do a search, you may want to try with each of: scrubby, scrubbie and scrubber.

Pan Scrubber

Dish Scrubby

As winter makes way for spring you don’t have to abandon your crochet or knitting. You can always just shift from wool blends to cotton, linen and bamboo yarns. Choosing smaller projects means you won’t be roasting under an in-progress afghan in the height of summer’s heat.

If you are tired of making plain old dishcloths, a quick search on Ravelry will bring up a plethora of designs to choose from. If you want to find some really lovely ones, do a search with the word “spa” and see what comes up. I suppose that technically these would be considered facecloths. You can use any of the dishcloth cotton yarns available to make up spa sets. You could include a headband (to hold your hair out of the way while you wash your face), small round make-up pads, facecloths and shower puffs. The puffs could be made of either cotton, or a yarn like Rico Creative Bubble. Pair all that with your favourite luxury soap, maybe a candle, a bottle of wine, and you have a fantastic gift for someone who deserves to pamper themselves. I’ve included links to ravelry pages to offer some inspiration:

Aubrey Spa Set

Spa Day Set

Mini Almost Lost Washcloth

Extra Luscious Bath Puff

Easy Face Scrubbies

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the lookout for gift ideas that won’t break my budget, whether that be in relation to time, money or brain power. If you’re looking for projects that you can do in front of the television in the evenings (or in the back yard, when the weather is nice), any of these will fit the bill.

The other nice thing about these is that you can make them up in no time, in advance and stockpile a bunch of them. Make up some in classy neutral colours and others in fun and vibrant combinations. When you suddenly need a gift, you can put together a nice little package to fit the need at the time, effortlessly. Tie it all up with a pretty ribbon or some hemp cording and you’ll look like a genius.

Happy Knitting… and Crocheting!

Embroidery’s Coming Back!

Over the past five years, I have been delighted to see a resurgence of fibre arts.

Back in the day, I did a lot of cross stitch and embroidery and I’ve been quietly hoping that those arts would come back too. And guess what? They are!

I have had more and more people asking me about embroidery supplies. Embroidery is a precise and time consuming activity. Because of the amount of time that you invest in a piece, it’s important to use good quality supplies that you know will last and will be a solid and beautiful foundation for your work.

High quality thread that will remain colourfast is essential.

DMC has recently added a lot of new colours to their line up. I’ve beefed up my selection of DMC embroidery floss (although I have a long way to go before I have all 500 colours). My gut has been telling me that it’s time to start thinking about what to have on hand for those wanting to explore embroidery and cross stitch. I do plan to expand the colour selection more. The six-strand embroidery floss works well for cross stitch and many other forms of embroidery. If you are familiar with the gorgeous embroidered blouses typical of Ukranian ethnic costumes, those are typically done with a spun embroidery thread that we refer to as “Perle Cotton”. I don’t plan to expand into the perle cotton embroidery thread just yet.

Zweigart is the name most associated with high quality embroidery related fabrics. Their fabrics are top notch and you will never go wrong choosing them. I brought in “quarters” of a number of popular embroidery fabrics in a few colours.

Here’s what we have now:

Aida cloth, is an embroidery fabric woven in a way to make cross-stitch very easy. I have it in 11 and 14 count for now. If there is enough demand I’ll bring in some 18 count. I have this in antique white, black and ivory.

Hardanger is a close relative of Aida cloth. I brought in 22 count in antique white and ivory.

Lugana cloth is a form of even weave fabric in a blend of cotton and viscose. I brought in both 25 and 28 count.

Cashel Linen is another even weave embroidery fabric made of 100% linen. I brought in 28 count in black, antique white and cream.

Belfast Linen: I brought in 32 count in black, antique white and cream.

Waste Canvas: now this stuff is cool. Let’s say you make or buy an outfit or other fabric gift for a baby shower and you want to personalize it a little. Choose a small cross stitch pattern. Once you know how many stitches across it is, you can cut a piece of waste canvas that is a bit bigger than you need. Baste it onto the item where you want the design to be; use the grid of the canvas to guide you to cross stitch directly onto that item (tote bag, clothing… you name it). Once you complete the design, you take a pair of tweezers and pull the individual strands of the waste canvas out. This is very fun to do. I used to do waste canvas projects just so I would be able to pull the strands out of the project. (I absolutely own my weirdness on this! LOL) This is a quick way to make an ordinary item into something very special. Everyone will think you’re a genius! and quite honestly, of course they will! Because you are!

Iron on Transfer Patterns!

Oh my, I remember these from the 1970’s! When I was a kid, there were a couple typical ways that people could practice their embroidery skills. One was to stitch designs on the ends of pillow cases, the other was to embroider tea towels and serviettes or handkerchiefs. We used iron on transfers to place the design onto the fabric and then we would embroider over that design. You could go as simple or as complicated as you wanted to. I brought in one of each of 14 Aunt Martha’s Iron on Transfer Booklets. These themed booklets are packed with small and very do-able embroidery patterns. (I wanted to see them before I stocked multiples.)

Back in the 1970’s there was a product available called Artex. It was a fabric paint that was packaged in tubes. Many people would use the iron-on transfer patterns (like those from Aunt Martha’s) as a guide to paint the picture on their pillow cases, tea towels and other items. You squeezed the tube and that would give you a fine line of paint on the fabric. I had forgot about this product. Aunt Martha’s markets this product now. I didn’t order any this time around. I thought I’d wait and see what sort of response I get first.

We have embroidery hoops, needles and all that stuff. And, when your project is complete and you want to block it, you will need some wooden stretcher bars. We have those too. They are sold in pairs. The idea is that you figure out what size you need and buy a pair for each length of side. So if your project is 10″x 14″, you would buy a pair of 10″ bars and a pair of 14″ bars. They are designed to lock into each other with ease. Use them as the structure to stretch the embroidery project and prepare it for framing.

Little by little, I’ll be adding things to make it easy for embroiderers and cross stitchers to be able to find all their supplies right here, locally. Once my busy winter season settles into spring, I want to start planning some classes for the fall. When the time comes, I will probably bring in blank pillow cases and tea towels and offer basic embroidery classes so folks can try it out and discover just how much enjoyment and satisfaction this wonderful art form has to give. I hope to offer classes on cross stitch and the use of waste canvas too.

Happy Crafting!

Read the Instructions?

I can’t blame it on dyslexia. Nope. I will be completely honest. I just didn’t read the instructions. It’s interesting what happens with a pattern when you don’t read the instruction. Um, well… sometimes the outcome can be, uh shall we say, unfortunate? Sometimes, the results can be cool and surprising.

Confession time! I have had the Nutkin sock pattern sitting in my library on Ravelry for at least a year. With all the times I looked at it you’d think that I’d have noticed what the pattern truly looks like. It’s interesting how perceptions come into play when we see things. You look, you get an impression of something. You decide whether it appeals to you or not and then you carry on, satisfied with your decision. …all based on a glance.

I had a terrible case of “startitis” that lasted me over 2 weeks before I succumbed to its siren call. On Saturday, I gave in. I pulled out my Estelle Sock Twins yarn and my sock needles and realized I left my tablet at home. Yeah, home is upstairs above the shop. It isn’t a 10 minute drive across town on bad roads or anything interesting like that. I was just too lazy to go upstairs and grab my tablet. So I pulled out my phone and logged into Ravelry. I knew I wanted to make Nutkin socks. End of story.

The screen on my phone is so tiny. That’s my excuse! It’s very much an excuse. The reality is that I really didn’t read the instructions.

So, I glance quickly at the pattern and see what appears to be a toe-up sock. (Who knows at this point whether it even was.) I see a chart and I think, “Hmmmm I thought this was a symmetrical pattern.” I still only saw one chart. I’m thinking, “Oh, I guess I just have to mirror this chart for the second side.” I know, right? Who thinks silly thoughts like that, anyway?

I have my toes knit for both socks so I can knit them two at a time. After running two month-long toe up sock knitting classes in a row, I have my stitch counts in my head for vanilla socks and I have my 56 stitches per sock neatly divided on my circular needle. Good Lord, Judy. How many pairs of socks have you knit? This pattern is gonna tighten up those stitches, just evict the dust bunnies from your brain and think for one second, girl!

But no. Dust bunnies were alive and well in my brain on Saturday morning. Yup.

So rather than increasing to a reasonable 60 stitches to accommodate that little bit of “suckage” from the pattern. I just went on my merry way, adapted the pattern for 56 stitches and gloried in my pretty gradient yarn and the lovely symmetrical pattern that was emerging happily off my needles.

I remained blissfully ignorant until I finished the heel. At this point, it was Sunday evening. I had my tablet this time and on the tablet, the photo is large enough that you can actually see the pattern. Oops. Yeah. Well, reading the pattern would have eliminated this faux pas. I realized there was a wee patterned line dividing the toe from the beginning of the pattern, first off. Oh well, both socks are the same, that’s okay. And then I realized that I was not supposed to mirror the chart. And really, what crazy universe would I have had to be in to have a pattern with a chart and be told in the pattern, “oh, yeah I was too lazy to make a mirror image of the chart for in the pattern so you go ahead and just mirror it in your mind.” It would just never happen. (I’m laughing at myself.)

Don’t get me wrong, the socks look fantastic. They are just a teeny bit too small for me, but you know what, my daughter’s feet are just a teeny bit smaller than mine and she has already claimed these socks with her own personal patriotic flag of sock ownership. So it’s all good.

Whether the socks are complete by the deadline for this blog or not, I’ll include photos of my progress. I’ll be honest, I was so disgusted with myself and my laziness in reading the pattern that I had to set the socks aside for a night or two. And there is no way I’m frogging a perfectly good pair of socks just because I (cough cough) modified the pattern.

Once these socks are complete, I’m determined to make the Nutkin pattern properly, for real, and to fit me. In the meantime these ones look very pretty and will make my daughter happy.

The Estelle Sock Twins yarn I’m using is lovely. It’s quite soft. The gradient colourway makes it fun to knit. I found myself pushing to do another round, another round, another round, because I was anticipating the change to the colour. I’m curious to see how tall of a sock I’ll be able to get out of the two matched cakes of sock yarn. I am determined to knit to the end of the balls just to see. I am fairly certain that even with the patterned knitting they should give me a decent knee sock.

Next, I think I’ll knit up a pair of Nutkin inspired knee socks for myself out of Lang Jawoll Sock Twin yarn. The hardest part will be choosing the colour… well, no it won’t. I’m a sucker for yellow sock yarn. It will be the yellow one. Yup. Maybe I’ll even read the instructions for those ones.

Maybe…

Happy Knitting!

So Many Needles!

Knitting is a fibre art that requires the use of two needle tips at a time to create fabric out of yarn. Sounds simple… until you get to the yarn shop and see an entire wall covered in different needles. How to choose?

Single pointed Needles

These long needles are sold in sets of two; they have a point on one end and a stopper of some sort on the other end. They are available in lengths ranging from 8″ to 14″. These are used for flat knitting. When you knit with these, the weight of the item you are knitting ends up moving from the far end of one needle to the far end of the other. It makes the fine muscles in your shoulders work very hard. If you have or have had a shoulder injury, you may find that this makes you quite sore. I can only last about 10 minutes with these before I can’t take the pain any more. Circular needles are better for the weak-of-shoulder knitter. The other thing to note about these is that if your knitting is too much wider than a single needle width, you may risk having stitches drop off the needle when you set the work down. If it’s only a few stitches wider, a point protector placed on the tip of the needle will hold the stitches on.

Double Pointed Needles

These needles come in sets of either 4 or 5 needles that are pointed on both ends. These are typically from 5″ to 8″ long each and are used to knit in the round. You divide the stitches evenly among all but one needle. The last needle is then your working needle. Using that needle you knit the stitches off one other needle. The needle that you just cleared off becomes the new working needle. You continue in this manner around and around the project. This is how socks were knit for generations. To begin with it can feel very awkward working with so many needles and figuring out how to navigate around them as you go. Drawbacks include something called “laddering” as well as the fact you have 6 to 8 needle points where stitches can potentially drop. Laddering is a column of loose stitches that forms at the juncture of two needles. It looks like a ladder. It is the result of stitch tension being uneven right at the point where you switch between needles. This can be avoided by tightening the last stitch on the previous needle and the first few stitches at the beginning of the next one. You can prevent stitches falling off by using point protectors.

Circular Needles

Circular needles are made up of two needle points and a cord that connects them. You can get them either fixed or interchangeable. Fixed needles have a set size and length that cannot be changed. The interchangeable needles allow you to switch out the cords and needle tips to whatever you need for the specific project you have in mind. Circular needles can be used for all types of knitting. They are available in a multitude of lengths. The smallest ones (25cm) have very short needle tips and cords to allow you to knit in the round on a single sock comfortably. These allow you to avoid any sort of laddering as the needle holds all the stitches. The next longer ones (40cm) are intended to knit hats in the round in the same fashion. Interchangeable needles allow you to set your needle up with as long a cord or combination of cords as you like. There are connectors that allow two or more cords to be connected. If you want to knit a blanket, you can make the cord long enough to hold all the stitches without fear of them dropping off. You don’t ever have to worry that you will be missing a needle when you pick up a project that’s been sitting for a while, both tips always stay attached. The weight of the project remains centered in front of your body at all times. You don’t get the stress on your shoulders like you do with single pointed needles. I can knit for hours (the longest I knitted in one stretch was 18 hours) with absolutely no shoulder pain when I use circular needles. I personally can’t think of any drawbacks… other than wanting to own all the gorgeous sets available!

What they are made of

Needles can be made of a number of different materials. Typically we see metal, plastic, acrylic, wood and bamboo. The material you choose is going to come down to the feel you like the best. A good yarn shop will allow you to try out needles in the store to see what you prefer.

Metal Needles

Metal needles tend to be very smooth. If you have concerns about dropping stitches, these may not be the best choice for you. Also, metal needles can be a little bit noisy: click, click, click…. Would that drive you or the people around you crazy?

Plastic Needles

Plastic needles are generally in the economy range. They can be quite flexible, so you’ll want to check that before you buy them. It can be maddening to try to knit with needles that want to bend as you work. They do the job, but they don’t feel particularly nice.

Acrylic Needles

Acrylic tends to be a little smoother than plastic. They usually are just grabby enough that your work doesn’t just slide off them. It has a different feel, some people really like them, some don’t. These can be colourful and funky… which makes them fun.

Wood Needles

Wood needles are usually finished to make them smooth. They still offer a little bit of friction, more than the metal ones do. This means that the stitches don’t tend to simply slide off on their own. Wood needles feel really nice in your hands. Bamboo are just a little grabbier and are a good fit if you knit with soft tension.

There you have it! Happy Knitting!