Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Which Needle, When


I hope some knitters will remember these. This is a Boye Needle Set – one of the first interchangeable knitting needle sets. I thought they were wonderful. I could change the cable for almost any length I needed. No more running to the yarn shop at the last minute for a new needle. These needles could also be used as straights (AKA single points) by attaching a needle point at one end and a knob at the other.


Now we have multiple types of interchangeable needle sets to choose from. The joins are better and the cables are more flexible. There is even a lace set with sharper points. 


Not all needle sets are interchangeables either. I love this little sock needle set.
Of course, everything has its downside. The disadvantages to needle sets:
·         If you are working on more than one project that project may call for the same needle size you are using on another project. Several companies will let you buy extra needle tips for your favorite sizes – a great idea that eliminates this problem.

·         The joins on interchangeable needles are not always secure. Some loosen while knitting. Some actually break or come apart. It seems this plagues some knitters more than others – maybe due to knitting style? Almost all companies will replace a broken needle at no extra charge.

·         Until recently needle sets had sizes 4 up 15. There were no interchangeable needles for sizes less than 4.  Now a few companies have created smaller sets specifically for lace and fine knitters in sizes 0-4. Lovely!


Wood, Metal or Plastic

Some knitters do not care what the knitting needle is made of while others absolutely swear by bamboo or nickel plated or plastic. Sometimes it does matter. For beginning knitters I recommend bamboo or plastic needles. The stitches slide a bit more slowly but they do not fall off as readily as they do on metal. It also matters with slippery yarns such as bamboo, linen and some silks. A few dropped stitches might be prevented by using a wooden needle. The laminated wood needles like those from Knitter’s Pride make a nice smooth surface – not as slick as metal and not as slow as bamboo.

Dark or Light

A cautionary note on colored needles, these are usually woods but some metal needles also come in colors. It is more difficult to knit dark yarns on dark colored needles. Of course, they are perfect for lighter colored yarns. What a surprise to find that now we have to match our knitting needles to the yarns

The Point
For knitting that does not require a lot of manipulation, i.e., increases, decreases, twisted stitches; the point of the knitting needle does not matter. For lace knitting, some sock knitting, knitting with the manipulations mentioned above, a longer, more pointed tip can make all the difference in easy knitting or knitting filled with frustration. I struggled long with a pair of socks before I figured this out. I felt vindicated when the “Lace” knitting needles were produced. I cannot be the only one.
Choose your needles wisely.  Happy Knitting.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

About Knitting Needles

We are so lucky to have many wonderful knitting needles. Not only are today’s knitting needles excellently crafted but many of them are beautiful and some just plain cute. It can be hard to choose.

Double Point Needles were most likely the earliest type of knitting needle. These were used (and still are) for knitting socks, hats and sweaters in the round.  
·    Perfect for knitting in the round. Especially good when there are only a few stitches such as decreasing a hat when there may be only two stitches on each needle.
·         Two double point needles are nice for knitting an edging back and forth onto a lace scarf or shawl.
·         They are generally inexpensive.

·         The needles disappear one by one. (Let me know if you know how this happens.)
·         They fall out of the knitting especially the metal ones. Point protectors help.
·         Changes between needles cause loose stitches or gaps. To avoid these “ladders” pull the yarn tight when you work the second stitch at the beginning of each needle. Using a set of five needles helps. The knitting is on four and the fifth as the working needle.


Single point needles are used for knitting flat – that is back and forth. It is the knobs that are so appealing – cute little critters, simple but lovely woods and even jewels.
·         Easy to make and use especially for a beginner.
·         Relatively inexpensive.

·         Can cause physical problems such as tension in the shoulders, elbows and wrists.
·         Can also be annoying to someone sitting next to you.
·         Dropped stitches when the knob catches 


Circular Needles. are for knitting in the round. Before circulars, traditional knitters used very long double point needles to knit those incredible Fair Isle and Gansey sweaters. Circular needles are definitely a step up in technology for knitting needles.


·         Faster and more even knitting when knitting in the round
·         Can also be used for knitting flat, i.e. back and forth.
·         Ergonomic: Weight is distributed around the cable - less strain on the knitter.
·         Two socks at a time with 2 circular needles. No Second Sock Syndrome.
·         Stitches stored on the cable. Point protectors not necessary.
·         Cable join can catch stitches especially with fine yarns – improved now on some brands.  
·         Kinky cables twist making it difficult to move knitting along – also improved now.
·         Multiple lengths of the same needle size needed – a 16 inch for a hat, a 24 or 36 inch for a sweater, a 60 inch for a shawl – all in  size 6.
·         Keeping track: Circular needles are not always labeled – keep a needle gauge handy.
This is a bigger topic than I thought. Next blog will be more about needles and choosing the right needle for the yarn and project.