Finding a Needle in the Haystack

 

Finding your favorite needle is a matter of trial and error, and the hunt can get quite expensive if that trial and error means purchasing a variety of needles to try out different the options. At the 2017 Knitting Pipeline Retreat, hosted by Paula Emons-Fuessle of the Knitting Pipeline Podcast along with her collaborators Bronwyn, Sarah, and many others, I held a break out session for a needle tasting. Needles were limited to circular options that are readily available online or in local yarn shops, but there were still plenty of options to sample. With what I had in my stash, some quick purchases, and a few borrowed from my knitting group, we managed to cobble together a tasting room with 24 different needles.

The Tasting Room

I set up three tables with place cards, rating sheets, and needles prepared with ready-to-knit swatches. Two tables had swatches prepared to knit flat, one table with metal needles img_7776and one with needles made from other materials, including wood, composite, and bamboo. The third table was set up with swatches to work magic loop in the round using smaller needles typically used for sock knitting. Knitters were given the opportunity over 2 hours to visit the break out room and sample the needles. They were asked to rate the needles from 1 (not for me) to 5 (LOVE this needle). A copy of the session handout and list of needles is available here and a copy of the rating sheet is available here. For those unfamiliar with magic loop, I created a quick video tutorial in advance and offered to demonstrate the technique at the start of the session.

Needle Types

In addition to the materials used to make needles—metal, wood, bamboo, plastic, and so on—there are 3 basic types of needles: straights, double pointed needles (DPNs), and circular needles. With circular needles, it is not just the material, texture, and point of the needle to consider but also the cable type, cable flexibility, and the join where the cables meet the needles. To further complicate matters, a circular needle can be fixed or interchangeable. The way the cord attaches to the needles in interchangeables varies; some use a tightening mechanism, such as the little key used by Knitpicks. Some, such as Addi and Denise, use a twist and click approach. Some, such as Dyakcraft and Signature, use a twist and tighten approach with a recommendation to use a large rubber band or disk to assist in hand tightening. The reliability of the connection can be an issue—especially with the twist and tighten—and can make an otherwise lovely needle a source of frustration if the connection fails during use. Some brands are available in either fixed or interchangeable formats, some in only one or the other. This session was limited to circular needles, but included both fixed and interchangeable needles.

Caveats

Before I list the rankings of the needles, a couple of caveats.

The ranking is based on the average response of the 5-point rating (i.e., sum of the ratings divided by the number of knitters rating the needle). Looking at an average rating is one measurement, but the details show that individual responses can vary quite a bit. There was also more interest in some needles than in others, which meant some of the averages were calculated from more ratings than others (as few as 4 and as many as 15). Details for each of the needles are listed below in alphabetical order, including individual ratings, comments, and my thoughts.

Secondly, were this a funded exercise, I would have made sure that all needles were the same size and set up with swatches using identical yarn. As it was, the tasting was cobbled together with what I had available in my yarn bin and needle collection. Also, I would have gathered information about the people testing, such as their knitting experience and their needle preferences before the tasting, and of course had a lot more people in order to get a lot more data.

Finally, were this a controlled research study, I would not have left a rating form next to each needle. Although people love what they love and have their needle loyalties, seeing the previous ratings and comments of others on the rating form no doubt influenced their responses to some degree. It would have been ideal for each person to have their own form, have had the time (and patience) to test every needle, and to be unaware of the opinion of others. Of course, with all the chattering  and sharing that was going on, having it be more controlled would not have been nearly as fun. We were, after all, attending a retreat not in a focus group.

Bottom line, this is not professionally conducted research, it is a lot of fun loving knitters at a knitting retreat trying out needles, sharing their thoughts, and having a good time. It is also not a prescription for which needles you should be using. Whether your favorite needle is the last place Denise or the first place Turbo Rocket, what is important is that you find the needles that work for you and that you enjoy using. My own ranking would be somewhat different than the one that resulted from the group’s ratings, but I think it is a decent representation of what people generally liked and a good indicator of needles that are worth trying out for yourself if you have not already done so.

For all that, here is what a group of knitters collectively decided were the highest rated needles.

Rankings Based on Average Ratings

1 Skacel: Addi Turbo Rockets, US Size 2 (2.75 mm)
2 ChiaoGoo: Red Lace, US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
3 Skacel: Addi Turbo Rockets, US Size 4 (3.5 mm)
4 Signature Needle Arts: Stilettos with 5” shaft, US Size 6 (4 mm)
5 KnitPicks: Rainbow Wood, US Size 8 (5 mm)
6 Dyakcraft: Heavy Metal interchangeables, US Size 1 (2.25 mm)
7 Knitter’s Pride: Dreamz, US Size 4 (3.5 mm)
8 Signature Needle Arts: Stilettos with 6” shaft, US Size 6 (4 mm)
9 Skacel: Addi Turbo, US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
10 Chiagoo: Red Lace, US Size 2 (2.75 mm)
11 KnitPicks: Nickel Plated, US Size 8 (5 mm)
12 Signature Needle Arts: Socks w/ 6” Stiletto shaft, US Size 1 (2.25 mm)
13 KnitPro: Zing, US Size 2.5 (3 mm)
14 HiyaHiya: Stainless Steel, US Size 0 (2 mm)
15 Skacel: Addi Turbo, US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
16 HiyaHiya: Bamboo, US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
17 Kollage: Square – Firm cable, US Size 2.5 (3 mm)
18 Clover: Takumi , US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
19 Lantern Moon: Destiny Circulars, US Size 10 (6 mm)
20 Knitter’s Pride: Dreamz, US Size 0 (2 mm)
21 Knitter’s Pride: Karbonz, US Size 6 (4 mm)
22 Dyakcraft: Heavy metal, US Size 3 (3.25 mm)*
23 Knitter’s Pride: Trendz, US Size 5 (3.75 mm)
24 Kollage: Square – Firm Cable, US Size 1 (2.25 mm)
25 Denise: Denise, US Size 7 (4.5 mm)
* See needle description for notes on this rating

Ratings Details by Needle

Chiagoo: Red Lace
Type: Metal fixed
Size: US 2 (2.75 mm) and US 5 (3.75 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop (smaller needle) and flat (larger needle)
Rating: Overall average rating of 4.52 for both sizes combined
US 2 (2.75 mm) Ranked 10th with an average rating of 4.35 (range 3 – 5)
US 5 (3.75) Ranked 2nd with an average rating of 4.68 (range 4 -5)

This needle was tested knitting flat using US size 5 (3.75 mm) and with magic loop using US size 2 (2.75 mm); the larger needle came in at an impressive 2nd and the smaller 9th in the rankings. The needle has a nice amount of glide without being too slippery, a sharp tip, a good join, and a uniquely smooth yet strong cable. However, I find the cable a bit stiff when it comes to using magic loop and reach for other options when doing projects with that method. It is great for knitting in the round with 2 circulars and works really well for anything other than magic loop. My problem with the magic loop was with getting ladders between the needles; I just could not consistently tighten the stitches with the stiff cord creating counter pressure. Otherwise, I am more than happy to knit with this needle. This is among my favorites and it comes in at a strong 4.5 in my ratings.

Comments about the US 2 (2.75 mm)

  • Sharp, smooth, smooth join.
  • Like cord & tip
  • Smooth & fast knitting
  • Great points, cord is stiff but doesn’t have a kinky memory so pretty good for magic loop
  • Smooth. Nice cable. Easy to move stitches on and off the needles when “switching sides”
  • I like the cord
  • I love the cable. Nice needles
  • Smooth but cord too rigid for magic loop
  • Love the flexible cord
  • Smooth sharp point

Comments about the US 5 (3.75 mm)

  • Nice, sharp, solid cable, good joins
  • Love the point and the cord
  • Very nice point, nice stiff cord
  • Sharp, slick
  • My favorite needles
  • So smooth, perfect points
  • Love
  • Nice joints
  • Smooth but the cable feels so stiff
  • Nice point, nice join, stiff cable

 

US 2 (2.75 mm)

US 5 (3.75 mm)

Overall (both)

 Rating

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

4

40% 7 63.64% 11 52.38%

4.5

1

10%

1

9.09%

2 9.52%

4

4

40%

3

27.27%

7

33.33%

3

1

10%

 —  —

1

4.76%

Overall

10

100%

11

100%

21

100%

Average

4.35

4.68

4.52


Clover: Takumi

Type: bamboo fixed
Size: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: ranked 18th with an average score of 3.5 (range: 2- 4)

img_7722

I bought this needle specifically for the testing and admit to being surprised. I had low expectations but found it fairly comfortable and easy to use with a smooth needle and a decent join. If the zombie apocalypse struck and no other needles were available, I could knit with these. One of the testers told me that the tips tend to get dull after use. I would give them a solid 3 when new.

 

 

Comments

  • Smooth, nice join Very light could be both a + or a – point. Easy on hands hard to control
  • Needles are smooth and easy to knit with, cord is rough and stiff
  • Like sharpness of needle. Not a fan of the cord. Like bamboo, good price
  • Cord too stiff for me

Rating

Count

Pctg

4

3 75%

2

1

25%

Overall

3.50

4

100%


Denise: Denise convertibles
Type
: Plastic interchangeable
Size: US 7 (4.5 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Ranked 25th with an average score of 1

 

img_7717These plastic interchangeable needles came in last place at 25. The cords are large and stiff but the joins are not terrible. They have a twist and lock mechanism that is pretty reliable. They were quite innovative when they first came out and have since been eclipsed by other interchangeable options. It was early on in my knitting career when I found out about these and was so excited to have all the needles I would ever need in a neat little plastic case. I was so excited that I bought a set for both my daughter and mother, and that is all they ever use to this day. I have moved on but holding them brings back a certain comfortable familiarity. They might be a decent choice for beginning knitters; they are so solid and grippy with a more rounded tip. I would rate them a 2, but that is being kind for old time’s sake; it would be more honest to concur with everyone else and give them a 1. Sometimes things are better left in the past.

Comments

  • These are terrible
  • Squeaky and too flexible
  • Too soft tips, too flimsy cord
  • Bad join, don’t move
  • Like knitting with a “toy” Cord too stiff, not very good point
  • Cord stiff and needles not pointed enough

100% of the 7 people who tried this needle rated it a 1.

Dyakcraft: Heavy metal

Type: Metal interchangeable
Size: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 3 (3.25 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop (smaller needle) and flat (larger needle)
Rating: Overall average rating of 3.56 for both sizes combined
US 1 (2.25) Ranked 6th with an average rating of 4.42 (range 3 – 5)
US 3 (3.25 mm) Ranked 22nd with an average rating of 2.87 (range 1 – 4)
[alternative score: Ranked 19th with an average rating of 3.36 (range 3 – 4), see below]

I have always expected to love Dyakcraft needles, some of their lines can be so elusive that I have called them unicorn needles. After waiting almost 2 years for Darn Pretty’s I realized that, although they were gorgeous, I still went for my Signatures and they wasted away until I eventually sold them. Likewise, I fell in love with the look of the Lavender Lights but found they were not that comfortable in my hands and they too languished in their case unused. In between those purchases, I bought a set of the Heavy Metals because they came in the smaller sizes that Signature did not offer.

I really like the feel of the needles. The more they are used, the smoother they become. The points are really nice and the yarn passes nicely over the join. Unfortunately, the twist mechanism for connecting is spotty and the cords are quite stiff and awkward to work with. Even with tightening these with a rubber gripper, the needles frequently come loose and, although they do not completely disconnect, the loosening creates a groove that catches the yarn. Although the cord swivels, I invariably develop a kink where the cord meets the join. That kinky cord created some discussion on how to smooth out a cord, one img_7698person described how she boils her cords in an iron frying pan, being careful not to touch the sides. Another person said she wears cords about her neck to warm and soften them. I suggested storing cords by hanging them rather than winding them back into a package or case. The bend in the cord develops as I knit, attempted repairs have to wait until the project is finished.

Interestingly enough, the undoing of the larger needle resulted in the undoing of the scores for that needle. Late in the testing the needle came undone and—without a rubber disk on hand in the tasting room—I could not hand tighten it enough to keep it from immediately loosening again. From that moment when the needle came loose, the ratings went from 3’s and 4’s to 1’s and 2’s. If I threw out bottom scores, ranking for the bottom needle would be 19th with an average rating of 3.36 rather than 21st with an average rating of 2.87 and the overall score would be 3.91 rather than 3.56. I did not throw out the scores, it is an unfortunate flaw with these needles but I think they were rated rather harshly as a result.

My score for these needles is 4, it would be a 5 if not for the cord and the connections.

Comments on US 1 (2.25 mm)

  • Flexible cord. Nice point. Slick
  • Nice points slick. Good cord
  • Smooth joins. Nice cable
  • Very nice and sharp. Not heavy at all.
  • Feel substantial but not too heavy
  • Nice firm points, not bendy, cable is too stiff, otherwise would be perfect.
  • Nice feel
  • Nice, easy to use, cord is just right
  • Can feel friction when I rub the needles together to stitch. Cord is a bit to flexi
  • When needles rub they scrape a bit. Would drive me crazy. Like fingers on a chalkboard.

Comments on US 3 (3.25 mm)

  • I like the heavy feel.
  • Nice point, smooth
  • Don’t like the join
  • Not a fan of the weight
  • They make too much noise
  • Like tips. Cables too stiff
  • Too heavy, kinky cord
  • Nice point, OK cord, too expensive
  • Cord too firm, too pointy
  • Cord too stiff
  • Join loose, cord too twisty
  • Awkward to knit with

US 1 (2.25)

US 3 (3.25)

Overall (both)

 Rating

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

5

41.67%

5

18.52%

4.5

3

25.00%

3

11.11%

4

2

16.67%

4

26.67%

6

22.22%

3.5

1

8.33%

1

3.70%

3

1

8.33%

7

46.67%

8

29.63%

2

2

13.33%

2

7.41%

1

 —  —

2

13.33%

2

7.41%

Overall

12

100%

15

100%

27

100%

Average

4.42

2.87 3.56

 

HiyaHiya: Bamboo
Type
: Bamboo fixed
Size: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: ranked 16th with an average score of 3.70 (range 3 – 4)

img_7718I bought these for the tasting to add to the-alternative-to-metal options. I liked these better than the Clover Bamboo and, although I am not a fan of non-metal needles in general, could definitely see myself using these with slick yarns. There is some grab on the needle surface, the cord is stiff enough that the yarn transitions smoothly from cord to needle, and the points are nice and pointy. In general I would not like to use these for wool or cotton yarns. I would give them a 3.5 for general use but a 4 for use with slinky yarns; good to have in my arsenal when I need them but definitely a special purpose tool.

Comments

  • Nice, for bamboo
  • Don’t use wood often, but I would use there
  • Pointy enough & smooth sliding
  • Nice & smooth, nice join, too stiff cord
  • Smooth wood and pointy enough
  • Smooth, nice cord
  • Nice cord, sharp points
  • Nice smooth wood. Would be good with a silk yarn.
  • Smoother than clover not as smooth as Dreamz or Rainbow wood
  • Very sticky. I’d lend to a beginner & keep them for very slick yarns

Rating

Count

Pctg

4

7

75%

3

3

25%

Overall

3.70

10

100%

HiyaHiya: Stainless Steel
Type: Metal (stainless) fixed
Size: US 0 (2 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop
Rating: ranked 14th with an average score of 3.92 (range 3 – 5)

img_7729I picked these up when I wanted to do socks in magic loop for traveling. I found the Chiagoo Red Lace cable too stiff for doing magic loop and had a bit more luck with these. I ended up using Addi Turbo Rockets, but these were definitely worth a try. I prefer the texture of some of the other top rated needles, but these were fine, the tips are sharp enough, and the join is smooth. The cord is firm for carrying stitches, maybe a touch too firm for magic loop. Not one of my favorites but definitely a good option, particularly for flat knitting. I give these a 4.

 

Comments

  • Nice & sharp, smooth joins
  • Sharp, easy to use, smooth knitting
  • Cord stiffer than I like
  • Cord stiffer than I like (same)
  • Cord a bit stiff. Very smooth needle. Nice for loops with 2 sets of needles
  • Very smooth
  • Sharp, smooth join but cable too rigid for magic loop
  • Slick, great points, cord has too much memory for magic loop
  • Quite Sharp. Cord too stiff
  • Nice sharp point but stiff cord
  • Cord too stiff

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

2

16.67%

4

7

58.33%

3

3

25.00%

Overall

3.92

12

100%

KnitPicks: Nickel-plated
Type
: metal (nickel plated) interchangeable
Size: US 8 (5 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: ranked 11th with an average score of 4.33 (range 3 – 5)

img_7768Cords on the KnitPicks interchangeables are connected with a key to tighten the join. It usually holds fairly well, although it is always a good idea to check the tightness of the joint after knitting a while. Unfortunately, I have found the quality control on the Knitpicks is a bit spotty. The cords themselves can detach from the join, which has nothing to do with the mechanism used to connect cords and needles. These needles were borrowed for the tasting, I had not used the metal KnitPicks before. I thought they felt light and the surface was fairly smooth, but I was not terribly fond of how the yarn glided over the join. With the quality issues that plague KnitPicks, I give these a 2.

Comments

  • This is my join!
  • Comfortable, cord needs to loosen up
  • Not big fan of metal, but nice

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

3

50.00%

4

2

33.33%

3

1

16.67%

Overall

4.33

6

100%

KnitPicks: Rainbow Wood
Type: wood interchangeable
Size: US 8 (5 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: ranked 5th with an average score of 4.5 (range 3 – 5)

img_7767These came in quite high on the ratings but my experience with their quality and reliability leads me to give these a much lower rating of 2. With me, it is personal. When I was on the outer edges of a circular lace shawl the cord pulled out of assembly and I did not notice it right away. All interchangeables have the risk of coming loose or undone, but this was the cord itself separating from the connector. After that very painful incident, I was wary and used these needles only on smaller projects; it did happen again but with less at risk. Still, these were one of the first interchangeable options and, after starting out with Denise, I was so excited when I first got these. The joins and cord, when they work, are pretty good, but I think there are better options for the needle surface. I gave mine away and had to borrow this needle for the tasting.

Comments

  • I don’t love bamboo needles but these are very nice. Have a “slickness” similar to metal
  • Sharp and slick, warm in my hand
  • Nice needle, light and easy to use
  • Best wood needle – Smooth and slick for wood. Could be pointier but great for wood.
  • Lovely interchangeable. Smooth, pretty 🙂
  • Not bad – but the join is not smooth
  • Maybe a little too sticky. Very light in hand
  • Like the tips but doesn’t slide along. Not fond of the join.

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

5

62.50%

4

2

25.00%

3

1

12.50%

Overall

4.50

8

100%

KnitPro: Zing
Type: metal fixed
Size: US 2.5 (3 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: ranked 13th with a score of 3.96 (range 1 – 5)

img_7707I was so excited to find out about these beautiful needles and ordered DPNs from Scotland. They were nice, and so lovely in all the vivid colors. Our knitting group ordered some of the circulars and we were disappointed. The larger the needle, the larger the tip; everything is enlarged proportionally so what is perfectly small and sharp in the smaller size is bigger and blunter in the larger. Still, that would be forgivable if there were better quality control with the joins; some are fine and some are not. I absolutely cannot use them, I have started a couple of projects and grew so frustrated with the yarn getting caught in some of the joins that—gauge be damned—I ripped everything out and started again with different needles. It is so lovely to think that needles that look similar to the beautiful Signatures could be a less expensive option, but in this case you get what you pay for. These needles will not be put back into my stash. I give these a 1.5, the cord is not bad, the needle itself is smooth if inconsistent from size to size with the points, but that join is a deal breaker.

Comments

  • Nice to work with
  • Very nice. Feels very similar to Signatures
  • Very nice. Smooth.
  • Cord has a lot of memory, but otherwise great
  • Not sure of cable, but very smooth
  • OK, I probably wouldn’t buy them
  • Great tips
  • A decent needle for the price
  • Nice tip, cord OK
  • Join on one side catches yarn. Other side is smooth. Good point though.
  • Nice feel of needle and tip
  • Hate join

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

4

28.57

4.5

2

14.29

4

4

28.57

3.5

1

7.14

3

2

14.29

1

1

7.14

Overall

3.96

14

100%

Knitter’s Pride: Dreamz
Type: wood fixed
Size: US 0 (2 mm) and US 4 (3.5) mm
Swatch type: magic loop (smaller needle) and flat (larger needle)
Rating: Overall average rating of 3.92 for both sizes combined
US 0 (2 mm) Ranked 20th with an average rating of 3.25 (range 2 -5
US 4 (3.5 mm) Ranked 7th with an average rating of 4.41 (range 4 – 5)

These are similar to the KnitPicks wooden needles, although I have never had any quality issues with the cord disconnecting from the join as I have had with the KnitPicks. The wood is nice and smooth and the points are nice, although I find the yarn struggles a bit over the join, these are not a bad option. I like that different sizes are different colors. The smaller US-0 feels a bit flimsy in wood, but to be fair I have never broken any of these; I just feel more comfortable using metal in smaller sizes. If the yarn slid over the join more smoothly I would give these a 4, but I am going with a 3.5 on these.

Comments US 0 (2 mm)

  • My absolute favorite & go to for large projects. Good joins, points, and overall feel.
  • Nice tip, nice point, flexible cable, smooth join
  • Nice join. Stiffer cable. Good point.
  • Perfectly nice. Don’t like wood for socks – too slow
  • Feels like I would snap the needle too easily. Like Point
  • Too flimsy
  • Snap too easy. Feels good in my hands

Comments US 4 (3.5 mm)

  • Smooth feels good in the hand
  • has the feel of a metal needle
  • Smooth, nice join, easy on hands. Nice cable
  • Surprised, liked the feel of needle
  • Smooth, nice cord, good point.
  • Smooth join. Stiff-ish cable. Comfortable
  • Harder to move along the needle
  • Smooth, pointy but not too pointy
  • Good feel
  • Smooth
  • Nice!

US 0 (2.20)

US 4 (3.5)

Overall (both)

 Rating

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

1

12.50%

4

36.36%

5

26.32%

4.5

 —

1

9.09%

1

5.26%

4

2

25.00%

6

54.55%

8

42.11%

3

3

37.50%

 —

3

15.79%

2

2

25.00%

 —

2

10.53%

Overall

8

100%

11

100%

19

100%%

Average

3.25

4.41

3.92

Knitter’s Pride Karbonz
Type: carbon fiber fixed
Size: US 6 (4 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Ranked 21st with an overall average rating of 3.19 (range 1 – 4)

img_7738I have a set of DPN Karbonz but had to borrow this needle to include it in this tasting. Personally, I dislike how the tips seem to catch the yarn. With the circulars, the join does not seem really smooth either. There is something about the transition between the carbon fiber and the metal joins and tips that just does not work. I give this needle a rating of 1, it is not for me.

 

Comments

  • Smooth joins. Cable fairly flexible
  • I love them, cord – OK, nice points
  • Join a little rough, cord has too much memory
  • Smooth, lightweight, comfortable.
  • Love the tips. Cord is too stiff. One Joint is smoother than the other.
  • hard to move along the needle
  • Cord too coiled.
  • Hate join

Rating

Count

Pctg

4

2

25.00%

3.5

3

37.50%

3

2

25.00%

1

1

12.50%

Overall

3.19

8

100%

Knitter’s Pride: Trendz
Type: Acrylic fixed
Size: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Ranked 23rd with an overall rating of 2.55 (range 1 – 4)

img_7719I had tried the Marblz DPNs and did not like them, but thought I would purchase a set of these for the tasting to try an acrylic option. Although they feel warmer in my hands than metal needles, something someone might like, I would rather use Denise needles than these. The surface feels a bit too grabby, the transition from cord to needle is choppy and rough, and with the flex of the needles it feels like they could snap apart in my hands. After talking to a few people at the tasting, I found I paid way too much for these, especially as they will not be joining my other needles in stash. They are headed to the next give away table. I give them a 1; just cannot see rating them higher than I rated the Denise needles.

Comments

  • Smooth knitting but needle feels fragile
  • I like this needle. My current project is on the needle. Sharp Point; good join easy on my hands and wrists, no pain
  • Nothing special
  • Better than I expected, [xx]good KP joins. Very light, breakable feel
  • not bad, don’t like the look of them, nice point, nice cord
  • Not my favorite, sticky
  • I agree with post above, sticky feel
  • Squeaky, might be good for beginners
  • Better than I expected for a plastic needle
  • Rather tacky (in more ways than one)
  • These are the needles from the dollar store

Rating

Count

Pctg

4

2

18.18%

3

3

27.27%

2

5

45.45%

1

1

9.09%

Overall

2.55

11

100%

Kollage: Square with Firm Cord
Type: Metal fixed
Size: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 2.5 (3 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop (smaller needle) and flat (larger needle)
Rating: Overall average rating of 2.69 for both sizes combined
US 1 (2.25 mm) Ranked 24th with an average rating of 2.07 (range 0 -5)
US 2.5 (3 mm) Ranked 17th with an average rating of 3.55 (range 2 – 5)

Size matters when it came to testing. The points on the larger needles are nice; the one on the smaller should come with a warning sign. I used two sets of size US-0 with magic loop for socks while traveling, those sharp little points went right through my knitting bag like a porcupine. Thank you TSA for allowing me on board.

I tried these needles a long time ago with the softer cord and did not like them, the stitches would not transfer from the limp cord to the needle. A while back I tried their DPNs and liked the way the square shape stayed put when knitting in the round. Seeing the firm cord option, I gave the circulars another try. I find them comfortable in the hands, and the cord is still flexible enough to work well with magic loop, but my goodness those points on the smaller sizes are seriously sharp. I give these a 3.5.

Comments US 1 (2.25 mm)

  • Light. Square feels great in the hands. 🙂
  • Square shape is OK, too sharp
  • Somewhat sharp feeling in the hand
  • So sharp! Light. Nice cable
  • Light, feels good in hand but tip too sharp
  • Holy sharp needles, Batman!
  • Too bendy
  • Ditto (Holy sharp needles, Batman!)
  • Great points, but the joins are rough and I’m not crazy about the stickiness of the needle
  • Nope. Too sharp. Too light. Don’t like.
  • Dangerously sharp
  • Too sharp. I push needles down by tip. Not good for my knitting style
  • Tips are lethal. Ick!
  • Ouch!
  • Double ouch! Way too sharp tips.

Comments US 2.5 (3 mm)

  • Love the shape, great cord.
  • Needles feel a bit grabby. Fairly smooth join. Can’t tell they are square when using.
  • Nice hand feel. Wish the taper was longer
  • Would take some getting used to, but I think I would like these.
  • Shape inhibited my knitting
  • Interesting feel
  • Don’t like the angles
  • Long learning curve for me to work comfortably with this shape
  • Ehh. Not for me

US 1 (2.25)

US 2.5 (3)

Overall (both)

Rating 

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

1

6.67

2

18.18

3

11.54

4.5

1

9.09

1

3.85

4

1

6.67

3

27.27

4

15.38

3

3

20.00

2

18.18

5

19.23

2.5

1

9.09

1

3.85

2

4

26.67

2

18.18

6

23.08

1

5

33.33

5

19.23

0

1

6.67

1

3.85

Overall

15

100%

11

100%

26

100%

Average

2.07

3.55

2.69

Lantern Moon: Destiny Circulars
Type: Wood fixed
Size: US 10 (6 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Ranked 19th with an average rating of 3.32 (range 2 – 5)

img_7740After suffering quality issues with KnitPicks Rainbow Woods—and before I was brave enough to try metal needles—these were my next step. I loved the feel of wood and collected several of these in rosewood and ebony. The cord was firm, the needle smooth and warm feeling in my hands, but I struggled with the joins. Some needles were worse than others for drawing the yarn across that join, I found that the rosewood needles were more difficult to use than the ebony. What drew me to this needle originally was the claim that the swiveling cord was easier on the hands. I did like the swiveling cord but never hit my stride with the join. I sold all but this one, which I had given away and had to borrow back for this tasting. I rate this needle a 3.

Comments

  • Nice, fast knitting
  • Not very sharp, yarn slides nicely
  • Cable is a bit rigid, but needles are nice and smooth
  • Not very sharp. Nice wood
  • Nice feel on the hands
  • Nice feel in the hand, decent join
  • Good feel
  • Nice joins
  • Very light
  • Not fond of needles, felt plasticy. I liked the cord. Too expensive for quality
  • Not sharp enough, yarn doesn’t slide easily
  • Cord too stiff. Wood feels like plastic to me
  • Join catches some, feels plasticy, and has a very firm cord. It could use a pointier point.
  • Too blunt on the point, feels plasticy

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

1

7.14%

4

7

50.00%

3

1

7.14%

2.5

1

7.14%

2

4

28.57%

Overall

3.32

14

100%

Signature Needle Arts: Socks with 6” needles and stiletto tips
Type: metal (aluminum) fixed
Size: US 1 (2.25 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop
Rating: Ranked 12th with an average rating of 4.31 (range 3 – 5)

img_7726Unlike Signature’s other circular needles, these smaller sock size needles are fixed. As with other Signatures, they are built to order with options of 4”, 5”, or 6” needles with either the stiletto or less sharp middy point, and with fixed cord options of different lengths. At this time, they are only available in size US-1 (2.25 mm) with plans to release size US-2 (2.75 mm) and the in between sizes of 2.5 mm and 3.0 mm sometime in the future. I usually knit socks on US-0 but I am looking forward to the 2.75 mm and 3.00 mm being available for those times when I cannot get gauge with a US-3 (3.25). The cord is stiffer than on their other needles and does not swivel. The join works fairly well, although in all honesty I just got these and I have not tested them with anything other than the magic loop with a relatively small number of stitches. There appears to be some resistance when pushing the stitches over the joins, it might be a touch sticky when knitting flat. I am hovering between a 4.5 and a 5 for these needles because of the non-swivel cord and I am a bit unsure of the join, but at first blush I like these. I am giving them a 5.

Comments

  • Sharp, smooth
  • Needle is firm enough, nice tip.
  • Sharp but not too sharp tip. Nice needle length
  • Lovely to work with, but I wish the cable was a bit more flexible and/or longer. Though the 5″ needles might be perfect.
  • Love them!
  • Gonna buy some
  • Smooth fast, don’t like hand feel
  • Sharp. Smooth. A little too light. Cord is super long.
  • Sharp, smooth join.
  • OK, but not worth the price for me
  • Ditto (OK, but not worth the price for me)
  • Needles too long
  • Don’t like the cable and the tips are a little too sharp

Rating

Count

Pctg

5

6

46.15%

4

5

38.46%

3

2

15.38%

Overall

4.31

13

100%

 

Signature Needle Arts: Stilettos
Type: metal (aluminum) interchangeable
Size: US 6 (4mm) with 5” needle tips and US 6 (4mm) with 6” needle tips
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Overall average rating of 4.5 for both tip sizes combined
5” needle tips ranked 4th with an average rating of 4.64 (range 4 – 5
6” needle tips ranked 8th with an average rating of 4.36 (range 3.5 – 5)

img_7710

When I start a project, I reach for my Signatures. I have sizes US 3 to US 9, with multiple tips and cords for the sizes I use most. They are my go-to-needle when their sizes work for my project. The sharp tips, swiveling cords, and sheer beauty of them make them a joy to use. In the past few years my needle exploration has been for needles in sizes that Signature did not make, such as needles with 16” cords for hats and needles smaller than size US 3. Until recently, they were only available down to size US 3 for circulars, but they have plans to release smaller sizes in fixed circulars and recently released size US 1 (2.25 mm). The down side to these needles is the cord, unlike other interchangeable kits, the cords are specific to the needle size. In other words, a cord that goes with a size US 5 needle will not work with the size US 7. When I add a new size to my collection, typically I buy the tips, the shortest cord, and the longest cord.

There are several choices in building your needles, in addition to selecting the size of the needle and then length of the cord(s), you also choose the length of the needle tips and the sharpness of the tips. My preference is for the 6” in with stiletto tips. The cord is very flexible and can cause the stitches to lag across the join, I find that I push stitches up on the needle before knitting and having the longest length needle allows me to put a lot of stitches on the needle. I also find a longer needle more comfortable in my hands than the shorter ones. But, as evidenced by the tasting, size matters and some preferred the shorter 5” needle tip. We did not have a 4” tip in the tasting.

There is a simple twist mechanism for attaching the cords to the needles. Early on I had some issue with them loosening during use, but once I obtained their handy-dandy little rubber disc for tightening them it has not been much of a problem. They did not loosen during the tasting, but on big projects I do make it a habit to periodically check that they are firmly connected and give them a tightening if needed.

I give these needles a 5, but the cord could be a bit better.

Comments 5″ tips

  • Best needle every made
  • Very nice
  • Love them!
  • Thumbs up
  • These are so fast
  • Love these, Nice feel to the needles & good cord
  • Not a fan of the softer cord, but great otherwise
  • Lightweight, nice point
  • Love the feel of the needle, I’m not crazy about the cord
  • Very nice
  • Fine, but I like 6″ better

Comments 6″ tips

  • Fabulous!
  • Smooth
  • Great, but cable a bit flimsy
  • Love the needles, hate the cord.
  • Smooth join, great fit in my large hands
  • Nice and smooth, don’t love the cable
  • Love the needle. Not sure about the cord.
  • Expected more given all the hype! Cord had too much memory – like the swivel in the cord
  • Like the longer 6″, good cord, nice points
  • Nice point, smooth. Stiff cable.

5″ needle tips

6″ needle tips Overall (both)
Rating

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

6

54.55%

3

27.27%

9

40.91%

4.5

2

18.18%

3

27.27%

5

22.73%

4

3

27.27%

4

36.36%

7

31.82%

3.5

 —  —

1

9.09%

1

4.55%

Overall

11

100%

11

100%

22

100%

Average

4.64

4.36

4.50


Skacel: Addi Turbo
Type: metal (brass) fixed
Size: US 5 (3.75 mm)
Swatch type: flat
Rating: Ranked 15th with an average rating of 3.81 (range 3 – 4.5)

img_7714

 

These needles are my workhorse needles. The cord is stiff enough to carry the stitches smoothly and the needles are quite slick, a little too slick perhaps. The tips are okay but not as sharp as others. Still, this needle has always been a good basic choice, although I think the Addi Turbo Rockets have the edge. I give these a 4.

 

Comments

  • I like the smoothness
  • Nice join. Cord a little stiff. Good unless doing magic loop. Smooth join.
  • Nice feel
  • Again, not crazy about the cord
  • Cord stiff
  • Good join & weight. I like more point.
  • Cord too stiff for me

Rating

Count

Pctg

4.5

1

12.50

4

5

62.50

3

2

25.00

Overall

3.81

8

100%

Skacel: Addi Turbo Rockets
Type: metal (nickel plated) fixed
Size: US 1 (2.25 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)
Swatch type: magic loop (smaller needle) and flat (larger needle)
Rating: Overall average rating of 4.86 for both sizes combined
US 2 (2.25 mm) Ranked 1st with an average rating of 5.0
US 4 (3.5 mm) Ranked 3rd with an average rating of 4.67 (range 4 – 5)

If I had to give up my Signatures, these are the needles that I would turn to. I first discovered the Addi Sock Rockets when I was trying to find an alternative to the Chiagoo Red Lace for magic loop. I tried a few options but was wowed by these. The needle is the perfect amount of slick for natural fibers like wool and cotton, although might be a bit too slippery for something like silk. The cord is firm enough to carry the stitches without being too stiff. The yarn glides over the joins effortlessly. Soon after buying my Turbo Sock Rockets I learned that they were dropping the “sock” from the name and making these in larger sizes as well as the smaller sock sizes. I will definitely be adding more of these needles to my stash as the need arises. If only the cord swiveled these would be perfection. I give these a weak but well-earned 5.

Comments US 2 (2.25 mm)

  • Love!
  • Smooth, nice cable and join
  • Nice point and smooth join
  • Nice point, smooth join, cable good
  • Seem about perfect. 5″ needle and 40″ cable a bit stiff, but length works great
  • Smooth. Needle right weight
  • Great

Comments US 4 (3.5 mm)

  • Super!
  • Like!
  • Love!
  • Like them, smooth
  • Almost too slick. Don’t like the cord
  • So smooth           

US 2 (2.25)

US 4 (3.5)

Overall (both)

Rating

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

Count

Pctg

5

8

100%

4

66.67%

12

85.71%

4

 —

2

33.33%

2

14.29%

Overall

8

100%

6

100%

14

100%

Average

5.00

4.67

4.86

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Kitty Tricks: Knitting Feline Eared Hats

Recently I participated, to the tune of 20 hats, in The Pussyhat Project. Repetition freed my mind to consider the various different steps. In making the same pattern over and over again, I began to think about and analyze the processes. Some of this may be helpful for knitting any type of small project in the round, and for anyone who has been afraid of or has forgotten how to do the Kitchener stitch.

img_7512

 

Setting Up to Knit in the Round

See Video for setting up and beginning to knit in the round

There are many cast-ons, but my preferred one for working in the round is the long-tailed cast on. The Pussyhat Pattern instructs the knitter to cast on 50 stitches, work flat, and seam up the sides. Given that I am not a big fan of seaming–not to mention that stockinette in the round is all knits and no purls–I modified the pattern to work in the round. Casting on 50 stitches then seaming the sides translates into 100 stitches when joined, which I found to be a bit large. Experimenting with different numbers of cast-on stitches to make a medium sized hat, I settled on 92 stitches with a worsted weight yarn on a US size 4 (3.5 mm) needle. Any multiple of 4 works for this pattern, so this can easily be adjusted for gauge with different yarn weights and needle sizes.

Unlike cast ons that draw the working yarn from the ball as you need it, such as a cable or knit cast on, a long-tailed cast on requires pulling out enough working yarn in advance to complete the cast on; one has to guess how much will be needed. It was a light bulb clicked on and burning bright when I got the tip for casting on with the outside and inside ends of a cake or pulling yarn from two separate cakes of the same yarn type. By tying a slip knot to join the two separate strands, the working yarn can be drawn from the balls as needed without pulling it out in advance. I cannot say how many times I have approached the end of a large number of cast-on stitches only to run out of yarn before I reached the end. It is very difficult to guesstimate how much yarn to pull out for a cowl worked in the round that calls for more than 300 cast on stitches. This method works great, but there is a dark side. When drawing from two strands of yarn, the cast on edge has two tails rather than one to weave in. So, although I love, love, love this method for larger numbers of stitches, for casting on something smaller like socks or a hat I find there is less to fiddle with if I just estimate how much I need. I think I pulled out about 5 or 6 feet of yarn for casting on each of these hats, leaving me with one healthy tail to weave in later.

Cast on the number of stitches required plus 1. I will explain more about the extra stitch later, but it is for joining in the round. In my case, I wanted 92 stitches so I cast on 93. Before joining to work in the round, make sure that none of the stitches are twisted. I like to align the stitches so that, holding the tips of the needles together to form an oval, the live stitches are to the outside and the cast on edge is facing to the inside.

There are a few tricks for joining in the round once the stitches are cast on. I like to swap stitches from both needles so that the first cast on stitch and the last cast on stitch overlap. This requires casting on an additional stitch which is knit together (or purled together) with the last stitch on the end of the first round. With the needle holding the first cast on stitch in your left hand and the last cast on stitch in your right, move the first cast on stitch from the left needle to the right needle; for the moment it is next to the last cast on stitch. Lift the last cast on stitch over the stitch that was just moved to the right needle and move it to the left needle. The first and last stitches have swapped places. The swapped stitch with the working yarn, the last one that was cast on, looks sloppy for the moment but that is okay. Tighten the stitch by pulling on the tails and begin working in the round. Be careful to knit with the working yarn from the ball, not the tail. This is an easy mistake to make with a long tail cast on because, with all that guessing, often there is a really long tail. And yes I have done this. More than once.

img_0676

At the end of the round, the first cast on stitch that was moved to the right needle will be knit (or purled) together with the last stitch. At that point I place a marker to indicate the beginning of the round. For my 92 stitch hat, I cast on 93, swapped stitches from the ends of both needles, began my 2×2 rib K2-P2, worked to the last 5 stitches, ended the round with K2-P1-P2TOG, and placed my marker.

Starting to Work in the Round

See Video for setting up and beginning to knit in the round

The first round is the trickiest when working a rib pattern. Remember to check that your stitches are not twisting. If you have counted and rechecked the number of your cast on stitches, you should end the round with 5 stitches remaining. If not, you did not do the rib pattern correctly. To keep on track, it is helpful to either stop and read your knitting after each 4-stitch repeat of the pattern or recite something as you do it, like “Knit-Knit, Purl, Purl,” “Knit 1, 2, Purl 1, 2,” or “1-2-3-4” to keep the pattern in order. In reading your knitting, a purl stitch looks like it is wearing a little turtleneck sweater with a bar across the bottom and the knit stitch looks like it is wearing a loosely looped scarf. Once the first row is knit and the marker is placed, it is easier to follow along as you knit the knits and purl the purls. Particularly after the first few rows, it becomes obvious when you place a knit where a purl belongs or vice versa.

Working in the Round

Once the rib pattern was set-up, it was just a matter of following along until I reached 4 inches. I knit the stockinette section about the same height, so I just periodically folded it over to make sure it matched the rib section rather than stopping to measure each section.

I added a second marker half-way through the round, with 92 stitches that would be after the 46th stitch. When I got to the stockinette section, I did a purl before both the halfway marker and the start of round marker. This creates a virtual seam up the sides to give the hat more stability.

I bought several skeins of yarn, but also dove into my bins for every rose, blush, or pink yarn I could find. They are nice colors, and I did have a fair amount of what could loosely be called pink, but not in worsted weight. Consequently, some of my hats were made with 2 or even 3 strands held together and most of them combined multiple yarns. There were hats with stripes, color blocks, and DIY gradients. It was a happy accident, it gave the hats some added interest.

When working in the round, there can be an issue with a color change for stripes. Unlike knitting rows back and forth, knitting a round is really a spiral; a color change can look like a blip at the start of the round. There is a trick of lifting the stitch from the row below as demonstrated in this video by PlanetPurl. When the colors were very similar I did not bother, but it was helpful with contrasting colors to have a more smooth transition. Often, when using multiple yarns and changing to a slightly different color, I interspersed rows of old and new so the color shifts looked more gradual.

Kitchener Stitch

See video for learning and remembering the Kitchener stitch

Working in the round made the pattern go much faster, but I did have to graft the hat at the top. The original pattern was folded and joined on the sides; the top was simply the fold. On the Ravelry Pussyhat Project forum, some people did a 3-needle bind-off. Another person did Jenny’s magic cast-on and worked top down rather than bottom-up. I opted to work from the bottom up and closed the top of the hat with the Kitchener stitch.

Now some people gasp, shudder, and run as fast as they can when they hear those words, but the Kitchener stitch is not at all difficult. It is fiddly, and one has to pay attention to the order in which he or she does things, but what I have always found annoying is trying to remember that order. It seems I always need to take a trip to YouTube and watch a video or two when I have not done the Kitchener stitch in a while. The advantage of having done 20 hats using the Kitchener stitch is that I had a great opportunity to break down what I was doing and really think about it.

Before starting, you want the same number of stitches divided evenly between two needles. That is not easy to do when stitches are evenly distributed on a circular needle in the round, but the marker at the midpoint delineates an even number of stitches between what I will call the front and back needles. Later, as you work across and there are fewer stitches remaining on the needles, you can pull out the cord where the marker is and divide the stitches evenly.

Hold the needles so the back needle has the working yarn and the last stitch worked in the final round while the front needle has the start of round marker and the first stitch of the final round. Remove the marker. Cut the yarn leaving a tail long enough to work across the top. More is better…it is painful to run out of yarn in the midst of doing the Kitchener stitch. Thread the working yarn on to a tapestry needle and you are ready to start. But before we get started, let’s look at the sequence of steps for the Kitchener stitch.

There are 4 steps.

  1. Put the needle knitwise into the first stitch on the front needle, draw the yarn through, and remove the stitch from the needle
  2. Put the needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle and draw the yarn through but do not remove the stitch
  3. Put the needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle, draw the yarn through, and remove the stitch from the needle
  4. Put the needle knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle and draw the yarn through but do not remove the stitch

After the 4 steps, two stitches are joined and removed from the needles and two stitches are anchored and ready to be removed in the next round. The process creates a weave that looks like stockinette and creates a nearly invisible join. Steps 1 and 2 are worked on the front needle, steps 3 and 4 on the back needle.

To abbreviate it, it is 1) Knit off, 2) Purl on, 3) Purl off, and 4) knit on. One could say to themselves “Off, on, off, on,” “Knit-off, Purl-on, Purl-off, Knit-on,” or “Knit, purl, purl, knit” as they step through the Kitchener Stitch. For some reason what works for me is to recite “1, 2, 3, 4” as I work through the steps.

Notice that if you start with a knit on one needle, you end with a purl on that needle and vice versa. But how do you remember which is which? This is the memory trigger: look at the stitches on the front needle. You are looking at the right side (RS) of stockinette which, when knit flat, is always a knit stitch. So, begin with a knit on the front needle and end with a purl. Now, without changing position of the needles, look at the stitches facing you on the back needle. They are the wrong side (WS) of stockinette, which when knit flat is always a purl. So, begin with a purl on the back needle and end with a knit. What else do you need to remember? The first stitch on each needle is taken off and the second stitch is worked in the opposite direction but always remains on.

To start the Kitchener stitch, some knitters will just jump right in with the 4 steps, claiming that it gives them a smoother edge. The traditional way is to do a set-up before diving in. The set-up is simply doing steps 2 and 4 only then proceeding into the 4-step process. In other words, put the needle in purlwise and draw the yarn through the first stitch of the front needle, leaving the stitch on the needle, then put the needle in knitwise and draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle, leaving the stitch on the needle. Now begin and repeat the 4-step Kitchener stitch until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

To end, when there is only 1 stitch left on each needle, you do steps 1 and 3 only: put the needle in the last stitch of the front needle knitwise, draw the yarn through, and drop the stitch off the needle then put the needle through the last stitch on the back needle purlwise, draw the yarn through, and drop the stitch off the needle. I find the final stitches look a bit lumpy, but what worked well for me was to put the needle in behind the last stitches worked, draw it through the work, pull it tight, and weave in the ends.

When you get down to the final stitches, I find it helpful to put my finger on the remaining stitches to make sure they do not fall off. Also, it is important to maintain a firm and even tension as you go, but do not tighten up the yarn too much or it will not match your knit gauge.

Finishing

As to weaving in ends, as a friend of mine says, “Everyone goes to Hell in their own way.” I had the faux seam up the side and that made a great place to hide the ends. I like to weave in ends in two directions–up then down or down then up–so they withstand stretching and finally run the needle through some stitches to really anchor the end. I trim the yarn leaving just a bit so it will have enough length to settle in. Although many swear that one should weave ends in after washing and blocking, I always do it before and have had fewer problems that way. Weaving in is not usually someone’s favorite thing to do, but we all suffer through it in our own way.

I did not worry about color bleed and did not prewash any of my yarn, but I did use color catcher sheets in the wash when there were strongly contrasting colors. With blocking, the pattern was so simple I merely shaped them flat on a blocking board.

So ends my 20 hat odyssey, but wait…I just returned from the store where I found a ball of baby pink 100% merino on sale. Looks like it will be 21 and done.

Videos in the post: Getting started working in the round and Understanding the Kitchener stitch

Pussyhat, Pussyhat, Where Have You Been?

Pussyhat, Pussyhat where have you been?
     I’ve been to Washington in hopes to be seen.

Pussyhat, Pussyhat what did you there?
    I gave brave marchers a warm symbol to wear.

This post includes information for recipients of my hats followed by a bit about my involvement with The Pussyhat Project.

Information for Hat Recipients

Dear Pussyhat Recipient,

More than a thousand knitters from all over the nation participated in this project, what are the chances you would end up with one of mine? I hope it will keep you warm during the Woman’s March on Washington, and I hope that you will enjoy its warmth long after or donate it to help keep someone else warm through the long cold winter. Although we do not know each other, know that your hat was knit with great care, warm wishes, and good intentions.

All hats were based on the basic Pussyhat Project Pattern and are made with wool. Your hat is tagged with a number for identification, care instructions are listed below by hat number. Please read on for more about your hat.

General Care Instructions

 

Hand Washing Instructions

Hand washing is appropriate for all hats. Soak in cool water using a gentle wool wash, such as Kookaburra or Eucalan. Some knitters use a touch of a very mild liquid hand soap or a few drops of Dawn Liquid rather than wool wash. Drain. If using soap, re-soak in plain water to remove soap residue but do not agitate. Saturated wool is very delicate, carefully wrap in towel and squeeze out excessive moisture. To dry, lay flat and pat into shape on a towel.

Machine Washing Instructions

If your hat is machine washable, use cold water and select gentle cycle. You may want to enclose it in a lingerie bag to keep it from snagging and stretching. Use a mild detergent, such as The Laundress Wool and Cashmere Shampoo. To dry, lay flat and pat it into shape on a towel or rack.

Washing Tips

img_7495If the wool gets really stretched out in the washing process (shhhh, don’t tell anyone I said this) a couple of minutes in a dryer can tighten those stitches back up…but be very careful! The hat should still be damp enough to pat into shape and air dry.

I put hand knits in my top-loading washing machine on the spin cycle wrapped inside a towel to remove excess moisture; this leaves the piece damp and firm rather than sopping wet, soggy, and easily damaged. Hand washing is gentler on hand knits, and when wool is spun dry it dries quickly. Generally I hand wash knit garments, even those made with machine washable fibers.

Hats 1-3

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Rowan Pure Wool Superwash (100% wool)

 

img_7484Hat 4

Care: Hand Wash (sorry)

Contents: Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd’s Wool (100% merino wool)

 

 

img_7486Hat 5

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Cascade 220 Superwash (100% wool) and Claudia Hand Painted Yarn (100% Merino wool).

Notes: Brim was trimmed with double strand of the Hand Painted Yarn.

 

img_7487Hat 6

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (wool and nylon)

Notes: Yarn held in double strands to give more thickness, hat is still warm but lighter weight than the others.

 

img_7488Hat 7

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Fibreworks Fingering (100% hand dyed wool from Australia)

Notes: Knit hat with double strands. Made a very thick hat, should be extra cozy!

 

img_7489Hat 8

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Fibreworks Fingering (100% wool from Australia) and Claudia Hand Painted Yarn (100% Merino wool).

Notes: Knit with both yarns combined to give hat more thickness.

 

img_7490Hat 9

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Fibreworks Fingering (100% wool from Australia) and Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (wool and nylon).

Notes: Knit with both yarns combined to give hat more thickness.

 

img_7491Hat 10

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Cascade 220 Superwash (100% wool) and Fibreworks Fingering (100% hand dyed wool from Australia)

Notes: Brim striped with the hand dyed yarn

 

img_7492Hat 11

Care: Machine Wash

Contents: Cascade 220 Superwash (100% wool) and Fibreworks Fingering (100% hand dyed wool from Australia)

Notes: Brim striped and body of hat slip-stitched with hand dyed yarn

Hats S1-S20-something: The Sister March Hats

img_7528Edited January 12 to add hats made for sister marches.

After mailing my hats for to Washington, DC I continued to knit hats for sister marches with whatever pink yarn I could find, beg, borrow, or steal. Some of the yarns did not have labels, some of the hats are constructed with two or three yarns held together, and all are a mix of yarns. I cannot be certain of the washing instructions, most are probably okay to machine wash and line dry, but to be on the safe side I would recommend washing by hand, wrap in towel to spin or squeeze dry, lay flat to dry, and gently reshape.

Pussyhat, Pussyhat where have you been?
     I’ve been from the Atlantic, to the Pacific, and in between.

Pussyhat, Pussyhat what did you there?
    I sprinkled marches with pink from here to there.

My Involvement with The PussyHat Project

I first heard about The PussyHat Project in an email from Klose Knit, our local yarn store (LYS in knitter’s terms). I was overseas at the time but with the miracle of the Internet was able to see what type of yarn the pattern called for and placed an order so that it would be there when I arrived home. My intention was to knit 3 or 4 hats, but once I got started I changed my goal to 10 hats. For anyone who has seen Spinal Tap, you will understand that once I made a goal of 10 that I just had to go to 11.

Many knitters have something called “stash” and I am a big time offender. However, when it came to pinks it was something of a challenge to find enough yarn for so many hats. I had yarn that was pink but it was the wrong thickness, but with a little creativity–such as holding two yarns together as I knit–I was able to use up my supply of pink yarns. In spite of a wealth of yarn on hand, I still found myself ordering more online and stopping in at the LYS for just one more skein. It is the curse of stash that, no matter how large it is, the right yarn is seldom there for any given project. It is also a blessing (or a curse) that knitters seldom mind shopping for more yarn.

What people wearing these hats may not know about this project is the camaraderie and cooperation that was shared among the participants. There is a website for knitters and crocheters called Ravelry. The group thread for the PussyHat Project has been very active. People posted details about modifications they made for knitting the hats more quickly. It is thanks to those generous people that I was able to knit my hats faster “in the round” rather than knitting flat and seaming them afterwards. I did have to seam the top, but I used the oft-dreaded Kitchener stitch over and over, and now know it so well I will never have to look up instructions for it again. Thank you for that. I also picked up the hint to add bows to accentuate and define each ear.

While crafters shared their tips, experiences, and thoughts, many designers offered their cat-inspired hat patterns free to project participants. Some of the small independent yarn companies and individual shops offered discounts on pink yarns. Whatever effort I put into this was well worth it for the graciousness and sense of community I experienced while participating in this project.

There were threads about the Woman’s March on Washington as well as sister marches located elsewhere across the country and abroad. I found options for buses to Washington from my home state as well as options for marches closer to home. I checked the Facebook groups for the different options and decided upon the march in Chicago. The group has been very active and informative about the march and other events. The idea of marches occurring in cities across the country and abroad as well as in Washington really appealed to me. It will be a long day but in the end I booked Amtrak tickets for a very early morning train ride to Chicago and a late afternoon train ride home. And yes, now I need to knit another pussyhat.

There are many reasons why I wholeheartedly joined in on this project. Of all the reasons why I chose to participate, perhaps the most important one is to have the sense of unity. With all the divisiveness—the us-versus-them rhetoric—I am so fortunate to be able to participate in a project that emphasizes cooperation, common purpose, and good will. We all have our individual reasons for joining in (or abstaining from) this movement, but I think a sense of unity is something we can all believe in. I hope to share my experiences in Chicago in a future post, but in the meantime I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this project. To those of you wearing one of these hats, thank you for caring enough to stand up and be counted as one hoping to keep the “United” in the United States.

Journey of Sorrows

It was very early Wednesday, the morning after the presidential election, when I journeyed to California. I awoke to news of the surprising and, to me, extremely upsetting election results. Joining that news was an email from someone close to us saying that his health had suddenly declined and he will not be with us much longer. My trip to California was to attend a family wedding, now it was also to be a journey to say goodbye to someone who is dear. I was shocked by an overwhelming sadness, and in the 90 minute drive to the airport tuned out the news and inattentively listened to an audiobook for distraction.

Checking in at the Midwestern regional airport seemed surreal, TSA-Pre was not operating so I had to unexpectedly submit to the unpack-the-bags-and-strip-down process while feeling the numbness of grief. The row of televisions in the terminal were all tuned to Fox News. I huddled by myself in a quiet corner, not knowing who about me was celebrating and who was mourning the results. The awaiting passengers were unusually quiet; I thought this must be how it was to be in an occupied territory, everyone trying to remain unobtrusive and saying nothing, not knowing who is with you and who is against you.

As we were called to board, Hillary Clinton was about to appear and make an address. img_7057All the televisions went black. Coincidence? As I settled into my seat, I overheard the woman behind me say, “It has started. I am over 60 and never been patted down before, they pulled me out of line and frisked me. It’s already started.” The woman was Hispanic. Who knows why someone is targeted for extra screening, I have been targeted more than once, but on this day her suspicion was not that she was randomly selected but that it was racial profiling. At the airport in Chicago it was quite the opposite, people were chattering everywhere, and everywhere people were expressing shock and surprise at the election results. When I took my seat on my connecting flight, the woman next to me was speaking Spanish on her cell phone. She hung up and said to me, “Guess I will have to stop speaking that language now.”

By the time I had landed, my phone was filled with text messages and my in-box with emails from friends and relatives expressing anguish with the results. People I met with on my trip all expressed shock, grief, and yes, even fear. In the days following I passed through what might be described as the stages of grief. I still cannot quite bring myself to resignation and certainly have not reached an understanding. I have to believe that most people share common values and hopes–that except for the extreme fringe–this electoral college win was brought about by a frustration with middle- and working-class stagnation and the notion that the peoples’ voices were not being heard. It is too much for me to believe that the bulk of these voters condone–let alone believe–the divisive and angry rhetoric that dominated this campaign. The only resolution I have reached is to do what I can do: support organizations that share my values, show kindness to those in my community, write letters to my elected representatives to express my views, and VOTE.

Joined by my friend Jamie, one of the first stops on my trip was to visit with my dear friend’s surviving sister. She had set aside yarn for me to pick up, she also had boxes full of crafts supplies and was looking for an organization to take it. We volunteered to take all of it, loading up Jamie’s car with boxes and bags to be donated. Before traveling to California I had identified 3 local groups that could use yarn, thanks to people who responded to inquiries on social media knitting boards. That evening, two days after the election, we found comfort in sorting the boxes and bags into appropriate piles for the donations. We sorted basic natural fiber yarns in heavier weights along with knitting supplies for students learning to knit in a local school district. We separated out the finest natural fibers for a senior center, thinking perhaps that seniors on fixed incomes would appreciate fine yarns–yarns they might not usually be able to afford–for their knitting project: knitting gifts to accompany Meals on Wheels holiday dinners. Finally, we sorted out all the textural and interesting yarns for an arts center for people with disabilities, thinking they would be perfect for weaving and crafting. The following day we made two deliveries and worked on arranging the third. It was healing to be able to do something for others, this was something positive that we could do and something that honored my generous friend’s memory.

The wedding was beautiful. It was also bittersweet given that my brother was no longer here to see his lovely daughter happily wed but, with the void filled by so many other family members, it was impossible to remain sad. I have never before seen a mother-of-the-bride and bride dance, but it was touching and seemed so very appropriate. There is nothing like family coming together to celebrate and share a happy event, no matter what else is happening outside the circle of loving joy.

Before returning home, I visited my friend with the declining health for what may be my last visit. We parted with a hug and an, “I will see you on your next visit.” I can only hope. As if there was not enough loss in the world, on the final day of the trip a friend received news that her brother had passed away. It was all and all, a journey filled with the sense of recent loss, old loss, new loss, and loss to come.

Awaiting my final connecting flight, I felt the full weight of sadness and sat silently in the waiting area unsuccessfully fighting off the cold virus that was overtaking me. After boarding, I dropped into my seat on the tiny commuter jet in the exit row across from a late middle-aged man. The flight attendant came by and, anticipating she would ask if we were ready and able to help in case of emergency, I looked up and said, “Hi, how are you doing?” She replied, “Not good, but do you know what makes me feel better?” I responded, “Visiting the exit row?” The man pointed to the empty seat next to him and said, “Have a seat.” She laughed and sat down, saying she would only feel better if we joined her in a song. And we did. The worst rendition of Let it Be ever sung, but the mood of the passengers shifted from sullen fatigue to relieved cheer. Waiting for our bags on the other end, I asked a young woman about the cute dog she was carrying and soon a large group of people were talking about dogs and this and that.

Perhaps it was a vivacious flight attendant, perhaps it was a cute little dog, but the journey that began at this airport days earlier in stunned silence ended in convivial conversation. In kindness given and in kindness shown, perhaps there can be something found amidst loss, a growing flicker of flame in the darkness.

img_0669

Change is in the Air

In less than one week we have had temps in the 80’s dropping to the 30’s (about 30c to 2c); change is in the air. What better time to have a knitting retreat than when it is time to change the closet over from light cottons to heavy flannels, from breezy sandals to cozy clogs, from sun hats to knitted caps, from cool fabrics in tropical brights to warm clothes in deep subdued tones. It is cozy fiber time: wools, cashmeres, alpacas, and silky blends.

I have attended several spring Knitting Pipeline Retreats–perhaps it would be more accurate to say late winter retreats–but had only attended one fall retreat before this. Up until this year the fall retreat had been known as The Cornerstone Retreat, named for a cute B&B that hosted the attendees in their meeting room and accommodated some of the guests in their cozy chambers. But as with the seasons change was in the air for the B&B, it was sold and the meeting room was acquired by a local shop for expansion. The Cornerstone Retreat is no more. This fall the retreat was moved from the cozy inn to a rustic camp and retreat center, only a half hour of country lane’s drive away from the Cornerstone Inn in Washington but a world apart. The Knitting Pipeline Cornerstone Retreat has became the Eagle Crest Retreat.

The Eagle Crest Camp and Retreat Center, run by The Salvation Army, is set in a forested and hilly area close to Upper Peoria Lake. Rooms are spartan by any standards, only the bare necessities: a door that closes on a room with a wall heating and cooling unit, some simple furnishings (bunk bed, double bed, dressers, a chair, and luggage rack), a sink with a mounted soap dispenser, a toilet, a shower, and some well used towels in assorted colors and sizes. My room had a mounting bracket for a hair dryer, but no dryer, and no amenities other than the industrial strength soap in a mounted dispenser. It was basic. Growing up where vacations were camping with 4 brothers crowded into a canvas tent, boiling water to wash dishes by the light of a flickering lantern, huddling by an eye watering smokey fire to chase the chill out, and sleeping on an air mattress that failed to hold air through the night, this was luxury by comparison. The summer camps I attended in my early years were better than a canvas tent, but not by much. Bunk beds in drafty cabins with showers and latrines a hiking distance from the sleeping quarters. Looking at it another way, comparing the retreat accommodations to the B&B with cozy quilts and jacuzzi tubs, was not quite as helpful as comparing it to my early camp experiences.

At the Cornerstone, the meeting room was poorly lit and not very large. The camp had a large, well lit dining hall filled with tables and utilitarian molded chairs. There was a comfortable corner with a few couches and cushioned chairs, in other words, the premium real estate. Because the room was larger, the retreat was able to accommodate more attendees. I was worried that having more people would change the character–that it would be less intimate–but we had enough circulation that in the end it was not an issue. Besides, it was fun to meet people who were “retreat virgins” and share in their excitement of attending their first knitting retreat.

If a disinterested someone were to ask me what one does at a knitting retreat, perhaps it could be summed up simply with knit, eat, chat, and sleep, not necessarily in that order. To an interested someone, all of that is true but I do have a bit more to add.

The fall retreat has been going a few years now, and those who have been going since the beginning return and renew acquaintances each year. These are the people who greet one another as old friends. Returning for the second time after having missed last year’s retreat, I recognized a few people from my first time and a few people from the much larger spring retreats. I came with two other people, so never felt at a loss, img_6988but even those who had never been to this retreat did not feel like strangers for long. After the business of checking in, it was not long before people laid claim to their bit of space and settled into spots to begin knitting. Conversations started up quietly among neighboring knitters, tentatively beginning with the simplest of starters such as, “Where are you from?” “What are you working on?” “What yarn is that?” Beginning as a low hum, it was not long before the room was awash in animated conversations combined with laughter, climbing to a pleasant rumble of happy voices.

We did have a schedule, followed loosely, so all was not just eating and knitting. You might say Paula Emons-Fuessle, who hosts the retreat, does not run a tight ship. It is more accurate to say that she quietly and graciously runs things so smoothly that it does not feel like a tight ship. Everything happens that is supposed to happen, but never at the expense of the relaxed atmosphere that can only be produced by being in the company of contented knitters.

The first evening we had a mug cozy exchange. Those who participated marked their cozy with their names, displayed them, and each cozy was assigned a number. For the exchange, we randomly drew a number, found the cozy with that number, oohed and aahed, then searched the room until we found the creator of our new cozy. Mine was a cute cabled cozy with buttons that had stitch markers attached, stitch markers that were put to work before the weekend was through. There was also a give-away table, a contributed snack table, and a winding station, each of which provided a gathering place to start or join into chats.

Two nights in a row we did show and tell. The first night we kicked it off with my local knitting group sharing our very different projects made with the same yarn. I anticipated a brain drain and had printed up a list with the names of patterns and yarns used in the projects I showed, but it would not have mattered if I had not done so. Those who were in front of the group holding up a sweater, shawl, sock, hat, or other knitted goodie and drawing a complete blank for the name of the project or designer were assisted by various members of the audience calling it out. Many of the knitters had amazing creations, all had good stories for what they were showing. Some had obstacles they had overcome, others had challenged themselves with something new, and some very clever knitters had taken a design and made modifications that suited their style and preferences. Presenters had an appreciative audience, and many new projects were put into queues and pattern favorites were added to Ravelry pages.

We had a formal class on brioche taught by Amy Detjen from Knitcircus Yarns. She arrived the evening before the class with bins of gorgeous yarn and had no trouble gathering volunteers to help carry it in from her filled-to-the-brim car. We all excitedly waited for the lids to be popped and as soon as they were lifted the bins were swarmed. Amy had a bit of an issue getting the internet connection for the sales, but once that was ironed out a lengthy line formed. Many bought kits for the brioche class, many bought gradients and/or sock sets that somehow found their way into their hands. The bins remained opened from that night throughout the retreat, the stacks of yarn dropped lower and lower in the bins as time went by. It was almost a relief when a yarn that was singing me a siren song disappeared. The only thing that saved me, and just barely, from buying the brioche kit was the reality check that I would not wear the class pattern; I would have to buy at least two kits to make the length I preferred. And yes, I did seriously consider that, but by the time I succumbed to the temptation I could not find more than one set with the combination I wanted. Scrap yarn was perfectly fine for learning the technique.

Amy was a good teacher and I think I got it; certainly learning it well enough to understand a You-Tube video if I revisit it in the future. I also learned the do-not-make-a-mistake-in-brioche lesson. As I read the pattern, I missed the YO for the brioche purl and thought I could just tink back one row but ended up having to rip back to the original set-up row. Especially nice for those who did invest in the yarn kits, Amy was on hand to offer guidance and fix mistakes well after the class was over. Those who caught on were also ready and able to help others with brioche as well as with any other knitting stumbling blocks that were encountered. Knitters are exceptionally generous with their time and patience when it comes to helping other knitters.

Over the course of the retreat groups disappeared and took field trips to regional yarn shops or took hikes in the woods. My big adventure was to go along with a couple of others to the very little town of Washburn to get soap. Given that our only source of soap was an industrial strength soap dispenser next to the sinks, there was a demand for a milder and accessible shower option. I raised my eyebrows at one request for unscented soap, and little did I know just how little choice we would find at the Casey’s General Store. We found lots of snack foods, beverages, lottery tickets, and gasoline, but very little in regards to sundries: one bottle of men’s Irish Spring Bodywash and one 3-pack of Dial soap, definitely not unscented. We asked if there was a grocery store in town and the reply was well, yes, but it did not open at all the day before, would not be open until later that afternoon, and they did not recommend that we go there as everything on the shelves was past the expiration date. So Dial it was. Fortunately I was able to borrow a knife to cut it into chunks so it could be distributed to the many people clamoring for a soapy shower. A good strong scent was not unwelcome. There must be some geothermal activity near the well, the water in my room smelled of sulfur reminding me of the natural hot springs and the bubbling belching holes found in volcanic National Parks; an olfactory reminder of my tent camping adventures in earlier years. I once “took the waters” at Bath, but drinking that intensely mineral water once in my life was enough. I was happy to have bottled water and scented body wash, although the spouse later reminded me that people pay good money for the experience of soaking in mineral springs.

One of the retreat highlights was a little vendor fair with lots of lovely project bags. Amazingly–in spite of our pre-retreat yarn crawl and onsite market–I stayed within my budget, having put aside a set amount for splurges and spending no more than I had. It may not last long, I signed up for product emails from MariaElena’s bags and am sure to succumb not too far into the future. Temptation would have to wait, we had no cell phone coverage and spotty internet; although we could sometimes get online no one was receiving emails. Not that that is such a bad thing for a few days.

So what was it like to be at a knitting retreat? It was wonderful to renew friendships and make new ones. It was wonderful to be amongst people who share the joy of knitting, the love of fine fibers, and the enthusiasm to share their skills and experiences. Accommodations and fare would best be described as basic, but the time spent with others was platinum-level first-class knitting luxury. It could be enough to keep me going through the winter, the cold months between now and the next late-winter Knitting Pipeline “spring” retreat.

 

For those who do not know her, Paula Emons-Fuessle is a designer, podcaster, and has several instructional videos on You-Tube with links from her website. She hosts knitting retreats in Illinois, Georgia, and Main and will be co-hosting a knitting tour of Iceland with Amy Detjen next spring. She has two Ravelry threads, Knitting Pipeline and Knitting Pipeline Retreats.

A Samba in the Stars

My dear friend, all that is brightness, exuberance, kindness, and joy will forever remind me of you. When I look into the skies tonight, I would not be surprised to see a new star twinkling and shining bright, reflecting the light you left behind in my heart.  FB post in memory of my friend, October 3, 2016

How the passing of a friend with cancer could catch me by surprise is understandable only to those who knew her. Even burdened with a terminal cancer, she was so positive in attitude and so effervescent with life that it seemed a long term possibility, not a short term sentence. I am certain I am not alone in thinking that we all had so much more time, at least many more months if not years. But anyone who has read When Life Becomes Air knows that lung cancer reaches out and extinguishes even the most positive, engaged, and vibrant of individuals. Life’s breath becoming elusive air, indistinguishable from the billions of air molecules around us, is a powerful metaphor for life and death. But as I think of Camille, I think not of ephemeral air but of light. A twinkling of memories; of people touched, of words spoken, of moments shared.

My story of Camille is just that, my story. There are as many stories as there are people in her life, each having their own amusing recollections of things she said, things she did, and ways that she demonstrated her open heart. I think we share one thing, a knowledge of how much she loved and cared about her friends and family, and how often showed it.

I first met Camille decades ago professionally. She was bright, enthusiastic, and an energetic force impossible to ignore. One of my first impressions was of her intelligence as a challenge. She could see so many different approaches to any given problem that it was almost like a diver staring down into the deep from the high board; knowing that committing to any one action could result in anything from a graceful dive to a belly flop, and everything in between. Rather than running impetuously full speed ahead and leaping towards an impending deadline, she paused and considered. To me, the type of diver who runs down the board and unceremoniously executes a cannonball, this hesitation in face of a deadline was an enigma. Admittedly short sighted, all I could see before me was the looming deadline and the fastest route to reach it. A little patience on my part, and we eventually arrived–rushed in the end–but unscathed and usually the better for it.

Camille was intensely interested in everyone and herself intensely interesting. At work we chatted: during work, after work, between work. Soon her coworkers were friends, and many not just friends in the hallways and at the lunch table, but lifelong friends in all aspects of their lives. Friends who relied upon her advice, her compassion, and her understanding, friends who relished her enthusiasm with life and shared their leisure time going places, doing things together, and always, always finding laughter. Being out with Camille was an adventure, one never knew what to expect–what she would do, what she would say–but did expect it would be memorable. My response was typically an eyebrow raised, a jaw dropped, or an untimely burst of laughter, followed by either an incredulous or a chuckling, or a simultaneously incredulous and laughing, “Camille!”

The old-as-the-hills joke we often shared was our almost-sisters story. Sadly, my brother’s wife passed away and after a couple of months she said she would like to meet him for a casual date. My response was, “Camille! It is too soon!” In the months that followed, she casually mentioned it now and again; I repeated my response. Finally I said, “Okay, I will pass on the invitation,” but when I did, I discovered that my brother was already in a committed relationship that eventually resulted in my having a new sister-in-law. Our short-handed route to the punchline was simply her saying, “We should have been sisters” and my saying, “It is too soon, it is too soon, it is too late,” and both of us would dissolve in laughter.

Camille had a love of life and the people in it. Her FB posts were filled with righting social wrongs, helping the helpless, and hope for a better world. She never married or had children, but she shared her love with those who surrounded her and had a family larger than few can claim. Camille officially became a Big Sister to a young women in challenging circumstances; she unofficially became to Big Sister to the other siblings in the family, coworkers in distress, and friends in need. As much as she loved to chatter, there was no better listener when it came to talking about life’s harsher moments. Not only did her friends feel listened to, but understood, cared about, and embraced with all the support she had to offer.

Camille was fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese, and she completely embraced and experienced the cultures of Spain and Brazil. An exchange student to Spain in her younger years, she returned when she could and often spoke of her experiences there. Her love of Spain paled in comparison to her love of Brazil, visiting often, befriending Brazilian friends in the States, and attending any and all Brazilian cultural and sporting events. Yes, she loved “the beautiful game” and the only time I have known her to cheer for the opposing side was when US played Brazil (and I suspect she just told me she was rooting for the red, white, and blue while secretly cheering on the other side). I watched the Brazil Olympics while constantly thinking of Camille, knowing how proud she would have been of all the pomp and circumstances they were able to muster. Sadly, I later found out she was hospitalized and had not seen the games, but she was surely with me when Brazil won the gold metal against Germany as she was when Brazil stumbled against Germany in the last World Cup final. In fact, I do not think I ever have or ever will see a game with the Brazilian side without thinking of Camille. As Brazilian as “the beautiful game” is the annual Carnival in Brazil. Camille did not merely see Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, she was in it as a member of a samba school in the Carnival parade. Twice.

She loved so much in life, I would be hard pressed to say what Camille loved most. Opera was near the top of the list, and her knowledge of opera plots, opera performers, and opera productions was astonishing. Days after my father had died, Camille invited me to join a group to see Madam Butterly. Camille and the clock were not always in synch, the clock always seemed to be well ahead of her. That night she drove, and she drove with no time to spare. I was in a massive boot after weeks in a wheel chair and I will never forget clunking as quickly as I could clunk, round and round the spiral of stairs in the opera house to our balcony seats. It was a miracle that I and my massively encased leg settled into the tight seats before the lights went down. At the time I was probably exasperated but what I remember now is how cathartic it was to let Puccini wash over me in my grief, and how glad I was that Camille made it possible.

Not sure I forgive her for a Wagner performance though. The production was monochrome, ranging from white to black with mostly gray in between. The music was about as colorful as the costumes and sets and soon we both had our heads lolling with drool threatening to escape our near snoring mouths. The only color was a greenish character that periodically peeked out from beneath the stage that I dubbed, “the lizard king.” We were laughing about our nodding off and the weird creature at the first intermission. By the second intermission we were hearing people chuckling about “the lizard king” in rows above and below us. Camille could turn even the most somber events into a party, and those around us joined in.

Camille and I started knitting about the same time. We had a group at work who started to bring their projects to work on at the lunch table, and sometimes sneaking them into meetings. I went to my first Stitches West with her, an overwhelming convention hall filled with fibers, yarns, fiber related merchandise, and knitting events. The first time we went, we went dumpster diving in bargain bins and came home with rather questionable purchases. In subsequent years, we egged each other on to the reverse course and come home with dearly priced treasures. One thing we did not come back with was sweater yarn. That was my fault.

I talked Camille and my sister-in-law into joining me for a “teddy bear sweater knitting class,” where the idea was to knit a complete sweater in a teddy bear size. Well unfortunately making a small sweater is conceptually no less difficult than making a full-sized one, and it was a disaster. I sensed my sister-in-law was actually annoyed at me for dragging her into this, but Camille as usual found the humor in it. We had not been knitting that long, and for some reason I became the poster child for how not to do it; every time the teacher wanted to to demonstrate a “do not do this,” for a given step, she stopped by my chair, picked up my work, held it up for the class to see, and pointed out what not to do. Camille thought this was hilarious; she not only found it funny during the class, but we had laughs about for a long time after. One time I mentioned I had a bit of a misunderstanding with a knitting pattern and she said, “You?” in an incredulous voice and we both burst out laughing. Like with many things in my relationship with Camille, this became an oft shared joke and the punchline never got old.

The memories of Camille are swiftly running through my fingers like grains of sand, but in writing this I take solace in grabbing a few grains and saving them, treasuring them. This is my personal story of Camille, but much of it is shared by everyone who knew her: her joy of life, her sense of humor, her laugh, her generosity, her concern for others, her energy, her vivaciousness, her love of family and friends, and all that made her the unique and amazing person she was. I think not of breath becoming air but life becoming light, a new star in the heavens. A star that jiggles, giggles, and twinkles, dancing a brilliant samba in the sky. A light that forever shines.

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Evolution of Purls

I had a request to create a video for how I purl. It is one of those things that I had not given any thought to–just something my hands do on their own–but the request caused me to pause and give some thought to it.

I learned to knit English style, holding the yarn in my right hand, but was intrigued by other methods that looked more efficient. In one class I learned a few different methods, including the Portuguese style where I tensioned the yarn around my neck. A friend of mine knits with this method and swears by it, but although the purl stitch is quicker and easier with the Portuguese method, it is the knit stitch that becomes the more difficult one. Win some, lose some.

What I really wanted to master was the continental method where the yarn is held in the left hand and the hand movements appear more subtle. I must have had three or four classes in which I was able to knit continental while in the class but lost it in the days that followed. The knit stitch was easy but the purl stitch presented more of a challenge. It was when I learned the Norwegian purl that I found myself able to keep it up after the class; but to me the Norwegian purl was a lot of movement, certainly no faster than the method I already knew. It was not until I took a class with Leslie Solomon at Stitches West that the lightbulb went off. Her method was to rotate the left hand down, bringing the tensioned yarn over the needle and making it easier to grab.

In the weeks following, I switched off between continental and English, soon finding it just as comfortable to knit with the yarn in my left hand. The advantage was that it seemed less stressful on my hands, and faster too. Knowing both is fabulous for doing colorwork and I can knit with both hands pretty comfortably. But there is a dark side. When I knit English style, my gauge is usually spot on with yarn labels and patternimg_0592 specifications for needle size. The more relaxed and rhythmic continental style is much looser, typically I need to go down at least 2 needle sizes to get gauge. For stranded knitting, my gauge is very tight and switching from a single color knit with one hand to a band of stranded color work knit with both hands requires going up a needle size or two as well as really concentrating on keeping my tension loose.

As time went by, my purl stitch evolved into something very similar to my knit stitch in the angle I insert the needle with my right hand and the angle in which I tension the yarn with my left hand. It is just something my hands started to do without consciously giving thought to it. For the most part, my rows are fairly even in stockinette on both the knit and the purl side, so I do not think it is a bad thing. It just is. It was not until someone in my knitting group asked me what I was doing that I gave any thought to it at all. It is not necessarily the right way, the recommended way, the best way, or the most unique way to purl, but over time it has become my way.

Note: in the video I did not stop to move my stitches up on the needle as I normally do so I was fighting a bit of drag on my stitches while trying to talk and knit at the same time. I was also reaching around a camera stacked on books, so it was all a bit awkward but I think it shows the angle of the needles and the tensioned yarn fairly accurately. But my goodness (shudder), watching it certainly makes me want to work a bit more on my technique. Perhaps a bit more mindful practice and a bit less mindless evolution should be in my future?

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Above and Below the Bottom Line

The parties on either side of my pocketbook are at cross purposes, me wanting to get the most value for what leaves my wallet and companies on the other side trying to extract as much as possible while protecting their bottom line. I get over a hundred emails a day with last chance, today only, buy now, hurry, hurry, hurry last chance big savings; I attempt to press delete-delete-delete faster than my eye can register and consider any of the alluring offers. There is a reason for all those emails appearing in my in-box, I can get lured in when my eyes are faster than my deleting fingers and must be on every list from here to Katmandu.

The conclusion of these impulse transactions can end happily for both parties, or they can end with the oft repeated you-get-what-you-pay for lesson. Beyond the value of saving money is the value of establishing a trusting relationship with a company. This week when I had mixed customer service experiences, it got me to thinking about the good will that I carry forward from a positive experience and how important that good will is for encouraging future transactions. It is surprising how little it can take to engender that good will. I am naming names, but only the names I want to remember not the names I want to forget.

I am a repeat customer with Loopy Ewe and Miss Babs. Loopy Ewe calls the people in their shipping department “elves” and it is indeed like a mini-Christmas morning when a package arrives. They, like many other merchants, have tried to save shipping costs by using plastic shipping sleeves, but the inside the purchased is securely wrapped in tissue paper and enclosed in an internal plastic bag. If peeling back the tissue does not make you feel special enough, they also enclose a little packet with red swizzled paper and Tootsie Rolls. I do not eat Tootsie Rolls but it is such a–pardon the pun–sweet touch. Miss Babs also encloses packages in tissue paper inside an internal plastic bag, including a card with a very nice stitch marker attached and sometimes some other little goodies, like a baby skein of yarn to sample. Such little things show respect for their product, care in their packaging, and a little thank you to their customers.

Another well known yarn vendor recently sent a skein of sock yarn tossed unwrapped into a shipping sleeve. The bag arrived torn and the yarn subjected to the grit and grime of the shipping journey. I could have, and perhaps should have, asked for a prepaid shipping label and an exchange, but it is time and trouble for me to drive 10 miles to a UPS facility and an expense for them to process a return and new shipment. I examined the yarn and it seemed okay, but I did write to their customer service to report the problem and to suggest that they do more to protect their products for the journey. I got an email back saying they would let their shipping department know and, in fairness, did say to contact them if I discovered that the yarn was wonky when I started using it. A few weeks later I ordered from them again, white silk merino lace weight. It too was tossed into the shipping bag unwrapped and unprotected. Do I write them again or just not shop with them in future? Their customers probably should not be asking themselves these kind of questions.

I purchased a few Signature Needle Arts fixed circulars when they first came out, and loved them, but the early cords were inflexible and stiff in comparison to their later models. When adding to my collection, someone contacted me to say I already had a cord in that size. I wrote back to thank her–having forgotten that cord was on a time-out project–and while I was at it asked about the possibility of replacing the old cords on my early adopted needles. She sent me a pre-paid shipping label and instructions for me to return them. They did not replace the cord on the old needles but completely replaced the needles and cords with the latest interchangeable option, arriving in lovely tissue wrapped storage sleeves. I loved my Stilettos before this, now I have the highest regard for the company too.

Craftsy offers classes, kits, and supplies in all levels of splurge to budget options, with many sales to boot. They have recently added their own line of yarn, Cloudborn Fibers, which I was curious to try as a low cost alternative to some of the finer and more costly fibers from name brand companies. One of the specials was a on-sale-now sweater Kit using their Highland DK yarn and I thought, why not? I have satisfactorily purchased other Cloudborn yarns that were quite nice so it was with little contemplation that I hit the buy button. When it arrived, the yarn felt harsh to my hands and, worse, my hands felt a bit itchy as I handled it. The thought of knitting an entire sweater with a yarn that felt uncomfortable was too much to consider, sale price or no. Thinking I would have a hefty restocking charge, I initiated a return request. Not only did I get a nice personal note in response but a prepaid return shipping label as well. It was such a feel-good moment that I knew I would have no hesitation to shop with them in the future. What a relief, when expecting the worst, it was no problem whatsoever. This came on the heels of a less positive experience with an online shoe vender that publicized free shipping and exchanges but failed to mention that they charged for returns. To get the “free” exchange I was required to purchase an exchange item at the current day’s no-longer-on-sale price and would not receive credit for the original purchase until they received and processed the returned item. One return they will never receive is me as a customer.

It is by no means a single vendor, made up of so many retailers and crafts people, but for the most part I have had wonderful experiences on Etsy. Particularly for handmade items, I have found the crafts people to really be proud of their handmade stitch markers, hand-dyed and/or spun yarns, knitting bags, needle cases, quilts, and such. They generally seem to be so happy that someone shows their appreciation of their crafts enough to purchase from them and email exchanges are often warm and friendly. Although I rely on ratings as a guideline, I have had far more really positive experiences than indifferent ones on Etsy.

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Bag from FrontRangeBags, stitch markers from WineMakersSister, and needle case from Quincepie on Etsy

 

It is a leap of faith to buy a product unseen, save for a picture on a monitor, from a shop I have never visited and whose staff I have never met. But it occurred to me how little things can make me feel valued and give me confidence that care is given to their products. Although it would be easy to write a very l…o…n…g post about the bad experiences I have had with various companies, I wanted to take a moment to be thankful for the those that, by dong just a little, make it a positive experience for both sides of the equation.

Updated Bling: Revisiting the Fleegle Beader

Having a strong preference for one approach over another may have just as much to do with what one knows and is comfortable with as with which is actually the better approach.

A few years ago I took a my first introduction to knitting with beads class. We tried three different methods for placing beads: a crochet hook, a Fleegle Beader, and SuperFloss. I was not an instant success. Straight out of the gate I shredded the heck out of my yarn with the Fleegle Beader, accidentally used the floppy end instead of the stiff end on the SuperFloss, and eventually, after much struggle, managed some success with the crochet hook. At the end of the class I was firmly in the crochet hook camp.

Back in the real world, facing my first project with beads, I found out the hard way that a crochet hook can do some yarn shredding too. That led to blaming the tool, not img_6493-1the user, and I sought to resolve the issue by ordering hooks in various different brands and sizes. In the meantime, a YouTube search showed me the error of my ways with the SuperFloss and, lo and behold, if I used the correct end the floss method actually worked just fine with no damage to the yarn. Possibly I was just as mistaken about the Fleegle Beader as I was with the SuperFloss, I ordered one of those as well.  What I did not realize then, but know now, is the hole size can vary greatly from one brand of beads to the next, and even from one bead to the next within a brand or within a single tube. It is not just having tools that brings success, it is all about learning how to use tools correctly and understanding the materials I am working with. My take on all of these tools is summed up in Placing Beads in Knitting. So many people swear by the Beader I thought it deserved to be taken for another spin. After all, everything feels awkward at first…

Being the proud owner of 2 sizes of Fleegle Beaders–and facing a large number of bead placements on the Amulet Shawl by Helen Stewart–I decided to give the Fleegle Beader a second chance. It was slow going at first, playing with different angles and imageapproaches, until I found something that worked fairly comfortable with the larger 1.30 size. All was going swimmingly until I switched from Miyuki beads to Toho beads and found that the holes in the Toho beads were somewhat smaller and somewhat less regular. At first I thought I had mistakingly grabbed Toho 8/0 beads instead of 6/0, but no, they were the same 6/0 size as the Miyuki. In spite of having worked out a method for consistently placing beads without damaging the yarn with the Miyuki’s, I was back to square one with the Toho beads.

A few tight beads and shredded stitches later, I switched down to the smaller 1.0 size and that helped a bit. Unfortunately some of the beads were still too tight; they would fit onto the shaft but were too small to accommodate the shaft of the Beader plus the strands of yarn. I played around with different methods again and, although I had to toss a few beads aside that were too tight, I did come up with a method that worked pretty well. It goes as follows:

  • Carefully draw the stitch from the LH needle with the hook on the Fleegle Beader
  • Position the groove of the Beader facing up
  • Position the stitch in front of (not on) the sharp tip of the hook
  • Pinch the yarn tightly below the Beader and pull it down so it is taut
  • Push the bead up the shaft, over the yarn, and off the end of the Beader
  • Drop the bead down onto the remainder of the stitch held below the Beader
  • Return the stitch to the LH needle
  • Knit the stitch above the bead unless instructed otherwise
  • Note: stitch is worked from the LH needle if the bead is placed before doing the stitch, from the RH needle if placing bead after doing the stitch
  • A demonstration of this method is on the video An Accidentally Discovered Method for Using the Fleegle Beader

Pinching and tightening the stitch makes the yarn taught and compact, allowing more wiggle room for the bead to slide off the Beader and onto the stitch. I was able to hold it in my hand while I knit, saving me the extra hand motions of putting it down and picking it up, but there was one problem. With the cap off the top of the Beader, I had to be careful to not inadvertently push the beads off the Beader. Stopping to pick up beads was not an added efficiency.

After a fair amount of practice, I can understand why Fleegle Beaders are so popular with some knitters. With beads stored on the shaft, it really was the fastest method for placing beads of all the methods I tried. Overcoming my reluctance to revisit it was worthwhile, eventually I did find a method that works fairly well for me. Going forward I will use the Fleegle Beader when I have projects with lots and lots of beads. For mobile projects, I will still stick with the more portable SuperFloss method on the road for carrying and placing beads on the road. For projects with just a few beads here and there, I will probably just use the simple and easy crochet hook method.

In the end I am glad I kept an open mind and gave the Fleegle Beader a second chance. It will be another useful tool in my bag of tricks.

 

An aside: Using a thin wire shaped like a V was discussed in the Amulet Shawl KAL thread and I did give it a try. For those who do not have the tools, it is worth trying, but I do think the tools I have work better for me. As with anything, it is all a matter of personal preference. It is certainly easier on the pocketbook.