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Archive for February, 2010

Knitting needles made of bamboo share many properties with the wooden needles. Bamboo needles are lighter than the same size wooden needles and have a bit more flexibility making them less likely to break. They can develop permanent curvatures, but that often does not affect their usability.

Like wood, bamboo has some friction, though some companies offer ultra-polished versions that are a bit slicker than wooden needles. Some bamboo needle manufacturers also claim they get smoother and slicker with use. In that case they may be the optimum needle to grow with your knitting skills – as you become a faster and more proficient knitter the needles get faster.

Due to the growth rate and methods of harvesting, bamboo is considered a renewable resource making bamboo needles the most environmental choice. The renewability also makes it readily available and affordable for needle companies meaning you have the biggest selection of brands to choose from which keeps costs down.

Clover Takumi is likely the most recognizable supplier of bamboo needles. They have two lines, the plain, less expensive line and the Takumi Velvet which runs about 40% more but boasts a higher polish finish and no use of petrochemicals in production. In both lines you can get 9 and 14 inch single point needles, 5 or 7 inch dpns and 16, 24, and 29″ circulars. In the plain Takumi line you can also get 9, 36 and 48 inch circulars as well as crochet hooks.

Other bamboo needle brands include HiyaHiya, Crystal Palace and KA. HiyaHiya offers only circs and dpns. Their dpns come in 5, 6 and 8 inch lengths and their circulars are available in 9-60 inch lengths. Both types come in sizes US0-15. Crystal Palace offers two lengths of dpns and of single point needles as well as 16, 26 and 35 inch length circular needles with a few sizes also available in 55 inch. They offer sizes US0-19 in single point and circs and a subset of those sizes depending upon the length of the dpn. KA also offers two lengths of single point needles. Their double point needles come in 4, 6 and 8 inch lengths and their circulars are available in 9-36 inches and have a special rotary join from the tip to the cord which prevents twisting. Depending upon the needle type and length they have sizes from US0-19. All three of these companies also offer interchangable circular needle sets where the tips can be attached to varying length cords.

If you are you looking for an economical choice or environmentally friendlier needle option than bamboo is likely your needle material of choice. All bamboo needles have slightly different attributes depending upon the brand – smoother finish, pointier tips or more blunt tips, and different types of joins on the circular needles. The best way to choose bamboo needles is to give them a try and find which combination of features most suits you and best fits your budget.

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Deciding where to spend our money on needles could be pretty easy if all we needed to decide was whether we would use single pointed, doubled pointed or circular needles most but that is not the only choice we need to make. Each of those three types of needles are also available in a myriad of materials from plated aluminum to an engineered milk protein polymer that resembles plastic called casein. Just as for choosing the type of knitting needles to purchase you can make educated decisions when making your purchases based on the types of yarn you prefer to knit with. We’ll be taking a look at the four most commonly available materials – wood, bamboo, plastic and metal.

A Sampling of Double Pointed Knitting Needles

In the image above we have a sampling of dpns in (from left to right) metal, bamboo, plastic and wood (ebony). Today we’ll take a look at wood.

Wood
Wood is a common material used to make knitting needles at a variety of price points depending upon the type of wood used. Unidentified woods or birch are generally the least expensive with rosewood and ebony topping the list. There are many advantages to wooden knitting needles, including a warmer and more organic feel and lighter weight. Some with arthritis or other hand or wrist issues prefer wooden needles because of these traits.

One big advantage of wood needles is that you can do some maintenance to extend their life. Wood can be lightly sanded with vary fine grade sandpaper or filed with an emery board if snags develope. You can even re-wax them if the finish wears over time with bees wax and some good hard buffing.

Wooden needles do have more friction than some other material options which can be helpful when new to knitting, working with especially slippery fibers like silk, rayon and other engineered fibers or for loose knitters. Tighter or faster knitters may find wood slows them down. Wood is also prone to breaking, especially the smaller needle sizes. Broken wooden dpns can be reused as make-shift cable needles so don’t throw them out!

Two of the most widely distributed wooden needle brands are Brittany and Lantern Moon. Brittany primarily uses birch for their needles so is often the economical choice, though they only make dpns and straight needles. For basic wooden circular needles try Addi Naturas.

Lantern Moon is a fair trade company that buys their handcrafted supplies from nations around the world with Vietnam being one of their major sources. They offer all three needles types in a variety of woods – rosewood, ebony, blondwood, and coconut palm wood. They offer single point straight needles in 10, 12 and 14″ lengths. Sox Stix are their dpns in 5 or 6″ lengths and come in sizes US0-5. Their 7″ length dpns are available from US0-17. Destiny Circular Needles are their circs and offered in sizes US3-17 in 16, 16, 32 and 40″ lengths. They also offer crochet hooks in ebony and rosewood. The fair trade aspects and different wood options do carry a slightly higher price tag, but many find it a wonderful way to treat themselves while also helping craftpersons make a livable wage.

Another source of blondwood and rosewood needles of all types is Colonial Needle. They offer circulars in US3-15 in lengths of 16, 24, and 32″, dpns in 5.5″ and 8″ lengths for US0-15 sizes.

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We have all done it. Stood and looked at a wall of needles, overwhelmed by all the options. The first step in choosing what needles to purchase (besides consulting your next pattern) is to understand the different types of needles and their uses. Already we have talked about single pointed and double pointed needles. Lastly, we’ll discuss circular needles.

Circular Needles

Some Examples of Circular Knitting Needles

Circular needles are two rigid needle points joined together by a flexible cable of varying lengths. The packages they come are labeled not only with the needle size, but also the length from needle tip to tip. Circular needles are quite versatile. Despite the name, they are not only used for circular knitting such as seamless sweaters, hats and cowls, but can be used to knit flat items such as afghans and scarves and and seamed items. Circular needles come a wide array of lengths from 8-60 inches. The needles 20 inches long and less have shorter rigid sections to be flexible enough to form a circle and some find this can cause hand cramps. Needles longer than 20 inches generally have a rigid section of 5-6 inches which many find more comfortable to work with.

When choosing the length of circular needle to purchase keep in mind that it should be smaller than the circumference of the knitting when knitting in the round. Circular needles can comfortably hold up to 40% more knitting circumference than their total length in the shorter sizes and as much as 50-60% more circumference than the total length in the longer sizes. Generally a slightly crowded circular needle can be knit faster than one that is a near match in length to the circumference being knit. Some projects may require the use of several different lengths at various points in the knitting process. When knitting flat on a circular needle the length is not important as long as it can accommodate the full width of the project.

There are also two methods of knitting smaller circumferences on circular needles instead of dpns. For the two circular method one half of the total circumference is knit as though flat on each of two circular needles. If knitting only one item at a time using this method one can use needles as short as 16 inches though many prefer 24 inches. If you are new to the two circular method using two different lengths and/or two different needle materials can make it easier. You may need a slightly longer length if you are working two items at a time such as two socks or two sleeves.

The second method is called magic loop and involves pulling excess cable out at the half way point in the circumference and working one half of the circumference at a time. For the magic loop method the 40 inch length is generally recommended, though some may use a 36 inch. As with the two circular method you may wish for a longer length if you are working two items at a time.

Summary of Lengths

  • 8-12″ are short lengths sometimes used for sleeves, mittens and socks, more options are available in these lengths now, the needle sections are quite short and some find using them can cause hand cramping, others love them.
  • 16-20″ are often used for the body and brims of hats or the bodies of baby and children’s sweaters, for many companies these lengths have shorter needle sections than their longer counterparts and some find the short length less comfortable. These lengths can be used for knitting socks, mittens and legwarmers when using the two circulars method if you are knitting them one at a time, though most prefer 24″.
  • 24-30″ a common size used for child and average women’s sweater bodies as well as baby and lap blankets, for most companies these sizes (and up) have a bit longer needle portion that many find more comfortable, the 24″ length is often preferred for knitting in the round on two circular needles and is required if knitting smaller circumference items two at a time such as socks.
  • 32-36″ a common size used for many adult sweaters as well as shawls and some baby and lap blankets, the 36″ length is considered the shortest possible length to use for the magic loop method of knitting in the round, a 32 or 36″ is a good length for knitting slightly larger items two at a time with two circulars such as sweater sleeve.
  • 40-46″ this size is the preferred size for magic loop knitting, it is also a good length for lots of afghans or plus-sized sweaters with body circumferences of 48″ and up
  • 60″ is most often used for large projects such as blankets or shawls that are knit in the round and thus have a large outside circumference.

As you can see, each type of knitting needle has its purpose. Some types are a bit more versatile than others, but ultimately the best needle type for you is the one you most enjoy working with for the types of projects you like to knit. Once you have the needle type narrowed down you still need to decide upon the needle material. Come back for a discussion on needle materials soon.

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Freba Let’s get to know Freba a bit more, one of the smiling faces that may greet you when you stop in at My Sister Knits.

Having grown up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Freba was surrounded by knitting women and took up the needles, fashioned from a dry branch, herself at age 5 after asking her mother to teach her. Freba is an active woman who loves the outdoors and traveling. Before having her two sons, Zaki and Rabi ages 13 and 9 respectively, she trekked to the Mount Everest basecamp in Nepal and climbed Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount McKinley in Alaska and several 14er’s in the US.

Seven years ago Freba’s husband accepted a position with the City of Fort Collins and it has been their home ever since. She loves spending time hiking and rock climbing with her boys, especially at Horsetooth Park and Piano Rock.

Freba enjoys all types of knitting. Currently she is attracted to designs by Jared Flood, Elizabeth Zimmermann and Kate Jackson. When asked what project she is the most proud of making she replied, “Whatever I am working on today.” She has a similar attitude towards techniques she wishes to learn, “Everyday I keep myself open to learn whatever technique comes my way.” She would like to expand her fiber arts skills and learn to crochet, sew and do Afghan embroidery in addition to knitting.

The driving force behind bringing back the community knitting aspect to Tuesday nights at My Sister Knits, Freba is wishing to not only bring our local knitting community closer but to also reach out to other people locally and globally to lend them our love and support.

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In sorting through what knitting needles to add to your collection it is important to understand the type of knitting needles that are available as well as their uses and limitations. Then you can apply that knowledge to the types of projects you most enjoy knitting. Already we have discussed single pointed needles, often the first type of needle people are exposed to. Today I’d like to talk a bit about double pointed needles.

Double Pointed Needles

A Sampling of Double Pointed Knitting Needles

Double pointed needles, often abbreviated as dpns, are frequently used in sets of 4 or 5 to knit small circumference things in the round such as socks, mittens, sweater sleeves and the crowns of hats. They are called double pointed because both ends have pointed tips so you can knit onto or off of either end.

Available in varied lengths from 4-8 inches, 6 or 7 inch dpns are the most commonly available and versatile. To avoid dropping stitches you need a length that exceeds the width of the project that needs to be on a given needle. For example, if you are knitting a 12 inch circumference straight sleeve on 5 dpns (4 holding the sts and one actively knitting) you would need needles that are 12/4=3″ plus an extra 1″ at each end to ensure no stitches are lost when the project is resting (experienced dpn knitters may require less) you would need dpns of at least 3″+2″=5″. If you work with all 5 in a set you can use a shorter dpn than if you work with only 4 (in the example above you’d need 6″ long dpns when working with 4). The shortest lengths are best for fingers and thumbs of gloves or baby socks and booties. The longer ones are needed for larger circumferences like hats and upper sleeves.

Dpns can be turned into shorter single pointed needles, great for knitting skinny scarves, if you place a point protector on one end of 2 of the needles. Therefore, if you knit mostly smaller items in the round and occasionally work flat items that are relatively narrow you may get more use out of dpns than single pointed needles. Like single pointed needles you can fashion your own from dowels if desired. When knitting in the round some find dpns uncomfortable to work with due to all those points. Ladders of looser stitches can sometimes form at the join between needles. It can also be easy to twist your cast-on stitches when first joining for knitting in the round.

With a little practice double pointed needles can be great to work with. As we’ll cover next, there are ways to knit smaller circumferences with circular needles if all those points are intimidating.

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Knitting Needle Pick Up Sticks

We live in a fortunate time as knitters. It takes little effort to obtain knitting needles of various forms and made from a plethora of materials. This blessing can also be a curse, causing quandaries on which needles to add to your growing collection. The types of projects you like to knit and your preferred yarn types can be used as a guide in your decision making.

The logical first step in choosing needles is to decide what needle type you need — single pointed, double pointed or circular? If you are a casual or beginning knitter that question might not be easy to answer. Today we’ll talk a bit about single and double pointed needles and when they are typically used.

Single Point Needles

Single Pointed Needles of Various Materials

The odds are good that when you first learned to knit you were taught on a pair of single pointed knitting needles. They are called single pointed because they are made of two separate rigid lengths that have a tapered point on one end and stop on the other end. You can only knit to and from the tapered pointed ends. Because stitches can only be worked from one end of the needle they can only be used for items that are knit flat such as scarves, small baby blankets or items that are seamed.

Commercially made single pointed needles come in lengths from 8 to 14 inches. Single pointed needles can comfortably hold fabric about 60% wider than the length of the needle, or more if using sport weight or lighter yarn. The entire width of the project needs to fit on one needle without loosing stitches when setting the project aside as stopping mid row can deform stitches and make it easy to mess up stitch patterns. For this reason, single point needles are not a good choice for large items like afghans.

Like anything, single point needles have pros and cons. Single pointed needles are the easiest knitting needle type to locate, even in remote areas. They are simple enough that one can make them at home relatively easily by starting with dowels from the hardware store if desired or necessary. For knitters who like to rest a needle against their body while knitting single pointed needles are the only option. When knitting with single pointed needles the knit fabric hangs from the needles without support which can strain the hand and wrist. The longer the needle the more strain it can cause, thus it is best to choose the shortest length that will comfortably accommodate the greatest width of your project.

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Laridae Mittens

The free pattern from My Sister Knits this month is a pair of quick to knit cabled mittens. With a fresh coating of snow on the ground and a chance for more in the ten day forecast there is still time to knit mittens to wear this season! These Laridae Mittens are made from Misti Alpaca’s Tonos Chunky, a bulky alpaca and merino blend yarn in semi-solid colors (Avacado shown here). Knit on US9 double pointed needles they practically fly off the needles (especially if you cable without a cable needle). Laridae Mittens have an asymmetric gusseted thumb with increases occurring only on the palm side for a more anatomical fit.

We’re sorry, but you missed out on the free period for this pattern. To ensure you do not miss out on the next one subscribe to the blog RSS feed, or sign-up for our newsletter mailing list.

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