Until I was a knitter I never realized my mom had more than one pair of needles. It’s not surprising, I just never gave it any thought. Now that I am a knitter I realize stitch markers confuse everyone who’s never worked with them. I thought I’d write up a little about what tools I found the most valuable at the outset, and offer links to the more beautiful notions I’ve come across in the past year. My short list for the project bag: Needles, tapestry needle, emergency crochet hook, scissors, removable stitch markers. (and yarn)
Aside from a pair of US 8 fixed circulars and the yarn to knit my first scarf, I needed a tapestry needle to weave in the ends. Sneaky little thing, that tapestry needle. I’m glad I haven’t lost mine – yet. (I should just get 5 right now and stash them away.)
I quickly discovered that you can get complete sets of interchangeable circular needles. Need those eights on a different cord length? Need them for a different project? You can do that. Many manufacturers offer smaller sets to try out the needles before investing in a full set. I started out with the Knit Picks needles and slowly acquired more as I needed them (pictured). That is one nice feature from Knit Picks, you can purchase all the needles available in the set individually. I’m not sure if any other manufacturers allow for this, and as a new knitter, that kept me with Knit Picks needles. Also, I’ve heard sets using a tightening key give an easy way to thread a lifeline in as you knit. On the other hand, they can loosen as you knit. This is infrequent for me and I notice it before the needle comes all the way unscrewed. I’m also careful to always hold the metal portion while tightening. Some other sets I’ve considered are addi sets and Knitter’s Pride Comby sets. I was recently gifted a complete set of addi Turbo Clicks, which is quite exciting!
I admit I have only used circular needles. I haven’t had a significant need to change to straight needles yet, or even double pointed needles. I ordered a set of dpns early on, but have only used them when a pattern called for a cable needle as part of a decrease. I haven’t needed dpns because circular needles have points on either end. They are effectively double pointed needles. For small radius projects, like sleeves, I’ve implemented the magic loop method (dpns also explained). There are many resources to learn magic loop, and it does take some practice to understand how it works. Looking at multiple explanations is very helpful. I should challenge myself to try dpns just to see if I like it more, but I will argue that interchangeable circular needles are extremely versatile. Like, reality-TV-take-only-one-thing-with-you versatile.
I figured I’d be able to choose one needle material and call it done. For the most part that may be true – but I’ve heard having multiple materials to work with can be nice. For one thing, needle material affects gauge and different materials have various advantages. I’ve also read that fiber types and needle types can be paired like foods and wines, as mentioned in this Knitty article (about 2/3 down). I was in the Jimmy Beans Wool retail shop and overheard an employee mention getting shocked by knitting silk on nickel plated needles. According to the triboelectric series, angora (rabbit) and plastic needles might be the most charged combo. Wool is on there as well, and higher up than silk, but I’ve never been shocked by wool sliding across my nickel plated needles. Likely because superwash wool is very common and it’s coated in plastic. I may not have put regular wool on nickel plated needles yet. Local weather conditions will also make a difference. At any rate, if you’re getting static electricity problems, maybe try a different material.
Stitch Markers & Pretty Things
I acquired stitch markers early on, although it is entirely possible to fashion them out of scrap yarn. I like having dedicated tools for stitch markers, and my favorite so far are the removable markers in the center-left from Sincere Sheep. They can also be found at Twig & Horn, and likely other sources (bulb pins or coil-less safety pins if you’d like to search). I just recently acquired the Knitter’s Pride removable markers pictured across the top, and I haven’t had a chance to use them yet. You don’t have to fuss with unhooking the clasp, but they do have the possibility of falling out of the work. I suspect that’s not a big issue, but I really can’t say yet.
For whatever reason, green and purple seems to be a popular color combo in the knitting notions world right now. Knit Picks uses the pair extensively, and the markers I have from Knitters Pride and Clover share the same color scheme. The flexible markers across the bottom are Clover and I acquired them from a local yarn shop. They have a rubbery texture, which can stick to needles more than metal or rigid plastic. If you’re not clipping a removable marker to a particular stitch, I find it best to use a marker that is loose enough to fit both needle ends into so you can quickly slip it while knitting.
The markers in the center-right were gifted to me, and they are really pretty to use, but somewhat intrusive. They happen to be small in general, and the ring is actually a coil (not true of all charmed markers). The coil is a problem because it gets caught on the yarn. The charm style is pretty, but I find it intrudes in the tactile experience of knitting. Others find the aesthetic appeal to enhance the experience (to each our own). You can find a multitude of options for charmed markers on ETSY, and you might also look to Instagram for links to unique markers. I do think it is worth finding a set of tools you really enjoy working with, no matter what activity you’re engaged in.
Speaking of beautiful tools, and beautiful presentation, Fringe Supply Co. and Twig & Horn have stood out over the past year. Who wouldn’t want that field bag from Fringe? And check out the pedestal buttons from YOTH yarns! Local yarn shops can yield some nifty notions as well, so I hope to work visits into future travel plans whenever I can (in addition to supporting the LYS in my home town of course).
Aside from the tapestry needle already mentioned, the most important items in the other category have been the ruler and the emergency crochet hook. A lot of peace of mind came with discovering how to fix dropped stitches in stockinette and garter fabrics. When I’m up a creek, that hook is my paddle. (I should get 5 of those too, come to think of it.) You can find tutorials on picking up stitches in all sorts of fabric on YouTube. I discovered it when reading Stitch ‘N Bitch.
In order to pay attention to gauge, I need to be able to measure it. Really, any ruler can do the trick, but knitting specific rulers can carry some bonus features. The Knitter’s Pride ruler pictured includes a needle gauge and a magnification strip to aid in the reading of stitches. Some rulers are square so that you can read stitch and row counts at once. The measuring tape is a hold over from the sewing kit I picked up when I moved into my first apartment. When it comes to garments in general, measuring tape can be quite handy.
If you sew, or had a parent who sewed while growing up, you understand that the sewing scissors are sacred – only to be used on fabric. You might even have some equipped with a spring so you don’t have to spend the energy to open them! (The scissor experience is that important.) Well, the scissors from my desk were not holding their own against yarn, so I got some short-blade kid scissors to keep in the project bag. I appreciate them every time I use them.
The remaining items are a mini kitchen scale (for finding out how much yarn is left in the ball – a full size would be better than mini), needle coils (to secure my knitting while I’m away), and a key chain needle gauge (’cause it’s fun to have knitting things on my keys).
Do you have any favorites I’ve left out? Where do you find beautiful notions? I’d love to hear what you think. If you’re looking for more perspectives on tools, check out the Ravelry forums. There’s a section dedicated to tools and equipment, and tool conversations can come up in the Newer Knitters forum.