When my husband and I moved last summer to a place half the size of our previous home, we had a rule, no boxes move unopened. We both had boxes in the garage (mine) and in a storage unit (his), that had not been opened in two or more moves, most from before we moved in together.
To decide what to keep and what to save, we had to see it all. What followed was a tiring three-month process of narrowing down everything we owned to the things we felt we needed—with a few exceptions. For me the exception was knitting books and supplies.
As I’ve been working on my latest sweater, I’ve been power watching Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix, Tidying Up. In her show, she helps organize everything: clothes, dishes, office supplies, crafts, etc. Regardless of the item, you must touch it and ask, “Does this bring me joy?”
I walked over to my overburdened bookshelves and felt a sense of sadness. Several of my books had never been opened. Most had never been used.
When I looked through them I realized that there was a lot of duplication and some ego involved. Letting them go was a relief. And there was another burst of joy when I removed them from my Ravelry library. I felt like a weight had been lifted!
Marie suggests you thank the items before discarding them and I am truly thankful for the inspiration these books provided–including the knowledge of what books not to buy! I’m also happy to have a foot of space to place pending projects—where the pattern, yarn and needles are ready to go. No more digging them out of storage!
My plan is to take my extra books to my local library or yarn shop. Since Salish Sea Yarn Co opened on the island, there are loads of new knitters on island. So, having some sharable resources can only make that easier for them to pick up their new craft.
I meant to talk about it last month, but since a friend of mine already blogged about it, I think I felt a bit like it didn’t matter. We ended up getting a lot of local news coverage (CBS, Seattle Spectator, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, etc.). It was heartwarming (and body warming) fun!
In retrospect, I think there are thoughts I can share. For example, beyond charity, reasons why you may wish to consider it.
Fellowship: I loved participating with others in my group. We are not a guild, just a bunch of gals that meet up at a brewery. A common cause to be a force for good made us even more cohesive.
Stashbusting: As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, I have so. much. yarn. Why not use it for a good cause?
Swatching: You have to be careful here since a hat in the round may not match a flat swatch (the curse of purling). But if you are planning an in-the-round project, as I was, it’s a great test. Or knit a scarf in the new pattern/technique you are trying to perfect.
Joy: It made me happy to think someone in need would be wearing items I made. I love the notion that I may have made a difference. It’s true that woolen socks, hats and scarves only addresses a tiny piece of the challenges facing the unhoused. But there is joy in making whatever contribution you can to those in need.
Important things to consider:
If you do do this, it is important that the items be good quality. Before this opportunity came up, I’d been stockpiling hats to sell at my LYS. And eventually, I’ll do that. The upshot is they were “sellable” quality items. This means that donating them, alongside the men and women in my knitting group, is a meaningful gesture.
It’s also important that the items be washable. For this reason, I used superwash wool or acrylic for all of the donated items.
How to get started:
Our donation was organized by a member in order to keep it local, but I’ve also found great joy in knitting and mailing off red premie hats. And after we got coverage, other groups reached out to us to make suggestions and recommendations. Good acts beget more good acts—a virtuous circle.
Ravelry also has several charity knitting groups. Unfortunately, many of these have gone a bit fallow. So, start a new one and let me know, so I can join!
My knitting group (Yes, we really are called Capitol Hill Knitters of Doom) is always looking for more ideas, so if you have any, please share them in the responses and I’ll pass them along.
I’ve been on a brioche kick. Thanks to PDXknitterati, I have mastered much of the new nomenclature of brioche, I’ve been on a kick to do a lot of it to cement it into my brain. Keep in mind, I’ve been knitting brioche since I discovered the “Built for Comfort Hoodie” it in Vogue Knitting’s Winter ‘98/‘99 issue (Vol. 16, No. 3).
What I think I’m trying to do is make my items seem simple to do by repetition. But it’s not working, because right now all I can think about is doing a *really* simple project. Something to cleanse my knitting palette.
Do you ever feel like this? And if so, what do you do to get your maker mojo back?
Have you noticed that you’ve stopped wearing an older sweater?
Maybe you feel like you should wear newer ones you’ve knit. Or maybe there’s something, and I know I hate to admit this, that hasn’t held up as well as you’d like.
Many years ago I knit an Einstein Coat. I loved it when I saw it on the pattern designer at a Stitches event and it was very simple to make. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it was very boxy. So, I made a fitted version. When you alter a sweater pattern, other things can happen. If you are interested, you can read about those foibles in this blog.
Over the years I’ve noticed that more and more, the coat gaps at the button band. Had I knit the sweater as written, this would be less noticeable. But in reviewing others’ results (there’s almost 1500 examples), I’m not alone. A coat knitted with chunky weight yarn is heavy and, as a result, stretches. Over time stretching is more pronounced around the buttons.
I tried just tightening up the buttons, which helped (and I recommend). But it didn’t fix it completely. Others added a button band and/or moved the buttons further in. This can help, but what if you no longer have the same yarn? What if it’s discontinued?
Not wanting to only wear it open, I contemplated frogging it. But then I remembered how much time it took to make it. Hands down, it’s the biggest garment I’ve ever knit. It’s so big, I often I use it for a lap blanket.
I recently fixed shaping issues with a new sweater by using I-cord, so I thought it might be worth trying it on an old one. When I fixed the new sweater I’d also run out of yarn, so I chose a contracting color. Since i-cord is a finished edge, it looks like an intended design feature. You can read more about that in this blog post.
I started with 3 stitches, but that didn’t wrap around the edge well enough for such a thick fabric. I then tried and stuck with 4, but if I were to do it again, I might use 5. The video I used to get started was this one from Purl Avenue. I watched several, but many were for i-cord bind offs or doing it as you go, not adding it to a finished edge.
Not only did it give me another inch between the buttons and of button band, it shored up the edge and held is straight even when fully buttoned. That made the stretch come from the sweater, not the edge. I also chose a less stretchy yarn (bamboo viscose), rather than wool, to make sure that it wouldn’t become lax over time.
I can’t wait to try this on something else!
And speaking of fixing old sweaters, I’m looking for a way to “loosen” a button band that’s too tight. If you have any ideas for that, I’m all ears. I didn’t knit the sweater (it was a gift), so I don’t the yarn and I’m a bit nervous about unpicking someone else’s work.
I love Hannah Fettig’s designs and I love Madelintosh DK, but sometimes I don’t love them together. The first time I knit, what I like to call the George Hancock (a combination of Georgetown and Hancock patterns in Home and Away) I loved it. But I also knit is from the bottom up, in pieces. What I failed to realize is that the structures came from the seams.
The second time I wanted to try a top-down version, since everyone is always saying how you can get a better fit. To match my figure, I made a medium until the waist and then increased to a size large at the hip. This also made the sweater longer, which I also wanted.
I hoped the smaller size on top would also help compensate for the heavy garter collar, but it didn’t. The front hung in a deeply handkerchief hem and the back pooched out, making my hips look even bigger—the opposite of what I’d hoped.
To fix it I tried these in order:
Taking off the collar and knitting it with one size smaller needles (2 sizes smaller than the body)
Knitting side i-cord ties at the waist
Adding i-cord to every edge in a “sturdier” but “lighter” wool
The first one helped. The sweater fit a bit better, but it still was saggy in the front and poochy in the back. So, I moved onto #2, attaching two i-cords at the waist to tie it shut. No joy. I tried a leather belt but even that failed to hold up all that garter in a slippery Madelintosh.
The pattern was written for Quince and Co’s Owl, not a heavy merino superwash wool. It only worked in the bottom-up pattern because the seams provided structure.
At Red Alder, one of the designers mentioned that i-cord was the “duct tape” of knitting. So, after the leather belt experiment failed, I took a lighter, yet stickier, wool yarn and knit i-cord around every edge—including the sleeves, which were too short because I ran out of yarn (bonus problem solved).
The i-cord directly onto the garment edges by picking up a stitch for every row. As I was going around the neck, I noticed it wasn’t having the right effect at the fitted waist, so I tore it back and skipped every second stitch 2” above and below my natural waist. This created fitting in the collar to match the body.
Lastly, I sewed up the bottom and created a top attachment to create a pocket. Because who doesn’t want a full-sized hidden pocket in their sweaters?
I’ve frogged a lot of sweaters over the years—too many to count—including the sweater from the last blog. Sometimes frogging makes sense, but this time I knew that the pattern/yarn should have worked. I knew it was a structural fail, not a knitting fail. And when structure is what lets you down—i-cord is a potential solution.
One of the teachers at the Red Alder Fiber 2022 Festival said that i-cord is the duct tape of knitting. And while I’m sure that there are cases where this is true—it doesn’t fix all problems. For example, if you knit the armholes much, much, much too large–i-cord is not a solution.
Sweater patterns do not typically fit me. I have several things against me.
I’m curvy, particularly in the hip area.
I’m broad shouldered (wide across the back) and small breasted.
My rise from my breasts to my shoulder is long.
I’m almost 6 feet tall
The pattern I used is Audrey, by Melissa Leapman—a beautiful, easy-to-read, quick knit. To make it fit me better, I made adjustments to fit my unusual body. The design is for someone less curvy than me—it has no fitting but gave the impression of hourglass figure—no matter what your shape.
To deal with my longer body, I knit a few more “straight” rows at the bottom. To deal with my long measurement from top of the shoulder to nipple, I did this same at the top of the body too. Unfortunately, while this worked well at the bottom, it didn’t at the top. I ended up with a huge armhole–about 4″ to large for my twiggy little arms.
I really, really should have cut my losses early and tore it out. Instead I blocked the pieces, sewed them together and knit the button band. The latter took two tries to sort out with my adjustments.
After three tries at the sleeves, Bottom up, then top down, followed by a hybrid (armpit short rows), I realized that no amount of fiddling would fix it. But given I tend towards the fixer end of the spectrum, I sallied forth.
I’m ripping. But that’s okay, I have all kinds of ideas on what do to (and not to do) to make it fix me in the best way possible.
I have cast-on-itis. I want so badly to cast on another sweater project, my teeth ache! This is because, at any given time, I like having a “menu” of projects on the needles. This generally consists of:
A pair of socks
A hat or scarf (or both)
A throw or blanket; and (maybe)
Minor household items (rug, dishcloths, etc.)
There was a time when I had one (and only one) project going at a time, with other projects queued behind. The monogamy ended when I started knitting blankets because they are harder to do “in transit”. This led me to realize, I really enjoy having a selection of projects to choose from depending on my mood, where I am, and what I’m doing.
At present, I do not have a sweater, hat, or household item on the needles. And my closet is full of project bags filled with all the necessaries to get started. This is to keep me focused on completing at least one of my two WIP blankets. If I had my way, one of these I’d toss out—yarn and all.
It’s been years since I started the throw, which only gets worked on as a chore. I want to finish it and send it on, but it keeps getting stalled.
How I ended up here was I wanted to prevent my mother buying a pretty throw made of cheap, plastic yarn she saw in an art shop. It was obvious to me it was for looking at, not using. So, I asked her if she planned to use or display it. “Use it, of course!” *sigh*
I regrettedly I told her I’d make her something she could actually use. Unfortunately, mom went out and bought the same velour yarn and picked out a close pattern. And here we are, years later, her without a throw for her couch and me with a project I pick up rarely and reluctantly. Deep in my heart, I’m cetain it will have the same problems as the art shop blanket.
Knitting for family and friends should be a labor of love. “Knit to order” is for people that do it for a living. In short, if the urge hits you to stop a person from making a bad knitted item purchasing decision you shouldn’t. Firstly, support to support the fiber artist and secondly for your own sanity.
Has this happened to you? Is so, what was the item and what did you do?
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this sweater. I loved the first version of it. So much so, that I decided to knit another. The pattern was great. I loved the yarn I chose. Why not knit it in another color? The first one took just over 2 months—I started in mid-July 2015. I finished in early September.
The first one was bottom up. So, I decided the next would be top down. The first one grew—as Madelinetosh is known to do—so this time I’d make it one size smaller. I also wanted it to be just a bit more fitted to my shape and longer. All these things are easy to manage in a top-down sweater.
Fast forward to November 2017, I cast on and started knitting. I had other projects on the needles, so this wasn’t going to be a 2-month sweater. Also, I mostly knit bottom-up sweaters, so I was in ‘learning mode’.
My first problem came in February 2018 with the sleeves. This was a mental thing. I feared that I would not be able to match them as well as the bottom up version, when I knit them 2-up on the same needle. It’s a great trick I learned from a master knitter. So, I set the project down until I could muster the courage to try and figure out how to assure myself they’d be perfect.
Perfect. That word was the issue. And it is something I’m working on with myself–to be okay with not perfect.
In November 2019 a group of other island ladies (friends of Island Wools) on Facebook started a “Finishers Club” for people that had too many WIPs. After sitting on this project for nearly two years, this was the one I put forward for me to finish in lockdown.
The sleeve problem was pretty easy to solve. I used magic loop. In retrospect, this was a no-brainer. I knit two up socks all the time, so why not the sleeves in the round?
The next issue I discovered was after I thought the sweater was done—I’d failed to use a smaller needle on the collar and it was HUGE.
This collar is not for the faint of heart. Sure, it’s garter and therefore boring. But it’s also 270 stitches. Each row is as wide as an afghan. I “finish” only to find that the collar hung to me knees. I looked at various ways to “fix” it. None was viable. The collar had to come off.
This is when having a group helps. You told people you’d do it and that motivates you to keep going, especially when you see them knocking off theirs. I did work on other WIPs in the meantime (including an afghan). But this was the “call out” project. So after I unknit the collar. I immediately (okay, more like three weeks later) cast back on with the right-size needle.
This problem isn’t about perfectionism, it’s about the reason I wanted a second sweater of the same type. I knew that if I didn’t fix it, I would not wear it.
Having groups to keep you going is a boon. And lockdown helped too.
What gets you started again after you’ve put something down?
Since the global pandemic hit, I’ve noticed that lots of folks have increased their online content production. How I know this is that I’ve been consuming it (many thanks fellow bloggers!) rather than creating it. The fact is, I am in hibernation.
I’ve been spending a lot of time attempting to learn new things. Socks, which were formerly my bane, are front and center—specifically sock heels and stretchy bind off techniques. When you start to focus on the details, it’s official—you are a sock knitter. I’ve made so many pairs, I stopped using patterns and now cast on the next pair immediately after I bind off the finished one.
I’m not a fan of heel flaps. I prefer the “store bought” look of short row or afterthought heels. Unfortunately, these have a myriad of issues, such as holes, complexity, etc. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have quite a bit more testing to do before I post on this topic, which means my family is getting a lot of handmade socks these days.
The other thing is I’ve been focused on “comfort knitting”. Things that don’t take much thought (rectangles!). It’s like the anxiety of COVID-19 has me wanting to do less stressful projects. I started with pillow slip covers, bathmats, hand towels and dish cloths, but have graduated to exclusively knitting afghans.
Other things I’ve been learning is making sourdough products and wildlife photography. Both of which have had mixed results. Like socks, I’m dialing it in a bit more with every flat loaf of bread and every blurry bird photo. 😊
In the absence of interacting directly with other people, language (in this case writing) has gone into hibernation. Thankfully, creativity has not.
I miss travel and seeing friends. This too shall pass.
I own and have used almost every type of interchangeable needle set, from square to round, from carbon fiber to wood, from standard length to shorties. And many of these sets of needles, over my many decades of knitting, have been put to heavy use.
The biggest difference? Durability.
Yes. Knitting needles DO wear out. They break, bend, dent or become unusable in some other way. Some much more often than the should.
Why do a guide?
On a recent post in the All Free Knitting Community group, a new knitter asked which were the best interchangeable circular knitting needles. Because of the expense, she didn’t want to get it wrong. And like most knitters transitioning from new to intermediate, she realized that interchangeable can be a more practical and space saving way to go.
There are lots of reasons to select one or another set, which is why I own so many. But since cost was a factor, my recommendation was for a lower priced, but fairly durable set–not the most expensive, such as KnitPicks’s Short Radiant. Then when they wear out, she could upgrade.
Lots of thoughts went into this recommendation—from practical to psychological.
Why wood? Wood has more “grab”. The yarn stays on the needle better than other materials making it easier for newer knitters to avoid dropping stitches. And they are warm to the touch.
Why shorts rather than mid or full-size needles? Shorts, usually around 3” or less, provide versatility at the expense of speed. Longer needle shafts make it harder to do smaller work (socks, collars, etc.). And shorter is more durable (less chance of bending or breaking).
Why Knit Picks? Price and a handy, see-through carry case.
This guide will only be covering standard needle types. Most of these manufacturers offer lace and various length options, so those factors are preferential rather than about durability and price. The prices are as of May 22st, 2020 and they are based on the number of needle pairs in the set—not whether they come with notions, have a nice case, etc. Value should be placed on the needles, rather than the extras.
Knitting needles are a bit like wine. The price does not necessarily match quality and what matters most is whether you like it rather than what comes with it (it is what’s in the bottle, not on the label).
Here’s a chart of how the major needles (I have used) stack up based on my research:
* Price is gotten by dividing the total cost by the number of needles in the set
My Metal Preference: Hiya Hiya or ChiaoGoo
If you like metal needles, I recommend HiyaHiya’s—even though they seem fairly high-priced “per tip”. What makes the cost effective is they work with standard cables. If money were no object, I would choose ChiaoGoo. They have raised the bar with knitting needle technology by changing the material in the cables. And those cables are amazingly great! The problem is that they don’t work interchangeable with other sets—not even other ChiaoGoo sets—meaning you have to buy a full set of cables with each set you buy. I guess that’s why they are called “Premium”.
I do not recommend addi’s given they are most expensive AND of the high-end needles, least durable. I find the “turbo coating” peels or flakes off under heavy use. And while I carry Knit Picks with me almost everywhere, it because I use them as a “notion” rather than for projects because I find the cables loosen during knitting (both wood and aluminum).
Natural Materials Preference: Knitter’s Pride Dreamz or KnitPicks
For the price and utility I prefer Knitter’s Pride. They are really my “go-to” needle, mainly because they stay screwed together when I knit. Knit Picks seem to come loose while I knit, but not as often as KnitPro’s Cubics. I love a square needle for stitch consistency, but it has to stay screwed together!
I did not test HiyaHiya’s bamboo needles, only Clover’s Takumi. And from using them, my feeling is that bamboo should not be used as a knitting needle material—ever. Bending instead of breaking is not beneficial when the ends fray and snag yarn under heavy use.
Best of Both Worlds: Knitter’s Pride Karbonz
If I have to select one and only one set, it would be Knitter’s Pride Karbonz. Unlike metal, carbon fiber is cool, but not cold to the touch. And after snapping my wood needles and bending several metal ones, I enjoy that they take a licking and keep on knitting. Hands down–they are the most durable needles I own. And though the cables aren’t even remotely as nice as ChiaoGoo’s at least I can reuse those from other sets. My ideal set would be if Karbonz would work with a ChiaoGoo cable.
Karbonz do have one downside (besides being expensive)–they feel slower than my woods or aluminums. Though I admit I also seem to be more prone to errors because of mindlessly zooming along. So in the end, giving all the tearing out, they might just help me finish sooner.
I hope you will find this useful. It was helpful to me to (re)test my sets for this blog. Doing a side-by-side comparison really helped me figure out which needles were best for different types of projects.
And that really is the crux. No one interchangeable needle set can do it all. But are best suited for some than others.
If I l’ve missed a set you’d recommend, I’d love to hear from you.