Let’s Talk Needles – What Do You Really Need?

Knitting needles come in all materials, brands, and sizes. But what do we really need in our “must have” toolkit? 

Recently, I cleaned out my drawers of unused knitting needles and donated them to my child’s school. The librarian had a knitting elective for the middle school students and needed starter needles. (Wish I had gone to that school!) I learned a lot myself, seeing what I kept and what I donated.

I’ve gone to almost exclusively bamboo or wood needles. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I seem to be able to knit longer and more comfortably with bamboo needles. However, I had a surplus of my favorite size, 8, and still had to go to the craft store when I needed yet another size I didn’t have. I finally purchased a set of interchangeable bamboo needles. Not only are my knitting needles much more organized and in one place, I have just about every size I could possibly ever need. It was a good investment.

And then I took up sock knitting, which I quickly learned needed a whole new set of knitting tools. I’m adverse to double pointed needles, so I got myself a teeny-tiny set of interchangeables just for socks. They came in a cute little cloth pouch that’s handy when travelling and includes teeny-tiny markers I didn’t know I needed until I began using them. Once I got to the toes of my first socks, I grudgingly realized I did need a set of double pointed needles. Having read reviews saying the small wooden double points tend to snap in two, I got an inexpensive set of metal double points to cover most projects. They get the job done. 

Despite the cost, I’ve become a fan of sets of needles sold in organized, built-to-last packaging. I’ve ultimately saved a lot of time scrounging around my needle supply drawer, wondering if I have the right sized needles for a new project. Now I know I’m set for life (I hope). Are the sets more expensive? Yes. I wish I had started out with sets years ago, but they weren’t available back then. 

And is my beloved craft of knitting worth an investment in the most effective and comfortable knitting needles I can afford? You bet!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a book of interrelated short stories and women who knit and those who receive their wonderful gifts, mostly out of the blue. The first chapter of The Prayer Shawl Chroniclesis available to read as a free sample by clicking “Look Inside” at this link

Knitting Terminology Justs Makes It Seem Hard – Socks Aren’t That Difficult

When I last blogged, I had just finished knitting my first pair of socks. I used the “afterthought heel” method, leaving a grafted row where the heel would go, then knitting the heel last. That method seemed less intimidating, an easier way to knit a pair of socks than the more traditional method of making a heel flap, heel turn, and gusset.

Heel flap? Heel turn? Gusset? I couldn’t imagine what those things could be. Even after knitting a multitude of sweaters, shawls, blankets, and tote bags, that knitting terminology scared the living daylights out of me.

Then I actually tried knitting a pair of socks using these traditional elements, and bingo, I mastered them on the first try. I’m not a knitting genius; these techniques just aren’t that hard.

Here’s the honest truth about this terminology:

           “Heel flap” just means knit straight down for a couple of inches. Put half the stitches on a holder to keep them out of the way. Your pattern might call for you to slip some stitches. No big deal.

            “Heel turn” just means flip the dang thing around to the other side when the pattern says so. Make some decreases along the way. Again, no big deal. 

   “Gusset” just means you pick up some stitches, then decrease along the sides of the sock for a bit. Again, easy-peasy. You make a nifty-looking triangle before you know what hit you.

There, that’s not so bad, is it? The process of making a sock simply uses basic techniques you probably already know – decreases using either K2Tog or slip-slip-knit, slipping stitches from one needle to the other (easier than actually knitting or purling), or turning your work around backwards.  To learn to do these skills, view a couple of YouTube videos for a few minutes. Google these terms, and a zillion video links will pop up, most of them free and well-done.

It’s the knitting terminology that scares us from improving and expanding our skills, I’ve learned, not the actually knitting of the sock itself. So if you’ve never gotten out of your comfort zone to try a new skill, remember that whatever you’re learning likely won’t be as difficult as you imagine – whether it’s knitting or any other life skill.

Blessings, Cindy

Tackling Hand-Knit Socks for the First Time

After knitting since I was a teenager, I finally knit my first pair of socks. I’ve knit blankets, sweaters, five sets of place mats, more shawls than I care to think about, and even a couple of baby outfits. But socks???!!!  I was totally intimidated by the mere thought of knitting socks.

But my husband dearly wanted a pair of all-wool, hand-knit socks. He’s a serious woodworker, and he’s made me a living room sofa, chairs, picture frames, and numerous book shelves. How could I refuse to make him one measly pair of socks? My darling husband pushed me over the edge of my discomfort by telling me that knitting socks is like making a chair in woodworking. Yes, it’s difficult; but if you want to call yourself a serious crafter, this is what you need to learn to make. 

Then, lo and behold, the knitting kit subscription service I just joined sent me – of course – a sock knitting kit. I’d have to do it. Despite my lack of comfort with double-pointed needles, yarn so thin you can hardly see it, and teeny-tiny needles, I bit the bullet and endeavored to persevere on my first pair of socks.

Sock Under Construction, with graft for afterthought heel

Okay, sock knitting wasn’t so bad. I ditched the irritating double-pointed needles for a new set of tiny circular needles, only using the double points for the end of the toes and heels. The pattern called for an “afterthought heel,” which involved “lifelines” and a “graft.” As terrifying as those concepts seemed, I mastered them on the first try and actually produced a functioning pair of socks. My husband loves them. All’s right with the world around my house.

Like any new endeavor, knitting socks came seem daunting before you actually try it. But if you have some basic knitting skills, you can take the dare and master a couple of new skills that open new possibilities for your craft. You just need to give it a try. 

Here are some tools I found helpful in tackling sock knitting for the first time:

ChiaoGoo Twist Shorties Red Lace Interchangeable Knitting Needles. Pricey? Yes. Necessary? Oh yes. After deciding I couldn’t deal with double pointed needles for an entire project, I found these after a lengthy search for just the right sock needles. They come in a well-made pouch that will fit in a purse. The set includes teeny-tiny stitch markers for use with small sized projects (my regular sized markers fell off), a small ruler, three tiny cables and two sets of needle points. Highly recommended.

Clover Double Pointed Needles. Even if you use circular needles for most of your socks, you’ll still need double points right before you bind off the toes and heels. I love my Clover bamboo needles and added a new set of double points to my collection just for socks. 

Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. If you don’t use a kit, this book comes highly rated. Methods using both circular needles and double pointed needles are covered, including all the basics. 

Good luck to those tackling sock knitting for the first time!

Cindy

My First Completed Sock