The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Knitting Down Memory Lane November 27, 2008

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 1:51 pm
Tags: ,

I hope everyone has a happy and delicious Thanksgiving!  Lowell and I headed back to Virginia for Thanksgiving with my family.  The only good thing about the plane flight was the uninterrupted, pure knitting time.  The bad part was that I was in the middle seat (we take turns in the middle and previous flight I got the window) and I’m kind of obsessive about not impacting the person next to me, unless it’s Lowell.  I developed an interesting twitch after sitting hunched over for 4 hours trying to knit a sock.  It’s okay, though, because the sock is lovely.  Can’t show it to you, though, because if it continues to be lovely, it’s going to be submitted to Knitty.

 

Last night, I went digging through the family room to see if I could find any of my old knitting.  I dug through tons of stuffed animals, searching for any of the doll blankets that I had made.  All I got was a lot of sneezes.  I was worried that all of the old knitting had gotten lost or disintegrated, although I’m not sure Red Heart Super Saver biodegrades.  I settled on finding my old needles and was happy to find that there were still some scraps of knitting on the needles!

 

It was really fun going through my old knitting things.  My mom gave me all her old knitting/crochet needles when I learned to knit around 9 or 10.  The needles were all kept in this great tube with a little latch at the top.  The center of the lid had a hole in it, which at the time confused me but I assumed it was to allow taller needles to fit in the tube (you could let them stick out the top).  Now I know that the hole is for the yarn, like these new containers, but I remember puzzling over it for a long time.

 

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Another thing that confused me was the DPNs.  I didn’t know why some of the needles were very short and didn’t have stoppers at the end.  And, what really confused me, was why in the world were there four of them?  I thought that you were supposed to pair them up and keep the others as spares!  I would tie pairs of needles together with scraps of yarn so that all the pairs were together.  I divided the DPNs up into pairs and tied them together.  Not all of the needles had matches, which bugged me to no end.  (Look at those DPNs… the one in the middle is the world’s longest DPN, I swear!)  I remember being very amused at the little needle protectors, although I didn’t know that’s what they were.  They’re very squishy rubber and they only cover the very tips of the needles.  The rest of the cover just flops around.

 

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I had one pair of needles that was bought just for me and those were always my favorites.  I tended towards the plastic needles over the aluminum ones, because I didn’t like how cold and hard the needles were in my hands.  I always chose color over material, though.  If I wanted to knit with blue needles, then I’d pick up some aluminum ones.  Now, I can’t stand plastic needles and only somewhat tolerate aluminum.  Ah, how things change.

 

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On to the knitting.  When I relearned knitting a few years ago, I kept knitting into the back of the stitch.  It felt more natural.  Well, that’s apparently because I was knitting all my stitches twisted as a kid.

 

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These pictures are awful, but I don’t have a lightbox or more importantly a tripod.  Look at that lovely cast on edge there, cast on with the backwards loop method.  All garter stitch, all twisted.  In a nice pastel purple Red Heart acrylic. Still on the needle, even!

 

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This piece is interesting.  It appears that I accidentally did some short rows.  One of the reasons that I quit knitting as a kid was because I could only stop at the end of a row, which was inconvenient.  If I put the needles down mid-row, I had no idea which needle had been in my right hand.  Here, I obviously picked up the knitting mid-row and continued working, having no idea (or maybe just a sneaking suspicion) that I was knitting the wrong direction!

 

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I don’t remember ever learning how to purl.  But this piece proves that I must have because here, in all it’s twisted glory, is a tiny swatch of stockinette.  This might have been near the end of my knitting as a kid, because the cast on is much nicer, but the piece is smaller.  Towards the end, I was knitting smaller pieces and sewing them together into small “blankets”.

 

Going back to my knitter roots was a lot of fun.  Because of the long gap between knitting crazes (almost 15 years!) these swatches almost seem like they belong to someone else.  It was amazing how many memories came back when I opened the tube of needles.  I wish I could find some of my finished “blankets,” but these little pieces are enough.

 

Harmony Needle Review October 13, 2008

Filed under: Reviews — Cailyn @ 4:13 pm
Tags: ,

Recently, I ordered some Harmony DPNs and circs from Knit Picks.  I know that many people think these needles are beautiful, but I thought they really weren’t my style.  I like the simple, classic look of bamboo or birch needles.  The multi-colored Harmony needles didn’t look as good to me.  My friend Kady had some though and when I saw them in person, I really liked them.  I’m still not over the moon about the colors, but I don’t really notice them as I knit.  And the smaller needles that I use for socks are mostly one color anyway.  I thought I’d put my thoughts about the needles into an easy to read review format for anyone else who’s still on the fence about them.

 

 

Harmony Wood Needles

At a Glance

  • The Good: Smooth surface; stitches slide quickly across needles without being too slippery.  Sharp tips.  Strong, durable material.  Lightweight.  Small sizes come in 6″ length, larger sizes in 8″.  Comparably priced to other wood needles.  Flexible cable in multiple lengths for Magic Loop or circular knitting.
  • The Bad: Multi-color look can be off-putting.  Can feel more like plastic than wood.  Can feel sticky when too warm.  Only available through Knit Picks.

 

The Review

The Harmony needles are made of laminated birch.  As far as I can tell, laminated birch is mostly used for flooring and furniture, meaning that it’s strong and long-lasting.  Knit Picks says that this material allows them to make the points sharper on smaller sizes without sacrificing strength.  As I said above, the colors of the Harmony needles kept me from buying them for a long time, but I don’t really notice the colors anymore.  And, really, they’re usually covered in stitches of pretty yarn.

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Harmony DPNs are divided into two sizes, 6″ and 8″.  Sizes 0 (2mm) -3 (3.25mm) are 6″ and sizes over 3  are 8″.  The ones in the pictures are size 1 (2.25mm).  Sizes are not written on the needles as is often the case with bamboo needles, but the writing/impression usually wears off my needles anyway.  I’d love some 5″ DPNs in the smaller sizes, which are my favorite for socks and glove fingers, but the 6″ is close enough.  The small sizes cost $6.79 for 6 needles, instead of the normal 5, and the large sizes range from $6.99-$9.99 for the normal 5 needles.  Of course, you can only order Harmony needles through Knit Picks whereas other wood needles you can buy through any supplier.  The Harmonies are slightly cheaper than bamboo needles from my favorite yarn shops.

 

Wooden needles are so light that gauging the difference in weight between brands is nearly impossible without a well-calibrated scale.  The Harmony needles feel as light as my Takumis or KAs.  Knit Picks advertises these needles as “unusually durable” and I believe them.  These needles are strong and sharp.  Sometimes when executing a tricky knitting move, I worry about my bamboo needles breaking, although it’s never happened.  I haven’t worried about the Harmonies- they just feel more stable.

 

The surface of the Harmony needles is as smooth as can be.  They aren’t as slippery as metal needles, but slicker than normal wood needles.  They slide through stitches like butter, especially when I was knitting with Essential.  They still retain a nice gentle “grip,” though, so stitches don’t fall off needles.  I don’t know if it’s the material, the way the wood is cut, or the finishing technique, but these needles seem incapable of splintering.  I’ve had that happen at the tip of some of my bamboo needles, but these are incredibly smooth.  So smooth that they initially feel like plastic when I pick them up.  Once they warm up they have a more wood-like feel to them.  However, when my hands get really warm, the needles feel kind of sticky.  The stitches don’t slide very well which isn’t as much of a problem with bamboo needles (although knitting with any needles when things get too warm can be annoying).

 

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The best part of these needles is the tip.  The Harmony needles, even in small sizes, are just as sharp as metal needles.  They’re great for lace and cables.  K2togs and even k3togs are a breeze.  I used my KA bamboo circs to knit my Danube socks and had trouble with the blunt points trying to do the twisted stitches.  The Harmonies knit up a swatch of twisted stitches like a dream.  I cannot stress how great the points on these needles are.  (Show in the first picture, from top to bottom: KA, Takumi, Harmony; shown in the second picture, from top to bottom: KA, Harmony, Takumi.)

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A quick word about the fixed and interchangeable Harmony needles.  The interchangeable needles are pretty much the same as the DPNs, just with a smooth join to connect to a cable.  The fixed circulars use the same cable as the interchangeable needles, even for the smaller sizes.  Unlike other wooden circ manufacturers, Knit Picks offers their fixed circular Harmony needles in lengths up to 47″ for sizes under 3.  In other words, Harmony fixed circulars are long enough for the Magic Loop.  Their cable is very flexible; I’d say it’s comparable to the Addi Turbo cable.  The join is very smooth.  I’ve been knitting my socks with 2 Harmony circs and they’ve been great, although I miss the swivel join of the KAs.

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Conclusion
The Harmony needles are a great value, especially for sock knitters who get 6 DPNs instead of 5.  The needles are slick, smooth and lightweight.  They still retain the slight grip of a wooden needle, but are faster than most.  The needles can feel sticky if the knitter’s hands are too warm, though, and sometimes the needles feel more like plastic than wood.  The circulars have a flexible cable available in a wide range of lengths.  The overwhelming advantage of these needles is their sharp point, which makes knitting lace and twisted stitches as easy as can be.  If metal needles are too slick for you and wooden needles are too dull, these are the right needles for you!

 

Vest Update! September 25, 2008

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 4:44 pm
Tags: , ,

I worked on the Estes Vest for a while last night and I’m now halfway between the waist decreases and increases.  I knit a few more rows (7 to be exact) before starting the waist shaping because I wanted the vest just a tad longer.  I’m really enjoying the project so far… but that could be because it knits up so much faster than sock yarn!  If you’ve got the pattern yourself, you might notice that I accidentally reversed the cable twists on either side of the stag cable.  But if that’s the worst “mistake” I make, I’ll be very, very happy!

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As you can see, I’m using the snazzy Knit Picks Harmony Needles.  These are the interchangable ones, which I love.  I used to use the metal ones, but apparently, my hands eat nickel needles.  I swear!  I bought an Addi Turbo circular needle last year and look what happened to it after one project. 

100_3791 Those tarnished areas are not only ugly but they keep the yarn from sliding nicely, which is the “turbo” part of “Addi Turbo.”  So far only one of the Knit Picks Nickel tips has started to show this tarnish, but I don’t use the larger needles that often and not for very long.  I’ve heard that Skacel will refund your money or send you a new set if you contact them, but I haven’t tried it.

 

It’s not too much of a problem, because I generally prefer wooden needles to metal anyway.  I like the slight grip of the wood as well as the warmth and weight.  I find wooden DPNs particularly much easier to use than aluminum ones.  The only problem is that it’s hard to find a wooden needle with that nice sharp point that metal ones have.  I especially hated knitting the Danube socks with the duller points.  Really, any time I have to do a k2tog those dull tips are an issue.

 

I had forgotten that Knit Picks made wooden needles until I was ordering the yarn for the Vest.  I had kind of steered away from them because I really don’t like the multi-colored look.  But I swallowed my aesthetics, ordered some, and I’m glad I did!  Their Harmony wood needles are almost as sharp as their metal ones.  I’m not sure how I feel about their cable for smaller needles and I think I’ll really miss the swivel action on my KAs, but I’m going to try to knit some lace socks with the Knit Picks needles and see how it goes.

 

Just for comparison, here’s the three brands of wooden needles that I have:

100_3799 The top is Takumi/Clover, size 1; the middle is Knit Picks, size 1; and the bottom is KA, size 1.  See the nice sharp point on the Knit Picks one?  I’m excited.  I’m pretty picky about my needles, so I’m sure you’ll hear much more about my search for the perfect needles.  Probably more than you ever, ever wanted to know.

 

 
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