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How to Become an "Expert Knitter"   *Buy this book on CD for offline reading!

table of contents Ľ chapter 2 (of 29)

2: Needles & Accessories

As you knit more garments,
you will build up a collection of needles and bits and pieces. I love finding a previously unknown-to-me knitting shop which might have new jiggers I can buy.

One of my greatest delights is a hunt through an op-shop, or a second-hand shop. As well as endless boxes of old (often boring) knitting patterns, I find zillions of needles and knitting helpers, and previously treasured knitting dictionaries and stitch books.

Another wonderful find can be an old tea cosies. The variety of stitches and techniques are inspirational. The colours used can also make your heart jump. I saw one with striped pom-poms in a brilliant combination of colours that sounds dull when described, but looked fantastic. I collect so many other things, that I have so far stopped myself from collecting tea cosies, but I think I will break down very soon.

Search for the button boxes or bottles. Every op-shop has them. And look at the knitted garments hanging sadly, waiting for a new person to appreciate the effort of some anonymous knitter. They often have terrific buttons, if not some interesting stitch or colour combination.

Whilst I browse, I think of my children delivering all my stuff to the nearest op-shop. ďMum did a lot of knitting. Maybe someone might be able to use theseĒ.

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You only need yarn, two needles, scissors (or teeth) and a sewing needle to make a garment, but there are some useful accessories you can collect along the way when you try different yarns and techniques.

If I was stranded on a desert island with knitting yarn, some buttons and a box containing all the following items, I could make any piece of knitwear imaginable.

You donít need everything on my list, so I will comment on each item, and then you can make your own selection. The list is not in order of importance, itís just as I see the bits and pieces.

1.

Buy short, medium, long and extra long single pointed knitting needles in all sizes.



Short needles are wonderful to use, as the ends donít bump your arms or get caught on things around you. They need less manoeuvring as the ends are too close to wave about. I find I knit more quickly and evenly with short needles. The only problem is that they are not always available.

Medium length needles accommodate most sizes, but knitting small pieces on too-long needles is aggravating.

Long and extra long needles are only needed for a huge amount of stitches. They are uncomfortable to use and hard to control, so I prefer to use a circular needle (see 2) or a pair of button ended needles (see 3) if I have to work a large number of stitches.



It is possible to buy complete sets of single pointed needles in compartmentalised packs. One of my sets has an extra panel in the middle with a tape measure, a metric needle gauge, three cable needles in different sizes, two row counters (large and small for different needles), blunt and pointed yarn sewing needles, a needle threader and a space for something I have lost. I think it was for a pair of scissors. I have added a sliding stitch gauge measure (unfortunately only metric) and a set of crochet needles in a slim case. A wonderful travelling pack.



The drawback is that the needles are only in the medium length. There are no short needles in the small sizes, and the big fat needles are only in the medium length. This makes them unsuitable for knitting large pieces which is usually what you need to do with thick yarns. However, itís a good try.

Then there is the debate about which needle
s are best to knit with. Some people swear by metal needles, some people say they cannot use them because the metal makes their hands ache. That doesnít happen to me, I just prefer to use plastic or tortoiseshell. My latest find is needles made of casein, which I read on the packet is a milk by-product. The needles are nice to use, the points are not too sharp (just right to slip easily into a stitch). My fingers donít develop holes and the knitting seems to fly.

There are also some marvellous pearlised plastic needles which have a weight in the tip. I believe the weight makes my knitting faster.

2.

Circular needles or twin pins can be used for all kinds of knitting in the round, except for small tube shapes, like gloves and socks, which need double pointed needles (see 5). Use circular needles for flat knitting with large numbers of stitches. You can often find these needles in sets, but if you just pick them out of your knitting box, they are unmarked. This is where you need a needle gauge or a piece of paper (see 18).


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