Tools of the Trade: On Figuring Out Needles, Knitting Style and Yarn Hauls

After reading Alex’s post about knitting style I decided to start jotting down all the thoughts swirling around in my head. The result was possibly a more jumbled mess than I expected on Friday but as I got my last order of anything knitting related in yesterday, things started to fall into place.

The knitting style part isn’t as complicated, so let’s start there.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with my knitting style and have decided to make the switch to pure Continental knitting as part of my plan to gradually switch over to Portuguese knitting. I’m not entirely sure which will work best but I like the mechanics enough that I need both in my tool box/ skill set. Since I am going to start to knit my own tops in order to live a bit more sustainably, I need to make sure that I knit in a sustainable fashion.

I should clarify that I’m not entirely sure what I knit before. I taught myself to knit, so I just went with whatever worked but as I started to knit more, particularly with finer weight yarns, I found that my knitting isn’t as consistent as I’d like and my hands start to ache a bit after a knit for a good while; it was time for a change. Continental seemed the obvious choice, since I already held the yarn in my left hand (I hear that this has to do with my starting off in crochet but I am still somewhat ambidextrous so keeping the tension with my left just makes sense). So after re-injuring my ankle, I decided it was time get on Youtube and attempt to try to learn proper Continental technique.

So far, so good. I’m painfully slow, but the tension is great, I’m a bit more consistent, and any discomfort is gone. I haven’t completely switched over, mind, but I find myself knitting the old way less and less. Once I’m a bit more comfortable, I think I’ll go get a lesson for Portuguese knitting.

This naturally brings me to the subject of needles.

Given that I’m knitting my own tops now, and most of the patterns that I’ve chosen are worked in the round, I found myself in need of some tools and completely stuck on which to get. Everyone I know that knits garments uses circular needles and though I am really intrigued with the idea of having interchangeable circs, I haven’t forgotten that the two experiences I’ve had trying to use these kind of needle has not gone the least bit well. It could have been that I was a lot less experienced, or that the kind of needles I tried weren’t for me – or that I just wasn’t meant to use circular needles. I am totally willing to suck it up and learn to use them if that’s the only sane way to knit garments, but I’m not entirely convinced that using big DPNs (which I LOVE for socks) will make things that much harder, so I came up with the traditional Pro&Con list below:

Interchangeable Circular Needles

Pros:

  • Versatility
  • Efficient storage
  • You can try stuff on more easily/I always see people knitting sweaters and tops with them and that’s what I’d like to be knitting.

Cons:

  • Sets are pricey
  • Cords and lots of parts
  • I need to learn to use them
  • I’m not sure I want more plastic in my life – yes, I know I’ll have them forever but if they break/wear out, then they’re off to a landfill.

Double Pointed Needles

Pros:

  • I know how to use them and breaking up the project among different needles helps me make sense of it.
  • Wooden DPNs can be ethically sourced and are compostable
  • I like how old-timey they feel/needing to replace one needle doesn’t stop your progress

Cons:

  • I have to buy a bunch of sizes – possibly in both 6″ and 10″ lengths – not sure how knitting sweaters works on DPN’s
  • I might have to buy more storage
  • $$$ (It’s all about the Hamiltons…)

What do you all think?

To tell you the truth, I think I’m over the whole shopping/buying aspect of knitting. As I try to knit more sustainably, I have to do more research, which is time I’d rather spend knitting – and let’s face it, knitting gets expensive real quick. Yes, even when stuff is on sale. I just want to skip to the knitting πŸ™‚

I know that there is a big learning curve to knitting. In addition to learning knitting styles, different stitches and how to make different things, over time you learn what you like to knit as well as what you like to knit with and I guess that this is the reason that I had a huge bin of yarn to work with but nothing to knit the projects I’d like to start. This was kind of a wake-up call for the minimalist within and I’ve given myself a deadline. I need to get through all the yarn in my yarn bin before 2017, or I have to gift or donate it.

Yes, I did just make that rule after taking advantege of KnitPicks Halloween sale but since all this yarn is already designated to projects I’ve started or am going to start soon, I’m not too worried. I’m actually kind of excited since this is the first time I’ll be knitting with Sport and DK weight. It took a while but I finally figured out that Oakland is way too warm to have tops knit out of Worsted weight, so I got rid of most of those patterns (some I’d like to adapt to a different weight) in my queue. It can get pretty cold here, but since we have a layering kind of thing going on (you never leave the house without a sweater in the SF Bay) I think it will work out.

There are two skeins of yarn not accounted for here because after getting a coupon code from KnitPicks, I decided to get three sets of 8″ DPNs sizes US 5, 6, 7 and I added two different orange yarns to the mix. Since it’s kind of impossible to match the orange I began the blanket with, I’ve decided to use three oranges to mix it up a bit. After a lot of thought, and making up the 2017 rule, I decided that the most cost effective way to go was the DPN route. This isn’t to say that I’m set on this path but it stall the final decision until 2017, when I’ll have an empty yarn bin and thus room to make big decisions like that.

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29 thoughts on “Tools of the Trade: On Figuring Out Needles, Knitting Style and Yarn Hauls

  1. I would advise heading over to Knit Picks and picking up ONE pair of interchangeable needles in your most used size.

    I picked up a pair as an add-on item, and it gave me an idea of the things I liked/didn’t like about that particular style. That way- if you do decide to invest in a whole set- you will know it’s attributes before you’re stuck with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good call! This gives me a great idea. I bought yarn for two separate incarnations of the Gemini top, so perhaps I should knit one with the DPNs and the other with the single pair of interchangeable needles and make the decision after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, so much of this resonates with me. I think I’m equal parts minimalist and hoarder (sounds impossible, but bear with me) so I’m pretty frequently conflicted about knitting, yarn and supplies. I love, I mean LOVE, a bargain so I end up with lots of random yarn that I have trouble putting to good use. I hang onto it because I don’t want it to be wasted. At the same time, all that stuff tends to take on a life of its own. And when I go to start a project, it’s very difficult sometimes to find an appropriate yarn out of what I already have. It would make a lot more sense to just choose projects and then buy the yarn for them, but that doesn’t seem to be how I work. I’m going on a bit of a yarn diet and I have some plans for whittling down my stash in the meantime. I’m hoping that will help me feel better about it all.

    As for needles…if you can do dpns, you can definitely do circulars. They’re really much easier. I echo Talya’s suggestion to just get one circ and try using it. You could try the Tools Destash forum on ravelry and maybe find something on the cheap. They come in all materials, not just plastic (although the cables are mostly plastic). When you’re using them, some tips are to make sure when you’re starting your first round that your stitches aren’t twisted (same as dpns). Also, choose a cable length that’s appropriate for your project. A 40″ cable is great for a blanket, but not for a hat. You want the cable to be long enough that you have room for all the stitches but not so long that the stitches are stretched out. It’s a good idea to use stitch markers as the start of the round won’t be as obvious as it is with dpns.

    Whew…sorry for writing a book!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don’t ever be sorry. I really want to have a discussion about this because turning it over in my head doesn’t make things make any more sense πŸ™‚

      I can totally believe being a minimalist and a hoarder at once. I hate to be wasteful so I’ve kept most of the yarn I’ve inherited or over-bought for projects when I didn’t have a good sense of how much I’d need and didn’t want to run out.
      Recently, I’ve started buying yarn for specific patterns – these say exactly how much I need so the guess work comes more from my being inbetween sizes – and I have to say that it feels really good, so this is why I’m doing the 2017 thing. I need a clean slate and I think that will be just the thing.

      I had no idea there was a Tools Destash forum – that’s brilliant and goes perfectly with Tayla’s idea. I’m definitely going for it. I’ll knit the same top twice, once with each kind of needle (and the appropriate cable) and make my decision then.

      There you got a novel back πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

  3. In my opinion, circular needles are best for big projects like sweater and cardigan, and with them, you don’t take the risk to drop stitches as it is all secured on 1 cable.
    When I started knitting seriously, I bought myself a set of KnitPro circular needles, the wood ones called Symphony (4 cables, 8 pairs of needles from 3,5mm to 8mm) as I thought with this lovely and complete kit I can knit anything, right? Well, not really, after a couple of years using the set I noticed that I never used the biggest sizes, and I didn’t have the small sizes I needed for small projects in the kit (2,5mm and 3mm) so I had to buy them separately. I would definitely follow Talya’s advice and only buy your favorite size(s) to start with! I hope this helps πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It helps tremendously, thank you! And you Bing up a great point: no matter where you start, you’ll evolve and then need other tools. I’m off to Ravelry to see if I can find a single interchangeable circ (US 5 and/or US 6) and try my luck with that. Right now I’m excited to knit the same garment using both kinds of needles to see which one works best for me πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ok…I’m going to assume you haven’t done Magic Loop because of your use of DPNs. But, you know what that makes me? A 40″ cable can be used to make a hat and socks and everything in between. You just have a lot of loop for the project πŸ™‚ It’s better than not enough, believe me! I know, that you know, that I was scared of DPNs before I started my first pair of socks. Now, I’m not. However, I cannot imagine knitting a sweater on them!

    I have two sets of interchangeables that can be used for almost every project. The one that I would recommend the most? ChiaGoo Red Lace. It comes in sizes 2-15. The cables are super flexible…something that I don’t find with the cheaper brands like Boye <shudder to think I used to try to knit on those…no wonder I gave up at that time!). They are expensive, however I considered them an investment in my knitting future.

    Another set I like (and own) are the Knit Picks Options Interchangeable Rainbow Wood Circular Knitting Needle Set. That was the first set I bought and the cables also have no memory so are easy to work with. I love them too! However, they only come with sizes 4-11.

    I just needed a set that would work with lace since I've been doing so much of it and the ChiaGoo's have pointier tips, which make lace sooooo much easier, plus every day knitting. If I would have known about the ChiaGoo's first, I would have bought them and not spent the money on the Knit Picks. I know that everyone has their own opinion, so I highly recommend Alex's approach to try out a few different types and see what you like before investing in a whole set. Amazon also has amazing deals on individual circular needles.

    Ok…now, I've also written a book! I hear you about the different yarn choices. I can't tell you how many one skeins I've bought (actually I could…cause I have them in my stash on Ravelry)…however won't bore you on those details. I have actually started buying for projects and then working on other stuff while I wait for yarn πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard of this Magic Loop thingy but I’ve been scared of dealing with cables and circs in general so I just put it out of my mind. I know I need to deal with that but yeah… I’m being a craft wuss right now πŸ™‚
      I’m jotting down the name of your interchangeables and doing some major research. Wolfberryknits suggested that I drop some hints for the holidays and I need to have a good idea of what to hint towards πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I completely resonate with the whole minimalist hoarder thing. I try and keep tabs on what projects I keep around because I can and then which ones I keep because I actually want. Want wins and then I cull the rest. As I do more projects, my skills and options broaden, so I look for different things in a project. It would be backwards to keep myself chained to systematically go through a project list since they grow quicker than I can knit or quilt. So in order that I am not constantly at the beginning stages of my list it gets rearranged all the time. (Yet my materials stay the same.) Does that make sense? I would say knit with what makes you feel like a badass knitter! It is a slow progress, even if your the quickest knitter. So even if dpns aren’t the norm for tops, pioneer your way through that territory. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this response so much – I kind of feel like I can craft anything now! Thank you πŸ˜€

      There’s a lot of wisdom here, but I’m going to have to get some sleep before I try to match wits. I’ll respond tomorrow.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. “As I do more projects, my skills and options broaden, so I look for different things in a project. It would be backwards to keep myself chained to systematically go through a project list ”

      I love this quote. I think it’s helped me make my peace with a lot of the yarns I won’t get to knit. Most of them are Worsted weight and though I still like them, that’s not what I’m knitting these days, so now that I have some of the material that makes me feel like a badass, I can let the yarn that I don’t absolutely love go. Thanks for that πŸ˜€

      I’m also really excited about this pioneer business! Before plastic was commonplace, people actually did knit circular garments on DPNs, so I’m kind of going hella old-school with the knitting. I can’t wait for my needles to arrive!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. I used to feel bad about starting a new project and ignoring what I had previously planned as my next project. It just becomes a drag when you feel like you ‘have to’. Like knitting homework. Ah, wait, that sounds really nice… did you get bamboo dpns? I’m always drawn to metal needles for some reason, but I have noticed any metal dpns. I wonder if they exist? Off I go see! ☺

        Liked by 2 people

        1. They do! I just like the feel of the bamboo – and I’m kind of weird as to the reason. Whenever I inherit metal needles, I can tell exactly how their previous owner knit with them and I find that kind of creepy. Eventually they take on my particular grip and all is well but yeah…. Bamboo and wood don’t seem to do this as noticeably.

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          1. Ah, I get you on the previous handling. I never let people learn on my metal ones anymore. Everyone just bends them in strange ways! I think it’s because I learnt on metal ones that I favour them. Also, you can get them in loads of colours! ☺

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  6. Lol enjoyed your post, it’s all kind of been said here already but I will add…I am a Knitpro Symfonie girl, for me they work for everything, I made this VERY obvious to my parents and for a graduation present they got me the dpns set and the interchangeable set…just saying…birthday or anything celebratory coming up? Hints you could drop? πŸ™‚ I love my needles with a passion, they are now so well used they look French polished. πŸ™‚ I have still had to buy the odd extras because I tend to have so many projects on the go at once…but the investment was totally worth it (haha easy to say when it wasn’t my money!) πŸ™‚ good luck in your search!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, there’s an idea! My mother in law does love getting me craft stuff, maybe I could tell my wife and she could pass than on for the holidays…. I haven’t heard of those needles before…. I guess if I want to drop some hints it’s time for some research! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s all been said above – but yes, buy a pair of circulars and see how it goes. IMO much much better than DPNS. I’d also add, which I don’t think’s been said above, I find fixed circulars better for moving the stitches past the join where the needles meets the flexible bit. And even if you do go for interchangeables, you might better off with individual interchangeables rather than a set – I tend to use the same sizes again and again so you might not want all the sizes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point, I think I’ll probably end up building my own set of interchangeables if I go with circs. Getting individual circs is a deal-breaker for me simply because of space πŸ™‚
      I don’t think DPNs get enough credit. I’ve had hard time with them and I really dig them for socks and hats.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the interchangeable circular needles. Some of the cheaper ones tend to break easily? I’m sticking with the non-interchangeable version. I have a spare A5 folder and I’ll store them in that. They’re useful for things like scarves etc as well as other larger items. Nice to have on hand.

    The DP’s I’ve got half a set already so I will keep collecting. But I haven’t done any DP projects yet (I promise I will start socks soon!). But I inherited some from my nan, so they most be useful!!! So was an amazing knitter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, take your time with the socks – actually, I recommend starting to use DPNs for something bigger like a hat or a cowl before socks, just so you get accustomed to them.

      I’ve also heard mixed reviews on different kinds of circs there’s always some talk or another about the joins and materials but up until now I haven’t paid much attention since my last experience with circs wasn’t exactly positive. I hear tell that it’s much easier to knit stuff on them but I’ve yet to experience that.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love interchangeable needles. However, I tend to be a monogamous knitter, which means I don’t need many different cables or many sets of the same size needles. I did invest in a set, and I can seriously say I don’t regret what I paid for them. I went for the Chiao Goo Lace, in case you’re wondering.

    As for Portuguese knitting, I can say it’s wonderful for your hands because you only need to flick your thumb to knit or purl, but your gauge might change because this style increases tension. Portuguese was the first style I ever learnt, and my nan still looks at me funny when I do English knitting because she never knew there were other styles!
    I do recommend you check out Improve Your Knitting by Patty Lyons on Craftsy, it’s well worth your money! Lots of different techniques, styles, and tips. Patty is also a lot of fun to listen to πŸ™‚

    And… if you do decide you need to donate yarn, you can kindly send the yellow and grey Knit Picks my way, please πŸ˜€ What gorgeous combination!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I love that combination too – which is why that’s the first bit of yarn from the stash that’s getting knit up ino a sweater πŸ™‚ My deadline is for all the acrylic I ended up with from the early knitting days. I took some to knit up into a cowl on my trip and I think I will follow your lead and knit up some blankets for my local dog shelters, but if I can’t use it all by the deadline, it has to go. I have some tweed that I’m kind of afraid to work with too, but hopefully I can figure out how to make something cool with it.

      You’re the third vote for that kind of circ! I’m definitely putting them on the holiday list and see if anyone wants to spoil me with them – or bribe me into knitting something for them with said gift πŸ˜‰

      When I injured my foot, I tried out Portuguese knitting a bit and even my clumsy attempts felt really good, so I’m definitely making it my new year’s goal – and I’ll for sure go check out that Craftsy tip πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to know you’re inspired to help shelters! I think if I had a small dog I’d be one of those people knitting ridiculous clothes for them 😁
        A word of caution on the circs – mine are indeed amazing, but the metal bit tends to come unscrewed quite easily, so I’ve gotten into the habit of tightening them at every turn of needles. Not the best thing, but I love everything else about them!
        Let me know what you think of the class if you take it! Even my other half thought she was funny 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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