Posts Tagged ‘win’

27
Feb

Why You Should be a Knitting Needle Snob

Posted under Knitting, Product Reviews, Techniques No Comments

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It’s all just sticks and string, so why hunt down the ‘best’ needles? Why not just use what’s most readily available? Or those vintage needles you came across? People have been knitting for hundreds of years on all sorts of things. Some of my favorite traditional knits are the Andean chullos traditionally knit on hook ended needles made of baling wire. And I’ve personally knit on toothpicks, paperclips, large dowels, and even porcupine spines! If any old stick will work, why pay more for those needles? It’s the yarn that goes into the finished piece, so isn’t the yarn the only thing you should be splurging on?

NOPE. Your needles and pattern are just as important and very much worth spending a few extra bucks to have quality because it will very much show in your finished object, even if those needles aren’t going to be a permanent part of the project, they’re just as important as the yarn. Good needles can make a bad knitter’s work look better and a great knitter’s work look horrible, just by being good or bad needles!

I’m currently working on designing a new hat using a stitch I’ve created. It’s a lovely hat and I’m sure you’ll all want to knit it when it’s released. The first hat was knit from a ball of variegated bulky weight yarn, a long on color yarn that when used with such a stitch count creates beautiful stripes. I do love the stripes, but it makes it a bit harder to appreciate the detail of the new decrease and how well it works in ribbing. As such, I purchased a new ball of yarn, the same exact brand, but in a solid color.

The first multicolor hat was knit on a set of double pointed needles and I had a bit of trouble with stitches popping right off the ends of the needles until I hit the crown decreases. It was just too many stitches for the needles. When I was out in the snow picking up the solid colored ball of yarn, I also grabbed a set of 16″ circulars in the same size. Of course I had to get a different brand as no big box shop carries the brand double point I’d been using.

The second I got home, I cast on for the new solid color hat. I’d like it done and photographed as soon as possible so I can share the pattern with you all. When I got into the knitting a ways, I stopped. Something didn’t look right at all. I compared the in-progress hat to my completed one. YEP. Something’s horribly wrong. The stitches are all correct and the new color has much better stitch definition than the multicolored yarn,  but the new needles ruined it! I was over halfway through the body of the hat section too, so it’s a bit sad to rip out. That’s probably an hour and a half of work.

Here’s a close up of the first hat’s stitches. This bit is plain k1p1 ribbing.

Multicolor hat stitches

It’s beautiful, right? The stitches are even, uniform and straight. Now, here’s the same exact pattern and size hat knit in the same brand of 100% acrylic yarn one day later by the same knitter on different needles. Neither piece has been blocked.

solid hat stitches

 

Can you see the differences? The blue one looks horrible. The stitches are crooked with the left leg dominant. It’s wider and sticks up from the fabric more than the right one. Some stitches are more squat, some are taller, and some are just plain wonky.

The needle change also affected gauge in addition to the shape of individual stitches. The multicolor hat has 9 ribs in 4 inches where as the blue one has 8 ribs in 4 inches.

Gauge of multicolor ribbed hat

Gauge of solid ribbed hat

Changing needle brands means redoing your gauge swatch. Changing brands of knitting needles, particularly if that includes a change of knitting needle material, requires redoing your swatch. While only one rib, two stitches, in four inches doesn’t seem like much, in bulky yarn over enough stitches for an adult sized hat, that equates to adding about two and a half inches to the circumference of the hat. That’s huge!

Ribbed Hat difference with ruler

I know the ruler here only shows one and a quarter inches difference, but you’ve got to multiply that by two since there’s two layers under that ruler. Even if it were only an inch off though, that’d surely be enough for a strong wind to carry your hat away while out walking the dog on a brisk winter day.

What are the things that matter about a pair of needles? Generally the tips and the material. How sharp are the needles? How smooth are they? Do the cables have good flex yet aren’t too soft if they’re circulars? Here’s the needles I used for these hats.

Sharps versus Clover

 

The taper on the tip is nearly identical between these needles which is why I was willing to give the cheap and most importantly immediately available ones a chance. The metal ones have a slightly sharper tip, but almost imperceptibly so. The big failure here is that the bamboo needles are a little sticky. Not sticky like they were covered in toddler hand goo, but more in that the yarn doesn’t slide freely down the needle. You’ve got to stop and readjust the knitting to move more stitches to the top. The stitches don’t slide over the join from the cable and back up over the needle well either.

So, what are these needles of win and doom that are making and breaking such a hat? Surely one cost four or five times what the other did, right? Not at all actually. At regular prices one is $8.99USD and the other is $11.50USD with the $11.50 ones being the better ones. Of course given that the cheap ones are from a big box shop though, you could use a 40% off coupon on them which is exactly what I did as it was the only thing I was buying at that shop. That drops them down to $5.40 which means the better needles still are less than twice the cost of the bad ones! Here they are, the hat-ruining Clover bamboo needles and the wonderful but harder-to-come-by HiyaHiya Sharps made of stainless steel.

Clover and Sharps

So what are your favorite brands? What needles will you avoid at all costs? Do you have any problems with allergies to knitting needle materials? I adore the Addi needles, but I have trouble with the nickel in them. I’ve tried their brass line as well, but the smell drives me bonkers!

Lastly, keep in mind that yarn can vary in thickness even within the same brand and weight, so when changing between colors, you might want to redo your gauge swatch too, even if you’re using the same needles. Multicolor acrylics are notoriously thinner than their solid counterparts. If anyone knows why this is, I’d love to know!

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24
Jul

El Paso County State Fair

Posted under Crochet, Knitting, Life, Scroll Saw, Toys, Woodworking No Comments

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At a local friend’s urging, I decided to enter some of my fiber arts work into the county fair. I figured that since I’ve only been knitting since February 2010, surely I would rank mediocre at best. I like to try some unusual and challenging pieces, but I still feel like such a beginner! I figured I didn’t have much to lose since the entry fee is only $5 though, so I got to work on some special projects.

My first project for the fair was a pair of socks I’ve been wanting to knit for myself for quite some time. I’d seen someone else win a second place ribbon in one of my Ravelry groups with some knee-high socks, so I figured that knee-high socks were an impressive enough sort of project to enter into a fair.  I ordered the yarn and made a few modifications to the pattern. The pattern was beautiful as written, but featured many floats over 5 stitches which is not structurally sound or traditional knitting. These socks also had a heel type I’d never tried before that is unique to traditional Norwegian stockings. It was great fun to learn the new heel and to do so much stranded colorwork. That’s my favorite kind of knitting to do. It takes just the right amount of attention to detail and works up into a nice, thick fabric. I like my knits to be cozy.

The hardest part of these socks was actually blocking them. I’d never blocked socks before, but I figured they needed to be done up nicely. I couldn’t find large enough sock blockers anywhere, so I ended up having to make them myself. Unfortunately, I’m not doing well enough physically since the most recent accident to be using my power tools. I broke a half dozen blades and failed at cutting on the lines I’d drawn on the plywood. The sock blockers aren’t great, but they’re enough to get the job done. Any puckering from the stranding blocked right out of the socks.

Then, because I was trying to work on the project anyhow to publish the pattern, I decided the bird I was knitting could be entered in the knit toy category of the fiber arts department. I’m currently working on getting the pattern typed up and materials to a test knitter. The pattern will be available for purchase and download by the end of the year. The entire bird is knit from Knit Picks Palette yarn on size 0 needles. It’s stuffed with wool as well, and has wool wrapped wire for the feet and crown feather. The eyes are 1/4″ rounded-top, shank-style buttons. I made the stand out of craft wood from Michaels Arts and Crafts and painted it out matte black so it wouldn’t fight with the cockatiel for the eye.

Finally, right after the most recent accident, a Ravelry friend of mine gifted me a pattern for a crocheted schnauzer as a feel better and know you’re loved sort of thing. I figured I’d better crochet a little dog and post pictures to show my appreciation. I didn’t really want a great big toy dog cluttering up the place though, so I unraveled some wool yarn and crocheted with only one ply of yarn on a size 7 steel crochet hook. This made an itty bitty toy dog and almost everything is better in miniature! I also rewrote the legs in the pattern, did the face embroidery differently, and needle felted in the beard. I made him a collar out of the finest red ribbon I had and stitched on a sequin to be his dog tag. His eyes are two black beads that were in with the rest of my seed beads but mysteriously a size larger than the rest. Working on such a small scale with such fragile single ply wool was a pain, but the end result was totally worth it. He came out so well I decided I may as well enter him too. After all, you can enter up to 10 items for the $5 entry fee. You only have to pay extra if you enter more than 10 different items in 10 different classes. You also only get $4 back if you win a first place ribbon though, and I wanted to up my chances of making back my $5. When you’re really broke, that $5 matters a lot!

When I finally got to go to the fair after judging on Saturday, I was greeted pretty quickly with my knit socks. They won first place in the knitted accessory category (socks, hats, gloves and such) and won the Adult Fiber Arts Department Reserve Champion ribbon. I had to ask what that meant exactly, and it’s second place out of all adult fiber arts entries: knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, tatting, felting, and rug hooking. How exciting!

Then I found my knit bird and crocheted dog in the glass display case. They each also had a first place ribbon for their category on them, knit toys and crochet toys respectively! I was thrilled!

We looked around at all the other entries for a while, and we couldn’t find the Adult Fiber Arts Department Champion. I really wanted to see what was nicer than my socks. We asked and were told that not all the ribbons were on the items yet. The woman helping us went to check the record book and when she came back, she was carrying the champion ribbon to hang on my crocheted dog! I couldn’t believe it! I won every single award my items were eligible for, three first places, the department champion, and the reserve champion!

I’m so excited. I can’t wait to pick my items up, show off the ribbons and projects at show-and-tell at the Front Range Fiber Artisans annual picnic, and get my winners (the socks and dog only) to the state fair. I’d send the bird too, but the state fair combines knit and crochet toys into one class, so I can only enter one of them. Fingers crossed for more success at the state level. It’s much more competitive and you don’t even get your items displayed unless you win.

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