Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tools of the Trade, Tuesday

If nothing else it made for a good title!

But, seriously, let's talk tools for a little bit.

You may remember that I got myself some fancy mini ChiaoGoo interchangeable needles recently and I played around with them for a little bit.  Actually the size 0's are still in the "Little Sister" swatch that hasn't been cast off for my ColourMart Lover's Spring Contest entry that has been cast off.  They are absolutely the right tools for certain projects, specifically any project that I think I might need to change needle sizes mid-stream in, as it is sooooooo much easier to just swap out the needle tips than to transfer everything to a new needle.  But are they strictly necessary?  No.  Do I love them anyway?  Oh yes!

I was sitting in a waiting area early this morning, knitting on a sock, and one of the other people that was also sitting waiting appeared very interested in what I was doing.  Now, as a knitter, there are two ways I can approach that situation.  One is to just keep knitting as if I didn't notice that they were staring, the other is to strike up a conversation.

I started talking!

"It will be a sock, you can't really tell yet because I just started it" were my opening words and the conversation went on from there to tales of the other person learning how to knit, using chopsticks from a "fast food" Chinese Food Place in Hilliard, OH as needles.  She wasn't sure of the yarn, but based on the description it was probably some variation of an acrylic worsted weight.  Certainly not fancy interchangeable needles, or cashmere yarn,  and she knit a perfectly serviceable scarf. (Although I always cringe when I hear that miles of garter stitch scarf were someone's first project!)

Would her knitting have been better if she had used "real" knitting needles?  Maybe. For a first project maybe not as well.

But, I stand by my theory of I buy the best tools I can, that way I can, with some luck and a whole lot of years of practice, create some pretty darn good finished objects.  I love my ChiaoGoo Needles, for a lot of projects, but they are not always my "go to needle".  For lace, they are, because they are a little bit grabby and a little bit slick and ever so pointy.

That said, I like Knit Picks nickle plated needles as well.  Not so grabby, nearly as pointy and  very slick for fast knitting.

Of course, the prize in my needle collection has to go to my "old style" signature arts needles.  Ever so pointy and very slick for fast knitting!

Add some good yarn and any knitter would be set.

You want me to define good yarn?

Good yarn is the right yarn for the project.

Am I a yarn snob?  A little bit!  I like silk, cashmere, extra fine merino...but sometimes the right yarn for the job is acrylic. (Hey Dragons I am looking at you here! And you can stop looking at me like that, there have been other projects with deadlines, I will get to you.)

But, after yarn and needles what tools are really needed to be a knitter?

In my "tool box" I have blocking wires....no wait, let me take that back, I have welding rods.  Honest to Gosh, sold to weld with rods that came in a plastic tube.  Great for blocking the tops of shawls, or the long straight edges of things.  I cut a bunch in half, and some in quarter lengths for smaller items and still have more than enough long ones to block a ton of shawls at once, for much less than the price of a blocking kit from even the most inexpensive retailer.

That said, I also have some really fancy flexible blocking wires for curves and edges to shawls.  They are the best for those items, places where I could either use ten million pins or just one curvy wire!

I have blocking mats, which were originally bought to soften the floor of the basement for the kids to play on. Much cheaper than again, an inexpensive option that is sold as "blocking mats".  You might have noticed from some of my blocking pics that mine get a lot of use, lots of pin holes in them...maybe soon it will be time for new ones!  I think I will go with the floor mats again!

T-pins I will shell out the extra to get the rust free, stainless ones from the big box craft stores.  Just about every time I think about it I buy some more, I use them a lot too!

Row counters can be as simple as a piece of paper and a pencil, or as complicated as you want to make them. (I am the piece of paper kind of gal for that.) And TDQ keeps me well stocked with pretty stitch markers, even though I don't use them much and a scrap piece of yarn really would work just as well.

What else is in my tool kit?  Crochet hooks, all kinds of sizes, for edgings, beading, crochet cast off or provisional cast on, not to mention picking up those errant dropped stitches!

Highlighter tape for charts.

Lots of needle gauges, because those things, along with tape measures, run away and hide when you need them. Tapestry needles for weaving in ends.  Wool soak.

In my conversation in that waiting room this morning, one of the things we talked about was how expensive a hobby can be. 

But really, to be a knitter all you need is that set of chopsticks and some yarn.

That said....I love my tools and I won't give them up for anything!

~M

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