What’s in your knitting bag? Essential Knitting Tools

 

A sometime series on What is in Your Knitting Bag? This one is Essential Knitting Tools.

No matter what you are knitting there are some essential knitting tools that  you will need at some point during the life of your project. Scissors, measuring tapes, and needles come immediately to mind – but there are more, many more things in my knitting bag that I personally find essential.

Scissors

Essential Knitting ToolsLet’s start with the obvious.  Scissors are a must-have in any notions bag.  Smaller ones are easier to carry around. (But not on a plane, don’t bring them on a plane!) I find the different types of sewing/knitting scissors to be little jewels!

But be careful! I recently purchased a beautiful pair of scissors shaped like fish from a very reputable establishment. (Mentioning no names but it is in NYC and it rhymes with hurl!)

They are beautiful, but they simply don’t work.  The two scissor edges are warped and don’t touch – so no cutting action.  I emailed the shop – no response. I emailed the company who made them – no response.  I didn’t pay a huge amount of money for them, but they are seriously flawed and I am seriously disappointed.

Moral of the story: examine and TEST scissor before you buy them, no matter how many yarn fumes you have inhaled or how much you respect the reputation of the shop.

Measuring tape

Measuring tapes are another ubiquitous notions bag item.  I prefer fabric tape to metal, and I prefer the ones that have a ring or hook so that I can connect them to something (you will see why in a moment).  The more interesting the shape the less likely that someone will accidentally pick it up thinking it’s theirs. I was at a knitting event once and four of us at a table of 6 had the same measuring tape!

Needles

Finishing is an integral part of knitting, and the mindful knitter often decides to sew in some ends along the way so there won’t be as much to do at the end.  I always have TWO types of needles with me. One type is the yarn needle, dull pointed and usually larger, for sewing seams.  The other type is the chenille or tapestry needle, very sharp and usually a bit smaller, for sewing in ends.

{Needle image}

Essential Knitting ToolsYou need to keep needles in something HARD so they don’t poke you, your knitting, or someone who picks up your notions bag.

The blue and white container is the classic Chibi, you can’t see the wording cause it’s so old it has worn off. They are very useful but the little loop to tie it onto something is TINY and brittle and often breaks and the needles that come in it are not very useful, usually.  Not my favorite.

The other is a toothpick holder I scored at a flea market. The gentleman made them from scrap pieces of kitchen countertop.  It was only $5 and honestly, I wish I had bought a hundred of them.  The top screws on with a rubber gaskets so it is watertight and the HUGE  ring makes it easy to join it. I love it!!

Idiot Cord

Essential Knitting ToolsHINT: Now you may or may not know this already, but my mother is a genius. This is proven to me on a regular basis, and she will tell you herself, if asked. And here is proof.

Mum makes an idiot cord and then connects her ESSENTIAL essentials all together. She can put open stitch markers into the icord too, and open stitch markers holding closed stitch markers.

This she often keeps at the bottom of her project bag, or looped over the handle, so it’s easy to find. Keeping them all together keeps things neater and there is less pawing through the notions bag.  Great job, Mum!

Essential Knitting ToolsCrochet Hooks

Everyone makes mistakes, so having a crochet hook of some kind in your notions bag is definitely essential.  Here are a few options I have found.

The one in the middle has a crochet hook on either end, one larger, one smaller.  Very useful. I have seen some like this but smaller and with a key chain option in the middle. I find those very awkward to use, the keychain always seems to be in the wrong place. But if it works for you that’s something else you could put on your idiot cord!

The short tool on the far left is a  recent acquisition.  It has a hook on one end and a dull point on the other.  VERY useful, and small enough to fit in any notions bag. I have several of these!

Essential Knitting ToolsThe longest tool, silver on the far right, is one of my favorites.  We call it a dental tool, we found ours at Patternworks.  Again it has a hook on one end and a point on the other, but the point is TINY and sharp and angled just a bit and it’s incredibly useful! (see smaller picture)

Cable Needles

Essential Knitting ToolsSome people like to use cable needles, here are two excellent options.

The metal one (white) has a dip in the middle that makes it easier to not drop stitches when holding them in front or in back for cables.

The wooden ones are also lovely as the texture of the wood and those very excellent grooves hold the stitches very nicely on the tool until you need them.

If you are not doing cables, you might be thinking, then these can’t be essential!!  But you would be mistaken.

Just as they hold your stitches easily and well when you are cabling so they also hold your stitches when you suddenly realize that you made a mistake five rows back that you must fix.

Rather than undo the whole row, of course, you just undo the few stitches around the error and then build them back up. A cable needle is just as useful as a crochet hook for situations like that!  It “saves” the stitches while you and your hook fix them one at a time.

Needle Sizer

Essential Knitting ToolsIf you use your needles as much as I do the numbers will inevitably wear off. And while the difference between a US#1 and a US#3 is pretty obvious the difference between a #3 and a #4 is not always so clear (at least to me!)

I like to keep a size tool in my notions bag.  They come in all shapes and sizes, colors and materials.  Be careful though – not all size tools are made the same.  Some less expertly made tools are a little off.

Make sure you test them against sizes you KNOW before you trust them completely.

Miscellaneous Essentials

Essential Knitting ToolsAnd finally, I always keep a calculator, paper and pencil in my notions bag. To be honest, I generally do math on my phone now, but the calculator comes in handy enough that I haven’t let go of it yet, even though it takes up the most room.

I keep a little pad of sticky notes in a tiny plastic bag. I do that so that if I write a note and then take it off the pad it doesn’t get lost in the bottom of the notions bag. It also prevents accidental marks on the pad that I then spend 30 minutes puzzling over before I figure out it’s a mistake.

I often make notes on my patterns and I always want to be able to correct my notes, or change them, so pencil works better for me than pen.  I used to carry around lead and an extra erasure, as well, but I don’t do that any more, it was taking up too much room and was used very rarely.

Show us yours!

OK, that’s it. My list of essentials.  What about you?  What do you consider essential?  Share your pictures in the comments or jump over to the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your must-have items!

Click here to learn more about What is in MY knitting bag.

What’s in your knitting bag? Stitch Markers!

A sometime series on What is in Your Knitting Bag? This one is Stitch Markers and Holders.

Stitch markers and holders are one of the little joys of knitting.  I don’t wear a lot of jewelry, but I can ALWAYS find a little extra dosh at the bottom of my wallet for a few pretty stitch markers.

They are little bits of joy that you sprinkle on your knitting projects to appease the knitting gods – and it works!!

First let’s differentiate between markers and holders.

Markers are used to mark your place as you knit. This place can be between the stitches on your needle or in the fabric you have already knit.

Holders actually HOLD your stitches. The most traditional types of holders look like long safety pins, but there are other options.

Stitch Holders

The purpose of stitch holders is to hold the stitches for you while you work on something else.  Your stitches might be on the holder for 5 minutes, 6 hours, 10 days, or in one extreme case in my life – 5 years.

Temporary

If you know that you are only going to be holding those stitches for a short or relatively short time then the safety pin type holder is probably the most useful.

Stitch Markers and Holders

It’s a good idea to have a few of these.  Stitches will go on these very easily, they don’t usually come undone (although it’s been known to happen), and it’s easy to get stitches back on your working needles from these types of holder.

Long Term

Sometimes you know that the stitches are going to be on hold for a while.  If you are putting a naughty project in time-out for instance, or if you thought it was going to be quick but in fact it’s been months and you want that safety pin holder back for another project – then it’s time to consider an old standby.

The simplest, and frankly my favorite way of holding stitches is to just use  a simple piece of yarn. That is the cheapest and easiest type of stitch holder. It doesn’t matter how long it sits there, you won’t need it for a different project and if you knot the ends together it won’t come undone and lose your stitches.

 HINT: When using a yarn stitch holder I recommend using a completely different color, the same weight yarn or thinner – getting thicker yarn through your stitches is possible, but why make the effort when thinner is easier?

Stitch Markers

Of course, like with stitch holders, it’s not always necessary to buy expensive stitch markers.  Here are a few I just made:  simple, efficient, cheap, useful. You can’t go wrong with this type, ever.

Stitch Markers and Holders

But let’s be honest: it works, but it ain’t sexy.  They don’t always flow from one needle to the next as efficiently as I would like (they tend to get chummy with the other stitches made of yarn), and if you aren’t paying attention you could knit it into your work – it is yarn after all.  So while they certainly work as a stop gap method, or “drat I forgot my knitting notions bag” markers, they really aren’t my favorites.

HINT: If you go this route make sure it’s loose on your needle, made from a contrasting color yarn to prevent you thinking it’s part of the project, and from a different TYPE of yarn (if possible) so you can feel the difference if you don’t happen to be looking at your work.

Once you move beyond the obvious of making stitch markers from yarn there is the less obvious emergency stitch markers: safety pins, paper clips, small washers, hair elastic bands, your wedding ring…it all depends on how desperate you are.

When you start buying stitch markers you open up a Pandora’s Box of choices.  There are small stitch markers and large, open, closed, safety pin types, jewelry types, and simple homemade types.Here are a few of my favorites and some pointers on how and when they are most useful.

Open Stitch Markers

Stitch markers that can be opened and closed, like safety pins are absolutely the most useful type of markers.  They can go on your needle, they can go in the cloth of the project, they be used to mark the front from the back, mark where you need to measure from, or even hold other stitch markers.

Stitch Markers and Holders

These are simple safety pins, but a special breed called “coiless safety pins.”  You can use regular ones but you will find your yarn will sometimes get caught in the coil, and it can make a huge mess!  These are often found with sewing notions in craft stores.  They come in various colors, and sizes. Very useful. I have hundreds.

 

Stitch Markers and HoldersThese plastic types of safety pins have recently become popular, but I am not fond of them.

They work alright, but they are made of brittle plastic and over time they break. And you and I both know that if a stitch marker is going to break it’s going to do that at the MOST inopportune moment imaginable, so I keep these mostly as back up.

 

Stitch Markers and HoldersThese are my current favorites.  Although they generally come in just one slightly smallish size, they open easily and close completely – which I appreciate very much.

They slide easily on a needle and come in various colors to stand out in my work.  If I want a marker to REALLY stand out I sometimes put a few closed stitch markers IN this marker to mark a place specially.

 

Stitch Markers and HoldersHYBRID

This is a hybrid marker. It’s open, and while you can’t fasten it closed it often will stay where it’s put in my knitting. They are pretty. I am still on the fence about these, I keep them in my marker holder but don’t use them often as I probably should.

 

Closed Stitch Markers

Stitch Markers and HoldersClosed markers are only good for one thing. Marking stitches on your needles.  They don’t open and close and they are just one size, so you will end up needing them in various sizes as you knit various projects.

These are the simplest form of closed markers – just rings of hard plastic. They work great, come in lots of colors and sizes. Not a thing wrong with them.  Not my favorites.

 

Stitch Markers and HoldersThat’s because I found these. Exactly the same idea but made with rounded rubbery plastic.  (“Not like the others, they were all too flat”) They slide across my needles too, but not QUITE as easily as the hard plastic ones so they tend to get lost less often.

We should pause a moment here to commemorate all the lost or missing stitch markers.  It’s a very unfortunate thing that as soon as you decide that THIS stitch marker is your absolute favorite it will go “walkies.”

So, as knitters we have two choices. We either coddle and protect our favorites (i.e. don’t use them) or we damn the torpedoes and use the heck out of them until the Knitting Goddesses decide to call them home. I personally use the heck out of my favorites. I even still have some of them!

More Stitch Markers

When you get into other types of stitch markers things can get crazy fun.  Here are a few I like!

The silver one has a small loop on one end for a smaller needle, and a larger loop on the other end for a larger needle. Two stitch markers in one!

I love the monkey ball and the chain-mail rose.  The copper one is great because it really stands out because of the way it sits on the needle (the loop is perpendicular to the dangle).  Hard to miss this one when you are knitting along!

Stitch Markers and HoldersThese three I made from jade, beads, and charms I had lying around. I really like them and they work great. It is sometimes good, when knitting away from home, to have some stitch markers that are uniquely YOURS and don’t look the same as everyone else’s.  In case you drop them.

Current Favorites

Stitch Markers and HoldersThese are a big favorite because they use “mood beads” so the color of the beads changes with the temperature.

At just over $2 each I thought they were a steal when I got some for Mum and I for Christmas a few years ago.

So much so that we got TWICE as many this year for Christmas.  I really love how heavy they are and solid.  The fact that they are often purple doesn’t hurt either!

Stitch Markers and HoldersAnother big favorite in my stable of stitch markers are the simple ring with a bead.

You can get pretty colored rings (in various sizes) and matching or contrasting beads at any craft store and make your own with a dab of superglue.

Easy to make, easy to use, easy to get over the loss of… gotta love that!

Stitch Marker Containers

Now, I know this will come as a huge shock to you, but as soon as I get a number of stitch markers together my instinct is to CONTAINERIZE them. Yes, I know, you are shocked.

But look at all the lovely choices we have!!

Stitch Markers and HoldersThe Eclipse mints container may not be sexy but it snaps shut and it was free (after you buy the mints).  I had a friend a few years ago that was very fond of these and I saw three empty containers in his car and asked for them.  Been using them every since.

The other containers have these fabulous little windows in the cover, which has no intrinsic value as I know what I keep inside there, but fun nonetheless! The only problems I have with these are the noise. They do tend to rattle a lot but if they are in your notions bag, which is in your project bag, it’s not too bad!!

Stitch Markers and HoldersThis type of container has become very popular lately and I am fond of mine.

They have little compartments with lids that hold different things, and then it snaps shut.  My concern is that the plastic is VERY cheap (as in badly made) and I don’t have hopes on them lasting long. That being said we have had these two for over a year and neither one has broken, so I might be wrong about that.

It is possible to find containers similar to this that are a bit beefier at your local fishing tackle shop. They tend to be a bit larger though and so might be better for at home storage, than traveling around in your notions bags.

It really doesn’t matter if they are paperclips, loops of yarn, or beautiful pieces of jewelry for your knitting; stitch markers and stitch holders and very useful knitting tools and should be an integral part of your tool box – and your knitting bag!

Show us yours!

What is your current favorite stitch marker? Why? Where did you get it?  Inquiring minds like mine want to know! Share you pictures in comments or jump over to the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your favorite project bag!

Click here to learn more about What is in MY knitting bag.

Tour de Fleece Spinning

Valentina spun this!

You know, there are a lot of things I love about spinning.

I love the fiber. Simply adore the concept of choosing a specific fiber, and spinning it in a specific way to create a yarn that I can do something beautiful with.

I am really happy that I am not a process spinner, or a product spinner – I am a little of both.  That whole process: playing with fiber to make choices, working with fiber to make yarn, and then using the yarn to create something ELSE really works for me!

The feel of my tools – I enjoy that most of my fiber tools are handmade, made of wood, and are pretty to touch and to look at.

And how can you not appreciate the amazing history of spinning – the shoulders, of the shoulders, of the shoulders of the women I stand on whenever I spin fibers together just gives me chills.

All of this is lovely, and seriously is my favorite thing about my life.

But my favorite thing about spinning?

Easy.

This is Iona. She made a video to teach us how to ply on the fly!

It’s the people.

I can honestly say that I can count on ONE hand the number of fiber people who are out and out nasty.

We don’t always agree completely with other people’s opinions or their choices, but one of the magic things when people start talking about spinning (unlike politics or religion) is that we all seem to grow and expand and accept that we are all different – and that IT IS FINE that way.

Melissa spun this!

Some spinners swear by a particular wheel, others by a favorite fiber.  Some spinners cant’ get enough of Navajo plying, others think it’s a waste of time.  Many spinners love hand spindles, while other would much prefer a wheel.  Some like it short, or soft, or purple, or birdseye maple – All of us are NOT LIKE THE OTHERS and yet we still enjoy spending time together.

I have yet to see anyone scratch someone’s eyes out because they didn’t like to spin with Dorset.  Never seen anyone punch a spinner because they love to spin with a charkha. I have never heard of anyone refusing to speak to someone EVER AGAIN because they prefer a Magicraft over a Hanson, or an Ashford over a Loet.

I really think it’s magic.

Kristin spun this!

And for me, this is the start of the most magical time of the year. Yes, there are more fiber events which is marvelous, and yes, it’s shearing season so there is new fiber in my basement which is wondrous. But the really MAGICAL thing about this time of year is that I start to get ready for the Tour de Fleece.

What is the Tour de Fleece?

If you haven’t been reading my blog for long then you might not know what the Tour is, and you can get a basic run down here.  But what is it REALLY?

Casey spun this from fiber she won!

It’s a whole month of fiber comes first.  It’s months of being able to talk about, show pictures of, complain about, be ecstatic about, and SHARE my love of fiber. Which could be amazing on it’s own, but I get to do all of this in the company of LOTS of people who feel exactly the same way about fiber.

Last year we had 149 people on our Tour de Fleece team, and I admit that I was worried.  So many people, I thought, there is bound to be a rotten egg in there somewhere. Nope.  There must be someone who doesn’t get it, who will not be supportive of others or who will not get along with people or push their own agendas. Nope. There has to be someone who I will wish wasn’t on the team. Double Nope.

They were universally lovely, warm, sharing, giving, supportive and caring.

Like I said. magical.

Helen spun this!

Tour de Fleece 2017

This year I asked the whole team to re-sign up (after three years I like to refresh the list) and I was worried. What if no one came back?  More than half the team from last year signed up for the new list in less than two days. Just wow.

Sometimes, when I am tired and there is still a lot to do, I wonder if it’s really worth it. I don’t get paid to run a team. I do a lot of extra things for the team that other teams don’t do, and it takes a lot of time. So, yes, I do wonder sometimes if it’s a good idea. I mean, it happens in July, and I start working on it in FEBRUARY!

It’s worth it.

Here are some of the comments I got from people from last year’s team:

  • You have revolutionized my wheel spinning for life!! 
  • This was an excellent experience, so much advice and inspiration and sharing, thank you!
  • I would like to thank you all for the support, encouragement and inspiration you provided, it’s been a pleasure to be part of this team. 
  • The Tour de Fleece  has the built in challenge days but this Team has the attitude and sets the constructive, supportive tone.
  • I have gotten to understand my wheel so much more during this Tour and have accessed so many helpful online resources. 
  • This team is super friendly, helpful, and positive. It was nicely varied in experiences and approach and the camaraderie was lovely!
  • I love the social contact with other spinners. It is so lovely to have a group with whom one can be gushingly enthusiastic without their eyes glazing over followed by a sudden change of topic…and I love how engaged the team captain was!
  • I truly enjoy Spinfoolish’s writing style. She is funny, educational and keeps my interest, the daily encouragement was one of my favorite things about the Tour de Fleece.

Anna spun this!

And suddenly, it’s very clear that it’s TOTALLY and COMPLETELY worth it!!

So here we go – three months of planning, scheduling, organizing, and creating – which turns into 23 days of pure bliss.  I am already thinking about NEXT year!

(Are you a spinner? Join us! It’s free, low stress, and a HUGE amount of fun!)