Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tips From the Knit Doctor - Knitting Toolkits!

What’s in Your Knitting Tool Kit?

            Like any craftsmen, we knitters need our tools. Some we use often and should keep handy with our current projects. These items include:
- small scissors
- a tape measure
- a row counter. Paper and pen also work, but counters are more convenient. There are
       knitting counter apps available for smartphones, too.
- stitch markers, both closed ring and locking (coilless safety pin-style). Use markers
     that are not much bigger than your needles, as oversized ones get in the way. I like
     the little soft flexible plastic rings. The locking ones, which are removable, can be
     added for temporary purposes such as marking the front of a garment, marking even
     increments on a neckline or cardigan front as a guide for evenly picking up stitches,
     or holding a dropped stitch until you can retrieve it.   
- a tapestry or yarn needle (blunt tipped) for weaving in ends
- a cable needle, if you knit cables and use a cable needle
- stitch holders or waste yarn
- a cable key and cable caps if you use interchangeable circulars
- a crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches
- post-it notes – they’re great for marking your place on a pattern page or chart
- a pen or pencil for making notes
- a nail file and hand cream, to keep from snagging your yarn

            I usually have several knitting projects going at once, each in their own project bag (gallon-sized Ziploc bags can hold small projects in a pinch). I used to keep only one tool kit, and whenever I needed something from it I had to paw through all my projects bags to find where I’d left it. Eventually I set up four tool kits so that I could keep one with each project; I also thought this might help me limit myself to only four unfinished projects at a time (which sometimes works; new projects are so enticing!). I divided my stitch markers among the four kits, and slowly accumulated extra scissors, tape measures, etc. to fill out the others. With four tool kits, I can even customize them – for example, the one I keep with sock projects has smaller stitch markers, a smaller crochet hook, and a thinner tapestry needle, and omits supplies for interchangeable needles since I knit socks on dpns.

            There are many other knitting tools available that you only need occasionally, and these can be kept in a central location rather than with your project bags. A yarn scale is surprisingly useful – with it I can divide a skein of sock yarn into two equal-sized balls, or weigh a project to see how much yarn it used, then weigh what’s left of the ball to see if I have enough to make a second one. Also useful is a needle gauge, a device with holes that you poke your needles through to determine their size, handy when the size is not indicated on the needles. A good reference book is great for researching a new technique or looking up the meaning of an abbreviation; if you use the internet instead, be sure to check out several sources, since there is a fair amount of incorrect information posted. There are also many knitters’ smart phone apps, for keeping track of your needles and stash, counting stitches and rows, and calculating how much yarn you need for a project. Some of my favorite blocking aids are sock blockers for shaping socks as they dry; blocking mats, waterproof foam squares that interlock so that you can block small projects (use one square) or large ones (more blocks fitted together in whatever shape is needed)(you’ll also need rust-proof blocking pins); and lace blocking wires for lace shawls - you thread a flexible wire through the lace holes along a long edge rather than having to place dozens of individual pins.
This is just a smattering of what’s available - browse through the store and you’ll find lots of helpful tools.