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February 10, 2017
When I learnt to knit my nana taught me using long aluminium needles. I remember how cold they felt and how I had to grip them so hard they made my hands hurt.
The tight stitches I created seemed to be held with a vice-like grip by the sticky metal and it just wasn't a comfortable process.
No wonder then that I lost interest fairly quickly.
Fast forward 20-something years to my return to knitting.
My first makes were super chunky scarfs on 20mm hollow plastic needles, but as my interest grew, so did the amount I was willing to spend on tools, and soon I had several pairs of still relatively cheap bamboo needles.
Using wooden needles was a revelation. My stitches no longer stuck to the needle. Rather than being shockingly cold to the touch, they warmed up in minutes and the double-pointed needles I used for socks even bent a little to accommodate my knitting style.
Brittany needles were sold by my local knitting shop, and so I eventually tried a pair.
Made from sustainable birch, rather than bamboo, they felt somehow more substantial. A serious tool for what was now actually my (not-so-serious) job, as a knitwear designer, technical editor and textiles journalist.
Even now, while I tend to favour circular needles, if I need a pair of straights, it's these needles I reach for.
I recently tried polishing them up with some Brittany needle wax, and it really made them smoother. You just rub a little on with your finger or cloth, leave it for up to 24 hours and then polish it off.
Quality tools are important if you want to get good results in whatever craft you do. I started thinking about this whole theme thanks to the #yarnlovechallenge running throughout February on Instagram, which is setting a new theme every day.
Yesterday's theme was tools and I had fun working out which of mine really were essential.
I use my button/ collar point sewing gauge for measuring swatches, bent needles for sewing up, and bent quilting safety pins for setting in sleeves.
Smooth cotton yarn (the mini ball here is Debbie Bliss Denim Cotton DK in shade Milk (06)) is always useful for holding stitches or making stitch markers. Add a crochet hook for picking up stray stitches (this is a beautifully turned one, also from Brittany) and a pair of super-sharp snips or scissors and you don't need much else.
Last, but not least, to make something amazing you need some amazing yarn! The half-finished swatch here is in Noro Kureyon, which has remained a favourite for a long time.
What tools are essential to your craft?
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