Monthly Archives: December 2013

My Views on Interchangeable Needles

In a recent post in the Ravelry Group for Interchangeable Needles I summarized my take on interchangeable needles, and thought I would repost it here.

I have numerous sets of interchangeable needles. The first set I got were Denise. I sold them as fast as I could. The cables were so thick I had to tug on the stitches just to get to the join. I suppose if you knit with size 10s the cable would work okay but I don’t. And the points were so blunt even a simple k2tog was difficult.

Next I tried the Knit Picks that were machine made and had rough joins that came apart, and tips that broke in my hands. I gave these away.

Then I got a set of HiyaHiya sharps, in the longer length. The point is great and the join fairly smooth, the needles themselves were very slick, too slippery for silk lace or other very fine yarns. And the cables got kinked easily and were too flimsy. I still have these in the back of my needle drawers, and pull them out occasionally for magic loop socks.

Next were a few Knitter’s Pride, but not a whole set. Promising, but when the join came apart on a silk and wool lace project with over 300 stitches on the needles I tore my hair out. I can’t remember what I did with them, but they are no longer in my needle drawers.

Next up, Addi lace interchangeables. I am not a particular fan of Addis, whose “lace” points aren’t really sharp enough for very fine lace. But I like the click connection and for regular knitting on sport, DK, and worsted weight they are fine. The main problem was the connector that is supposed to allow you to connect 2 shorter cables into one longer one came off twice in the middle of the project. As long as I stick to 1 cable I still use these. I then got the Natura Bamboo click set. Can you spell blunt? But they were perfect for a bulky sweater, on size 9, that I knit in a thick slightly felted single that split easily. I like the grabby surface for this particular yarn and they also worked well with some merino ribbon yarn I used. I keep them around in case I come across another yarn they calls for a grabby surface and blunt points.

Once Chaio Goo came out with a Red Lace set I added those. I had used the fixed circulars for a long time and I love the join. On the interchangeables the little key thing is kind of a pain. The points are great, the cables have no memory, and the surface is not as slick as my Hiyas. I use these a lot.

Then a good friend tempted me with a set of Carbonz needles, in the “limited edition” special box. I was sold mostly by the box, but the needles ended up being quite nice. There are more joins than usual, because the point is metal, the shaft of the needle is carbon, the join to the cable is metal, making 3 joins. I am still in the middle of my first project with these so I haven’t made a final decision yet but I have noted that the cables are flexible but not kinky and the surface of the needles has some grip, just right for the handspun i am using for that project.  Knowing they are made by Knitters’ Pride I am cautious about checking that the join is tight every few rows.

Finally, Dyakcraft. I just ordered a set so I won’t have an opinion for 6-7 months but I am looking forward to them.

And finally, we get to the needles I use most, the ones I come back to over and over again, the ones that have great points for most knitting and come with lace points if you want them, that have a very good (but not perfectly smooth) join, and come in rosewood or my favorite, ebony. They feel great in my hand, are beautiful to look at, have cables that are flexible but not too kinky. They are handmade from pieces of wood left from making musical instruments. They are not interchangeable, but come in any length tip and cable you want. You can even have one rosewood tip (for more slippery yarns) and one ebony tip (for a slicker surface). But, they are not available in the US or Canada except for a few shops that have a small leftover stock from when they were sold here. They are Holz und Stein, made in Germany. And although I would love to be, I am not associated with the company.

My bottom line about needles is that there isn’t one perfect needle (not even my H&S) for every yarn or project, or for every knitter.  That’s how I justify my (carefully curated) collection. If you have read this far you just also be a nut about needles, as I am!

A New Way to Mark Pattern Repeats


My knitting project bags always include (more than) a few stitch markers to help me keep track of where I am in a pattern or chart.  I have quite a collection of markers in the various project bags that live near each of my knitting chairs, by the door ready for a short trip, or in the quiet room where I  work on complex lace or color patterns.

I use rings, locking markers, coiless pins. loops of yarn; even paper clips in a pinch. image






Recently I “unvented” (acknowledgement to Elizabeth Zimmermann) a new way to mark pattern repeats that start or end with a decease that uses stitches from two separate pattern repeats.

These types of pattern repeats start and/or end with a decrease require moving every stitch marker one or two stitches left or right with each decrease.  Moving the markers while in the middle of doing a centered double decrease (CDD) or a slip 2, knit 1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over (PSSO), or even just a knit 2 together (K2tog) or slip, slip, knit (SSK), is risky business.  You have to slip the stitches to the right of the marker to the right needle, take the marker off and stow it somewhere, put the slipped stitches back on the left needle, perform the stitch maneuver and then find and replace the stitch marker.  Markers of any kind that sit on the needle don’t work well in this situation.

I recently finished a shawl on which half of the right side rows needed to have the stitch marker moved so a 2 stitch cable could be worked using one stitch from each side of the pattern repeat marker.  The stitch that started out in the repeat to the left of the marker became the last stitch in the repeat on the right side of the marker.

To mark these split pattern repeats I “unvented” a method using a smooth crochet cotton thread cut in 8 inch lengths.

imageA fine smooth yarn in a color that contrasts with the working yarn would also work.  When I got the place where the cable is worked (in this case, without using a cable needle) I knit the second stitch, wound the cotton thread around the working yarn leaving a short tail in front and a long tail in back, then knit the first stitch and slid both completed stitches onto the right hand needle.  The marker thread ends up between the two stitches which is where the next repeat starts.  On right side rows the thread is in front showing where the repeat ends and ready to be moved; when the stitches are completed the long tail is on the back side of the work.

thread over working yarn

thread over working yarn

When the work is turned the thread is again on the front, ready to be moved.  On the first row I wind the marker thread around the working yarn; on subsequent rows I just lay the long tail of the marker thread over the working yarn.  When you have worked several rows the long tail can be gently pulled to free up a bit more for the long tail while the short tail remains in place in the work. The marker stays put and doesn’t get lost.

Next I tried this method on a lace pattern that had a CDD that used 2 stitches to the right of the marker and 1 stitch to the left of the marker.  The resulting single stitch becomes the last stitch of the repeat to the right of the marker.  With the cotton thread used as a marker, I simply worked the CDD, and place the thread over the working yarn after the CDD and motored on down the row.  The next time I got to that spot in the row I moved the thread marker from the wrong side of the work to the right side over the working yarn, showing where the next CDD should be worked.












When you need to free up a bit more of the marking thread it can be done with the forefinger and thumb of one hand, so you don’t need to retension the yarn.  It is so much easier than using safety pins or markers over the needle that have to be removed, held, and then replaced

The thread markers work for any kind of flat knitting; I have not yet figured out how to make them stay put on work knit in the round, but that is next on my list of making my knitting easier, allowing me to concentrate on the pattern and stitches I am working, without searching for dropped or lost markers.

The latest pattern I am using this method for is the Madrona Scarf, a free pattern by Evelyn Clark at   On Chart 2 rows 9, 11, and 13 in the repeat there is an SSK that uses one stitch from the right of the marker and one from the left of the marker.  This happens again on Chart 3 rows 1, 15, 17, and 19.  The thread-over-the-working-yarn method works perfectly on this pattern!