I’ve already written a post about what I intend to do for Christmas this year so I just thought I might write about the 10 things I really cannot do without. These are things I find invaluable for my knitting experience. Things that after 52 yrs. of knitting I have learned to keep near at hand, some of the more obvious things like knitting needles and scissors I won’t mention simply because they are obvious but while I’m on the topic I might just include a footnote about my favourite knitting needles and why. So here we go:
1). The Knitters Companion – I’m working on my second copy of this indispensable collection of knitterly information and instruction. The first copy is lying on the bookshelves, the pages fused together by a good cup of tea. This is no way to treat such a handy little book nor a good cup of tea. I got my first copy many, many years ago and my current copy, when not in my knit bag, is never far from my elbow. It is a great gift for someone wanting to learn to knit, who has just started knitting or just wants a practical and easy-to-use guide for such questions as sizing (good sizing charts); yarn substitutions; cast-ons and offs; gauges; buttonholes…and it also has a handy ruler and needle conversion chart.
2). A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker – There are actually three in this series but I like this one the best. I use it whenever I want to add a little spice to a plain cardigan. There is enough variety here to keep me entertained for years and years although I still don’t think it would make a dent in the stash if I made one garment out of each of the patterns included. The beauty of this collection is the clear instructions and helpful pictures. It is organized into pattern groups that make looking for a particular pattern easy. I recommend a stitch dictionary to everyone even if you don’t design your own things simply because it allows you to make modifications to a pattern so you can have a garment that is uniquely your own.
3.) A small bag to keep stuff in – I made this myself but you can find them inexpensively on the net. Something like this style is what I like so you can customize it yourself. I keep cable needles; tapestry needles; scissors; a couple of crochet hooks (for catching dropped stitches); a seam ripper; a small retractable tape measure; a sewing guide great for measuring gauge; a needle conversion chart; a row counter and stitch markers. By keeping them in a bag I never have to search the house for them and it keeps them out of
the cats harms way.
4). Hand-Knitting Techniques from Threads – An excellent book to have around for information on things like casting on in rib for a nice clean edge; knitting to fit; how to knit from sewing patterns; finishing techniques; sock knitting tips; glove knitting tips; beading; how to knit raglans to really fit well (hint: there is a difference between the back and the sleeve widths), and many, many other useful hints. My copy is paperback and is currently being held together with scotch tape. I reference it a lot.
5). Knitter’s Handbook by Reader’s Digest – Another reference book I cannot do without. This one has tips on how to use colour; cutting after blocking to repair big errors or add length; grafting; 30 pages devoted to casting on and casting off…so many tips and tricks that I never learned at my mother’s knee.
6). A box of yarn – The first step I take after deciding on a pattern is picking the yarn. I generally choose 2-4 yarns of the same weight, although I do like to add a yarn that is slightly lighter in weight than the pattern calls for as well. I put them in a box and have them right to hand when I’m knitting for gauge. It saves me time by having alternate yarns available just in case my preferred yarn looks like crap in the pattern I have chosen. Sometimes you think a yarn and pattern are going to work but once you get knitting you see that the pattern stitch is lost because the colour is too dark or the yarn, although the right weight, is of the wrong density. Some patterns look very different, and awesome, when knit with a light-weight yarn as long as you get the right gauge. I once made a very light and airy sweater that I wore for many summers as a cover-all by doing this. I generally take yarn recommendations as a guideline rather than a strict rule.
7). Baby alpaca yarn – There is nothing quite like it. I always have a few skeins around simply because if I need an impressive gift and don’t have time to look around, I can haul out some of this yarn, knit up a cowl, or a scarf, or a pair of fingerless gloves and know that it will look like I spent a lot of money when I didn’t at all. I don’t like shawls but I have knit them for others and if I have the time I can whip one up as a last-minute gift. I also like to keep a couple of balls of a cashmere/merino mix as well for the same reason. People open the present, feel the cashmere and they never have to know that you didn’t get it at some expensive boutique.
8). DVD’s – Invaluable when you have a lot of knitting to do and need something to stop you from going barmy after knitting your sixth straight hat. I like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer; The Princess Bride; Benny and Joon, or Red Dwarf, something that doesn’t require a lot of attention but is still entertaining. Most of those listed are also funny so I don’t have to follow a convoluted plot. I also like really bad disaster movies like Sharknado or Twister because you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what’s happening if you can’t pay attention for a few minutes or five. Also because they are often the funniest thing on TV.
9). A pad of paper and a pen – Really good for making notes as you go along. Also for noting any changes you might make, any problems that might affect the sleeves or collar or button bands, or anytime you have to make two of something. I also find it’s a good thing to have around to jot down what row you are on if you have to put down your knitting to go make a cup of tea, or a margarita, or make a trip to the bathroom, or rescue your cookie from a rabbit…or cat…but not a dog, they drool all over them and make them mushy. And for the record I really, really, and I can’t say this strongly enough, really do not recommend drinking while knitting. Maybe one drink, or maybe two, but a pitcher of sangria or margarita’s is really not a smart thing to do when holding sharp objects, or when partaking of an entertainment that requires any form of math even if it’s just counting stitches.
10). The internet especially YouTube – I really cannot do without the internet while knitting. There are many helpful how-to videos on YouTube and I can’t tell you how many times they’ve pulled me through a situation I thought I could handle. It’s like a friendly hand guiding you along. Steeking used to freak me out. I still try never to steek but there are times when it is absolutely necessary. YouTube has saved my sorry behind so many times I can’t even say. So do yourself a favour and bookmark sites like Ravelry; or Craftsy; or Knitty; or some YouTube videos. They will always come in handy and give you the confidence to hack away at your hard work with a pair of scissors like a boss.
Now about knitting needles: For me my favourite needles are the ones my Mum gave me when I was 10. They are Aero aluminum needles and sure the points aren’t so pointy any more and some of them are a little bent but I find I can knit along on those bad boys as if they were like some of the pointier modern needles. The double points I like are the Susan Bates ones. Nothing fancy, definitely not expensive but they suit me just fine. I found one thing to be true of knitting, the best results don’t come from using the most expensive materials, the best results come from using materials you are comfortable with and give you confidence. I have pairs of expensive needles such as the Signature line but they generally sit in their package while I’ll dig around everywhere looking for my 40 yr. old Aeros. My Mum used plastic, nylon or metal needles almost all her life. I bought her new ones that languished at the bottom of her knitting bag and never saw the light of day. So don’t let a price tag determine what kind of needles you should knit with. Everyone is different so try different kinds and brands until you find what suits you.
So there you have it, my top 10 things that I cannot do without as a knitter. Whether or not this is helpful to anyone I can’t say. Everyone’s list will be different. But I will say that if there was just one thing that you could get for a knitter it’s a little bag full of gadgets like those I’ve described. I’ve given similar things to various people and it has always been appreciated. It’s also customizable so for a knitter you can give them stuff like I have in mine, for a crocheter stuff that they may find useful, for a geek you can stuff it full of things like a Tardis key chain etc, for a fashionista you could put hair clips, lipstick, nail polish etc. I label it, “A Bag O’ Useful Stuff” and put it with all the gadgets wrapped individually in a box and then duck as people try to throw things at me while they try to pull the paper off forty small items. It’s fun.