Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On needles

I've been thinking about needles lately.
I hear "I like bamboo" or "only metal ones for me" all the time.
That's fine. 
But the needle we choose is as important as the yarn.  The two go hand-in-hand, needle-in-stitch hundreds or thousands of times. (Btw, counting all your stitches? That way lies insanity.)

If you're working on plied wool yarn, you can use just about any needle you fancy.

But if you're working on unplied wool or anything plant fiber such as cotton or linen, or bug fiber such as silk, what the needle is made of is crucial.  Plied mercerized cotton (like Cascade Ultra Pima) begs for a slower needle finish, such as bamboo. 

The stitch pattern is also a determinant: if you're working lace, a sharp point is pretty much a necessity.  If you're working lace in silk yarn, a sharp point on a slower needle finish is better.

I just finished a mammoth project out of Noro Taiyo, an aran-weight unplied combo of cotton, silk and a touch of wool.  The piece has modular bits, lace bits, a ruffle, slip stitch, and yards of pick-up-and-knit.  The project started out on my favorite plastic needles (used to be Bryspun, now called Pearl) which have great points but I was having to haul the stitches across the needle.  Too much heavy lifting. 
Then I tried acrylics (my second favorite, from Knitter's Pride).  Same thing. 
Next, ChiaoGoo Red metal.  A little better. 
Finally, I pulled out a 25-year-old Addi Turbo (same as now; company never changed the basic Turbo except for the cable color) and bingo, I was on a roll.  These are still the slickest needles out there.  Not my "favorite," because metal obviously has no give and is harder on my hands.  And they're expensive.  But hey, they never wear out.

Now I'm inventing a sweater using a discontinued yarn from Noro called Chirimen.  It's basically Noro Taiyo in DKish weight.  ChiaoGoo Reds are working so far for this one because of the sharp point. 
Good:  The Reds are one step down from Addi Turbos when it comes to slick finish, a much sharper point, and half the price. 
Better: the right tool for the job.
Best: a knitted fabric I like.