Sunday, 15 February, 2009


So Bec, in her lovely and generous way, offered to make me a bag for my knitting needles. When we were in Melbourne in 2005, Kathleen told me how to do it (she recommended something like this) and we even went to Eckersley's together to buy felt and (sewing) needles, but I am just not into sewing so the felt and needles have remained untouched.

Anyway, today I thought I would sort through my knitting needles and see what the situation was. I've been meaning to do this for a while anyway—pretty much since Ben's grandmother died and I “inherited” her needles (with the understanding that the duplicates were to go back to my in-laws). I laid them out on the floor in order of size (the little bits of paper in the shape of cocktails actually mark the needle sizes), which took a while because some of them aren't labelled so I had to keep poking them into my knitting gauge to figure out what size they were. I soon realised that I had a bit of a problem, and perhaps Bec designing and making me a custom bag for them would be too big an undertaking.

For those who know nothing about knitting needles, there are basically four types (NB: I'm disregarding what they're made of here; though it's worth noting that you can get needles made from plastic, aluminium or wood [bamboo is nice], or aluminium with nickel-plating [read this for more info]). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, there are basically four types of knitting needles:

  1. straight (i.e. pointy at one end with some sort of stopper at the other end to prevent the yarn from falling off)
  2. circular (i.e. pointy at both ends with the ends being joined together by a bit of nylong string)
  3. double pointed (i.e. pointy at both ends) and
  4. cable (i.e. pointy at both ends with a bend in the middle so you can store stitches on them while doing cable knitting).

Straights are good for plain back-and-forth sort of knitting. Circulars are good for extremely wide back-and-forth-knitting (e.g. if you were to knit a scarf lengthwise instead of from top to bottom) and for knitting in circles (duh). (I tend to use circulars a lot—especially for things like bags.) Double-pointed are good for knitting in circles (otherwise called knitting in a round) when the circumference of what you're knitting is extremely small (e.g. socks and gloves). I'm not really a cable knitter (though I have done cables in my time) and so I only own two cable needles. I do, however, own a lot of straights, circulars and double-pointed needles.

Now, in the smaller measurements, needles tend to increase in size in 0.25 mm increments: 2.00 mm, 2.25 mm, 2.5 mm, 2.75 mm, 3.00 mm, etc. In the larger sizes, they tend to increase in 0.5 mm increments, and in the even larger sizes, they increase in 1 mm increments. My needles rang in size from 2 mm to 15 mm, and on almost every single size, I have straights, circulars and double-pointeds, and sometimes even more than one of each kind (e.g. with circulars: you can get them 40 cm in length or 80 cm in length). Yes, this is after culling most of the duplicates. Plus I've got a knitting Nancy, two stitch holders, two measuring tapes, a knitting gauge, a row counter and half a dozen crochet hooks. (Crochet hooks are useful in knitting to retrieve dropped stitches and to do edging.)

After laying all my needles out on the floor and doing a little inventory, I did some Googling only to find there isn't really much out there by way of a decent knitting needle organiser. By “decent”, I mean something that accounts for all three types of knitting needles with extra pockets for the accessories I mentioned above with labels for each needle size, plus room to add to the collection (because invariably you end up wanting to make something for which you don't have the right needles, so you have to go out and buy some more to fill the gaps. For example, I don't have 6 mm circulars or 10 mm straights or even 20 mm straights). This doesn't cut it (and besides, it's ugly). Neither does this (although it's prettier). Or this. Even Etsy doesn't seem to quite have what I'm after (although this is close).

How, I wonder, do other knitters do it? Well, one uses a filing cabinet and one made herself a folder (but only for her circulars). This knitter uses a folder and freezer bags, plus an artist's brush case. Knitty.com recommends vases and canisters (among other things). It seems to me there's a gap in the market ... (Bec ...?)

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Yikes!  (I like the commenter on one of those pages who said “I had tried a nice rattan container of similar size, but the rabbit ate it.”)

How do you store them now?

Would you prefer them to be stashed away, out of sight, or accessible/on displayish?

Hmm.  Lots to think about with a large, varied collection - but I like a challenge!

Most of my ordinary circular needles have been put into a large ziploc bag.  They are hardly used since I bought the Knitpicks Options set which comes in its own zippered case, a bit like a Bile cover.  I didn’t think I’d like them but knew I could easily on-sell them.  I love them and I use them often.  The case has clear plastic sections with a slide closure.

Straights are in a tin from Ikea.  Blue steel.  I have a couple of these but because my living arrangements are somewhat cramped at the moment, (one smallish room) I am using only the one tin.  It’s not really satisfactory as I too often have to use a gauge to find odd sizes.  I have quite a few oldish needles bought very cheaply from Anglicare and Vinnies and these aren’t marked with any size, either metric or the old imperial sizing.

My several sets of Knitpicks Harmony dpns (also brilliant), some larger dpns often used for hats , my Brittany birch dpns and a few favourites often used are stuck in the upturned cone of a partly used cone of Belisa cashmere.  Not really a good look.  It’s in a beautiful silver bowl filled with the wool I have been using, scraps left after socks and things I should really put away in the tote boxes stashed under my desk.

Just remembered, I have a needle roll with some bamboo needles in it.  I like the feel of them but they are too long for comfortable use, particularly after 5” dpns.

None of this is as satisfactory as I would really like, but it works for now.

Posted by Jan on 16 February, 2009 2:00 PM

Hey Jan! What would be your ideal needle organiser/storage option?

Bec, at the moment I store them in a Supré canvas bag. They’re all lumped in together, and every time I go to get them out, I have to sort through them all to find the ones I need (especially if they’re not labelled!) At the moment, I’ve left them on the picnic blanket because I can’t bear to bundle them all up again all higgledy-piggledy. I’m thinking of using the folder option for the time being to impose some sort of order on the chaos!

None of my needles are particularly lovely so I wouldn’t want them on display. I’d prefer to stash them away. I’ve got some ideas for the perfect needle roll-up; I’ll have to talk to you about it next we meet!

Ideal needle storage?  Hmmm.  Certainly it would involve the ability to sort all my double points according to size and material used.  Not only size in mm but also length.  I have some lovely casein needles, great on the hands but longer than I care to use for sock knitting.  I could cut them down but am reluctant to do so.  Also have some 7’ as well as my favourite smaller ones.

I have a great pile of older dpns, steel as well as aluminium.  Bought at garage sales, Anglicare, Vinnies, Spinner Guild Open days etc. I love the sense of history which comes from these, even though some are a bit rusty and I wouldn’t use them.  There is a sense of connection to generations past of craft people and I’m carrying on that tradition.  A bit like saying the creed gives me a sense of connection to other Christians around the world through the centuries.

I think that perhaps I really would most like having sizes separate. As I said, they are all in an Ikea tin and I need to use a gauge , even for my older straight needles which aren’t marked.  It’s time consuming and frustrating to find the one I want and then still have to find its mate.

A roll is good in that it’s fairly compact, but is also protective.  The Options zippered case has plastic envelopes inside.  These are sturdy and show the contents but the slide has broken off the top of every envelop.  They will press together easily but require a fingernail to get them open.  It’s a pity about that because the rest of the set is well thought out and of good quality.  The cords on the needles are just amazing in their flexibility.
So perhaps the ability to sort would be my top priority, then the actual container is not so important.  if I used tins, I would want them similar sizes and shapes for ease of stacking.

I meant to add.  Never hold needles together with a rubber band.  I bought some where the band had perished and left a sticky residue on the needles which was difficult to remove.


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