Recently in Knitting Tools Category

Circular Treats

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Whenever I go through something stressful or something frustrating I buy myself treats to help distract myself from whatever it is that is causing me stress or frustration. Strictly speaking, motherhood, so far, isn't really stressful or frustrating, but the bed rest beforehand and the challenges of dealing with the life changes that a newborn baby brings to the party fall into that category. So besides the occasional facial, body potion or book (sadly, it seems the cute new clothes are out of the question until I dump some of the baby weight and my, er, upper body, decides what final shape it wants to take on) , I've also been treating myself to some knitting tool treats as well.

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Lantern Moon Rosewood Destiny Circulars

I bought my first set of Lantern Moon Destiny Circulars in Rosewood about 6 months ago, when I was looking for circular needles with a smooth finish, nice join and a flexible cable that weren't too slick. These fit the bill. They don't have the needle sharp tips that most people like for lace knitting, but they are good for most of the uncomplicated knitting that I do. I really like the finish on these needles. Smooth enough so that most everything passes easily over them, enough drag to make slippery yarns easy to work with. The joins are nice and smooth and the cable, while not quite as flexible as that of a good Addi Turbo, does move easily and doesn't require the more aggressive heating process that I usually have to apply to other circular needle cords to get them to behave. The only drawback to these needles is the price -- at $24/set they're not something that you buy a whole lot of quickly.

With my bed rest followed up relatively quickly by delivery of Zosia, I decided that I had "earned" a few more of these needles. And I discovered that I "needed" a US size 5 needle for the Diamond Fantasy scarf (it seems like every time I start a project lately, I am lacking needles of the appropriate size and surface texture). True, I do have my Denise needle set, but I really hate using the size 5 needle because the needle diameter and the cord are the same size and it's never really worked for me. Since I was going to be using the Handmaiden 2 Ply Cashmere and Silk, I also needed a needle with a little bit of grip to help keep those slippery stitches in place. So I took one of my first after delivery trips out to Nina's and added a size 5 and a size 7 (my first needle was a 6) to the collection. The 7 was the size I needed for May... and I figured as long as I was giving myself a treat...

I love the feel of knitting with these needles. Little by little I think I am going to phase out all my Crystal Palace and Clover circulars and replace them with these. I love knitting with wooden needles -- and unlike my other favorites, my Addi Turbos, I don't take the finish off of them with use (there is something in my skin that does not entirely agree with the finish on the Turbos). These needles are hand crafted in Vietnam and have a special story that explains where the name came from. And they are now in the category of "my favorite things".

Big Ol' Ballwinder

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When you buy yourself a spinning wheel, you think to yourself: How cool, I can buy this one machine and I can spin. I don't need any more equipment. Just me and some bobbins and the swift and ballwinder I already have from all that knitting. You might even tell your significant other how when you buy your wheel, you won't need anything else. You've reached the apogee of fiber equipment. You're good to go for the forseeable future.

Yeah, right.

My spinning wheel has turned out to be a tool I absolutely love, but it's also turned out to be the sort of tool that begets the purchase of other tools. Want to work on more than one spinning project at once? Time to get yourself a bunch more bobbins. Want to spin a bit faster and avoid having to change hooks. You need that WooLee Winder. Better throw in a few more bobbins for that, too. Tried out that big ol' plying head and made a big ol' skein? Better hope you have a good sized swift. And that lovely plastic Royal ballwinder that was always sufficient for commercial knitting yarn. Heh. It's probably not going to cut it.

In the summer/fall I started to look for a ballwinder that could handle jumbo-sized skeins. I really only came across a couple of options and I figured I would end up with the Strauch ball winder that I had seen at several fiber festivals. So I headed off to the Fold to see if Toni had them for sale. She had the Fricke electric motor driven version, but I wasn't really interested in a motorized ball winder. Then she told me that Nancy's Knit Knacks was going to introduce a ball winder and it looked like a good machine. Could I wait a little bit?

Well, there are very few ball winder emergencies in my house, and after watching the video for the NKK Ball Winder (click the link and look in the right sidebar) I was intrigued. It looked like a lot of engineering had gone into their machine, and it had a lot of flexibility to go along with the ability to wind big balls. Not only that, but it was a heck of a lot more attractive than the Strauch/Fricke options (this is my opinion... clearly tool beauty is in the eye of the beholder). When Toni finally got hers in and I got to try it out, I placed my order on the spot. As a woman whose father, brother, husband and brother-in-law are all engineers, I'm pretty good at telling when I've found a good piece of equipment that has the potential to last me a life time.

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My New NKK Ball Winder

My new toy arrived at my house just after Christmas. Unfortunately, I haven't had too many opportunities to put it through its paces yet, but every time I use it I get the same big goofy grin on my face that my husband does when he installs a new high powered graphics card in his home theatre computer and plugs in a first person shooter. This, my friends, is, I think, my forever ball winder. It can wind balls of 1 pound and larger, it has a smooth mechanism, the yarn guide is adjustable, and it has the flexibility to be upgraded to a motorized machine should I want to go that route at some point in time. This is the sort of toy that makes me want to pull all the yarn out of my closet and turn it into center pull balls.

And I'm absolutely sure that after this, I won't need any more spinning support tools.

Really.

Well, at least not for a little while.

Knitting Symbol Font

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So, over the weekend, as I was thinking about lace charts and browsing through the early treasuries of Barbara Walker's stitch patterns, I realized that my life would be made a lot easier if I could convert these patterns (which are all written out in words, line by line) into a visual representation, which tends to help me understand and memorize the chart better. I'm not sure what it is, maybe my inner programmer is showing, but when I can see a lace pattern in symbol form, memorizing it is a breeze.

Initiallly, I thought I would create my own symbols in Visio and over time add to that template as I needed to convert more charts. As I started to look at Barbara Walker's abbreviations (found in the 4th treatsury of her work) I thought that some of them were a little non-standard from what I was used to working with, and I decided that I needed to search and refresh my memory about symbols and their standard meanings.

As happens so often when I do this sort of thing, I realize that someone else has done something far better and much more handy than what I am embarking on that can save me a lot of time. In this case it turns out to be the Aire River Design Knitting Font a True Type font which can be downloaded for free for personal and professional use and thus is at your finger tips when you open up your favorite word processing program.

How cool is that?

Note, added after receiving some comments... Anne provided a link to another knitting font, the one used by Knitter's magazine. Although I haven't looked at it myself yet, Ariel comments that it's a fixed width font and may be easier to use for those of you who don't like to deal with setting up tables in Word or Excel. I'll definitely have to take a look at the Knitter's font sometime soon.

When I used the Aire River font, I created a table in Word with as many columns as were required for the number of stitches in the pattern repeat and set the column widths to be determined by the cell contents. Then I configured the columns so that all the symbols were horizontally and vertically centered, which overcame my need for a fixed-width font. It looks like the Knitter's font may create a grid automatically.

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