Thursday, April 2, 2015

Crocheters Learning to Knit: The Gadgets

When thinking about what to put into the 2nd Edition of my Crocheters Learning to Knit articles, I realized that there were at least 3 points that needed to be addressed more in-depth, so this 2-part series is probably going to be a 5 or more part series. The first one of those, as we have today, are gadgets. All those little things that go with knitting that we don't necessarily have in crochet- OR we have in crochet but are a little different, a little more important, or we have so far ignored the importance of. Again, these are my own experiences and opinions which probably differ from a lot of other people's but here I am, once again, sharing my gathered info with you mostly because I hope you are excited about learning to knit!

Needle Gauges
Since I recommended Double Pointed Needles from the beginning, you are going to need a needle gauge. Most of these come in the form of a gauge ruler that are dual-purpose- measuring your needles AND measuring your gauge. We will cover gauge the next time, though, because that is important enough to warrant its own page.

Here we have the two needle gauges that sit in a cup on my work table. The first is quite old by now and rather bent and at one time missing so I had to replace it. The gauge I found to purchase the second go round was the new improved version, which I really don't like as much (more on that next time). But the needle-gauge part of it is essentially the same. There are little holes there and you stick the needle through and whichever hole it fits just right is what size the needles are. You will find this also useful some day when you invest in some circular needles.

My bamboos came with the size printed on them and that is very helpful, but some of them wore off. The aluminum needle sets all came in their own little envelope, so it's easy to see at a glance which size to grab at first BUT if you are like me and stuff everything into your needle cup instead of putting them immediately back where they go, you will need a needle gauge to help you clean up after yourself. There are also instances when you start a project with one size needle and change to a larger size along the way. This means you could have several needles lying about that are very hard to tell the difference in.

Some needle sets come with their own needle gauges. Some needle gauges are just needle gauges without the gauge ruler part. I bought a set that came with a little gauge in each of its little envelopes (which I gave away because who needs 24 tiny little needle gauges?) However you acquire one, just know you will be glad you have it!

And I will acknowledge the fact here that gauge is both a noun and a verb so is really confusing in paragraphs about gauge. It's like trying to tell someone that the road on the right is the right road. Or something like that.

Handy box of random stuff that has nothing to do with Metrics
 (including a Carmex that needs to go in the trash ASAP)
Learn the Metrics
Which comes to a related point: Most of us crocheters (in the US, at least, where metric is generally shunned as unnecessary and superfluous) refer to all of our crochet hooks by their LETTER size. H hook, F hook, etc. Unless you crochet doilies or lace and then the tiny steel hooks are referred to by numbers. But anyway, knitting needles have number sizes - 5, 6, , 10. 10 1/2...  and these are based on an old method of gauging wire which is different in different countries. The metrics of them, just like with crochet hooks, is always the same because Metric is a base-10 unit of measurement that is consistent worldwide. It is going to help you tremendously from now on if you get in the habit of referring to all hooks and needles by their metric sizes. Not only will this open up a whole world of patterns to you (when before we struggled with British Crochet patterns or avoided them) but it going to give you some preparedness when choosing a project.

'How many millimeters thick is this hook or needle' is a consistent method of rating for all bistitchual persons. You already know that crocheting a #4 yarn with an E hook is going to take some effort to get the stitches neat. It's pretty tight and will make your hands tired (though most ami-makers are very used to this so not an issue!). An E(3.50 mm) crochet hook- is the same thickness as a 4(3.50mm) knitting needle and is going to relate to the yarn in pretty much the same way. If you can draw a parallel between the hook size and the needle size in relationship to the yarn, you will have some idea if this is something you want to tackle. Maybe this is a project that you will want to save for when you have more experience OR this is a project that you would probably choose a different yarn for - one that splits less or you already understand the qualities of. So, when looking at patterns and seeing that you need to start with a size 4 needle on #4 yarn, you can expect it to be pretty tight fabric and judge how to begin or just not to begin- by past experiences in crochet. Less surprises, less disappointments, less frogged projects and time wasted.

Stitch Markers
As crocheters we are already familiar with stitch markers and their uses and importance. We use a lot of things as stitch markers, though- paper clips, safety pins, hair pins, scraps of yarn. In knitting you will definitely need some smaller, less invasive, dedicated to the purpose of knitting stitch markers.

I use 23 types: Ring Markers and Locking Markers. (and noticed when I started taking pics that I also have some split ring markers which I don't really like)

Ring markers slide onto your needle and nestle neatly between stitches without causing gaps. I like the perfectly flat kind, but there are also thicker ones that probably work just as well (and possible get lost less easily). Ring markers are moved along with your work- each time you do a row- and are there to remind you to begin a new stitch sequence or to increases or decreases at this point.

In a moment of desperation, I have made my own ring
markers from these foamy pencil grip thingies.
Locking Markers are good for marking the RS of the fabric, for marking the beginning when working in the round- whether it's the the beginning at the edge of a hat band or the beginning where you begin shaping. They are also good for marking your progress and not needing to recount rows over and over- something that is a lot harder to do in knitting- especially when you are working a stitch pattern and not just garter or stockinette.

I will tell you right now that I buy these locking markers by the hundreds for just a few dollars. Look on Ebay and find a seller in China. It takes like 6-8 weeks for your package to come, but it sure beats paying $4 for 18 of them. I also find them better, to be honest, because they are a little thinner and softer, which sounds like CHEAP, but they are also more likely to bend and not snap. The ones I have bought through US sellers are definitely better made, but sometimes being sturdy means being unforgiving and when they should bend they just break and then they are useless.

Some various 1-size circulars. The little tiny ones are good
for making baby hats, though not comfortable to work with.
Circular Needles
When you get ready to buy more needles you should definitely get circulars. These can be used to knit in the round or knit flat. You can get pre-set sizes and lengths or you can buy a set of modulars with the needles and the cables that all lock together and make whatever size you need. Some sets even come with little end stoppers so you essentially have 2 long needles but they are pliable and light-weight as opposed to the horribleness of actual long needles. Some of these sets cost HUNDREDS of dollars and I am sure are amazingly so much better than I could ever imagine and if one of my kids wanted to not pay their mortgage on the month of my birthday in order to get me some that would be awesome - extremely unwise but an awesome gesture. I would make them take them back and keep their house, but it would be appreciated nonetheless.

I happen to have a set of the Boye ones- which I found on Ebay for about $20-30 cheaper than they are sold in the store. I was already used to these since I had bought some in small pieces here and there and buying the full set was cheaper than filling in the gaps- not to mentions nobody ever happened to have all the pieces I needed at the same (one single shipping cost) time. They have a nice long needle which is good for anyone that doesn't happen to have dainty little hands. The cables that come in the set are nicer than the ones that you can get individually. The individual needles have a bend to them at the connection which didn't bother me all that much until I tried the ones WITHOUT the bend.

A whole set of needles for anything I could possibly want
to make (as far as I know at this point, anyway)
You can also get them as one whole piece- in metal, wood, acrylic- there are even more options in these than in DPNs. You will want to pay attention to the cable length. If you are knitting sweaters of blankets- things that are flat or large- then long ones are great. If you want to knit hats then you will need some that the needles + the cables are at least 2-3 inches shorter than the hat circumference. There is also a great method called Magic Ring - which is entirely different than magic ring in crochet- where you use very long needles to knit tiny round things by letting the extra cable hang out between some of the stitches. I have yet been able to do this without big gaps in the fabric- and very likely you would need some of the HUNDREDS of dollars type needles to get the cables that are flexible enough to do it properly- but just throwing it out there as another reason why circulars are so great and so much better than straight needles.

Point Protectors here, too, since I mentioned those last time
Stitch Holders
You may never ever need these if you don't make things with sleeves or necklines or knit amigurumi or ever need to steal the needles from a project to use for another project- but there are probably other uses for them I have not encountered yet. They are cheap, though, and might as well grab a set when you are ordering something else. They look like huge safety pins and just hold live stitches so they don't pull out until you need to put them back on a needle- for whatever reason you took them off the needle in the first place.

Cable Needles
This is a recent purchase for me, but definitely one that I knew I needed just took me forever to decide what kind I wanted and at a price I liked. (If you haven't gathered already, I am extremely frugal.) I made an entire baby blanket using a paper clip as a cable needle. Since then I mostly used a DPN to hold the stitches, but that is awkward and requires sort of poking one end into your work to stabilize it which can potentially muss up all your pretty knitting. I found a set (Ebay again) with a variety of sizes and shapes so I could see which kind I liked best. These are plastic and work just fine, but someday I will invest in some nicer ones when I am sure which shape I prefer. BUT the actual point of a cable needle is to hold a few stitches out of the way for knitting cables. Cables are a lot easier than most people think- you are just changing in which order you knit the stitches to make that twist in the fabric- so moving 2, 3, 4 stitches onto a cable needle, knitting a few stitches, then putting those first ones back on the needle and knitting them next- is how you make a cable. The cable needle is just a very fast and secure way to move those stitches out of your way for a few seconds. So... you have general sizes (you would use a smaller one with smaller knitting needles, but they don't have to be exactly the same size since you aren't actually knitting from them) and then you have ones that are like hooks or dips or dippy hooks. Probably more shapes. I am still deciding which ones I like best.

Point protectors and stitch markers IN ACTION
(though they really aren't doing anything ATM)
Row Counters
These are pretty self-explanatory. It's not as easy counting your rows in knitting as it is in crochet. And sometimes you have stitch patterns (like cables) where you do THIS for 7 rows and then do THAT for 1 row. It's hard to see how many rows you have coming out of a cable twist. They are just a good thing to have. There are different kinds of these, too- some very cute and fancy that hang around your neck and so that go onto the needle or cable. I go through a lot of these (and measuring tapes) because they end up in the floor and I have a dog that loves to chew anything plastic. She's cute, though, and not her fault I am messy and forgetful. So, definitely get some row counters. Whatever kind you like or want to invest in. I just get these very basic ones which can hang on the cable needle when I am working flat or I put on a necklace and wear. And then if I lose or break one I am out of a few cents. Alternatively you can just keep a piece of paper and a pen handy, write down all your row numbers and cross them off as you complete them. Put a bunch of buttons in a cup and move them to a second cup when that row is completed. There are lots of ways to keep track of your rows, but you will definitely at some point wish you had kept track of your rows if you weren't.

Measuring Tape
I put this one last because most everyone probably already has these. If you don't, though, get one. There's a wonderful thing about a lot of knitting patterns like 'do this for so many inches' and you will need to measure the inches. I really like this about knitting patterns because they don't assume that one person's stitch height is right or wrong like a lot of people in crochet try to tell you. Just keep doing it until it's the right length. Easy enough.




So... next time I am going to talk about the importance of GAUGE. Grrrrr the dreaded GAUGE.

Bonus: Since I mentioned Ebay and the great things you can order from China, I would show you one of many things you can find much cheaper than the name brand versions sold in the US. This flower loom is identical to the one by Clover that sells for around $20- and I think I paid about $6 for it. The only difference I can see is it comes with a plastic needle instead of the metal one. They are made in China first, then packaged and sold in the US for a lot more. The instructions are almost impossible to  understand, so you have to look up a video for it, but totally worth saving about 150% of the cost for something I will use 5 or 6 times in my entire life. The truth being, though, that Ebay is like The Dollar Store. You can find a lot of stuff on there that you don't really need but you will still buy just because it's cheap. Ebay/Dollar Store definitely undermines my frugality and dedication of not living amongst a lot of THINGS.


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