Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I should probably demand a commission

This week, I got a Ravelry message from Ash, who is a member of our Ravelry group (that's Woodcraft Knitters, which was technically started up by Wood, but which I have highjacked and of which I have anointed myself High Chancellor).  It got me wondering: did I ever end up telling you what I think of my new-ish KnitPicks interchangeable needle set (the ones in these photos)?

Well, in case I haven't, here's what I think of them:

I love them.

The end.


What?  Oh, you wanted more feedback?  OK FINE.

Seriously, they're fantastic.  This is why I think so:

  1. You can not - and will not - beat the price.
  2. I am a very loose knitter and I ordered the nickel-plated set (the interchangeables and a slew of the skinnier ones - which can't be manufactured as interchangeables because they're too skinny for the mechanism - in 40" lengths, for magic loop knitting).  The nickel-plated is super slippery and excellent for fast knitting.  My Lace Addi needle got all tarnishy and ugly after the first project (not that their look affects their performance, but you know what I mean), but my KnitPicks needles are still 100% perfectly beautiful after several projects.
  3. The tips are sharp (thank you, folks at KnitPicks - you angels, you)
  4. The joins are as good as it gets.  The looser the knitting, the more invisible they seem.  Perfect.
  5. The cables are so bendy and forgiving, it's kind of freaky.  Seriously, they are even more forgiving than Addi's and that is saying a LOT.
  6. The tips are feather-weight.  Awesome.  Just awesome.
  7. I now have a pretty complete set of circulars on hand.  I had no idea how liberating that feeling would be until I bought these.  I have a complete set of straights and a mostly-complete set of DPN's, but I think circs are more versatile and wow, it makes a big difference having them all within reach.
  8. They fit in a tidy little case (though the case is stiff and awkward and could probably benefit from being made of a different material...except that it is really nice to be able to see through the plastic...oh well, you can't have everything, I guess).
  9. The options for the tips.  I mean, how great would it be to have all three types - metal, acrylic and wood?  You could experiment with each one when you're trying out a new yarn.  Different yarns benefit from being knit on different needles, did you know that?  I didn't.  But apparently, it's true.  You can get better results if you play around with your needle types.
  10. You can buy a little coupling separately that allows you to join cables together and make one super long cable.  Afghan knitting, anyone?
  11. Have you ever heard of lifelines, in knitting?  Well, they work like this: when you're knitting something that is a little involved, like a lace shawl or a cabled sweater, there is a possibility that you might make a mistake at some point (what?? me, make a mistake???  NEVER!) and you'll have to rip some knitting back.  The thought of having to rip back lace is enough to give a person a migraine (I don't recommend it to anyone), so this is what you do: at the end of a round of particularly complex knitting, you will thread a yarn needle with some scrap yarn and feed it through your loops, thus securing them and providing you with a safe harbour in the storm.  Well, with the KnitPicks interchangeables, it's even easier to do than that.  The tips are tightened onto the cables using a little pin.  You twist the tip onto the cable, insert the pin into a small hole near the needle's socket, and you use the pin as leverage to really torque the needle and cable together.  Here's the secret: that little pin hole is the PERFECT size for dental floss.  You thread the dental floss into the hole, tie a little knot to keep it there, knit your next row just like you normally would (with your regular yarn - the floss is just going along for the ride), but when you're done, you snip the knot in the dental floss and leave it in your work.  BAM: instant lifeline.  Plus, it's minty fresh.  And lifelines need not be limited to complex work.  They're good for keeping travel knitting safe from tangles.  Or just preventing your toddler from setting you back hours and hours and hours in your work by gleefully making away with your needle from your project, which was sitting peacefully on the sofa before you turned your back a moment ago.
  12. They also have these little tags that you can buy separately that are GENIUS!  Why, you ask?  Well, imagine this totally probable scenario: you start a project like...I don't know...a sweater.  Yeah, you're starting a sweater.  You're knitting up the body when you realize that you were supposed to start on the sleeves first, for whatever reason.  No biggie.  You unscrew the needle tips from the cable and use the little purple caps that came with your kit to secure the knitting onto the cable.  It will now act as a stitch holder (goodbye scrap yarn method!) and will keep the body safe until you're ready to graft the arms on.  Except WAIT.  What happens if you start the sleeve and then decide that you have to knit an emergency scarf with that size of needle (what? scarf emergencies happen, yo) and so you abandon the sleeve idea and all of the sudden, you come back to them later and you have no idea what size needles you were using for the sweater (because, though I've told you to, you haven't started a knitting journal yet and you're working blind).  SO WHAT THEN?  You're up the creek without a paddle, my friend.  Unless...

What if you slipped one of these little puppies onto the cable before you capped it at each end when you stopped knitting the sweater body?  A built-in method of documenting your needle sizes for on-going projects.

See?  Genius, I tell you.  Simply genius.

So, do I think you should invest in a set of these?  Yes, I do.  I DESPISED circular needles for years and I knit almost exclusively on these, now.  My knitting-in-the-round has improved tenfold (no more ladders and unevenness).  Magic loop is my answer to everything.  Two-at-a-time socks are my new modus operandi.  Heck, two-at-a-time sleeves are next.

What I would suggest is this: KnitPicks make a set of interchangeables that include a pair of each type of tips (wood, metal and acrylic - I inserted a photo of this set at the top of this post) so you can try them out.  I would give that a shot.  The Holidays are coming - put them on your list.  I really don't think you'll regret it.

Oh, and one more thing: if you haven't been listening to Kelly Petkun's podcasts, you really ought to remedy that.  Holy cow, have I learned a lot from this woman.  Excellent commuting soundtrack (I even listen to them while I'm doing housework and baking).  Just remember to keep a little notebook handy (or maybe your NEW KNITTING JOURNAL, HINT HINT) so that you can take notes.  'Cause I guarantee that you'll want to.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why learn a lesson the easy way?

I have learned a very valuable lesson this week:

When you are undertaking a new pattern for the first time, it pays to take the time and re-write the damn thing in your own words.

Particularly if this pattern was written by a designer that is unknown to you.  Particularly if this designer seems a little Old School (they did things differently in the Olden Days of knitting... you know, like 10 years ago).  Particularly if you're not accustomed to following patterns in the first place and usually prefer to wing it, as Elizabeth Zimmermann-ites such as myself are wont to do.

Now, I already knew this.  I preached this.  I smirked a little as I witnessed others refusing to do this very thing, thus finding themselves up a creek without a paddle.

Oh, would I could properly convey to you the taste of humble pie, my friends.

When I left you last, I was performing some rather heart-wrenching surgery on my husband's argyle vest.  I managed to remain fairly positive throughout the process (you know, once the vile cursing and temper tantrum subsided, that is).

At one point, just as I was ripping back 3 hours worth of work (by the way, it took me 1.5 hours to undo 3 hours of work...that thought gives me heartburn), I thought to myself (cue ominous music) that I really should sneak a lifeline into this thing, JUST IN CASE something went wrong again.

Once I got it all back on track, I squared my shoulders and put my mind to the task of starting the arm shaping over again.  I was a little tired, but determined.  I took a deep yogic (and very zen, I like to think) breath.  But did I remember to put in a lifeline?  Nooooooooo, of course not.  Did I go back and re-re-re-read the instructions.  Well, yes.  Naturally.

At least I thought I had.

Are you getting a sense of foreboding, here?  A little foreshadowing, perhaps?

Yeah, so, um, well.... I screwed up again.  I am halfway between the arm shaping and the shoulder seam on one side of the front and I just realized that I have to rip back to the armhole shaping (a good 4" of work).  And not a lifeline in sight. 

Now, I am not above ignoring mistakes and making do.  I can't stand perfectionism and like to refer to myself as a "good-enough-ist".  Mistakes just emphasize our human-ness, I prefer to think.  However, this mistake is bad enough that it makes me question whether or not it will dramatically change the way this thing fits.  I'm just not sure enough of myself and I want this vest to be something my husband will love and wear forever.  If it languishes in a drawer, I'll be extremely frustrated.  Especially if it languishes because I was too lazy to rip a mistake out and fix it when I had the chance.  Pardon the expression, but that would just chap my ass.

Is it too early in the day for alcohol?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Le soupir

Have just spent the past hour undoing 2.5" of intarsia work.

No, am not feeling homicidal at all, thanks for asking.

My mantra, currently: I knit because I love to do it, I knit because I love to do it, I knit because I love to do it...

To all of you out there who are just learning to knit and you are saying to yourselves "I can't wait until I am more experienced and stop making mistakes", all I have to say is this: you never stop making mistakes.  You just get better at fooling yourself into thinking you aren't making them and, as your knitting speeds up, you just start getting into trouble faster.  Thus, a misreading of the effing instructions and a disregard for the need to COUNT MY DAMN STITCHES + three hours of catching up with Grey's Anatomy online = a total mess (as evidenced above).

Am cutting my ends and tossing this entire rat's nest of loose yarn into a ziplock to be untangled (only if absolutely necessary: I may be mental, but I'm not a masochist) later.  For now, I have plenty of extra yarn and I'm not afraid to use it.  Onwards, friends.  This vest ain't gonna knit itself (though I really wish it would).