Friday, June 13, 2014

Knitting Pins

These days, my default knitting needles are ~1.6 mm in diameter.  I have them in 10", 12", 14" and 18" lengths. I have them in stainless steel and spring steel.  I think they are a tool form worth studying.

These days, I am spinning worsted 5-ply @ 1,000 ypp. The yarn and needles go together like bread and butter at tea time.

I always use them with a knitting sheath or Shetland knitting belt.  Without the support of a knitting sheath or knitting belt, they are slow and awkward -- not worth the effort.

The knitting method(s) are not so straightforward for somebody accustomed to stiff sock needles.  The tip of the working needle is slid into the working stitch, and the yarn looped, the tip popped out of  stitch, and the stitch popped off the end of the needle.  Of course, that much is obvious.  What is not obvious is that the needle motions are made by flexing and bowing the working needle.   The knitting sheath and leg of the working stitch are fulcrums, and the needle flex is driven by either pressing the needle with the upper wrist or the ball of the thumb.

Why no video?  The flex is small and does not really show up in a video without super imposed graphics. However, the flex changes the angle of the tip and seems to be important in keeping the looped yarn from coming off the needle tip. It might be that more carefully crafted needle tips would also help., I do  regrind the the commercial needle tips.  As supplied, the commercial needle tips worked, but the reground needle tips are better and result in faster knitting with fewer dropped/split stitches. And in these fabrics, dropped/split stitches are a pain in the neck to fix.

The motions are very small, very gentile, and very easy on the hands.  It allows knitting a very tight fabric with minimum stress on the hands.  Over all, I do not think the process is a fast as gansey (long spring steel needles rigidly fixed in a knitting sheath)  knitting because it requires 2 hand motions rather than the single motion of gansey knitting, but it is very easy on the hands and reasonably fast.

I had to spend some time working with the more flexible tubular stainless steel needles to work out this technique. Once I understood the motions, I could do it with the spring steel needles, and in fact it is faster with the spring steel needles. However, with the spring steel needles there was more of a tendency to treat them as rigid needles.  Certainly, I can knit with rigid needles, but that is not always the fastest way from yarn to finished object.

If, when I made my first knitting pins, somebody had told me, "Oh, there is a faster and easier way to use them", I would have put in the effort to work out these techniques years ago.  However, nobody said, "Use a knitting sheath or knitting belt and a whole range of knitting techniques using needle flex open up."

Oh, and the techniques works for 1.3 mm needles on sock yarn. And, using 1.6 mm needles on sock yarn produces lovely fabrics suited to summer evenings.   If I were knitting a gansey for my wife, I might use 1.9 mm needles with 5-ply to produce a softer, more elastic fabric. (She does not sail in foul weather.)

I like the tubular stainless steel needles because they are light weight. they are less likely to slide out of the knitting and they are less likely to leave a ladder.  The spring steel needles are likely a bit faster and more durable.

Thus, today, I would not bother to use my 2 mm to 2.5 mm  long spring steel needles to produce weatherproof fabric. I still think that the spring action of long steel needles is the very fastest way to knit large objects. I  used those needles to make weatherproof fabrics because I hand not figured out how to make such tight fabrics using thinner, more flexible needles. Now, I know, and now you know it can be done and  have the clues to reverse engineer the process.

My current list of different knitting techniques includes:

1a) short, stiff needles held in the hands used with  pitch / yaw motions with yarn in either right or left hand (include conventional sock needles, cable needles, Weldon, Irish Cottage, lever, and all the common modern knitting techniques)
1b) short, stiff needles used with knitting stick
2) hooked needles used with an accordion motion (Portuguese)
3) long spring steel needles fixed in a knitting sheath and flexed into the stitch (gansey knitting)
4) long stiff needles used with Shetland knitting belt
4b) long,  needles tucked in a skin crease or under the arm
5) curved needles that rotate in the end of the knitting sheath and roll/are popped into the stitch, and the spring of the fabric pops the needle out of the stitch  and then the stitch off the end of the needle. (swaving)
6) fine, flexible needles held in a knitting sheath or knitting belt that are bowed/flexed in and out of the stitch


  • technique 2 is good for knitting while walking
  • technique 3 is almost certainly the fastest for knitting large objects; finer needles can be used with finer yarns to produce  fine, soft fabrics at a reasonable pace
  • techniques 3 and 4 differ by the source of the spring action.
  •  technique 5 has no peer for knitting fine gloves

  • technique 6 differs from 3 in that  3 uses a single fulcrum, while with T6 both the leg of the working stitch and the knitting sheath/belt act as fulcrums so that there is a compound lever/spring action
  • technique 6 allow production of fine, dense fabrics  at a reasonable pace

1 comment:

Julie said...

Your blog is a wonder! So much solid info for me to digest. Please keep it coming.
The link to your Etsy store is broken and I can't access your products.

Victoria, BC, Canada