Wednesday, September 24, 2014

knitting belts, knitting sheaths and stainless steel needles

A year ago, I switched to knitting needles made of hollow stainless steel for much of my knitting. Mostly, I bought inexpensive needles from Hong Kong. The sizing is weird, but if one knits gauge swatches (and all good knitters do) then one can find a size that works very well.

Knitting sheaths tended to break these needles, so for the past year, I have mostly used a leather knitting belt.  The leather is easier on the needles than the wooden knitting sheaths.

However, in the last couple of months, better knitting technique has allowed me to use the hollow needles with my knitting sheaths. And, frankly knitting sheaths have advantages.  (Shetland knitting pouches have different advantages!)

Thus, these days I  am back to knitting  mostly with a knitting sheath.  There is a gansey that was started on a knitting belt, but I will switch from belt to sheath when I get to the pattern.

These days, my sock knitting kit is in bag originally made as a shaving kit for travel. The needles do not go through the heavy plastic material. This way, I do not have to carry my big (leather) for just socks.

These days, I can have any style of sock yarn that I want - I spin it myself.  The yarns that I like for cold weather socks are remarkably similar to the yarns that I like for my cold weather sweaters -  50 to 60 count wools, spun into firmly spun worsted, lace weight singles, and then softly  plied into sport weight yarns.  Hiking socks and working ganseys get spun up from coarser wools such as Romney.

All  those socks that I knit from MacAusland were very good socks.  I do not regret them at all.  I still recommend MacAusland yarns for outdoor gear for folks that knit, but do not spin.  Today, I hand spin better yarns that make better objects.

On its face, none of this is cost effective.  110 hours for a sweater?!! Any economist could tell me that I would be better off working at Mcdonalds and buying a sweater.  But, I have to be somewhere, for the rest of the day, and I can put in the time when I am not working to good use - that 110 hours can be time that would otherwise be lost - as it while I watch the evening news, or sit and chat or . . . . The last time somebody complained about my knitting during a business meeting,  I recited all the typos and errors in his powerpoint presentation.  He turned red and shutup.  Actually,  The truth is - the time is free.

There are fancy soft fibers (and yarns) out there for high prices.  However, there are also reasonably priced fibers of very high quality.  Both the Woolery and Halcyon carry a blend of American  wools for about $16/lb. It has a lanolin based combing oil on it that will oxidize  and go sticky, so it must be stored in air tight bags.   At some point it needs to be washed/scoured.  As long as you are washing it, you might as well dye it to the color that you want.

Then there is Anna Harvey's Rambouillet ( ) . Yes, she has "a spinner's flock" but she also has that lovely bright white, fine, Rambouillet. Yes, it is meat sheep!  but that does not keep it from being one of the very best textile wools in the world.  Yes, Merino gets all the press.  Merino needs the press because the great textile mills making the fine fabrics for the couture designers use Rambouillet.  Compared to other fiber in the hand spinner's world, Anna Harvey's Rambouillet is inexpensive. If you cannot scour it yourself, Sherry at Morrow Bay ( will do an excellent job on it.  I hear of problems at some other (mills) - particularly for Alpaca.  PS Anna's flock won lots of ribbons at the last wool show.  Anna's flock is about as good as a commercial flock can be.  My suggestion is to get your guild together, order a bunch of fleeces.  When they come in, sort and grade the wool.  That way you will have enough wool of a single grade for a project.  Then, have a guild work day and wash all the grades of wool.  The result should be bins of graded wool that are far, far superior to anything on the commercial market, or anything a single spinner can do, all at a cost that is far, far below that of  commercial grade fine wools of a lower quality.


Connie said...

Why not post photos of belt and sheath? Not everybody knows these tools... most people in non-english-speaking regions don't

Aaron said...

Look back through the blog - there are many, many photos of knitting sheaths and knitting belts, along with a variety of needles.

Anonymous said...

Photos should be posted with each blog post to back up what you're writing. I'm not going fishing through your blog to find a picture you may or may not have posted who knows when.