Sunday, May 10, 2015

Back to needles with flat ends

A few pairs of socks later, I have worked out how to do decreases with a (knitting sheath) and needles with flat ends.

Flat ends are not for hand held knitting. but they can make knitting with a knitting sheath much faster and produce a higher quality fabric.

The difference is particularly noticeable using needles in the 9" to 12" range. While the shorter (than long gansey needles) were always very convenient (to carry), the actual knitting (with a knitting sheath) was a bit awkward, and  I resorted to texturing the taper of the needle tips to keep the yarn from falling off.  Flat  needle ends greatly changes my perspective on the Scotch and Dutch use of short needles with knitting sheaths.  Flat needle tips turn these  methods in to much more powerful techniques. I should have known they would have a better technology.

With flat needle ends  the tendency for the wrap of yarn to fall off the needle tip disappears and the arc of the needle squarely pulls the wrap though the working stitch.  I do not know why I did not see this before.  ( I must have thought that modern long needles called "gansey needles" must be like the old gansey needles.)

Careful review of old photos professional knitters convinces me that they did in fact use very blunt or flat ended needles with their knitting sheaths.

On the other hand, the technique of knitting with a knitting sheath and flat ended needles is more different from knitting with  pointed hand held needles than knitting with a knitting sheath and pointed needles  is different from knitting with knitting with pointed hand held needles.  I am not at all sure that if I had put flat ended needles into my first knitting sheath, I would ever have been able to make knitting sheaths work at all.  If I had started with blunt ended needles, I would likely have given up before I understood the glory of  knitting sheaths,

And certainly, the objects that I knit with knitting sheaths and pointed needles were knit much better and much faster than I would ever have been able to knit them with only hand held needles.  I do not regret the use of pointed needles to learn the concepts of knitting sheaths.  Pointed needles were my training wheels.

I knit about 20 hours per week, (most of a very good boot sock yesterday) and it has been weeks since I knit  with  pointed needles.  Knitting sheaths are better then hand held needles, and flat ended needles work better with knitting sheaths. I still keep a pair of fine pointed needles handy for picking up stitches ( or crossing cables) and a crochet hook handy for fixing mistakes. Otherwise, I am done with pointed knitting needles.  I might pick them up again for lace (there are still lace WIP), but for knitting gansey style fabric (sweaters, boot socks, hats, and  etc), I am done with pointed needles.  


Holin Kennen said...

Have you actually seen "old" gansey needles with flat tips? If you haven't, then it's unwise to assume, as you seem to always do, that your flat needles existed before you invented them.

Aaron said...

Everyone I know who buys old steel needles has come up with old steel needles with flat ends. We had a long discussion on the topic. At that time we did not see how it could be done, or what advantage there would be (aside from ease of needle making.) Certainly Rutt had observations on the topic, and as he was the son of a blacksmith, I gave them due deference.

Then, go look at the needle tips in oldest photos of knitters known to use knitting sheaths, (eg Mary Wright, Cornish Guernseys and Knit Frocks pg.10, 11, 13) and look at the needle tips. Higher resolution photos are available online, but anyone with an interest in the topic should own the book.

Then there are a huge number of "metal shafts" found in various archaeology that are thought to be broken awl shafts, since they do not look like modern knitting needles.

Johnson said...

Interesting that you cite that book. I realize from your other blog posts that you tend to make up history based on paintings and pictures and this illustrates it. It clearly says in the book you cited "Knitting needles used for traditional guernseys were made of steel, POINTED AT BOTH ENDS, and about fourteen inches (36cm) long." Try reading the text rather than looking at photos.

Please know that it's ok to have personal prefence when it comes to knitting. If you prefer blunt needles and overly spun yarn, it's cool. If you want to knit at such a gauge that your pullover will feel like a woolen boa constrictor wrapped around you, go for it. Stop trying to make up history as a reason for your prefences. It doesn't matter what the knitters of yore did, all that matters is what you prefer.

You have such a romantic notion of history but I doubt you wear historically accurate breeches or footware while fishing. Are you wearing a life jacket made of cork or balsa wood while fishing? Doubtful. Who cares if your fisherman's sweater can withstand a hurricane and with what authentically accurate method you use to knit it? I'll answer that for you, no one cares.

Aaron said...

I know what she said, and I know how she got there. She referenced the available and apparently traditional commercial produce.

She assumed that the product made and sold to Victorian recreational knitters was similar to the tools made by professionals for themselves. Reread about making needles.