Saturday, January 09, 2016

Thinner needles

When I started using long steel needles some 12 years ago, I thought they would last forever.

When new, my US1 needles were 2.38 mm in diameter.  Now, having been buffed to a shine every few months,  I notice that some of the needles are down in the range of 2.2 to 2.25 mm. (And in the last couple of years, most have had their pointy tips ground off and are now blunt.)

A swatch being knit from Romney handspun 5-ply gansey yarn on 1.95 mm needles.
Gauge is ~ 90 stitches per square inch.

As you can see, they are blunt and there is plenty of wiggle room in the US 0
needle size hole


Nevertheless, I like them in their new slimmer format and I keep on using them. (However, now that I have discovered blunt needles, I tend to use needles in the US 0 to US 000 range.)

If they were commercial plated needles they would be long, long gone.

One truth is that knitting needles wear out, and are recycled.  This would be particularly true for copper, brass and bronze needles.  (Brass needles are wonderful to knit with, but most brass alloys leave toxic residue on both the hands and the wool.)

A corollary is that most archaeologists think that knitting needles are pointy. This is not necessarily true.  Today, I do not think that most archaeologists would recognize the objects that I do my best knitting on, as knitting tools. And yet, we have historical descriptions of such objects used for knitting. As metal objects, as they wore out or broke, and the pieces would be recycled.  As pieces of rod with rounded ends, archaeologists would not recognize them as knitting needles.  Old wooden knitting needles would become kindling. No, I am not at all surprised that archaeologists have not found knitting needles.

In particular, how many archaeologists would recognize pricks as knitting tools?  And, yet they are the tool of choice for fine socks and gloves, just as gansey needles are the tool of choice for large objects. However, over the last year,  my idea of  best gansey needles has changed from long pointy 2.38 mm needles to long, blunt 1.95 mm (and thinner) needles.

Some of the current generation of "gansey needles".

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