Needled

Dec. 1st, 2010 09:23 pm
fallingbooks: piles of books and yarn (fallingbooks)
I don't know about you, but I'm a picky knitter. As the budget allows, I favor natural fibers over man-made, saturated colors over pastels, multi-ply over single ply, local and indie over commercial. I've got it pretty sorted as to what I look for in a yarn, and I have my favorites. Where I'm having issues these days is in the area of needles.

(In an ideal world, I would have an endless supply of brightly colored vintage Bakelite or Lucite needles at my disposal, in all sorts of shapes, sizes and configurations. I like the translucent ones best, but I once had a pair of opaque tealy-turquoise ones I loved and miss terribly. Plastics are my all time favorite. Slick, but not slippery. Pointy, but not painfully so. Clicky, but quiet. Flexible. Warm. Colorful. I tend to horde them, snatching up everything I can afford when I find them at flea markets or tag sales, but they're still a somewhat limited commodity.)

At the moment I'm trying to find the perfect DPNs for socks. I DO have plastics that would suit - I favor 2.25mm needles - but I clutch my needles so tightly when I'm knitting socks that it's inevitable that they snap. I mean, when I was using bamboo, I would destroy at least one needle per sock and put a permanent curve into the rest of them. They ended up being a very costly option, seeing as I pretty much needed to buy a new set every other pair of socks to compensate for the damaged needles. I've avoided wooden needles for pretty much the same reason. (Plus, they're even more expensive.)

Right now I'm using Kollage squares because they look nifty and I don't seem to bend them quite as badly. I'm not sure if it's the square shape, or the materials they're made of, but I'm three pairs in on these needles and they're all still relatively straight. They'd be perfect except for the fact that the copper-colored coating wears off the tips with the first sock you make. I've used multiple sizes and they all do this to some degree. Another small annoyance is that the etched brand and size information the side of the needle (which is a neat idea, total props for the concept,) tends to create drag on your yarn. I do love the squareness of the needles, though, and my hands don't tire as quickly using them, so they may be on to something with all this ergonomicness they've got going on. In general, I'm pretty happy, and the price point is reasonable (around $12ish for a set of five 6" size 1s.)

A couple high-end knitting needles brands have popped up in the last year adding to the array of sock needles available. I think by now most people who tend to spend their time perusing Vogue Knitting and Ravelry have probably heard of Signature - pretty silver and jewel-toned needles that come in multiple lengths, points, and configurations. People who've gotten their hands on their beauties rave about them like they're a religious experience, emphasizing the smoothness of the knit and the pointiness of the needles. Me, I find myself going "Ooh, that green is so pretty. So. Pretty." (I'm kinda shallow like that.)

Blackthornes appear to be a relatively new brand, but seem to be gaining a following. They're a carbon fiber needle that seems to promise everything my plastics would - warmth, flexibility, and slickness without the fear of snappage. They're definitely appealing to me in a way that the metal needles can't.

Unfortunately what's less appealing about the both of them is their price. Both companies run in the $40 range for a set of DPNs. I am not saying that this isn't a fair price for artisan materials, which I think these are. What I am saying is that I have a lot of trouble plunking down that kind of money, sight unseen, return policy or no, for something I myself haven't handled and may not figure out the durability of until I'm on my second pair of socks three months down the line. I mean, how quickly do the ends blunt? If I toss them in my bag, will they get all nicked up? (Note: Kollages hold up pretty well to the purse test unless they get really up close and personal with your keys in a tight pocket. Alas, my poor little size 0s, I knew you well.) Are they going to be crescent-shaped after the toe of my first sock? It's one thing if I can get 10+ pairs of socks off of a set before I decide they need to be retired, it's another if it's two pairs.

I think what I'm hoping is that the Blackthornes turn up at a local festival or shop so I can manhandle them myself. I worry about how they'll handle more than than the Signatures (a metal needle is a metal needle, allowing for some variation in slickness, tensile strength, length, and pointiness,) because I'm not clear on exactly how they'll feel in my hands, and it seems, based on the discussions in the Ravelry Blackthorne group, that they're still working out some of their growing pains with regard to needle development. Maybe if they make it to Rhinebeck next year and I get to play with a set for a bit, I'll be persuaded to part with some of my fiber funds. I think I'd like to give them some time to settle into a groove before I get serious about them as a possibility. Also, they don't have the 2.25mm size yet. It limits the temptation.

The green Signatures, though... Christmas is coming, right?

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Sarah

January 2011

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