Tools and Gadgets
As with any craft, the right tools can make the task easier and gadgets can make it
more fun. The basic tools for knitting are the needles, either straight for back-andforth
knitting or circular or double-pointed for tubular pieces without seams, such
as socks, mittens and skirts. The needles are usually aluminum or plastic with a few
odd sizes available in wood. Sizes range from very small, No. 00, to very large, No.
15, with extra large sizes up to No. 50 sometimes used for special yarns. Straight
needles come in lengths from 7 to 14 inches; use the longer ones for pieces with more
stitches. For pieces with too many stitches for straight needles, use circular
needles. Use them, too, when you want to eliminate seams and have the greatest
elasticity. Double-pointed needles take some getting used to but they are useful for
small seamless areas for which there are no circular needles short enough.
Your basic knitting bag should also include a no-stretch tape measure or ruler; stitch
holders which look like large safety pins; yarn or tapestry needles for sewing;
straight pins and scissors. Other handy items are a row counter, a stitch and needle
gauge to check the gauge and the sizes of double-pointed and circular needles which
have no size markings (straight needles are marked on the flat end piece), point
protectors, yarn bobbins if you plan to work argyle-type color patterns, and plastic
ring markers and short lengths of yarn to mark rows and stitches.
About the Yarn
Yarn will be the first thing you will consider when you plan a knitting project. In
fact, it may be the color and texture of the yarn that inspires it. The amount of yarn
a particular project will take will be determined by the thickness and the number of
yards or ounces in a ball or skein of the yarn you choose. Types of yarn include, but
are not limited to: baby and fingering yarns, which are very fine and soft; sport
weight yarns, about half the thickness of knitting worsted; knitting worsted, the
most popular and widely-available yarn, medium weight and 4-ply; rug yarns;
bulky yarns; and novelties such as mohair, chenille and metallics.
Ply is the term used for the number of spun single strands that are twisted together to create the
finished yarn. The weight or thickness of the yarn is determined by the thickness of
each ply, not by the number of plies, because a single strand can be spun to any
thickness. For example, the bulky Lopi yarn is single-ply but quite thick compared to the 2-ply Natuurwol. Most yarns, however, are 2-ply, 3-ply, or 4-ply and may be natural or synthetic fibers or a blend of both.
The more you knit, the better your instincts will become about the amount of yarn needed for a particular project. If you are designing your own, check written patterns for a similar style and use the amount of yarn indicated there as a guide.
Remember that yardages vary greatly and all yarns are not interchangeable. You
can use a yarn other than the one suggested by a pattern, but only if it will give you
the same gauge.
It is better to buy too much, rather than too little. If you run out of yarn, you may
not be able to match the color dye lot. The difference between dye lots may not be
noticeable on the skein, but it can be very obvious on a finished sweater. Also, most
stores and yarn shops will accept unopened balls or skeins of yarn for return or
exchange. Or you can keep extra yarn for use in other needlecraft projects or to
exchange with friends. Yarn is one of the most versatile materials around—it need
never go to waste.