Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Needle Exchange

I am currently South of 49 visiting my mom for the week. On Monday I made the Jamie Oliver Beef and Ale stew. The idea was to make a big batch so some could go in the freezer for my mom to have after I leave, and the rest was to take out to a cousin who had just had eye surgery.

Monday afternoon found us driving out of Spokane into the rolling hills of the Palouse. It was a beautiful fall day, with splashes of red and gold against the backdrop of the recently worked grain fields. Bev and Larry live amongst these rolling hills in a place that is as close to ideal as you could ever find. You will have to take my word for it since I forgot to take my camera.

A few days earlier Bev had had surgery for a detached retina. She was recovering nicely, but I think being confined to the house and having to keep still was beginning to wear thin. We had a great visit, but I have to admit it got off to a shaky - and I mean that quite literally - start.

The minute I sat down I started knitting on my current sock project. I knew Bev wouldn't care, as she is a knitter herself. Understandably the first topic of conversation was her eye. As she went into the details of the story I found myself feeling a little bit weak. You know that feeling - the one where suddenly you aren't sure if you have a spine, and your head goes a little fuzzy? Until that moment I had no idea that discussing eye surgery would make me feel that way. This was the first time it had ever come up in a conversation I was a part of.

Due to our medically complicated family I have lots of experience with GI and kidney issues, amputations and prosthetic limbs, with a few broken bones thrown in for good measure. Until the topic of eyes came up I would not have thought of myself as being squeamish. The funny thing was, in that moment I remembered Karsten telling me a couple years ago that the one thing he had trouble dealing with in the emergency room was an eye injury. It must be genetic. All I know is I was very thankful for my knitting needles, which I was holding onto like they were a lifeline.

In case you are wondering exactly what kind of needles I was hanging onto for dear life, they were inexpensive Hiya Hiya bamboo needles. They are my standard "go to" sock needles. I also like the Harmony double pointed needles from Knit Picks, which are also very reasonably priced.

I am embarrassed to admit this, but there probably isn't a brand of double pointed needles I haven't tried. This is just a small sample. If I threw them all down on the table it would take hours to sort them all back out again.

Even more embarrassing is the fact that I have purchased two very expensive sets of needles and don't use either one. I ordered some Blackthorn needles this spring. When I started knitting with them a small piece of the carbon fibre material splintered off and lodged in my finger. The company was very good about replacing the offending needle, but I just couldn't make myself cast on with those needles again. It sort of sucks the joy out of knitting when each stitch has the potential to leave you in pain. 

The other unused needles are my Signature Needle Arts set. They really are lovely needles, and many knitters rave about them. There is just one small detail I chose to ignore when I pushed the "place order" button. They are metal, and I don't like knitting socks on metal needles. Why I thought expensive metal needles would make me feel differently is a mystery. 

So here they are. If you go from left to right, that is from most expensive to least expensive, you have the Signature Needle Arts, Blackthorn, Harmonies, and Hiya Hiyas. If you want to go from most used to least used simply reverse that order.

I must say that as I was listening to the description of the eye surgery I would have been happy with any of these!


  1. I also like to buy and try every kind of DPN I can get my hands on. While I like metal DPNs, I've discovered I don't like them all. Some are too heavy, some are too shiny. If I'm knitting outside, I can get blinded by the reflective glare off some DPNs. Wood needles I find slow, but I do prefer them for color work.

    My favourite metal DPNs are old Areo ones I've had for years. They've bent to my hands even. They're a soft grey color, so no glare. I have yet to find something that compares to them.

  2. Wow, look at you with all your fancy dpns!! ;) My favourites are the bamboo ones my korean friend brought for me one summer - she says over there they give them to you free with yarn purchases. Otherwise cheap boyles or aeros it is.

    Oh, and I've done the woozy thing twice, once about my husband and once about my son. I suck under medical pressure apparently.

  3. The only time I've gotten the woozy feeling was when M got stitches - almost passed out beside her. M really wants to learn how to knit - we need to find some classes around here. She taught herself how to finger knit off of youtube!

  4. @LaurieM - Wood needles are definitely a bit slower. That was one of the nice things about the Signatures. They were the fastest needles I had ever knit with! But they just don't feel right in my hands. I am thinking about giving them another try though.

    @kate - I have some very long bamboo DPNs my daughter-in-law brought me from China. I think it was the same thing there as Korea - they came with the yarn purchase. I saw a woman knitting a sweater in a park in Beijing using the long DPNs.

    And I think we are more prone to wooziness when it is our own family members.

    @Jennifer - Send M up to stay at grandma's for a week. I could make a couple trips out to give some lessons. :-)

  5. The needles look like pick up sticks.

    I have sort of a phobia about my eyes, no contacts for me. When I stumble across eye surgery on tv, it grosses me out. I'm not sure if watching would make me woozy or not since I look away quickly.

    I hope your mom is doing well.

  6. Thank god for knitting, eh? I have a pile of shame very similar to yours. Why did I think that expensive metal DPN would make me like metal needles? The Blackthorn - ok, and i thought at least they can't break. Hah! I bought some Dyak Craft wooden needles, made by a Vermont crafer, but haven't even tried them yet. My faves are Crystal Palace bamboo, five to a pack.

  7. Palouse country is soo beautiful! I drove through that area around this time a few years ago (on my way to La Grande, OR for a football game actually...we definitely took the scenic route).

    I think it's great to try as many different needles as possible! I haven't experimented much with different brands of DPNs but I have with circulars.

    P.S. Eye surgeries make me super queasy too.

  8. Mmm, I tried some of the Blackthorn needles at Sock Summit and liked them, but I still haven't justified the price. You just gave me a good reason to keep putting it off. A friend of mine who breaks needles habitually wants a set, and for her, maybe that's the best solution.

  9. @Ric - When I spread them out on the table pick up sticks were exactly what came to my mind too!

    @Mary Lou - So I am not the only one??! I don't have any Dyaks in my pile though. Let me know what you think once you try them. Not that I am planning on getting them or anything. :-)

    @Jesse - I think everyone who drives through the Palouse falls in love with it. I am glad you have had a chance to see it.

    @Karen - They might have fixed the problem with them. I got mine when they were fairly new on the knitting scene. If your friend breaks needles these would probably be a good solution. The other problem I had with them was the colour. I hadn't thought ahead about that part, but once I started knitting with them I found I did not like knitting on black needles.

  10. ahh, what a shame is the knit picks one, they are gorgeous, pointy, but just too short and sticking into my palm, when knitting with them. Would love to try those fancy one... but can't afford to have them shipped here...