17 February 2008

Sorting Needles

I've been tidying up my rolling bin full of knitting needles and other accessories. I got pretty much everything but the needles done and finally gave in to the inevitable. I have too many needles. I had too many before my mom died and I inherited hers. I'll probably still buy more needles for specific projects.

Among the circular needles my mom had were two with metal cables. Fans of Elizabeth Zimmerman may recall her writing about the first time she saw and, briefly, used a circular needle. That needle had a braided metal cable, as I recall, and one strand of the braid had broken and would snag the yarn, but still the needle was regarded as a wonderful tool that EZ wanted. My mom's two needles are in extremely good condition, a beautiful bit of knitting history.

She also had some 14" plastic single-point needles in US 2 or 3, which probably date from the '40s. A lot of knitting back then used much lighter yarns and much higher stitch counts than we do now. I think of worsted weight as being pretty standard for sweaters, but then it was sport or fingering weight.

She kept up with the times, though. There are a lot of larger needles, including circulars. I remember using a one-piece nylon circular in about a US 13 to knit a top-down raglan sweater in coral Spinnerin Frostlon. It had a vee neck and was a perfect color match to a straight skirt I had. That was when I was in high school. I also remember knitting a lace shell in avocado at about the same time.

My mom knitted a lot of slippers from a pattern popular in the '50s. They used a US10½ needle and two strands of worsted weight yarn in the adult size. Smaller sizes used lighter yarn and smaller needles. They were really simple and I, too, knitted a fair number of them. I could probably reconstruct the pattern without much effort. Anyway, she still had three or four pairs of 10-inch US 10½ needles, the ones we used for these.

Obviously there's been a lot of nostalgia involved in this needle sorting. It's been thirteen months since she died and I still miss her acutely. The probate closed last week, incidentally. It had been complicated by one particular asset that we had a little trouble getting transferred or it would have been done last year.

Another reason I have too many needles is that I have a personal quirk that I like to have complete sets of things that come in sets. I bought the larger tips and longer cables that weren't included in the KnitPicks Options and Harmony sets, for example, and I'll probably finish out the 16" circular needle set one of these days (I'm missing US 6, 7, and 9, which were out of stock earlier). I also really like sets that come with nifty storage systems for all the components, like the Options interchangeable circular needles. Fortunately my quirk is controllable and I can limit it to inexpensive sets. About the most expensive knitting set I have is the Weldon's Magazine facsimile set, all twelve volumes of it, and I bought at least half of those as Interweave Press brought them out.

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