So, having talked (at length) about needles, here’s some other stuff you may find useful. You won’t need it all for any one project, but you’ll develop a supply of bits and pieces. I’m not including yarn here though, that’s another topic to be talked about at length elsewhere!
If you click on any of the pictures here, you’ll end up at a link where you can purchase these items if you like. (Same goes for most pictures anywhere on this blog, it saves you the job of searching).
Accessories bag/box. There are any number of these on the market, and don’t restrict your choice to haberdashery specialists. Any bag or box you like will do, as long as it has a few basic properties:
Size. You’ll probably want to keep your spare knitting needles in their case in your accessory bag/box, so it really needs a compartment of at least eighteen inches long to accommodate this easily.
Pockets. A few small pockets will be useful to stop things like scissors in, so you don’t puncture your hands when you’re looking for something. If no pockets, then a separate container to keep scissors and all the fiddly little things which gravitate to the bottom of bags may be useful. (See below comments about containers for circular needles!)
Material. It needs to be made of something fairly durable, so your needles or scissors won’t poke through it and stab people in passing.
Yarn storage. You may want to keep odds and ends of yarn (and the supply of that new exciting yarn you just bought!) in your accessories bag/box if it’s big enough, otherwise you probably want a second bag. Again, don’t restrict yourself to haberdashery suppliers, any bag you take a fancy to will do very nicely as long as it’s fairly roomy and made of somthing fairly durable.
Work in progress bag. This really is optional, I don’t have one. If I”m taking my knitting out and about, I find a strong carrier bag is ample for my knitting, a spare ball of wool and my pattern. If I’m at a point in my knitting where I’ll need complicated equipment, I don’t take it out with me.
Needle case.As your collection of needles grows you’ll need something to keep them in. For straight and double-pointed needles, and crochet hooks, wrap-around cases like this are great:
You can keep circular needles in these, but they’re awkward, they’re the wrong shape for it and you’ll probably find they’re in constant danger of falling out. There are one or two cases on the market for circular needles in the same kind of design, but to be honest you’ll do just as well using any soft bag or a biscuit tin. Try Marks and Spencers, their biscuit tins are always fun designs – or Lush do gift sets of bath bombs in pretty tins. (Sorry, I realise this is an encouragement to either eat biscuits or have lots of baths – I’m afraid you have to suffer for your art! Enjoy… tell them the kntting site said you had to so it’s not your fault…)
Yarn winder. It is fairly common among lace-weight yarn suppliers to sell yarn in hanks rather than already wound into balls or onto cones. This is better for the yarn itself – because it’s so fine, the less time it spends under tension the better. However, this does mean that when you buy your yarn, you either need a very patient friend to sit and hold the yarn over their hands while you wind it into a ball (and patient is the operative word, bearing in mind that a hank of laceweight yarn can easily be over 1000yds long!), or you need one of these gadgets. The arms open out like a concertina to hold your hank of yarn, and the whole thing spins round so you can sit and wind your ball of wool easily. You can also get electric winders to do this for you – just bear in mind that laceweight yarn is very fine and breaks and knots easily. They’re not cheap, but with care they will last forever, and they really do make a tedious job easier on you and your long-suffering friends.
Crochet hooks. I know, you’re knitting not crocheting, but crochet hooks are useful. They come in the same materials as knitting needles. You use them for some casting on techniques, and they’re also great for rescuing dropped stitches. For preference, use one of the same guage as the knitting needles you’re using.
Scissors. You’ll have to cut your yarn sometimes – fine yarn is thin enough that you can just snap it, but it’s not good practice. Really you need a pair of scissors with sharp edges that you’re only going to use with your knitting, or other material-based crafts. You only need a small pair of scissors for yarn-cutting purposes but feel free to use other sizes – if you’re a sewer, your dressmaking shears will do for most purposes. For yarn and thread-based activities, embroidery scissors are all you need, like this:
Needle point protectors. Sometimes you’ll be carrying your knitting around with you and want to know it won’t fall off the needles or prod you somewhere painful, or you’ll have to stop in the middle of a row and you just need to know your knitting isn’t going to slide off the ends of the needles. They’re essential if you’re using double-pointed needles all the time because your knitting can fall off either end of the needles at any time.
In this case you need something you can put on the ends of your needles to stop your stitches escaping. Wine corks are ideal for this – I assume you drink proper wine which comes in corked bottles, not the stuff that comes in screw-topped bottles or worse, boxes. (Don’t take this as encouragement to go out and drink wine purely for the sake of getting a cork – or if you must, do it responsibly! Biscuits, baths, now wine, you had no idea how much fun lace knitting was going to be, did you!)
For those who don’t want to up their alcohol intake for their art, you can also get specially made bungs for the ends of your needles. Make sure you get the correct size for your needles. Wine corks are multi-purpose, you won’t need to worry about that if you chose the alcoholic option… (OK, so you don’t have to have the alcohol. You can get packets of corks from home-brew suppliers.)
Tape measure. Probably not really an essential piece of kit, but still useful, especially when you’re stretching a finished piece of work if you want it to stretch to a specific size. They can also be handy if you’re making lace clothing to get the size right.
Row counter. Only really useful if you’re working on straight needles, on a circular needle you’d have to keep passing it from end to end of the needle and that would soon irritate you. However, on straight needles, they can be handy for keeping track of where you are in a pattern. They sit on the blunt end of the needle, and you just turn the dial each time you knit a row, so you always know which line of pattern you just did. They usually come in large or small, choose one that will fit your needles.
Sewing needles. Depending what you’re making and how it’s constructed, you may or may not have to sew edges of your knitting together. Even if you don’t, you’ll still have to darn in ends of yarn occasionally, so you need sewing needles.
For sewing yarn into knitting, you need long needles with large eyes. And as your stitches aren’t terribly tiny, it’s ok for the needles to be blunt. You can get these in plastic or metal – personally I use plastic sewing needles, but it’s just preference. This type of needle won’t go into a traditional sewing needle holder, so usually you can just keep them in their packaging, or in your bag of knitting accessories.
Pins. You’ll need these when you’re finishing your lace, so you can stretch it to the size and shape you want. You do this when you’ve washed the lace and leave it to dry in the shape you want, so it has to be held while it dries. If you’re doing this on a carpeted floor, or by laying your lace out on towels, pins are good for holding it. You need nice long pins and plenty of them, preferably with big heads so they’re easy to see and handle and won’t slip through your lace. They’re also handy if you’re having to sew pieces of knitting together, to hold them accurately while you sew.
Fishing weights. No, really! If you’re going to lay your finished lace out to stretch on a hard surface that you can’t pin it into, you need something to anchor it at regular points round the edge instead, and whatever objects you use should preferably be as small as possible so your wet knitting dries evenly. Now, you can use pretty much anything for this as long as it won’t get damaged by the wetness from your knitting, and isn’t made from something whose colours will run in the damp. You can use anything to hand, you needn’t buy anything, but if you want to, I find fishing weights work well.