Friday, September 26, 2014

Rubber-Handled Crochet Hooks

The Tulip Etimo Rose hook arrived earlier this week, so I decided to pull out all my similarly sized rubber-handled hooks and do some comparison. (I left the Clover Amour hook mostly out of it, because that's a steel hook and the handle is not likely to be quite the same size as a Clover Amour aluminum hook would be.)

I'll include a few photos at the bottom of this entry, but first things first...

Tulip Etimo vs. Tulip Etimo Rose: 

The differences appear to be nearly entirely cosmetic.
The Tulip Etimo handle is a brown, and the metal is a very warm golden tone.
The Tulip Etimo Rose handle is pink (thus the "Rose" part), and the metal is a silver tone. 

The brand and size markings vary slightly between the two, but in every other way, they appear to be identical.  Same length.  Same handle shape and size.  Same style of tip and length of shank.  Both are aluminum hooks with a fairly matte finish (for metal).  Both have an "elastomer" handle with the same texture and feel in the hand.  The packaging of both includes a warning that the hook should be used for "crocheting purposes" only.  (You knitters out there, don't get any ideas about using this hook to fix a dropped stitch. ;o))

So, unless I'm missing something, you can pay slightly more for the silver/pink hook, or save a couple of bucks per hook by opting for the exact same tool in brown and gold.  The pink is pretty, and it looks like the different sizes come in a gradient of tints of pink (though each tint is repeated across the range of sizes, because the gradient goes from pale to deep pink, then back down the pale again), whereas the handles of the brown hooks are all the same shade.  However, I have to wonder why they wouldn't just make them in a variety of colors, so you can even more easily tell them apart.  (As Clover does...)  Of course, then the "Rose" part of the name wouldn't make as much sense...

If I ever add more Tulip Etimo hooks to my collection, I'll probably opt for the cheaper version.  (That said, I'm glad I have a pink and a brown one, now, because it'll be so much easier to tell them apart, at a glance.)

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Tulip Etimo vs. Crochet Dude (Boye):

Boye hooks have a very obvious "seam" down each side of the handle. (Could possibly be carefully trimmed with a blade.  I may give that a try, sometime.)
Tulip hooks are pretty much perfectly smooth; there is a visible seam, but it's very subtle.  

The two brands have a slightly different "tip" style.
Boye has a bigger tip.
Tulip looks more like a hybrid between Boye and the "in-line" Susan Bates style.  

Boye hooks have a slightly more rubbery, "cushy"-feeling handle, compared to Tulip.

The shape of the handles differs.  Tulip's thumb-rest seems to have all the "indent" on the top and be flat on the bottom, while Boye has an indent on top and bottom/underside.  The underside of the Boye handles "bell out" more around the metal than the Tulips do. 

Boye has its logo in raised texture on the front of the thumb-rest.
Tulip has its raised logo (and "JAPAN") on the lower back portion of the handle.

Boye hooks are available in a variety of blues and greens.  However, each specific hook size is only available in one color, and some of the colors appear more than once across the full range of sizes.  For most of the hooks, the metal is a fairly light color, but a few (such as my G hook) are a very dark blue.  (For a description of the colors of the Tulip hooks, see the section above.)

Boye hooks have the size printed near the bottom of the front of the handle.  It looks unsealed and very easy to wear away with heavy use.

Tulip hooks have the size printed in that same general location, but it appears to be sealed.  It looks like it would be more durable, but again, could wear away, eventually.  (I would prefer an "engraved" size marking, but oh well...)

I've noticed one thing that applies to both brands of hooks-- and to any other hook with a permanent handle.  That one thing is this: You can't very easily use a hook/needle gauge to measure the hook's size.  I have a gauge and thought I'd measure these hooks just to see how accurately they were milled-- but then I realized that it won't work, because the tips are bigger than the shaft-- the part that needs measuring-- and the handle prevents you from sliding it in the other way.  You could always measure them with a ruler, but that seems fiddly.  Anyway, it's not a big deal, but it never occurred to me before that sizing them the old-fashioned way simply won't work.  (If the sizes ever start fading away, I need to mark them with a Sharpie.  Much better than holding them side by side with marked hooks and guessing.)

Both are aluminum hooks that have some type of rubbery handle. 

Three of the hooks are almost identical in length-- right around 5.5 inches.  The G/4.25 Boye hook is about a quarter of an inch taller than the other three.  (...And come to think of it, that may be my doing!  The G hook is the one I noticed was spinning around in its handle, and I gave a gentle, experimental tug or two to see if I could get it loose.  Yeah, that was probably due to me.)

- - - - - - -

A Word on Hook Sizes
Do you ever wish that the world had just gotten together and decided on a universal sizing system for crochet hooks (and knitting needles)?  I mean, sure, there's the whole measurement in millimeters thing, but I tend to remember knitting needles and aluminum hooks by their ascribed number-- not their size in millimeters.  (Strangely, the same does not hold as true for steel crochet hooks.  I find it easier to remember "1.65mm" than "7".)

It can be confusing.  If I refer to a hook using a letter ("G", for instance), non-American crocheters may not really know what I'm talking about.  If I had to guess the size in millimeters... Well, I might be able to give a good guess right now, because I've been paying attention-- but ask me a month ago, and it would've been a very wild guess.  I simply don't think in millimeters! (But maybe I need to start trying, at least as far as crochet hooks go!)

What makes things even more befuddling is that there can be variation even within the same system of sizing.  I've read over and over again, lately, that a "G" hook is 4.00mm.  Yet when I look at this Boye (Crochet Dude) size G hook, it's marked 4.25mm.  ...What?  I guess Boye lives by its own set of rules. 

Boye's not the only one guilty of confusion, though.  These Tulip Etimo hooks are definitely two different sizes.  One is 4.00mm and the other is 4.50mm.  Yet they are both marked a size 7!

A very small change in gauge-- such as switching from a 4.00 to a 4.25, mid-project-- may not be the end of the world (as long as you're not making something that has to fit perfectly), but it's probably a good plan (if you can't just leave the hook with the WIP from beginning til end) to write yourself a very specific note about which hook you were using.  Not just "G", but which G hook you used ("Tulip size 7" or "dark blue G hook")-- or the exact size in millimeters, if your hook is marked.  (Those of us who use clay-covered handles often have just the letter size to go by-- but I know that all my clay-covered hooks are Boye brand, which helps.)

- - - - - - -


Crochet Hook Comparison

From top to bottom:  Tulip Etimo, Tulip Etimo Rose, "Crochet Dude"/Boye (x 2), Clover Amour (steel hook-- see last blog entry for more information).

Crochet Hook Comparison

Left to right:  Boye, Etimo Rose, Clover Amour, Etimo, Boye.

I think you can see what I mean about the different shapes of the tips, in this photo.
The Boye hooks have a very slender, tapered neck, and the tip is quite rounded-- curved/convex front.

The Tulip hooks also have a neck, but it's not as long and super-slender as the Boye, and the tip is less rounded-- much flatter in front.

I don't have a Susan Bates hook to photograph for comparison (not my brand), but you can find photos online.  Bates hooks are "in-line", meaning (to the best of my knowledge) that the tip doesn't protrude from the profile of the shank/shaft.  It's "in line" with the rest of the hook.  The neck is a very different shape-- flatter and wider-- the tip smaller and usually more rounded, without that "point" you see at the very tip of all the hooks in my photo.

Preference of one hook style over another seems to usually be strong, one side vowing to never use Boye and the other scorning Bates.  ;o)  I started with Boye, and that's pretty much all I've used, except for one or two things I've crocheted with a lighted hook.  I gave the Etimo Rose a quick test drive last night, and it worked fine.  It's still too early to say whether or not I notice any difference between the Boye and Tulip hooks, but I'm hopeful that I'll find the Tulip tips just as pleasant to use as the Boye-- maybe even better.

I do think the Tulip (and Clover) production quality is superior to that of these Boye hooks.  They feel more finished, without those unsightly seams.  Also, I've already had an issue with one of the Boye hooks-- the one that is spinning around in its rubber handle.  It's possible that I'll run into the same problem with the Tulip or Clover hooks-- but I kind of doubt it.  (I've also seen reviews of "Crochet Dude" hooks on-line from other customers who've also had a hook rotating in its handle or who have gotten a hook with a rough spot on the metal part of the hook. Not good at all!  On the other hand, there are plenty of reviews by crocheters thrilled with these hooks.)

Of course, the Boye hooks seem to run at least a few dollars cheaper than the Tulip or Clover, so you have to take that into consideration.  I'm hopeful that I'll be able to pry the hook from the handle, glue it back in place, and go about my merry way.  Still, that's time I could have spent crocheting, so it's an annoyance. 

Crochet Hook Comparison

One last photo to show the textured/embossed parts of these hooks.  They all have something sticking out in relief from the surface of the handle.

The Clover Amour hook (which I've only mentioned in passing today) has "JAPAN" embossed on the very lowest part of the back of the handle, and "CLOVER" embossed on the very lowest part of the front-- right beside the "engraved" sizing information.  The font is tiny, thin, and inobtrusive, but I have been feeling it when I crochet that doily, and that's the kind of thing that can easily rub on your finger or palm until it creates a sore spot... 

The Tulip hooks both have "Tulip JAPAN" embossed on the bottom of the handles.  I haven't used these enough yet to say whether or not I've noticed that while crocheting. 

The Boye logo is engraved-- rather strangely, I thought-- on the top of the handle, right in the indented thumb-rest.  I suppose they chose that location because in a bare metal hook, that's where the branding/size information is usually placed.  Maybe it's not that strange of a choice.  I never thought about it on those bare aluminum hooks... I don't remember noticing the embossed logo back when I was using these hooks, either.  It just looks like it could be irritating.  (g) 

- - - - - - -

I'll try to remember to come back to this subject (in later entries), if I make any potentially interesting or useful observations about these hooks.  It's hard to know yet which ones I'll love best... (And it's probably a completely personal judgement, anyway!)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Little of This, A Little of That

Last weekend, I started the border for the Mysteryghan.  I'd just started the time-consuming cable round before becoming completely sidetracked.

"Frosting" Cowl

Then I picked up the Frosting cowl again.  I'm on to the third (and final) ball of yarn, trying to decide how long it should be before I have to figure out how to seam it-- and whether or not I can/should make it a moebius.  (It definitely has a "right" and a "wrong" side, and I'm not sure how that'll work with a moebius.)

It's an enjoyable project, but it needs to be finished to make room for another WIP!  I've gotten fully into the groove on this one, now: I no longer need to refer to the pattern to remind myself-- just in case-- what to do for each cable row.  (It's a simple pattern, but it's knitting, you know.  That makes it harder for me to memorize and feel confident that I'm doing it correctly.)  Funny how that always seems to happen.  Just when you really get into the flow of the pattern, it's almost time for it to wind down. 

- - - - - - -

Friday, a couple of crochet hooks I ordered arrived, and I needed to try one of them this weekend.  I'm still waiting to finish that cowl before I allow myself to try my new knitting needles, but crochet hooks... Who can say no to a little crochet project?  They're so quick!  Hardly any commitment at all, right?  ;o)  (At least it's not another afghan...)

I'm not sure of the pattern's name, but you can find a chart on this page of Pammy Sue's blog.   (I must've found my copy of it somewhere else, though, because it has the Russian symbol key.)  You'll find a photo of Pammy Sue's white and pink version on that page, too, and for a photo of one done in white and yellow, check out this entry on Linda's blog.  They're both so pretty!

I'm planning to follow the same two-color scheme, but I'm using more of my leftover blues.  America's Best size 10 in Parakeet (accent) and Light Aqua (main color).  (That brand of thread has been discontinued, by the way.)

Doily in Progress

Now, for some hook talk...

The new hook I'm using for the current doily is a 1.75mm (labeled size 0) Clover Amour steel hook-- one of those with the "elastomer rubber" handle.  I have an old (hand-me-down) size 7 (1.65mm) hook that I gave a polymer clay handle, and that's been my favorite for crochet doilies, ever since.  I would've gotten a size 7 hook this time, too, but I couldn't find one in the Clover Amour line.  (Maybe they're out there, though...)

It's early to say for sure, yet, but I think this may be my new favorite hook style for crocheting doilies.  If I still love it this much by the end of the doily, I'll be adding the next smaller size to my wish list.  (If they don't make 1.65mm, maybe 1.5mm?)

The handle is not quite so soft as I'd expected-- slightly less "squishy" than the Crochet Dude hooks I've tried-- but I'm not sure that's a bad thing, and it's much more comfortable to hold than a plain steel hook.  It's somewhat softer than-- but also slimmer than-- the polymer clay handle.  I think it may have more grip/non-slip texture to it than the clay-covered handle, but the slimmer profile might not be as good for someone with arthritis or other hand-strength/pain issues.

Photo comparisons--

Top: Boye 1.65mm (polymer clay handle)
Middle: Clover Amour 1.75mm
Bottom: Boye (Crochet Dude) 5mm

Comparing Crochet Hooks

I love that pistachio/spring green of the Clover hook-- and the fact that the size is etched into the hook, so it can't (easily) wear off.  (I "carved" the size into the bottom of the polymer clay handled hook before curing it.) 

Comparing Crochet Hooks

The second photo could be better, but at least it gives some idea of the shape of the hook.  I haven't noticed any difficulty crocheting with the Clover hook, so I guess it's not too different from the Boye style (which is pretty much the only style I use).  It seems to have a fairly long... shank? shaft?  Whatever the technical term you prefer for the part of the hook that maintains a stable size before tapering into a larger dimension for the thumb-rest.  (If that part's not consistent enough or long enough, it can be harder to crochet evenly-- especially when you need to have several loops on the hook at the same time.)

I also ordered two aluminum hooks.  Size 7/4.5mm in Tulip Etimo and size 7/4mm in Tulip Etimo Rose.  How they can both be "size 7" with the 0.5mm difference in size is somewhat mysterious ;o) but there you are!

The 4mm hook corresponds to the American size "G".  The 4.5mm hook falls right between American size G and H (which is 5mm).  I didn't have a 4.5mm hook before this, and since the G and H hooks are my most commonly used sizes (for worsted weight), it made sense to add the "in-between" size to my arsenal.

As for the extra 4mm hook... Well, I had a moment of weakness-- and you can always use another hook in your favorite size, right?  (Also, I wanted to see/touch/compare the Tulip Etimo and the Tulip Etimo Rose to determine for myself whether or not there's any difference between the two, beyond color.)  The pink one hasn't made it here, yet, so more on the Tulips at a later date.

Well, there are still a few hours of perfectly good crocheting or knitting time left, this afternoon.  I've got my mp3-player loaded with a happy playlist and an Agatha Christie audiobook (depending on the mood), so I'm all ready to go.  ;o)  Hope your weekend is winding down just as nicely!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Finished Pillow Slip-Covers (and More)!

Not exactly "tomorrow", but...

The pillow slip-covers are done and on the couch!  I'm still not the very best at cutting perfect squares of fabric, but I think the string quilt kit is within the realm of possibility, now.  Of course, that doesn't mean I'll start working on it right away... So many other projects already underway!

But let's bask in the rare sunshine of the finished project.  ;o)

Here are a few photos of the pillow covers:

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

String-Quilted Pillow Slip-Covers

As you can see, they're pretty random and rustic-- shabby chic with a touch of darkness?-- but I'm satisfied.

- - - - - - -

While I was in "sewing mode", I went ahead and hemmed a pair of jeans into capris.  I made a couple of pair of capris the same way a couple of years (or so) ago, and I've worn those things constantly all summer.  Mine are completely casual, but it's something different from the standard "hack and hem" ;o) or "roll-up" look.  And if you wanted to, you could dress up the look with lace, ruffles, ric-rac trim, ribbon, big buttons-- whatever you like.

"Newly-Capri" Pants

I can't seem to find the tutorial I used, back then, but the concept is simple.

First, decide how long you want the capris to be.  Mark the jeans and cut the legs off at the desired length.  (If you want, you can serge/zig-zag stitch the edge or cut with pinking shears to reduce fraying, but I haven't, and there've been no problems so far, even with very frequent wearing and washing.)

Measure around the leg opening.  (Instead of getting fussy about it, I just measure flat across the leg opening and double the number.)

For the "accent trim", choose a fabric you like and cut two rectangles.  The rectangles' length should be the circumference of the leg opening plus another inch or so (to fold over so there are no raw edges showing).  The width of the rectangles depends on the look you want.  The wider the rectangle, the more you'll see of the accent fabric.  Two inches will yield a half-inch trim of fabric.  For a full inch of trim fabric, cut to a 4-inch width.

Fold each rectangle in half, lengthwise, and iron it into a skinnier strip.  Unfold the strip, then fold each half to the crease you just created.  Iron those folds into place.  (Doing one at a time is easiest.)  The rectangle should now have three creases.  Fold along each crease.

Now comes the trickiest part.  Fit the "envelope" of fabric over the cut edges of the jeans legs.  Pin into place, if it helps.  (I think it does!)  When you get all the way around the leg, you may wish to cut the end of the rectangle down a bit, if you have too much excess fabric.  You want just enough (a quarter to a half inch?) to "fold inside" so that there are no raw edges of fabric showing.

Sew the fabric trim into place-- and you're done!

If you want some step-by-step photos, here's a tutorial for the same basic method applied to shorts:  Fabric Short Cuffs.  

These "Knot No Hem Capri Pants" look cute, too, if I could just be sure the flaps of those bows wouldn't get in my way-- not to mention the bulk of the "knot".

- - - - - - - 

I guess I haven't been spending that much time crafting, lately, aside from the pillow slip-covers.

Warning:  Meandering Ahead!
Instead, we've been trying to get ready for house-guests and slowly transforming the "puppy room" back into a "people room"-- but instead of merely moving everything back in, we're turning it from a twice-used formal dining room into a secondary sitting room/parlor area.  There's still a lot to do.  Oh, and we've been dealing with plumbing issues.  Ugh.  Plumbing.  We're probably going to have the whole system redone, soon.  *sigh*  But hey, at least we live in a time and place where indoor plumbing is the norm-- and we aren't so strapped for cash that we can't afford to have it fixed without skipping meals. (Still not a fun expense, though.)

Ok, enough "real life".  Back to the crafty escapism! ;o)

What I have done is put all the pieces of the Mysteryghan together.  (Maybe I've already mentioned that... It's been a while since that was done...)  All that's left is to weave in a few loose ends (from joining) and the border.  The border looks interestingly textured, but possibly a little time-consuming.  Maybe I'll start it over the weekend.  Depends on what else is going on around here. 

Mysteryghan Waiting...

Then there's the granny square afghan.  I've begun joining together some of the squares (join-as-you-go method).  It's fun to see the pieces add up to something substantial.  :o)

Old-Fashioned Granny Squares

Old-Fashioned Granny Squares

And finally, here are the new knitting needles:

Stainless Steel Knitting Needles

I'd like to try them out, but I'm making myself wait until I've finished one of my current knitting WIPs.  (That'll be the Frosting cowl, because the Billowy Delight scarf is nowhere near finished.)  It's never too early to start plotting the next project, though... ;o) 

Ok, back to house-cleaning and praying for the first really cool cold front of autumn to push far enough south that we can get a taste of it!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What?! Actual SEWING??

When I started this blog, I expected to write occasionally about sewing projects.  (Hence the blog's name.)  I hadn't even really learned how to crochet, at that point.

Since the first entry (written in November 2008, which boggles my mind, because can it truly have been that long ago?), I've teetered through the learning stages of crochet and moved on to more advanced crochet (as long as you don't count fitted items like sweaters...).  Those thread doilies that once seemed all but impossible are now just a relaxing pastime.  (Ok, a relaxing pastime with the occasional moment of "Argh!  Why won't this blasted thing flatten out?!  Flatten!  I command you to FLATTEN!)  With the help of the Internet, I've taught myself to knit, have learned that even lace and  those amazing cables are possible, and have dabbled in food-color dyeing.

Basically, yarn has taken over my crafty interests in a very big way!  (And I've learned to regret the poorly fitting name of the blog, though I don't think it's worth the bother of changing, after so long.) 

Though I don't see myself ever abandoning yarn in favor of fabric, there are some sewing projects I've been wanting to attempt-- some of them for years, now.  Curtains.  Several sets of curtains, in fact.  Simple quilts.  Throw pillows.

Quite some time ago, Mom gave me a "string quilt" kit that she'd put together herself.  (Years ago.  Of course.  Ripping along at my usual pace!)  I've been a little intimidated by it, but I think the time is finally approaching.  So-- as practice, I'm making a few new throw pillows for our couches, using the "string quilt" method.

(It's about time.  I hadn't realized how old our current throw pillows were until I started looking back at old blog entries.  September 2009.  Yeesh.  They actually don't look too bad, considering their age and daily use.)

I dug into my strange little stash of fabric to find the makings for some string quilt pillows.  Seeing as I haven't done much "typical" sewing before, there's not really a lot of "quilting cotton" type fabric in there, at the moment.  It's mostly denim and flannel (from the "rag quilting" days) and "home decorating" fabrics that we got for free (yay!), but which are mostly on the heavier side (not so yay).  As a result, these pillows may look a little odd.  Still, it's good practice, and there's always the possibility of making more at some point in the future, when better choices are on hand.  Besides, the whole point was to learn the technique without ruining nice materials.  :o)

I decided to make removable slip-covers, so they'd be easier to throw into the washer.  This was my first time using the "envelope"-style cushion cover, and I'm proud of myself for not making a total mess of it.  ;o) 

I'd share a photo right about now, but I still have to finish the other three slip-covers and the pillow inserts.  (Wish I knew how to determine the perfect size for those inserts!  It'll be a guessing game.)

Maybe a photo tomorrow?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Dyeing Semi-Solid & a New Project

Inspired by a tutorial video mentioned in an earlier entry, I decided to dye some semi-solid yarn.

I started with cream/natural (I think they call it "aran") Fishermen's Wool.  Wound the whole skein onto the swift into a large hank and tied in a few places (as always).  Pre-soaked the yarn.  Heated a large stock pot.  Mixed up some food coloring...

Hand-Dyeing Yarn

I basically followed the method in the video.  I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, and for a while I was concerned that it was going to be plain ugly.

Hand-Dyeing Yarn

Fortunately, there's almost always the option of adding more dye, and until it dried, I was pretty sure that I'd need to over-dye (dye it again) to get some variation in color.  When it was completely dry, though, there seemed to be enough subtle shading to keep it interesting, so I wound it into a gigantic cake. 

Food-Coloring-Dyed Yarn

Food-Coloring-Dyed Yarn

Not sure if you can tell from the photo, but that's a lot of yarn for one cake!   The winder could just barely handle it, toward the last few yards.

It felted slightly in a few spots-- moved it around in the pot too much, I guess-- but that shouldn't be a problem.  (That yarn isn't the softest to begin with.  A conditioner soak after it's knitted up might help.)

- - - - - - -

I started the catherine wheel scarf with the hand-dyed, long-repeat yarn!  I'm deviating from the pattern just slightly.  (See the project notes for details.)

I haven't done much on it, yet, but here's a photo:

Catherine Wheel Scarf

It's not going to look much like the colors in the inspiration scarf, but I think it'll still be pretty.  

I'm trying to figure out the best way to carry the yarn up the side.  Since there'll be an edging of some kind going over both sides and providing camouflage, I guess it's not that important, but I'd like to keep it as tidy as possible.

The color changes should keep this one fun!

More on Nickel-Plated Needles

Yesterday, I read this Ravelry thread on nickel-plated needles. 

(It's good to know that other people have this problem, too.)

So, it sounds like the thing to do for cloudiness (which apparently results in drag) is the following:

1. Polish with a microfiber cloth.  (Some suggest a jeweler's cloth-- usually for cleaning sterling silver jewelry.)   If that's not enough...

2. Polish with vinegar on a soft cloth.  (Someone else suggests a damp cloth and baking soda or toothpaste and a cotton cloth.) If that's not enough...

3. Clean/polish with something stronger.  (WD40?  Specially formulated tarnish remover for nickel-plating-- or possibly chrome?)

Sounds like those methods may work for some people, but not for others-- and once the plating has completely worn through in spots, there's not much you can do, short of re-plating them, which isn't really an option.

I've read that cleaning the needles with alcohol can prevent or delay tarnishing, but honestly, I'm unlikely to clean my needles after every use.  That's just too much of a hassle and would end up discouraging me from picking up and knitting a few rows/rounds in between other tasks.

If the nickel has gone beyond "clouding" and actually begun to chip off, that indicates that there's a problem with the needles themselves, and if they are under warranty, you can have them exchanged.  (My needles don't have that sort of warranty, I'm pretty sure!)

If the plating has come off subtly, though-- not in chips-- I'd probably assume it has something to do with my personal chemistry more than the quality of the needles themselves.

- - - - - - -

In any case, I'm still determined to never buy another nickel-plated tool (beyond cheap embroidery needles).  Donald encouraged me to go ahead and order some of the stainless steel needles to try, so I did.  They should arrive sometime between Friday and the following Wednesday.  (Exciting!)

I took the opportunity to also try the sharper "lace-tip" needles.

There are conflicting reports about how good the sharper points are. 

--The sharp points make it easier to get the needle into multiple stitches (as you frequently have to do in lace knitting).

--If they're very sharp, and if you're a "tapper" (i.e. someone who pushes the left-hand needle back into the unworked stitches with your right pointer finger)-- which I sometimes am, unless I resist the urge-- you can actually get sores or break the skin.

--Some knitters say that the longer points are less ergonomic for plain knitting/purling.

--If you work close to the tip, you may find your work "tightening up" on you-- the result of working the stitch on the tapered tip instead of on the shaft of the needle.

Looks like more cons than pros (g), but I may have missed some pros-- and anyway, I still want to try them.  (I remember in one of my most-recent lacy projects, I had a lot of trouble getting the needle where it needed to go, in some stitches.  That kind of thing decreases your speed and enjoyment.)

I ordered a ChiaoGoo 47" Red Lace stainless steel circular in size 6, a 40" Hiya Hiya Sharps stainless steel circular in size 8, and a 40" Hiya Hiya (not sharp) stainless steel circular in size 10.  (So two lace-tip/sharp needles and one standard, all stainless steel.)

The stainless steel is reported as being less slick than the nickel, so I'm curious to give them a test drive. I think I prefer slick metal, but if nickel doesn't last for me, that's not an option.  As for the aluminum Boye set, as long as really sharp points aren't required, I'm pretty happy with them.  (And I'll keep this in mind for the future, if the stainless steel doesn't work out:  Making Boyes Better.  The only downside to that elegant solution is that, if you want to glue the adapters into place, which seems like the way to go, you need a pair for each needle size.  It's a lot cheaper than buying an entirely new set of needles, but still adds up-- and then you have to hope that the glued-in adapters stay glued.)

Choosing which sizes to get in which sharpness is the kind of thing I could easily spend days agonizing over, but in the end I had to admit that there's no way to know which combination is going to be best for me, so I made an educated guess.

Since most of what I knit doesn't have to hit a very specific gauge, I decided to space out the sizes over the range that I seem to use most (and is most frequently represented in my Ravelry queue).  Chances are that if a pattern calls for size 7, a size 8 or 6 will work in a pinch. (Or I can use the interchangeables I already have.)

With any luck, I'll love at least one of these needles and can fill in any gaps in my collection over time. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Drat My Bizarre, Metal-Eating Body Chemistry!

How's that for a title?  ;o)

I bought a set of interchangeable knitting needles from Tuesday Morning several months back.  (Just checked.  It's been nearly a year.)  They are nickel-plated, Boye "Artisan" line.  I had some qualms about the nickel-plating, because I've had trouble in the past with nickel-plated embroidery needles.  (The nickel wears off.)  Well, it was a good price, and I hoped the coating of the knitting needles would be better than those cheap embroidery needles.  Worth a try.

I've been using them now and then.  I don't knit that much, but still, they've gotten some use.

Right now, the Frosting cowl is on the size 9's-- and this evening, I noticed that the surface of one of the needles is "cloudy" (the best word I can think of to describe it).  The other needle might be slightly cloudy, too, but the one is much more noticeable.  It's mostly on the "back" part of the needle, away from the tip, and the bit of metal on the cable seems unaffected.  So strange!  So frustrating!

(One good thing is that-- knock on wood!-- at least my hands don't seem to be reacting to the nickel.  Some people get green or black marks or even skin irritation from their nickel-plated needles.)

I'm afraid this is the beginning of an inevitable wearing away of the nickel-plating.  No way of knowing how long that would take.  It might be a while before they start to turn really dark and smell like metal.  And of course one size of needle might be affected long before another shows signs of wear.  Or maybe I'm over-reacting, and it will turn out to just stay cloudy, with no other change.  I'm skeptical, though...

Oh well.  I guess it was still worth a try.  I do know one thing, though.  I will never buy another set of nickel-plated knitting needles, no matter the sale!  I still have my trusty aluminum needles, and they're fine, but I liked the smoothness of the nickel.  Also, the manufactured 40" cables (Knit Picks Options cables, which are compatible with the nickel needles but not the aluminum) are nicer than the "hacked" cables we made for the aluminum Boye needle set.

I'll be keeping an eye on the finish of those nickel needles, and in the meantime, I'm researching other knitting needles.  I wonder if stainless steel needles would react to my weird body chemistry...  Hiya Hiya has some nice-looking ones.  Fixed-cabled needles with long cables (40", maybe) in just a few of the most useful (to me) sizes... (I mostly seem to knit using magic loop, so 40" would work for just about anything I can see myself knitting.)  They come in standard and "sharp", which might be nice to try with lace...

Needs more research, though, and for now, what I have should work. It's just disappointing that these seem to be "acting up".