1. Circular knitting needles
b) You won’t ever misplace the empty needle because it is attached to the other one!
I have both the large and small bamboo Hiya Hiya interchangeable needle sets which are amazing. The small set covers sizes 2.75 mm to 5mm and the large set covers 5.5 to 10mm, so I rarely need to use anything else. They include 4 cords ranging in length from 40cm to 100cm and come in a case with a zip up pocket that I use to store stitch markers and tapestry needles. I knit everything on them, whether or not it is knit in the round. I love it because it means I can fit virtually all the needles I’m likely to use plus stitch markers, scissors and wool needles easily into my handbag. Win!
2. Cable needles
I have a few cable needles in various designs; some are a small double pointed needle with a kink in the middle, some are shaped like a big hook or a large ‘U’, and some are straight. I have them in large and small sizes and basically whatever the shape, they all do the same thing which is temporarily hold the stitches so I can knit the rest of the cable pattern and then put them back on. I have seen lots of tutorials where you don’t need to use them at all which I find is ok with chunky knits but I prefer to use a cable needle for finer yarn in case I drop the stitches. My favourite ones are the Knit Pro metallic ones which come in pink (large) and blue (small) so I can easily spot the one I need!
3. Stitch markers
Essential. I have learned (the hard way) that you really need to use them for marking specific points on your pattern such as the beginning of the round, a particular pattern repeat, neck and armhole edges etc. Sometimes I use shop bought plastic ones, and sometimes I just make a small loop of yarn and slip that onto the needles. If you do this however, be sure to use a contrasting colour or you won’t spot it! Also, it is best to use cotton or acrylic rather than something with a high wool content to avoid the fibres getting meshed in with any of your actual stitches. You may need to use stitch markers which clip into the actual stitch rather than move along the needle in between stitches, you can buy these cheaply and they look a bit like plastic safety pins.
4. Blocking mats
When I started really getting into knitting, I began noticing the b word cropping up. It was this mysterious thing that people either do or definitely don’t do. It seemed to be something some people were wary of, and others were adamant was a crucial aspect of knitting. And I didn’t really understand what it was. Blocking is boring. Not as bad as weaving in loose ends, but that still leaves quite a bit of room. However, it is not as scary as you think, and it will make your knitted items look better. I think of it as the equivalent of pressing something you have sewn together. You wouldn’t sew up a dress and then wear it without making sure the seams were all neatly pressed to the back and there were no creases would you? (I definitely would, and in fact have, but it is unprofessional and doesn’t look good). Blocking ensures that your item is the right size and shape and will accentuate details such as cables or lace work. People have lots of methods, but I tend to soak my item in cool water (you absolutely don’t want to felt your work so be very careful here). You can add a wool wash in here if you want to but if you are making for someone else, bear in mind that they may have sensitive skin. Then I lay the item onto a towel, and roll it, squeezing gently to remove excess water. Again, you need to be careful as;
wool fibres + warm/hot water +agitation = felt.
Once I have removed enough water to ensure the work isn’t sopping wet and dripping, I lay it out on my blocking mats, and pin with stainless steel pins (they won’t rust), making sure it is in the desired final size and shape. Then leave it flat to dry and presto! If making items like hats you can block them over a mold to ensure they holds the shape correctly once dry.
I currently use children’s play mats that link together and they are absolutely fine. However, I have seen these mats with markings which I am tempted to buy because it can be tricky when blocking larger items like shawls to keep the edges square.
5. Tapestry/wool needle
An essential part of producing a knitted item is weaving in loose ends and sewing up seperate pieces. It is easily my least favourite part by a country mile but after you have spent all that time knitting something up, it deserves to be finished off properly. Because I prefer to knit in the round, I have very little sewing up to do, but I still have to weave in the ends and for this you will need tapestry or wool needles. They are like sewing needles but are usually thicker, are always blunt and have a larger eye than hand sewing needles. I have a range in several sizes. It is important to use a blunt needle so it slips in between the yarn rather than tearing at the fibres and making a tangled mess.
There you have it. One of the things I love about knitting is that you don’t need very much equipment to get started and the basics can be bought very cheaply. If you are starting out, I would suggest buying a set of 10mm needles (chunky knits are easier to learn with in my opinion and knit up quickly so will keep your enthusiasm up), a ball of chunky yarn, and a wool needle, all of which can be purchased for around £10.
What are your hobby essentials?