Friday, December 27, 2013

Hand Made Knitting Needles

         Recently I decided that I really needed to brush up on my knitting skills, so I decided to make a few of Staci Perry's Traditional DishCloths in order to practice some of the basic skills (and pick up a new trick or two in the process). Her pattern calls for size 7 knitting needles, which I discovered… I don’t have.

         I have a set of five size 5 double-pointed needles and a set of straight size 9 needles which are still being used for another project (the cable scarf, if you must know), so I decided to use the 5s. I thought it would be a good way to practice using double pointed needles. And I was right. It was great practice, and the dish cloths came out fabulous, if a bit small.

         Fast-forward a few days, I was talking about the project with one of my friends at work who is also a knitter (though at a much higher skill level than I). She mentioned that I could just go out and buy myself a set of size 7 needles. She’s right, I could… but I didn’t want to spend the money. Especially since I don’t know what else I might use that particular size for in the future. I would rather wait until I had another specific project in mind.

Then a day or two later, she sent me this video:

         OMG! I didn’t even realize you could make knitting needles yourself! I had to try it! My husband and I were at Lowe’s picking up some items for another project we’re working on (Don’t worry, there’ll be a post about it!) and I decided to grab a dowel to try to make me some needles with!

         I still wanted size 7 needles, which are also known as 4.5mm. Unfortunately, I live in a country that had not yet embraced the Metric system, so I had to convert to inches. The closest measurement we were able to find was a 3/16in dowel. I think that’ll end up being a size 7.5ish needle. Close enough for $0.65. The next thing to do was to decide how long I wanted my needles to be. I like my knitting needles on the long side, so I cut my dowel down into four 11” pieces, with a few inches left over for a cable needle. I used a small hand-saw and it took about 2 min altogether.

         At this point, we were at my in-law’s house, “borrowing” their basement work-shop for that other project I mentioned. So I went up to my mother in law’s studio to “borrow” her electric pencil sharpener to sharpen up the ends of my needles. I didn’t really need four 11” double pointed needles, but it seemed easier than trying to find some sort of "bobble" to put on the other end...
          Next up was some medium-grain sandpaper (we didn’t happen to have any fine-grain laying around, but it would have been nice) to smooth everything down. I thought that this process would be tedious and annoying, but it actually went really quickly. In no time at all I had everything sanded smoooooooth. 

Knitting needles drying...
         Time to break out the Polyurethane. This stuff smells, and I would recommend working in a room with good ventilation (or outside if possible). We were still in the basement, and lazy, so we stayed put for it. Luckily, this also went pretty quickly. I just brushed on a few layers of the stuff and then set the needles down to dry. Since my needles are so long, I decided to Polyurethane them in two parts. I brushed one side, let it dry on the clean side, then flipped them over and did the same thing on the other half. The can of Polyurethane recommended letting the stuff dry for 3-4 hours between coats, which we did not do. I only waited about 30 minutes between finishing one half of the needle and finishing the other half. But we had pretty ideal drying conditions and only one very thin coat to do.1
          So I got my needles home... and they weren't quite done yet. No big deal, I just sanded them down again (even smoother this time) and hit them with another coat of Polyurethane. Perfect. Except, of course, they're not.
       This is my first attempt at making knitting needles, and of course, nothing is ever perfect. I'm really happy with the way these came out, but I can already think of some tweaks and improvements for next time. For example, these came out super-freaking pointy. Like, stab someone pointy. So next time I think I'll use one of those dinky little plastic pencil sharpeners to get a duller point. I can always sand it smooth. I would also use a prettier wood next time. We used poplar this time, but for ~$0.50 more, I think I can spring for oak.

Okay, so here's the finished product:

Four size 7.5ish knitting needles and a matching cable needle.

         They look nice, don't they? I'm pretty proud of them. Again, they're not perfect, but I'm happy... I might take some bolt cutters, chop the tips off and sand them down again but... I really am very proud of these, and pretty darn happy with the way they came out. They weren't hard to make, and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying new knitting needles!

Happy Crafting!

1. Tip: put your brush in a plastic baggie and stick it in the freezer between coats of the Polyurethane, it’ll keep the brush from drying and getting hard as a rock.

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