Newbie Needles & Notions : What do you NEED?

I like Stuff. I like stationery possibly to the point of childish obsession (don’t use my fancy rubbers to actually erase pencil or I will stab you, ta; and no, that notebook is NOT FOR WRITING IN YOU DEMON) and accessories for knitting bring the same amount of joy. I enjoy using anything that is pretty but practical and am not a huge collector of dust-gathering general pretties as I’m not really a huge fan of spending my time cleaning. I’d rather do something else instead. Like stab my cheek with a fork , repeatedly. That kind of thing.

As a newbie knitter, though, I do believe that it’s necessary to have some basic tools and ones you enjoy using as it will make you more likely to keep it up. Doesn’t have to be expensive, but treat yourself and have all your bits and bobs handy for the time you come to a bit in a pattern and it says “add marker”, you’re not using a (shudder) plastic marker that loops over your needle and too big or – as has happened on occasion – a paperclip or safety pin. Mostly because if you’re anything like me, it’ll get fecking tangled, rip apart the twist in the yarn, split something or just generally make it feel like you’re knitting on a punk’s face. Cool though that would be, it can be very irritating and anything that irritates, gets chucked in the fire. Apart from the kids/husband, of course. OF COURSE. Please don’t call Social Services on me…

Here’s my basic list of lovelies – bias warning: these are my personal favourites at the moment. Other providers are available – for a newbie knitter starter kit that might provide impetus to pick the pointy sticks up over and over again.

Needles : the most basic. I currently favour Knit Pro Nova interchangeable needles.

Knit Pro Interchangeable cables
Needle tips in the case

My lovely mate Jo told me about hers and I absolutely love them. I have since tried a set of Knit Pro Carbon tips and also – and these are super popular with knitters – Knit Pro wooden tips, called Symphonies. It’s horses for courses, naturally, and one material will be fine for one and not another. I persevered with both the carbon and the Symphonie wooden tips and they are not for me. I’m also not even going to bother talking about plastic/resin needle tips as I try to reduce the amount of plastic I buy. Whilst they’re probably fantastical, they’re just not for me. Knit Pro needle tips are interchangeable, and they do starter kits with different needles to try out to see what works for you. There’s an excellent second hand market for ones you don’t like so it won’t ever be a waste of money.  I bought a full set of Nova interchangeables after trying a set of fixed needles and loving them. That way, I saved on making a semi-expensive mistake (and throwing them all in the fire)

If you want to start but don’t want to spend too much, for around £15, you can buy a small 3-needle starter sized kit from Knit Pro (I’m sure other brands do this too) with a couple of cable lengths (coming up in more detail) and try what you find works. Then sell the others, or keep them in case you’re masochistic and want to torture yourself with needles that are too sticky/slippy for you to work with at a later date, or to remind yourself that “no, I do NOT need a full set of interchangeables in every possible needle material”. Personal experience? I plead the 5th.

Other needle makers are available and excellent, it is really personal preference and trying out different brands/types can be a revelation in how you knit. HiyaHiya needles are very popular (I have some of the tiny teeny “how do I use these?” sock needles), Addi needles are too, and so on and so forth. Ask around, read some reviews, try and touch some before you buy if you can, just get what works for you. I’m not selling anything here and I’ve not even linked to my favourite suppliers, just the main sites themselves, just so you can have a ponder about what you like.

Stitch markers : AGH! I don’t know where to begin with these. I could prattle on all day about all my favourites and recommend and gush over all the wonderful WAHMs who make these so I shall try to keep it brief. For newbies? It has to be ringOs. For experienced knitters? RingOs. The amazing lady who makes these (in the UK, I am sure there are other similar products just as there are any notion or lotion)  is just so lovely to deal with.

Her ringOs , though, are beautifully made , colourful and perfection. They are small and perfectly formed. I favour the round ones with the tiny bead on them rather than any other shape, don’t snag in work, don’t slip around, and I use the different colours to mark different parts in my knitting. I do also have just plain rings which are slightly heavier and I love those, too.

For example, I keep a red one for the beginning of the round if the pattern calls for more than 6 and for sleeves, I keep 2 the same colour for each sleeve/sleeve hole. It just keeps things “in order” in my head and helps remind me that “this is important”. When picking up/putting a WIP down, I attempt to complete a full round to the “red ring” before leaving it again. My own little colour coded insanity but it works for me 🙂

In fact, I’ve just reminded myself I needed some more and have ordered more beauties from her just this week, the following picture – some XL rings (which fit over up to 8.5mm needles) and some minis which come with the – joyous news for me – red, green and other coloured rings for reminding where you start and finish. I didn’t know she made those, for this purpose, so serendipity strikes yet again.

RingOs by Fripperies & Bibelots on Etsy/Facebook.

Dangling, pretty stitch markers are also useful but I prefer, as a #newbieknitter, the plain rings for knitting. The ones on the cover of this post are a bit tangly for my liking. They’re great for marking areas that aren’t “slip marker” on active knitting, and fab for crochet, but I don’t trust myself to use them on my knitting quite yet. OH so pretty though.

Needle case : not a necessity but a lovely-to-have. Interchangeables arrive in a plastic-ish package and it’s perfectly serviceable. Zip-top, little inside pockets to keep the needles in, room for bits and bobs at the bottom. I’ve given mine to the kids to put random items in, and ordered myself this little beauty :

Quincepie on Etsy makes these. This is it empty

Needle guage, interchangeable needle tightening pins, stoppers for the end of needle cables, needle cables, fixed cable needles…the works. It’s lightweight, compact and it has heffalumps on it. Shamazing.

All of the above fits into my little needle case and it looks like this when rammed to the edges :

Quincepie on Etsy – Full needle case

Another amazing lady gifted me the most beautiful, hand-made knitting bag which is how I heard of Quincepie in the first place :

Quincepie bag inside my basket-bag

which barely leaves my side (it comes in the car, on holidays, it’s been on the African plains whilst zebra walk by, it’s stayed in a lot (there that is again) of lodges; it’s seen hippos, rhinos and lions and never flinched. Steadfastly, a keeper. It deserves it’s own brief post so the “What’s in My Bag?” post is on my draft list for later.

The only two spiky gits that I could find for a picture.

Darning needle : That should say “needles”. Buy a good few packets of these puppies and put them in safe places. Keep a set of at least 4 in your knitting bag of choice (anything will do, from a tote bag to a specific Knitting bag) and have many, many others hidden away. Write yourself a note on your phone or send yourself an e-mail reminding you where the little spikey buggers are because they are a must-have. They’re not expensive, I won’t link to where to buy them as they’re available everywhere, and make sure they’re metal, not plastic, as the plastic ones will destroy your will to live. I can’t warn you more than that. Buy A LOT OF THEM. They’re needed for life-lines and are great for joining yarn together (Russian Join – fantabulous technique to learn if you don’t already know) and for sewing in the ends of yarn. I have lost more than I can count hence my “buy the world” when it comes to the darning needles. Different sizes , from small and fine to big and huge, and yeah. Just keep them safe. Nothing worse than needing one and not having it.

Blocking Pins. Man, I hate blocking. I do. I hate it with a passion. When I’ve finished a project, garment, item, blanket or what have you, I want to put it to use straight away. Blocking, though, with knitting can provoke life-altering changes to what you’ve made. Shawls open up and show off all the lovely work and detail in them, items become bigger and “oh, that will actually fit me now” shock comes to light. Good blocking pins make life prettier and proper non-rusting ones are A MUST. Last thing you want is a metal object thrust through your incredible knitted item (which it will be, mistakes and all) and then find that when it’s dried out, the pins have rusted in and made it a mess. Kind of “hunt down the maker of these nasty items and block THEM out with them, every centimetre of skin they happen to be wearing” feeling.

This is where buying cheap or using ones that come free with knitting or crafting magazines isn’t the way forward. My absolute favourites come from The Stitching Hour. Clare is a genius who creates the most miniscule, perfect prickly-post ever and I cannot recommend her highly enough. She makes more than blocking pins and wandering to her Facebook page here , is something I urge you to do. She makes items to order, too. And pin cushions. *sigh* So beautiful.

The Stitching Hour blocking pins on top Bottom 2 cheapies from a magazine – note the rusty bits. AVOID!

Crochet hook Any crochet hook will do. A small one, around a 3mm, is superbly handy to have for fixing dropped stitches.

Bare 1.mm hook. 3.mm beauty from Fleabubs by Lala

Again, not a necessity but having one in easy-reach has made my frustrated yells of NO! disappear as I know how much easier it is to pick up dropped stitches, fix those ladders in knitting , now. I have a lovely set of Fleabubs by Lala hooks and using a pretty hook takes the sting out of the tail when I’ve made a mistake. (She also dyes some incredible yarns…)

If anyone thinks of other “oh, must haves!” for a newbie, then please feel free to add them in. NewbieKnitters Unite!

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