Knitting needles: How times have changed!

I was reading along in a Ravelry forum this morning when I saw the following quote from Ann, one of my on-line knitting friends (Rav name AnnGustard):

“When I was a child knitting, from the UK Woman’s Weekly mainly, you always went down 2 sizes for ribbing – everything was either 4ply, where you’d use a size 12 for ribbing and 10 for the main part; or DK where it was size 10 for ribbing and 8 for the body. Four sets of needles – straight of course – was pretty much all you needed. How times have changed!” (quote used with permission)

This made me laugh! That’s exactly what it was like for the first few decades that I knitted. My needles were straight, and I had very few of them. I needed very few of them. I mostly knitted with DK or worsted weight yarns. (Note that Ann is referring to UK needle sizes; the US sizes are different.) How times have changed indeed: there are knitting needles in every corner of the house! And, in a knitting corollary of Murphy’s Law, they are always the wrong needles for whatever I am planning.

After reading Ann’s comment, I decided to see how many knitting needles I could gather in 2 minutes and take a photo. These don’t include any needles currently in use, or any needles that are sitting in a project bag with the leftover flotsam from a finished project not yet re-distributed, or any needles buried in one of the boxes I couldn’t dig out in 2 minutes.

I grabbed all of those at hand, and ran outside in the blustery wind, where Doug helped me snap a few photos (and after which, I ran around the garden picking up all of the knitting tools which were blowing around in the wind).

There are quite a few sets here: my lovely and reliable ChiaGoo interchangeable circulars (in the black and white case), my HiyaHiya circulars (in the blue case), my KnitPro Karbonz (in the box at the back). There is a large plastic box containing my limited sets of straight needles and an enormous tangled mass of fixed circular needles in all sizes and lengths. There are two project bags stuffed full of needles, including some very nice fixed circulars of various makes and models.

Also not included are the knitting needles I inherited from my grandmother. I wrote a post about these in 2012 (!) which you can find here, but below are photos of her needles:

Grandma certainly had more than four sets of needles, but she was knitting up till the 1990s, and her collection spans about 70 years of knitting (plus, she worked in a yarn shop). Nonetheless, all of her knitting needles, together with the entirety of her other knitting tools, fit into one small carpet bag.

It is a bit of a running joke in my family that any time I need a specific size needle, I won’t be able to find one. (They, at least, find it funny.) Every time I start a project, I spend lots of time pawing through this:

The question remains: If I have so many knitting needles, how come I can never find one in the size I need?

17 thoughts on “Knitting needles: How times have changed!

  1. Oh my gosh Kelly! This is so funny (and true). I, too, inherited lots of straight needles from my mother. I finally went through them and kept the ones I really wanted and knew I would use. (I use mostly circulars.) I have so many WIPs. My theory for awhile was if I wanted to cast on something new and didn’t have the right size needles, just buy more. Now, I (try) to make myself finish a knitted item if I need the needles.
    Lots of snow and wind here today. Spending some time sitting in my recliner and knitting.

    • Hi Jossie, I keep thinking if I could just get organised I will never need to buy more needles! But that will never happen. Romi just sent me a photo of all the snow she has in Long Island. I hear you are getting a blizzard in Massachusetts, too. Good time to have some knitting on your lap and a cup of tea!

  2. Wow that’s a lot of needles! I have quite a few, but you have me beat by a lot. I have been considering a set of Chia goos for awhile- do you like yours?
    Thanks for the entertaining picture and story.

  3. I have so many needles, but I am filled with envy to hear that you have several SETS of needles. I love, love, love my ChiaoGoo needles and really depend on the interchangeable tips and cables, but I still need more cables. Like, it will never end. I also have lots of sets of 16″ cable needles that I use for sock and mitt knitting, and lately I seem to be buying more double point needles. I can’t help it. There have been such improvements in the needle industry and I need them! They have pretty colors! I just organized my collection lately into a plastic set of drawers that has been helpful in keeping things organized, but I still spend too much time hunting for needles that were left in project bags.
    I also inherited needles from the previous generation. I never use them, but it’s hard to let them go.

    • I have a few sets, but really I almost always use the ChiaGoos. I like the Karbonz as well, which Doug bought me last Christmas. I’m not a fan of the HiyaHiyas. Like you, I have started to buy more DPNs. I rarely use my grandmother’s needles, but I would never get rid of them. I’m impressed that you’ve managed to organise yours; I keep trying but nothing ever works.

      • I bought some Karbonz double pointed needles and they are just wonderful!! I love the tips and the way they feel. I still use some square double points as they are easy on my hands but the tips just aren’t as nice. I may have to steal your blogging idea and show off the current organization of the needles.

  4. I have a similar mess of needles 🙂 I also started out when knitting happened with straight needles, or very occasionally double points, and that was pretty much it. I do love interchangeables and circular needles, but occasionally I will knit something on straights just because 🙂

  5. Holy smokes Batman, that’s a lot of needles you’ve got there. My mum always used straight needles and I only ever use my interchangeable or fixed on cords like sock needles. All my needles fit in a felted pouch I made for them, so that shows how few I have. I bet a school, after school club, nursing home, WI or similar would take a donation of knitting needles if you were planning to thin down your collection.

  6. Ha, yes to never finding the right needle size when you are dying to cast on. Surely I have about 20 4mm needles/needle tips by now. And 3.25 and 3.5 and 3.75. I guess having 20+ wips with daid needles isn’t helping.

  7. Well, and I hoped for a solution of the needle-mess. I have far less needles but am always searching for the right one too.

  8. OOF it’s so true that no matter how many sets I have I can never find the right ones! I remember years ago when I was talking about wanting to ramp up my knitting skills and try a sweater but I was nervous to get the right fit, make two sleeves the same size, etc, my MIL’s response was just “sweaters are easy, you just need size 8’s!” and…I think of all the sweaters I have made since, not one of them has been on size 8 needles.

  9. Pingback: A beautiful solution to knitting needle storage | Knitigating Circumstances

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