Finally, finally, I own my own needles. And not just any needles...ChiaoGoo Red Lace interchangeable circular needles!
Yes, I am very lucky and there's a gaping hole in my bank account to prove it; buying them is not for the fainthearted. I took several days and conversations with myself to press the 'buy now' button on Amazon.
I finally took the plunge after spending a frustrating hour going through the needles I've acquired over the years and failing to find a pair that I needed. I had the choice of several individual needles by various manufacturers in the right size but they were different qualities and possibly weights. Then there was the problem of finding the right length. I prefer the shortest needles I can get away with as I hate having to knit with a needle poking into my armpit. Without wanting to sound too precious, I then had a problem with the type of needle: too bendy, too plastic, too shiny, too metally and the worst - makes a funny noise when you're knitting.
Seems unlikely I couldn't find a pair in this lot but I managed.
I know we're all different when it comes to knitting and there are so many variations on how we hold our needles: which hands we 'knit'/hold wool with and which contraptions we use. But, for me, it just has to be as right as you can make it to enjoy the wonderful start a new project. Picturing the moment you open your bag of new wool (or wool you've lovingly recycled/spun), you may have a pristine wool band to read (I'm a Chris Packham when it comes to the info on the band) or a skein to ball up and a tantalising new pattern. How can you spoil that moment with a needle that squeaks or bends alarmingly when you knit into the back of a stitch?
Honestly, I've only ever bought one lot of needles to my knowledge when I was on the Isle of Skye. I didn't take the right size with me for wool I was buying at Shilasdair, so was forced to buy new.
It feels a bit weird to buy my own now, and strangely disloyal, as the ones I have were either my mother's or were given to me by friends. Being a JOAT, my favourite needles are all attached to 'mid-way-through' projects tucked away in bags somewhere. Before the end of the Summer I will get all of my projects out and try to complete some or give them up...possibly.
Thigh rubbing moment (Chris Packham again)! And, yes, they are heavenly to knit with.
A reviewer on Amazon said they make a 'satisfying swoosh' noise as you knit and she was right. The sound reminds me of listening to my Mum knit. The points are pointy enough without being stilettos and they slip nicely into stitches although they are very slick and you have to get used to keeping a slightly tighter grip than on plastic or bamboo. The loop itself is heaven - no twisting or out-of-shapeness because they're made of a flexible nylon coated steel cable and it hangs down in a loop as it should. Most importantly the join where the needles meet the loop causes no catching or slowing down. I've only had one minor mishap where I didn't use the tightening key (supplied) and unbeknownst (love that word) to me, nearly all my stitches had slipped off. I've used the key ever since and no further problems. Also in the pack are several accessories and for the first time in my life I have proper stitch markers instead of using old earrings or snippets of wool (not that it really matters, they all work well but just nice to have the spangly new fit-for-purpose ones).
So, what am I knitting on these beautiful things? Has to be Shilasdair of course for their maiden voyage. The Musician Husband's wool for his second jumper has finally been bought. I couldn't wait to start and that's what caused the needle crisis.
Unfortunately, the order for the wool went a little wrong, but totally my fault. Shilasdair couldn't have been more helpful. This jumper is 'Globe' in two colours. I would have gone for a light seal grey with a yellow/orange but the Musician Husband, old Punk that he is, went for Blaeberry and Foxglove. The Blaeberry had been intended as the base colour but the order was sent with Foxglove as the base colour (because I forgot to tell them which way round he wanted it). The Musician Husband was fine with this and quite happy to have a funky pink jumper.
The Blaeberry we saw in the shop last year was quite variegated with purples, but when it arrived it was pretty much one colour. We knew full well that their dye lots are unique and it would not be the same as we saw last year and he doesn't really mind as the wool and colours are still glorious. The Foxglove (pink) was pretty much the same as we remember.
Just like the last Shilasdair jumper I knitted for him, I'm not comfortable with the colour choice. I do love the colours, but not for him in this pattern. It reminds me of jumpers from Saturday morning TV in the1980's, but he loves it and that's all that matters. I may not go the pub with him in it though.
Please excuse the knobblyness of my FairIsle technique - I'm still learning and trying out various ways of holding the wool to get my tension right. I have tested stretching the knitting upwards slightly and it looks pretty good so will definitely block it before sewing.
When I was waiting for the needles I had to knit something. You know what it's like when you're just about to start something new and you're thwarted (another great word). My fingers were almost itching. I needed something that wouldn't take too long to knit and I remembered that I had bought some hand spun/dyed aran weight wool in Skye last year - 2 skeins (approx. 200g) from The Handspinner Having Fun in Broadford. I think it was from Blue Face Leicester sheep that are grazed fairly close to the shop. Not knowing what to do with it I checked on the internet what you could make from 200g wool and came up with this free pattern from Ravelry:
Libran Shawl by Siun Carden.
Gorgeous isn't it?
I gave it a go and completed it in a couple of days. Lovely pattern too but, I don't like the way the variegation in the wool looks for the whole project. I also made two big mistakes which I am not going to own up to in words (only in photos).
I am using it and it's lovely for cool evenings; I think it will work well in the winter as well like a scarf. I'm going to hunt down some different wool and try it again.
By the way, if you want to spend 30 minutes wasting your life and getting frustrated, try to photograph a shawl and make it look good. It's beyond me. The Musican Husband was modelling it at one point but his shoulders are just too big to carry it off well.
I'll keep you updated with the pink punk jumper progress. Thanks for reading; it's nice to be back.