I’m just gonna say it straight off….Grandma Coco and I like bamboo needles. No, what we feel is stronger than that. We LOVE bamboo. It’s light and smooth and comfortable in our hands. And the stitches slide so sweetly without any drag at all. But not that out-of-control free-fall that you can get with metal. No, bamboo’s the best. For socks and lace, especially.
What we don’t like is paying through the nose for bamboo. No, we don’t like that.
Mom used to say that it’s a bad workman who blames his tools. Well, OK. There’s no excuse for shoddy workmanship. That’s true. But poor quality tools really make it hard to do a good job. At the very least, they can suck a lot of the fun out of the process.
So, is the answer buying top-of-the line tools? Because, there are an awful lot of expensive tools to choose from.
Here, in the Kingdom of Coco, we do things a little differently. We set priorities. We pay top dollar for those things that are worthy of our top dollars and we economize where we can. And, surprisingly, bamboo needles are one of life’s little knitting luxuries that don’t have to cost the earth.
Basic bamboo barbecue skewers can be found in dollar stores and cooking supply stores and even grocery stores. They are dirt cheap. Maybe a dollar for a hundred. They seem to come in several diameters. We found some that are 2.75 mm and some that are 3.25 mm. (That`s right. The Kingdom of Coco uses the metric system. Doesn`t everyone? Oh, yeah. OK, for the sake of clarity… US 2 and US 3, respectively.) Admittedly, not every skewer in the bag is useable. Some will be splitty and some not quite round. Just go through and pick out the best ones. To get a set of double points, choose 6 for now so you’ll have a couple of spares.
You can cut your needles any length you like. For sock knitting, 6 inch long double points are our current faves. We like even shorter ones for knitting the fingers of gloves. (Mr. Coco’s mother had a lovely set of short needles for this purpose. Apparently, 60 years ago, these were commonplace.) For lace knitting, like this scarf we’re working on, we cut a couple to 8 inches.
You’ll want points, of course. Have you ever sharpened a pencil with a knife when you couldn’t find a proper pencil sharpener? Well, that’s what we do here. Just try for the suggestion of a point and then use sandpaper to fine-tune it. We finish by smoothing the points and the lengths of the needles with fine sandpaper and then with an emery board. When they’re pretty smooth, switch to a piece of wax paper. This will really slick them up. But be careful because this is when a stray sliver of bamboo will come loose and snag your finger and make you
curse Grandma Coco and her cheapo ways re-consider this whole process. Just go slowly. Finally, smooth a little beeswax on the needles and polish them with the wax paper.
The beauty of these needles is that they only get smoother with use. Before they’re thoroughly broken in, you may want to repeat the wax paper polishing any time you feel the stitches starting to drag. However, in time, they’ll be slick as glass.
If you’ve made single point needles, put a pretty bead on the blunt end. You can hot glue it in place.
It goes without saying that these will soon become your favourite needles (because you were there at their birth) but if you snap one or lose one or have one taken away by the nasty airport safety screeners it won’t be such a sad affair. After all, there are lots more barbecue skewers where those came from!
Pictured is the scarf we’re currently working on. It’s the Gypsy Rose Scarf by Barbara Venishnick. This simple 2 row pattern (a variation of feather and fan, we think) is so mindless, it’s just like meditating and we find it very soothing and calming. We’ve been hearing a lot about the reptilian brain lately and ours is very mellow. We’re using our 3.25 mm homemade bamboo needles (with the lovely white heart beads on the ends) and some gorgeous laceweight yarn from Laughing Rat Studio (50% wool, 50% sillk), Fresh Beets colourway. http://laughingrat.etsy.com
Oh, and the really observant will wonder what on earth the cheapo metal circular needle is doing in this photo? Well, that’s easy. Once you’ve roughed up a bamboo skewer you’ll never let a metal circular shove you around again. This one was snagging like crazy where the cable met the metal. Grandma Coco finally had enough and sanded the joints down with the sand paper and emery board, too. While she was at it, she sanded the business ends to perfect vicious points. The moral of the story? Be brave. Take charge. In the Kingdom of Coco, you’re the boss.