Knitting needles with a life of their own

When I started knitting the Frost Flower Lace shawl I picked out my longest pair of Number 10 (3.25mm US No 3) knitting needles. Nice and long, I thought, for spreading out the knitting and seeing the pattern forming.

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But when I started knitting, did they start bugging me? Constantly trying to tuck themselves under my armpits. I’ve no idea why this happened. It’s not as if I haven’t knitted with this length needle – and longer – before. Right now I’m logging it as a case for Mulder and Scully, unless you have an explanation?

Digging back through my needle collection, I found my only other free pair of No 10 needles.

Uk Aero Number 10

This pair of needles are a lifelong friend – okay there’s only one here, the other’s gone AWOL. These needles were my mother’s. I used them as a child and, when I left for university, I stole them took them with me.

Pleased to be reunited with my old chums I continued knitting the Frost Flower Lace on them.

Frost Flower lace scarf In Progress

The yarn I was using was quite slippy. As I knitted on, I kept dropping stitches when I tried to slip them. And knitting the two stitches of an SSK together was really tricky.

Frost Flower Shawl Watercolours and Lace

Instantly The Voice of Doom jumped in at told me I was lacking in my knitting abilities. I told it to shut up and persevered, pushing that thought firmly to the back of my brain each time I heard it.  Then one day a new voice spoke up…

These needles really aren’t very pointy,’ said the voice.

‘Nah! Don’t be silly,’ I told it. ‘All needles have the same pointiness.’

I knitted on, but the voice in my head kept telling me if my needles were more pointy, it would be much easier to knit. Finally I checked the needle tips against the armpit burrowing No 10s.

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Quel horreur! My life long friends had a less pointy tip! Ok, it might be a fine difference, but I swapped back to the longer needles and my stitches behaved so much better – although the needles still persisted with their fetish.

When I told Lovely Husband he said, ‘Of course. Everything wears out.’  And, of course, he’s right. If I’d thought about it, this is a vintage pair of needles have been in use for over fifty years. Can anyone date them? I’ve googled to find similar pictures, but can’t find ones this shape with the UK number and no millimetres on them.

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Maybe I didn’t make such an extraordinary discovery, but my knitting needles wearing out was something I’d never thought about and something that made me quite sad. My emotional attachment surprised me too. Okay, anything that takes us back to our childhood is likely to tug emotion. But a pair of knitting needles? I do have needles I like to use more than others, but this pair weren’t a particular favourite, yet I still became attached.

Do your tools ever take on a life of their own? Do you use vintage tools for your craft? And do you have favourites? I’d love to here about them.

Hope you’re having a great week.

Bekki Hill

64 thoughts on “Knitting needles with a life of their own

  1. I have a picnic hamper stuffed full of needles Bekki. Most of them, until recently were like yours – the old numbers engraved into the metal with tips that weren’t so good any more at getting beneath the yarn. I began to buy myself new ones as I needed them, even some bamboo ones for when I was flying in the hopes they would be seen as less lethal than metal. All have better tips. I’ll keep my old ones, they are old pals and I think the chunkier ones might still be usable with chunkier yarn – we’ll see. I don’t have any extra long needles any more though. I had a pair once and they did what yours do and I gave them away. 🙂

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  2. My most recent knitting pattern calls for pointy needles so I am guessing that the points must vary sometimes? I have some needles like yours that were given to me by a lady in her nineties so they are definitely vintage! As you know I have only done a very little bit of knitting but already I am falling in love with using a circular needle as two needles instead of two separate needles, it certainly solves the needles under the armpits problem 🙂 x

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    1. I am a fan of circular needles, but I like straight ones too. I’ve got big hands, so I sometimes feel happier with more needle to get hold of – depending on what I’m knitting. Never had trouble with armpit burrowing before, so hopefully it’ll stop again 🙂 x

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  3. I have some that look identical in what has now become rockin’ beads’ used stash. I am pretty certain they were my mum’s although lots have customers have gifted us their old needles (we have set of beautiful coloured aluminium which are American).
    Tool attachment – I have a very special pair of scissors that cost 99p from Woolies and must only be used for fabric. I get very precious about them when anyone else handles them!!

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    1. 🙂 99p from woollies sounds like a bargain for such good scissors. Although I think many of us would kill over our misused fabric scissors. Your ‘used stash’? Is that what the back room was full of?
      Hope the move went well.

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  4. My Mum had these types of needles in her knitting needle bag when she was a young mother – I think she still has some of them. I don’t remember my Nan knitting so Mum must have acquired them herself so that dates them from the 1950s at least.

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  5. I like to match my needles to my yarn too. Some yarn is too slippy for metal and needs wood/ composite wood or bamboo. And some isn’t slippy at all and need the metal. By and large I don’t knit with metal though. I prefer wood followed by bamboo. X

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      1. Thanks for the advice. I have been eyeing the interchangeable symphonie rosewood needles up, but keep thinking I need more guidance if I’m going to buy a whole set of interchangeable. So that’s very helpful. Thanks again 🙂

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      2. If you like circulars, I would buy your favourite size needle in a fixed one and try it. Or if you prefer a cable & separate points. Ditto with the straight needles. I do like my Karbonz interchangeables set but I am finding I prefer a fixed circular as the movement of the yarn off the needles feels smoother. I have an Addi circular I bought for a lace shawl and am just about to try Chiaogoo and they’re both metal. X

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      3. Thanks. I think you’re right, a set is too expensive not to try one first. I’ve been looking at sets for ages – each time Christmas and birthday come round – and had read about the connecting point causing problems. Also keep thinking it’s probably not much different pricewise to buy more of the sizes I use most as the sizes I don’t use much I’ll already have a pair of. and am not likely to be using more than one at a time of them.

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      4. Yes, though it’s amazing how you do use them as you just happen to start another project that needs the same circular as the last! I use the 4mm and 4.5mm all the time but I haven’t used the others yet. But I don’t much like knitting with circulars. 😄

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      5. Absolutely – my 4 and 4.5mm are constantly in action. For me it seems to depend on the project – sometimes I love knitting on circulars, other times I’m not so comfortable :-/

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  6. Both my first crochet hooks and my first knitting needles were old aero brand … I found them on ebay cheap and because at the time I didn’t know if I’d like the crafts they were the perfect purchase. I never really thought about the pointiness of them ’cause I knew no different, but mum got me a beautiful new set of crochet hooks last year and the difference is amazing… so smooth and easy to use! Can’t wait to get some new needles now 🙂

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    1. I love my modern ergonomic crochet hooks, the old ones I have I wouldn’t think of using. Knitting needles seem different to me, but the more I discuss this, the more I wonder if it’s just my emotional attachment that’s keeping me using them.

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      1. I do love my new hooks but I added a handle using loom bands to my old 4mm and i don’t think i could ever part with it. An emotional attachment sounds right – you learned so much with them.

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  7. When I decided to knit again, I asked my mum to borrow her needles. I went about the traditional path of getting some horrid acrylic yarn, and needless to say, was severely disappointed at how split-y it was and how my skills were horrible. I was convinced I couldn’t knit!
    Then I got myself some nicer yarn, and bought some cheap bamboo needles. Better. But oh my, when I bought my lace needles, which are so. Ugh pointier? I soared! I gave back my mum’s 80s needles and told her how mine seemed so much nicer for me, and she asked what difference could there be; my reply was that Vauxhall and Ferraris were both cars, but one was sure faster than the other… 😊

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      1. LOL! Thought you were questioning pointier being a word. Which I’ve just noticed spell check doesn’t correct – but surely the proper English is ‘more pointed’?

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    1. Hello. Thank you for dropping by and commenting. That’s a great analogy. I guess I’m more one of those guys driving round in my 50’s Morgan – it’s higher maintenance than a new car, but I love it so much I don’t mind. And yes, of course, ‘pointier’ is a word 😉

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      1. Hello 😊 hm, I think I’m more of a keep-the-vintage-car-in-the-garage kind of girl, but I absolutely know what you mean! Beautiful things that are also utilitarian are the best – however, pointier is indeed the path in my opinion 😀

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      2. I do agree actually. I guess I tend to use vintage needles, because it’s wasteful to replace something I already have. But I would buy new needles if I think they’re going to knit significantly better and get sufficient use. Unlike knitting needles, vintage cars are usually high maintenance. For me my car needs to be reliable and suitable for the journey’s I do. I once had a very temperamental beetle – I loved the way it looked, but we didn’t last long together.

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      3. Hah, true! I’d keep those needles as decoration 😊 The thing with me is, once I realised how much faster and better I was knitting with pointier needles, I just knew there was no turning back – but I’ll always have a place in my heart for the needles that thought me how to knit ❤️

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      4. I surrender – was knitting on a pair of knitpro symfonie’s last night and thinking how much lovelier they were. Although I did dig out a goodness knows how old pair of purple plastic 5.5mm in an emergency this morning!

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  8. They could be as recent as the 1960s. Mm numbers came in the 70s with decimalisation and the EU
    Never noticed pointiness of needles before. I shall have to look. I use needles dating back that far but my favourite’s are my bamboo needles! I don’t like long needles either.

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  9. I know I’ve got a pair of really pointy circular needles that were sold as ‘lace needles’ (thought I just needed the length & size). So pointiness must make a difference. I have just been given a load of needles off my grandmother. So hopefully they will still be fine to use as I really want to keep hold of them. It could just be a design thing?

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      1. Thank you. It’s lovely to hear that you think I deserve this award. I do however have a really bad track record in responding to nominations. It’s partly because I always seem to have something else to blog about and partly because don’t want to put others under pressure to answer award questions. Hopefully I will get round to responding to this and a few other nominations I’ve had soon. Thanks again for thinking I’m worth it and nominating me. 🙂

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  10. I inherited all my grandma’s knitting needles and they’re all like your old ones, sentimental I am too, as they remind me of my lovely childhood with my grandparents. In fact, they were the very needles she taught me to knit with in the late sixties, and I’d say she had them at least the decade or more before that, so well over fifty years old! These days, the largest things I knit are on wooden tooth picks for my collage pictures 😉

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      1. I think we would all be surprised to find out just how old some of our knitting needles really are! LOL Yes they are AND Yes they are ;-)!!.. but, for a couple of inches it’s okay for the fun of it 🙂

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  11. Phew, I’m glad I’m not the only one stealing – ahem inheriting needles in advance 😉 I stole some metal 10’s from my mom too and they are a probably a bit blunt after all I’ve put them through. You post got me thinking of whether or not I could get them worked on by a jeweler/metal worker and get them back in good shape… I mean, I get my knives sharpened every four (or six) months so there must be a way to do maintenance on needles somewhere 🙂

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      1. I’ve been at it for a bit now and nothing. There’s stuff on needles for machines but nothing that actually helps. I’ll send off some emails to me metal folk – though it would actually help if I knew what material my needles were made out of…

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  12. I’m really sad to hear that needles wear out, but can I suggest that not only do they vary in size but also in points? I have a variety of needles that I keep in a vase, and some of them are more pointy than others – and if you need it – I do have a pair of 10s exactly like yours!

    As for being attached to things, one of the last things my Gran bought me was a sewing machine – when it went pop and was unrepairable I was more upset at losing the connection than the machine.

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    1. Sorry to hear about the machine your Gran brought you. I guess the machine is replicable but the memories remain attached to the old one. Thanks for the offer of the 10s. But, like the sewing machine, the ones I have are the ones with the memories and I’m sure they’ll be good for thicker coarser yarns still. Yes, I think points will vary, but those 10s have had a good fifty years plus life, so I suspect they have worn and were pointier in the past.

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  13. I have none of my old knitting needles left. (By ‘old’, I mean 50+ years.) but I remember well the type you show above. In fact, I’ve just looked and found one metal needle to match the type of ‘head’ on your size 10 – although mine is a size 13. Now I know for a fact that I haven’t used that size since I got married 45 years ago. It says ‘Aero, England’ on the back of the head, which means very little. Aero was just a firm that made knitting needles. Whether or not they still do, I’ve no idea. My one odd needle seems pretty pointy, but I suppose a size 13 would do, it’s so fine.

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      1. Some just got ‘lost’. Don’t ask how because I don’t know. 😦 I ended up with a lot of odd ones, so they went in the bin many years ago. I’ve no idea what happened to the other needle to match this odd size 13 I’ve got.

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