All That Yarn – Basic Tools for Knit and Crochet
Knitters and Crocheters
For knitting you need knitting needles and for crochet you need crochet hooks. You need the size (letter or number) that the pattern calls for and maybe a size smaller or larger to adjust your Gauge to the correct size for that pattern. If you are just starting out as a new knitter or crocheter, you may want to buy a set instead of individual needles or hooks. Check your pattern for what you need as often you will use the same size again and again if you are making more of the same (hats, mittens, afghans/throws, toys) and have a consistent tension or gauge.
Yarn Needles or Tapestry Needles
In Embroidery they have what they call a “Basic Tool Kit” with various supplies for doing most types of embroidery. You can make a “basic tool kit” for your yarn projects, too.
First you will need a pair of scissors that can cut yarn. Since most scissors don’t need to be pointed like embroidery scissors need to be, you might be able to get by with a pair of school or children’s safety scissors. Try them out first on scrap yarn to see if they will cut cleanly through the yarn. If not, then look for a different pair. You want to avoid too pointy as that will poke out of your yarn bag and leave a hole.
Folding scissors are a good one to have in your bag, if they are sharp enough to cut yarn. There are several kinds out there to choose from in either plastic or metal handles. I usually get a few and keep one in my purse as well as my project bag.
Next, a nice bag to keep your yarn project pieces all together and off the floor. You can use a reusable grocery bag, a canvas bag, or an old large handbag. You don’t want something with buckles or other parts that could snag your yarn. Look for something that is snag- resistant, smooth or flat large surfaces. I find that a good bag will have a zipper that won’t catch easily on a yarn project or the yarn.
There are lots of choices in generic canvas bags from hobby stores or online sources. I prefer a small bag per small project, like a simple 8.5” x 11” canvas bag (plain or colors). This way I can grab a project to take along to an appointment or waiting room. It keeps my yarn and hook or knit needles in one spot, and keeps the yarn clean by not letting it roll on the floor of where ever I’m working on my project.
I try to not use plastic sacks from the store as they often have built in flaws – holes. Also, metal or plastic hooks or needles will poke through them very easily causing your project to lose the tools or allow dirt to reach your yarn. The plastic sacks are ok for storing yarn in your stash, as they will keep the dust off but they could also “scent” your yarn with a plastic smell. Temporary storage in plastic bags is the best solution.
All yarn projects need a Tapestry Needle or Yarn Needle. This is a large, blunt end needle for sewing seams or hiding ends. Newer styles include ones with slightly bent tips which can make it easier to get into stitches (either knit or crochet). There are also jumbo needles with larger eyes for use with bulky or novelty yarns. The plastic type are okay, but if you have to pull hard to get through a spot in your piece or exert a lot of pressure on it then a plastic needle might break.
I have found that pill bottles or long narrow mint containers can hold the yarn needles to keep track of them. Like most small objects, the yarn needles tend to fall through the cracks and disappear. Another reason to have a bag with no holes in it. Your needle would be the first to find a hole and fall out, especially at the bottom of the bag where most things gravitate.
Some of the many tools
Cable Needles for Knitters
Then you also have the wide assortment of tools that are called for in some patterns.
The first is the Stitch Marker. These come in an assortment of styles, sizes, and colors. There are even fancy ones for sale on the internet by designers. The basic ones are plastic and can either look like a safety pin or a circle. There are Split Ring markers that can be slipped over a strand of yarn for marking rows or other spots in a pattern. There are ones that you can use to keep track of how many stitches or chains you have when doing a pattern like an afghan that calls for over 200 stitches. I mark every 10 or 20 stitches to help with counting. That way I don’t have to re-count from the beginning if I lose my place or get interrupted while counting chains.
For knitting there is the Stitch Holder tool. It looks like a very large safety pin as it has one end that opens similar to a safety pin and the other end is rounded. Some patterns call for part of the row to be put on a Stitch Holder to be worked on later (this eliminates a seam or other flat area that would look bad on the finished article you are knitting). Sometimes they come in handy if you have to take off a current work in order to use those knitting needles for a different project.
You can also use a contrasting yarn run through the stitches you would put on a holder, it is not as “neat” but works in a pinch. For a couple of stitches you could even use a quilting safety pin (they are about 2.5” long) as a temporary holder because most safety pin metal does not hold up if it gets wet and your project might get rust spots if they are used for too long. Metal needles and pins should never be left in your yarn or project as they will get rusty over time and leave a rust spot behind when removed. Plastic ones are also not for long term as temperature changes and humidity can warp or cause them to become brittle so that they break when the yarn is moved or pulled on.
Crochet doesn’t use stitch holders as each crochet stitch (with the exception of Tunisian or Afghan crocheting) is a finished stitch unlike the stitches in knitting which are a series of loops over the knitting needle which will “run” if taken off the needle and not held in place.
Knitting patterns that include Cable Stitches will call for a Cable Needle. This is either a curved needle in a “U” shape with one end longer than the other, or a straight needle with a dip in the middle. There are small, medium, and large cable needles for different yarn sizes. The difference between the two shapes is more personal preference than specific need. Either shape will still hold the 3 (or so) stitches you need for making a cable as you won’t have the stitches on it for longer than it takes to pull the 3 stitches in front or back and knit the next 3 then the 3 off the cable needle. (See the pattern for how many stitches you need to move.)
Knitting also has Point Protectors. These are little rubber shapes to put on the pointy end of your knitting needles. It keeps the stitches on the needle and prevents the needles from poking through your bag. You can find ones that cover a range of sizes. Some cover 4 to 9 or 10 to 15 size knitting needles. Check the packages for the size you need for your needles. They come in the shape of cones, yarn balls, socks, mittens, sheep or just about anything. You can also use a rubber band in a pinch to keep your stitches on your needle, but not to cover the point.
Pegboard Stitch Counter
Counting and Other Tools
Counting is important in both knitting and crochet. Your pattern may call for x number of increases or decreases, or rows of color, or even pattern repeats. A handy one is to use a post-it note. You can write on it as you finish a row (make marks or numbers on the paper). You can also use the post-it to move under (or over) each row in the pattern as you work along. Also a small notepad next to your knitting or crochet space (or to carry in your project bag) is good for counting or taking notes on the pattern (like when to change colors or how many rows you can get done before your ball of yarn is used up).
There are several types of Counters. I have a “peg board” counter where I move the peg between numbered holes for each item I am counting. For example, I am working a pattern where I have to work even for 4 rows between the last 3 where I increased and the next 3 where I will decrease. I move the peg from 1 to 2 to 3, and when I get to 4 then I know I will work 4, 5, 6, and 7 even, then 8, 9, and 10 to finish that part.
The one peg board I have has 4 sections with rows, increases, decreases, and repeats. I have about 10 pegs so I can cover what I need on the board. The numbering is from 1 to 9, then the 2nd row has 10, 20, 30, etc. so I can put a peg in 10 and 4 for the 14th row or repeat. There is peg storage on the board so I don’t have to hunt for the pegs when I want to use it.
There are also counters in the shape of a cylinder that fits over the knitting needle so when you get to the end of the row you can twist the end of it to count up to the next number. I have seen these also put on neck cords so that they can be used with any size knitting needle, or even crochet.
Another kind it the “Kacha-Kacha” named after the sound it makes as you depress the top button to move the counter ahead a number. It goes up to 99 before it starts over at 00. The only complaint I’ve heard about this one is that it tends to get bumped in the project bag and makes your count off from where you ended. They also make a similar one that is on a neck cord that you can manually turn the side wheel or click it to count, and it has a “lock” to stop the count when you put it in a bag. This one is more expensive, but if you travel a lot with your project, it might be worth the extra money to keep your count accurate.
And in the digital age there are Digital Counters that you push a button each time you complete a row or part of a pattern. They sometimes come with an automatic shut off, but still have your count on it as long as you don’t hit Reset to restart the counter. They are in stand alone or finger strap types, and depending on where it is from they may be cheap or expensive.
A Knitting Gauge is also used for Crochet. It looks like a ruler with holes and an “L” shape cut out. The cutout area is to use for measuring Gauge. It is a handy way to count rows and stitches without having to use 2 rulers.
The holes on the Gauge are sized to fit knitting needles or crochet hooks to help you determine which size you might have if you have an unmarked needle or double pointed knitting needle as those don’t come marked with the size on the needle. It is also handy as a ruler for small measurements under 8”. Some are plain and flat, some are fancy with added slider part for exact measurements. I have found shaped ones online that look like a sweater or a sheep or just a square. Do a search for “knitting gauge” and see what you can find online.
Yarn Bobbins are used for small batches of color when you are making a knitted project like FairIsle or other multi-colors in a row work. Personally, I have some but have never used them. They are usually plastic and look like a rectangle with one end having a heart-shaped cut out that is split at the side to allow you to wind or unwind the yarn on it, and little “legs” on the other to keep your yarn from sliding off.
Be Inventive with Tools
You can also substitute other items for some of the tools listed. A plastic bread tie will work as a quick stitch marker, and so will a twist tie that can be wrapped around the knitting needle. A large safety pin can double as a stitch marker or a small stitch holder (for a few stitches). Rubber bands work in a pince to keep stitches on your knitting needle, or to create a single knitting needle out of a double pointed one (in case you need to just knit back and forth and can’t find the size you need in your stash). You can use a sheet of paper to measure 11” (or 8.5”) if you don’t have a ruler handy. Just fold the paper in half to get 5.5” or 4.25” size if you need something smaller.
Taking notes while working on your pattern is always a good idea, so having paper and pen/pencil handy is helpful. Be careful to use a pen with a cap so it doesn’t get “clicked” and add ink to your yarn by accident. A mechanical pencil might be better as you can retract the lead and keep it off the yarn. Sticky notes or small 3” x 5” notebooks or index cards can fit in your project bag to keep the notes with the project.
Be creative and inventive. All sorts of things can substitute if you think about how it could be used as a tool for your knitting or crochet. You can always look for tools online or at your local yarn shop, and you might be surprised at the types and variety of tools available for knit or crochet.