It has been a busy couple of weeks – a trip to Brisbane and then straight into my three stereotactic radiation treatments, plus the shadow of public sector cuts seems to get darker every day.

Anyway this weekend having finished the first sleeve for Eunice I decided it was time to get into my next swatch test – this time with metal needles and promptly got distracted by the needles. In the last few years there have been some significant changes in available metal needles and Addi in particular have been obviously considering how to resolve the issues metal needles can present for knitters who are have issues with arthritis or occupational overuse syndrome (OOS). For me knitting with 4.5mm steel needle will start to be uncomfortable pretty quickly so these swatches could have been a challenge. However I had comfortably knitted the body of Eunice with a 3.25 mm Lykke Cypra tip and the sleeve the new long tip Addi Novel Flexi Flips so I was curious to see how similar tips where at 4.5mm

The needles

The metal needles I chose to use for the repeat swatches in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter and Dyestock Yarns Merino Superwash DK were:

  • 4.5 mm Lykke Cypra tips with a standard Lykke cord (non swivel)
  • 4.5mm Addi Novel fixed circular with a standard 100 cm cord (non swivel)
  • 4.5 mm Knitpro Zing straights (30cm length)

I have finished the swatch with the Dyestock and am about quarter through the Brooklyn Tweed but I decide to pause for a needle post and a couple of swatch thoughts as well.

Lykke Cypra

Three metal needle tips in a line.

The Cypra needles are made of copper which when you consider the stories about copper bracelets helping with rheumatism is probably a logical choice to explore as an alternative to a standard metal needle. It certainly feels warmer and to some degree lighter in the hand than some of my older steel needles. The first set of tips I bought about 18 months ago do have a slight patina but the 3.25 mm I have been using for Eunice are still bright. And they were definitely easier on my hands than traditional needles with no noticeable stiffness or cramping. The one thing that I didn’t like is that unlike most metal needles the cable connector is added to the end similar to a wooden needle except it is not as smooth. I also had more issues of the cable starting to unwind – which could have been the swivel or that I didn’t tighten it properly. The 4.5mm were fine with a standard cable and for the swatch but TBH I wouldn’t choose them over my Lykke or Lantern Moon tips for knitting at this weight. I had thought I might use them for the Malabrigo Rios to do Dark and Stormy as it may have made the cables easier but I am not convinced they will be comfortable. Still a really nice needle and I would consider a set as an alternative to wood.

Addi Novel

Three flexible double point needles at top

The Addi Novel has been developed to be ergonomic and having used the flexiflip version for my Eunice sleeve I had this 4.5 mm slipped in with some wool I ordered from the UK. The Novel is a cubic/ square needle with coruggations along it’s length. Novel have a blue cord and Ewenicorns (which are round rather than square) a pink one. While I prefer the rounder profile of the Ewenicorn (I have a 2.5 fixed circular for socks) I really liked the 3.25 mm flexi-flips even with the Novel profile. They were everything I wanted in a small circumference needle option, the 5 inch tips are long enough for my knitting style (the issue with the original flexi-flips was the needles were too short for how I knit), they avoid the pulling through the loop of magic loop, the needle profile both holds the stitches while making them easier to knit off the needle. Addi specifically reference that they have been designed with knitters with arthritis in mind. However – again I didn’t love this at 4.5mm with Brooklyn Tweed. I think in this case it is because Brooklyn Tweed is quite a grippy yarn anyway and so it feels like it is not moving as smoothly across the needle as it does on metal (I originally swatched this yarn back in the day on Knitpro Nova) I also found the squareness of the needle was much more obvious at this size and I think I may have a mental resistance to the feel of my needle being square. They are very comfortable to knit with and definitely worth a try if you prefer metal needles but feel that your hands are beginning to struggle.

Knitpro Zing

The reason I went and found my Zing straights was I getting a bit bored and starting to test my knitting speed to see if I was still faster on metal needles and one of things I discovered back in 2019 was that I was faster on straights compared to circulars.

Blue metal knitting needles with pink knitting

There wasn’t much difference in my knitting speed but when I finished and measured this swatch there was another interesting result. Zing is a brushed aluminium and in sock needle sizes is one of my favourite needles. I have knit with 5mm tips and it hsa been manageable as long as I don’t overdo it. At 4.5mm and straight it was marginal – the difference of needle weight on your arm when you are used to circulars makes its presence felt quite quickly. But the interesting outcome of the experiment was while pre-wash my stitch count was 20st to 10 cm (actually the same for me as on wood) my row count was 26 rows on circulars and 28 on straights. Be interesting to see what it is once washed – and I am going to switch the Brooklyn Tweed swatch at about the same point.

A couple of points about swatches

Having seen some comments lately on Facebook I want to stress that a swatch only tells you about your gauge with that specific needle brand and that specific yarn. While my gauge has been relatively similar during this project I would still re-swatch for a specific project. At best it gives you a starting point if you know that typically you get a certain stitch count on that needle size. Of the swatches I have done for this exercise – I will use the same needles and wont re-swatch for the Rios or the MadTosh Vintage. I will re-swatch with some new Brooklyn Tweed for a project I am planning and swatching in pattern for another two projects is a subject of a latter post.

Also knit a big enough swatch! Double the 10 cm stitch count and double the row count is kind of minimum. Casting on 22 stitches and knitting 26 rows tells you nothing (or very little) about your gauge. One of the reasons I began to time myself today was to estimate how long a swatch would take as 42 stitches is very close to my stitch per minute count for knit stitch. I figured out that an average swatch would probably take me about an hour and a half which isn’t trivial but sure beats knitting an entire garment and finding the gauge is wrong. For the record I am a medium fast knitter – if someone tells you they can knit a swatch in 15 minutes they are NOT knitting a proper swatch.

Book of my week…

Book cover Alexa Johnston Ladies and Plate Jams and Preserves

Both of the books within my sight line at the moment are vintage. A few weeks back I went for a wander through the Featherston secondhand bookshops looking for a particular cookbook.

The cookbook is Alexa Johnston’s Ladies a Plate: Jams and Preserves and it looks like this if anyone comes across it.

The books I found in my hunt where Amanda Cross’s The Question of Max at Ferrets Featherston – feminist mystery writing from the 1960’s and 1970’s – her books are available on Amazon and Kobo

I also found this copy of Amberwell by D.E.Stevenson in a cabinet. I can’t remember how I got a copy of Amberwell when I was in my tweens – I have a feeling it was a gift from my great great aunt and it smelled of talcum powder. I didn’t read it for a couple of years and when I did the story wasn’t that engaging but for some reason it has nagged at me and I really wanted to remember what it was (and now I know). With the miracle of the internet and Fantastic Fiction I now know that there were sequels which I think I will track down (despite it being a book of it’s time)

And this rather wonderful bound copy of the 1909 School Journal which I got at a discounted price as someone had cut all the images of a story about Canada out.

It is probably worth noting that next week is Featherston Booktown Festival with an amazing programme of events.

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