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Published: 27 May 2014

Knitting needles and accessories

stitch markers stitch markers I do not own many stitch markers but these caught my eye at my favourite charity shop and I had to buy them - at least I think they are stitch markers and one day I may use them. They would be fine for a substantial piece of knitting but certainly of no use when knitting lace as there are too many points to damage a piece of delicate knitting.

Instead of custom made stitch markers I usually use yarn or cotton in a contrasting colour, or a safety pin. There is always something suitable nearby and is cheaper than buying custom made markers - there are photos below.

tips of knitting needles tips of knitting needles I am often asked about what kind of knitting needles I use. I almost always use straight double pointed needles (no more than 4) with my knitting belt. I have scores of knitting needles in all sizes and lengths - far too many. The majority are aluminium though I have some made from steel and bamboo. The needle tips are of interest to knitters and I had a request for them to be photographed on squared paper to show the length of taper - most of these taper over about 1.5 cm. 

I do have some circular needles and find them useful for holding stitches, knitting while travelling or when there are too many stitches to comfortably manage on 4 double pointed needles. The main problem I find is that the distance from the flexible part to the tip is too short. The only time knitting made my hands sore was when I used a thick circular needle (double pointed needles were unavailable and it didn't occur to me to buy wooden needles to customise). In a moment of weakness I had agreed to take on a commission to knit this garment. I could have done it on single pointed needles but would have had to purl alternate rows and seams to join, two things I prefer to avoid.

Strong cotton or string is also useful at several stages of knitting. After about 3 cm has been knitted a 'raepin string' helps to create tension and speed up knitting, though I am not sure it is as useful with a circular needle. A 'raepin string' is a long, strong cord (cotton is ideal and should not be too thick) which is passed through the bottom of the knitting using a blunt needle, then tied to make a circle. Three or four bights of the cord are pulled to give a long tail which can be pulled to the left and wound around a knitting belt, or sat upon, to put a little tension on the stitches which are about to be knitted.

As a child I was often asked to help wind hanks of yarn into balls. Nowadays yarn is usally bought in balls and generally only special yarns come in hanks. Nevertheless a 'yarnwinder' is a handy accessory. Both of mine have been bought; one at auction and the other at the same shop as the stitch markers.


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Shetland is the most northerly group of Scottish islands. Apart from mainland Scotland, the other near neighbours are Norway to the east and the Faroe Islands to the north west.