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Thread: Knitting Needles and Crochet Hooks

  1. #1

    Default Knitting Needles and Crochet Hooks

    I've been thinking of trying to carve my own knitting needles and crochet hooks, but I have a few questions before I get started. What sort of wood would be best so they don't snap? The only hardwoods I can think of are ash and elm. Also, would it be better to carve from a large chunk of wood or a thin branch from a suitable tree? For some reason I imagine that if they were made from thin branches they would break easily like a twig does.
    Thanks for any help, and I'll post about how they turn out

  2. #2
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    You want the last years growth of rowan or apple for this sort of thing. Spindle tree is also supposed to be very good but I have no experience of it, more than a bit rare around here . Maybe some of the archers can offer advice too.

    Basically something without a pithy core, so that rules out willow or elder.

    The straight shoots from last year's growth just need to be de budded, peeled and waxed and they dryout slowly and stay sound.
    The problem is making knitting pins fine enough (probably why the earliest ones are wires) my oldest ones are made of bone, though horn is very good too for short ones such as the sets for gloves and socks.

    It'll be interesting to see what you come up with

    cheers,
    Toddy
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

  3. #3
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    Have you thought of bone, especial;y for the crochet hook?

  4. #4
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    I've come across boxwood crochet hooks and knitting needles, but I see no reason why ash or hazel couldn't be used instead. I would suggest riving it from a larger piece to avoid the pithy core. I think a lot will depend on the size needles you want to make. SWMBO has some large beech wood needles, about 12mm diameter.
    Man up Princess! dave budd handmade toolsTools, knives, blacksmithing Also, courses in all of the above

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
    Have you thought of bone, especial;y for the crochet hook?
    Actually, that was a thought, but what sort of animal bones are suitable, and are they difficult to carve?

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toddy View Post
    You want the last years growth of rowan or apple for this sort of thing. Spindle tree is also supposed to be very good but I have no experience of it, more than a bit rare around here . Maybe some of the archers can offer advice too.

    Basically something without a pithy core, so that rules out willow or elder.

    The straight shoots from last year's growth just need to be de budded, peeled and waxed and they dryout slowly and stay sound.
    The problem is making knitting pins fine enough (probably why the earliest ones are wires) my oldest ones are made of bone, though horn is very good too for short ones such as the sets for gloves and socks.

    It'll be interesting to see what you come up with

    cheers,
    Toddy
    Thanks very much for all the information. Now I just have to wait for the weather to improve a wee bit so I can go out for a walk.

  7. #7
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    There's a little tool used when weaving on a warp weighted loom, it's like a short knitting needle aobut a size 7 or 8, it's called a pin beater and is used to keep the wearp threads evenly spaced.
    I have handled one found in a Viking woman's grave from Lewis dated to before 900 AD, and it's made of rowan
    I picked it up, knew exactly what it was for and knew it had been one of her most common and least expensive possessions. The gold brooches were beautiful, but that little stick, shaped by her hand's use all those hundreds of years ago, meant more about the reality of her daily life than all the interpretations of wealth and status and trading links.

    If women hadn't spun the wool, and woven the cloth, there would have been no longships, no trading on the scale it became, no migration period. That little rowan pin beater said it all
    cheers,
    Toddy
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

  8. #8

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    I've got some lime wood knitting needles in about 2.5mm and they work very well. Have used apple suckers successfully too.

    Bone is wonderful to work with, it gets better with age. I regularly use several sets of victorian bone knitting needles and crochet hooks, we make our lucets from bone and I love the way bone becomes glossy with continued wear, really beautiful.

    Like Toddy, I've been lucky enough to be able to handle archaeological textile implements and completely agree with how inspiring it is to hold something so simple yet so essential.
    Be inspired by everything (but think for yourself)

  9. #9
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    I asked the local butcher for bones, and got a couple (this was for knife scales). They were certainly long enough for crochet needles. I scraped, boiled, and scraped again in the back garden in a tub and they cleaned up beautifully..
    I used a hacksaw to cut the lanks and files to shape them. I was cautious about the dust however, but I think thats just sensible precautions with any materials...

  10. #10

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    That's a good idea. Thanks for the help. I suppose if I happen to find a suitable bone while out for a walk, I could use that unless it's old and brittle looking.

  11. #11
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    You could try using dogwood, apparently it is tough and allows you to carve to a fine point without it breaking. Of course, that is for making skewers and you won't be needing your needles to be that sharp! As for the crochet needle, form the hook from a side shoot off of the main branch.

  12. #12
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    Some pet shops like Pet World, also sell bones, I have bought one the other day, 7" long, what's nice it that is come already cleaned and sterilised, at least I hope so!
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  13. #13

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    If you have a real butcher nearbyask him for a beef shin. Stick it in the oven a 189 for 3-4 hours. let it cool scrape it clean & do what you like with it. Thats what i used to do when i made bone lace bobbins, if you can turn it on a lathe I'm pretty sure you can get a pin or crochet hook out of it.

    Cheers
    Nick
    Quiet loner with a small arsenal of axes!!

  14. #14

    Default ever thought about bamboo?

    I remember making crochet hooks for my mum when I was a kid, and I used garden centre bamboo canes. Just cut it to length & split it into 6 or 8 long sections (splits really well, no tear-out). These you just shave round with a knife & cut the wee notch at the end, then sand smooth. Should work as knitting needles 'an all.
    Bamboo worked like this makes an excellent blow pipe dart as well, paper cone for a flight & a tiny steel broadhead made from a bushman saw tooth.
    Anyway, I'm rambling now...

  15. #15
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    I was gonna post the idea to use dogwood as I didn't remember seeing this thread before. Seems I gave that advice a while back already!

    What did you use in the end?

  16. #16

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    I didn't actually make any in the end. I had gathered some thinish ash stems but decided they wouldn't be much good due to the pith in the middle.

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    find an osterich farm and see if they will sell leg bones!
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  18. #18
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    I have tried making a round of sock needles out of turkey leg bones. Getting the needle striaght and smooth I found very difficult. Given the choice i would pay the extra for an outdoor reared bird as it they produce much stronger bone. I find bird bone easier to carve than mammal, and with nallbinding needles it produces a lovely curve that shapes around your finger. I have made needles with duck, guinea fowl, pheasant (the best) turkey and lamb clavacle. I have looked at beef bone to try and make longer needles and crochet hooks but I feel a bit daunted by the size.

    For wooden needles i use sloe, it is lovely and hard and grain is tight. finding bits long and striaght enough for full size knitting needles i have found imposible so far.

    How can you put a eye in needle without a drill? We have had needles way before we have had drills so how was it done? I have eyed a sloe thorn with flint shard but it was very time consuming for something that can break so easily.

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