10 Great Knitting Tools You Don’t Have to Pay a Dime For


You may have already co-opted some of these tools or some may be new discoveries! Let us know in the Comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Chopsticks: Let’s start with perhaps the most common. Need a cable needle for your chunky yarn? Panicked because you’ve left your knitting at home? Need a knitting notion for your Chinese food? You’ve found your substitute for a number of knitting needs.

Curler pins (thanks Elena Malo): See above reference to cable needle (can you tell I like cable knitting?). These must work because bamboo knitting notions looking suprisingly like these have been seen as recently as March 2011, when they were given away free with Simply Knitting magazine.

Surgical tools: I don’t let these out of my site, first of all because they’re so useful and second of all because they would probably maim my 6 year old, my dog, and myself if I sat on one funny. But items such as Overhold Geissendoerfer Forceps, curved surgical blades, and dental tools are fabulous for battling mohair, picking up dropped stitches when you’re using a size 1 needle, and shaving the fuzz off of extra-felted yarn with a wee bit too much alpaca in it. (BTW, my father-in-law was a surgeon and those forceps? I have some similar ones, but I found that name too priceless to resist. Another disclaimer … those aren’t mine!)

Nets from tomatoes, veggies: Another common one. There’s nothing worse (well, almost nothing) than a ball or yarn that’s unruly, unravelling, and independent. Until you catch it in your craftily hidden net and stay happily knitting for the rest of the evening.

Hair clips or binder clips: Have you sewed up any seams lately? On my finest knitting, I use the little clips that hold orchids up. (Personally, I think it’s the other way round, but that’s beside the point.)

Barbie brushes: If you do a lot of felting or knitting with eyelash yarn as an accent (that’s right, accent), you’ll find it matts. Especially when it comes out of the washing machine in the case of felting. A little plastic barbie brush takes care of any tangles, matting, and unruly fly-aways.

Diaper bag: Rash cream, diapers, burp cloths, extra clothes, bottles, those cute little socks, “binkies” (a word I’m loathe to say), cream, etc. What does all of this have in common? It all needs to go in a bag when parents are on the go. Check out diaper bags if you’re looking for a knitting bag. You’ve never seen so many pockets, bells, and whistles. This is only practical, of course, if you don’t have a baby.

Straws: No stitch markers? Take a pair of sharp scissors (no, no, not The Good Scissors!), snip off pieces of straw, and you’ve got yourself some fairly small stitch markers. Using big needles? This won’t work, but there are always Lifesavers. Or penne.

Corks: Rubberbands tend to be the go-to tool when you need point protectors. I like corks. Specially because they also work for my curved surgical blade and if I need to plug any dykes on my way home. Seriously, though, they do a great job. I love the fact that the end of your needle doesn’t get snagged on your knitting.

Film canisters: Just think, the latest generation of knitters has probably never used a film camera or seen a film canister. Which means more for us! Because I haven’t found a container with a tighter seal to hold pins, needles, stitch markers, beads, and so on.

Tool box, fishing tackle box, or in my case a SIGG container: I know the first two are popular, but I had to include my Sigg Storage Box (made by the company that make the popular water bottle). They take a licking. You can cram them full of odds and ends, they’re not deep, so you don’t risk getting sliced by Geissendoerfer Forceps.

Then lastly, I can’t resist showing a picture of my Jack-of-all-trades needle keeper. He hasn’t gotten much use since I discovered faster, metal circular needles. But, heh, how many people can say that a jester holds their needles?

Off to forage for more tools!


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a few of my favorite things

I drink in inspiration, which sometimes comes from the most unexpected places. Well expect it from me, hopefully. At least a smattering of it weekly.

Albert Einstein said “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Why? Unless, of course, you have something to hide or are “borrowing” someone’s creation. Every week I plan on sharing a few of my favorite things. From Web sites, to fiber, to color, to designers, and so on. You get the picture. Without further ado…

Halloween has been here since before Labor Day. But I’veLion hat refused to bow to retail’s out-of-whack calendar. Although I’ve had my daughter’s costume (she’s batgirl) for close to a month, I didn’t pull it out of the box until yesterday. Similarly, I’ve seen lots of Halloween fun and inspiration, but I’ve waited until now to mention a few of my favorites, although there are so many more!

Home-made costumes: I went as a robot one year in a cardboard box covered with foil. Would have been an awesomeBaby hats costume, except I was on crutches that year. Crafters are taking costumes to a whole new level these days, though. Check out Sweetpeatoadtot’s darling creations if you have a little one. This lion hat slays me! And then going from the sublime to the ridiculous, consider knitting yourself one of Ansleybleu‘s Princess Leia hats (wigs?). And not to be missed are Madmonkeyknits’ Halloween patterns. Not only are there someBlackboard pumpkins terrific patterns, but there’s a serious sense of humor behind them. For instance, one pattern comes with this warning, “Please do not attempt to make this hat if you are of a nervous disposition.” Many of them feature special UV yarn that glows in the dark. Suffice it to say, you need to have nerve to make a “Scream” baby hat that glows in the dark.candy corn

Blackboard Pumpkins: My house has about 2 percent of its wall space available (the rest is filled with books, art, furniture, you name it). I haven’t been able to try out blackboard paint on a wall. But Jen Wallace’s blackboard-paint creations may be the answer to both my curiosity and my yearly ennui when it comes to pumpkin carving. And why stick to schoolhouse basics? Check out fabulous shades of chalk-ready paint here.Spider cake

Felted creations: Candy corn so real, I could eat ’em by the handful (except for the fact that I’d be coughing up hairballs for the next week). And these pumpkins!

Martha Stewart’s Halloween Central: Underneath that buttoned-up exterior is a mad scientist. No one does Halloween better than Martha. 

Outrageous cakes: These designs take the cake, so to speak. There are some beautifully crafted ones, and others you’ll need a strong stomach to look at. (Though I’m sure they’re all tasty!)London Halloween

Halloween yarn bombing: Halloween wouldn’t be complete without a little hand-made guerilla warfare. London’s Knit the City haunted the Tube (subway, to us Yanks) with this sinister collection of spooky knit and crochet characters.

Let us know your inspirations! Feel free to comment here, on our Facebook page, in our Ravelry group, or in an email.

– Kate, off to carve me some pumpkins

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makes me proud to be an american

from the too much time on my hands department. But at least I found the Bat Cave (it’s in North Carolina, btw).

couldn’t have come up with these U.S. city names if I’d tried:

Burnt Corn, AL
Unalaska, AK
Goobertown, AZ
Toad Suck, AR
Dunmovin, CA
Panacea, FL
Hopeulikit, GA
Beer Bottle Crossing, ID
Metropolis, IL
Acme, IN
What Cheer, IA
Do Stop, KY
Typo, KY
Belcher, LA
Beans Corner Bingo, ME
Accident, MD
Nimrod, MN
Soso, MS
Frankenstein, MI
Square Butt, MO
Worms, NE
Good Intent, NJ
Cat Elbow Corner, NY
Bat Cave, NC
Knockemstiff, OH
Cookietown, OK
Boring, OR
Loyalsockville, PA
Due West, SC
Smartt, TN
Ding Dong, TX
Satans Kingdom, VA
Bumpass, VA
Humptulips, WA
Big Ugly, WV
Imalone, WI

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who knew? a boy named Shel

One of my favorite authors, Shel Silverstein, of The Giving Tree and numerous wonderful books of poetry fame, was the talent and pen behind songs such as “A Boy Named Sue” and “25 Minutes to Go.” Both were made famous by another of my favorites, The Man in Black—Johnny Cash.

And while we’re at it, we might as well chalk up “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” to Shel’s hit parade. He wrote a number of other songs in the 60s and 70s. And although I’m somewhat a product of the 60s and 70s, my musical knowledge doesn’t include that much esoterica.

Here’s a number to listen to while you google those other songs …

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dirty velcro? try an American Girl brush

My Timbuk2 messenger bag had dirty Velcro closures so full of dog hair, lint, and fuzz from the carpet, among other things, that they just weren’t sticking. And three pairs of my daughter’s shoes suffered from the same affliction. What’s a girl to do?

Well, I remembered how handy little Barbie brushes had been in my old days of felting knit bags. I got a bagful off of eBay that I used to comb out novelty yarns that got stuck in the wool as it felted in the washing machine. I was so amused by how goofy they were, yet effective, that I tied one to each bag’s tag so its new owner could keep it tangle-free.

Anyway … check this out. Here’s a series of before, during, and after shots of cleaning dirty vecro that will help you truly appreciate the joys of having a daughter with an American Girl doll brush in the house! (I’m sure a dog comb would work too.)

Giants bag - before


bag with brush

I escaped unnoticed from my daughter’s room with her brush …

action shot

a close-up action shot …

clean strip of velcro

presto, chango!

clean bag

and there was peace in the kingdom

p.s. Go Giants!

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cheap thrills or wedding day jitters?

The paparazzi started to get a little out of hand once the carousel started up.

wedding pictures

putting passion into your work (golden gate park carousel)

wedding on carousel

looks like she got the picture–as well as a little verklempt (golden gate park carousel)

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pantone profiling & a gown, by gummy!

It’s a bit of a stretch, but I think I can combine two amusing/interesting tidbits gleaned via DesignTaxi. Two takes on two themes: color and skin. One based on an industry standard. The other based on one of my standards (standard snacks, that is).

Fashion for the Peckish Model

The first marks the debut of TWELV Magazine, a gorgeous chevron gown made out of—wait for it—220 lbs of gummy bears!. (The magazine is gorgeous, too, and is available for a special premiere rate of 99 cents. And I didn’t even need encouragement to join its coming out party!)

gummy bear haute couture

all together now, “sticky woman, walking down the street, sticky woman … “

My husband said, “I wouldn’t mind taking her to a movie.” If he didn’t love gummy bears and if this wasn’t such an out-of-character remark, I would have been more on the offensive and offended.

Match Game

And if you think that’s colorful, check out Brazil’s Angelica Dass’ effort to match people’s skin tone to their equivalent Pantone color.

Pantone skin tone

Angelica Dass is ambitiously trying to replace skin tone with spot color.

Read more ’bout it on her site and check out a couple of examples here. Quite stunning. Perhaps our men (and women) in blue could take a page out of her book and start shooting suspects’ mug shots to complement their skin tones and tattoos. Or take out Pantone decks to try and pin down their perps. I guess that would be a cry of outrage for Pantone profiling, however …

Pantone skin tones

Dass, understandably has labelled this a “work in progress.”

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visualize ’50 shades of grey’

Pretty clever reference to the saucy best-selling trilogy 50 Shades of Grey (disclaimer: the word “saucy” is used presumptuously—I have not read the apparent barn burners. Pantone, on the other hand …)

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'Please don't go. We'll eat you up. We love you so.'

RIP Maurice Sendak, who brought so much joy to so many–young and old. Such a character, as exhibited in this interview with Stephen Colbert on January 12, 2012 (this takes a few moments to load):

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humble beginnings & atheist tendencies

I’m reading Steve Martin’s memoir Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life. Was interested to find out that his stand-up career started on Grant Ave., five blocks or so from my house.  And am pleased that he is candid and unguarded in his accounting of his early days (am about a third through the book). Makes for a more rewarding read.

Speaking of rewarding, I can’t talk about Steve Martin, who I consider one of the funniest men alive or dead, without balancing his candor with some humor.

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