Addi FlexiFlips – The Good – The Bad – The Ugly

Since my last post, I decided I would get my knitting mojo back by putting my current projects on hold for a bit and knit up something tedious and challenging and touch no other project until this one is completed.  It sounds nuts, but its technique I’ve used when I’ve been in a funk with other things.  Just hit pause and find a good challenge.

I cast on the first of a pair of Coffee Cantata socks and got to work.  There’s a brain melting amount of cable work but my God are they gorgeous.  I’ve considered framing these when I’m done as a joke.  Imagine that on the wall as a conversation starter for guests.

When it comes to socks I break out the double pointed needles.  Always.  I’ve made socks using the magic loop technique before and I don’t find it enjoyable.  I use magic loop on plenty of other things like sleeves and toys just not socks.

After casting on these tediously cabled socks I ran into a minor issue with my beloved double pointed needles.  I started hitting multi-stitch cables and twists spread between two needles in the middle of sides.  It’s fidgity where you don’t want fidgity. Ugh.

I began looking a little more seriously at Addi Flexiflips.

So all of us knitting junkies have seen Addi FlexiFlips appear on the market, and they apparently have been a big hit.  They’ve either been unavailable for order, backordered, or when found have had pricing that is grossly inflated.  The worst pricing I’ve seen is $45 per set for immediate shipment.  It finally looks like after several months these needles are popping up more often with reasonable pricing, but some of  the most common sizes are still hit and miss on availability. The concept looks intriguing, essentially they are circular needles with very, short fixed cables as a join.

I located two sets from the same seller in sizes that would be good to have the arsenal, Size 0 and 2.75mm (1.5 or the larger size 1 – it drives me nuts that there are companies out there that are marketing two size 1 needles Addi is one of them) at a bargain basement price of $18 a set.  They arrived in the mail box yesterday and once I got in from an evening of shenanigans with friends I worked them into the socks and flew through enough rows to feel comfortable writing a review.

Time to break it down…

The Good:
The design itself is pretty sound, and will please both magic loopers and double pointed fans alike.  It’s an excellent blend of the two.

For double pointed needle fans, you are juggling fewer needles, but absolutely have the feel of four in the sock and one to work stitches.  There are only four pointy ends poking out of your sock instead of eight reducing the places your working yarn can catch when you’re in the knitting groove.  I can’t quite articulate it, but having the short flexible cable between tips makes the process feel more compact.

For the magic loop folks, yes you’ll have more than two tips to manage but guess what you don’t have to do. The loop dance.  You know what I’m talking about, the pull one needle tip, re-folding the cable, and all the fidgeting that needs to happen to switch from one half of the sock to the other.  You simply will move from one needle to the next without all the readjusting.  Besides the addition of more pointy ends and learning to manage those, there isn’t much change in the rest of your normal knitting process.

These needles will travel well.  I’ve used several versions of double pointed needle/sock holders and I can fold these needles up to fit any of my existing holders.  Realistically, I could go without these holders once I secure the third working needles into either the yarn ball or the sock itself.  Magic loopers will find that the project itself will be more compact and with the loss of the actual loop, won’t have a snag point.

The Bad:
The points themselves…
Addi ment well by offering their dual tip technology on these needles.  Each needle has one sharp tip, the other side is a more rounded one.  This is great if you’re working a simple sock without a lot of design features.  Simply pick your preference and consitantly use it from one needle change to the next.  If you’re doing cables (especially without the assistance of a cable needle, the pinching method or drop and shift method) you will be arranging and rearranging stitches on both a sharp point and a rounded one. If you’re working a yarn that is on the splitty side, this can be a frustration point.  It’s not a huge issue, but it would be nice to have a choice of all tips being one shape or the other.

The Ugly:
The issue I’ve consistently had with every single set of Addi circular needles that I’ve touched…the joins.
If someone at Addi reads this, why can’t you make a smooth join between cable and needle?!? For what would be considered a prestige or luxury brand of needles, having joins rough enough that yarn doesn’t easily slide ir worse yet splits at the join is disappointing.

Overall, are these worth the investment? Yes.  They are a great concept, and despite the concerns will get the job done.  Are they worth paying the demand pricing for?  No, be patient and wait until you can find the size you need in the $18-25 range.  These are already more pricy than an individual set of double pointed needles or standard circular needles, but for die hards, a worthy tool.  Will these replace all of my beloved double pointed needles? Nope, but they will be a standard fixture on my traveling sock projects. When I have a little money in the fun budget I’ll pick up another size 1 (the smaller size 1 LOL) and a set of size 2 and that’ll be it.  That covers the sock gamut for me.  I will finish out my current socks on these despite my feelings about those variable tips and intricate cables.

Now it’s time to get some photos in.  By mid-morning it was warmer outside on the porch this morning than it was in my house, so the photo shoot was on my porch table, which needs a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning, so just excuse that. Click on the images for some captions and info.

If you’ve tried these for yourself, tell me what your thoughts are.

 

 

The Stories Strangers Tell: Knitting Adventures at 39,000 Feet

As a habitual knitter there’s always a small project that lives in my bag or backpack to work on if there’s a bit of downtime. It’s much more appealing to craft something tangible if a couple of rows can be thrown into a project than sitting and poking at a smart phone screen.

While sitting on a flight I pulled out a pair of Knitted Knockers (hand knitted breast prosthesis) to work on since I was trapped in the dreaded middle seat and there was absolutely no chance of a nap. Once in a while I’ll get a question or two about what I’m working on, but largely the yarn fidgeting goes unnoticed, other times like several other knitting in public adventures, there will a conversation I won’t forget.

Being trapped, both passengers on either side saw what I was up to pretty quickly. The first was a man in his mid-twenties who had just pulled out a game system. He commented that if he wouldn’t be teased that he would love to learn how to knit. Our conversation fell along the lines, of why worry about what his friends think, if he wanted to he could just knit in private, and there were plenty of men who knit. He asked a few more questions about where and how to start, and he was pointed towards his local yarn shop in Pennsylvania.

Now on the other side, sat a woman, well into her retirement years with a thick Brooklyn accent. “I knit. Mom taught me. Nothing fancy. Mom could really knit.” Really?

Her mother would knit her and her siblings new sweaters every year, ripping apart the sweater from the year before, knitting it a little larger and adding more yarn when necessary. When the yarns were finally too worn to reuse for the next year, the kids would pick from a handful of colors for their next sweater. Nothing too bright, nothing to extreme, simple colors that could matched if more yarn had to be added to in following years. She missed her yearly sweaters.

She asked me how I learned, and I filled her in. She asked where I bought yarn in Georgia, since she was going to be staying for a few weeks and wanted to make a couple of scarves for her grandkids. Filled her in there too, and how I was always there on Saturdays, but since it would be a long drive for her, I told her about a few shops I knew about near the family members she would be staying with.

Then she asked the big question. “What are you making anyway?” Knitted Knockers were explained and her expression changed entirely. It’s hard to describe what I saw on her face. Pain, grief, a touch of happiness, surprise. It was hard to read. I froze, and didn’t really know what to say.

She spoke first. I can still hear her story in my head.

Mom died in the early 80s. She found a lump in her right breast, and went over a year before going to the doctor about it. You’re far to young to know how cancer of any type was treated then. It wasn’t talked about, like it is now. There wasn’t support groups. There wasn’t information out there. The treatments were brutal. Mom had her breast removed. It didn’t heal well. It was always painful, there was no reconstruction choices. She was told to stuff the empty place in her bra, and go on with life. She began isolating herself. She was a housewife, she only left the house for errands stuffing her bra and wearing the baggiest clothes she had.

Mom found another lump in her remaining breast two years later. She chose to let it take her and was gone within a year. If she had one of these knitted things and felt better about herself, maybe things would have been different for her.

The woman went silent. I didn’t know what to say other than I’m sorry.

She spoke again.

The woman who started this organization and the people who are knitting these things are doing a great good in this world.

She picked her book back up and began reading. I took that as a sign that I should pick my needles back up and not speak further.

Others around us had heard her story and began sharing their own stories about family members that had fought cancer in many forms. I sat, worked, and listened. My neighbors in the row sat and listened.

The woman next to me, put her book back down, sat and listened in silence. Knitting triggered her memories of both happiness and pain. There were no more words between us for the rest of the trip.

I hope that the happy memories of the childhood sweaters and the scarves that she will make for her grandchildren will bring her comfort.

It’s been a few weeks since our conversation on the plane, she never made it up to Yarn Rhapsody during the time she said she would be in Georgia. I wish her nothing but peace.

November Classes

It’s time for class signups again! So what’s in the works for November? A bigger project that is always in demand this time of year and some smaller ones that you can crank out and bind off before Thanksgiving. All classes will be held at Yarn Rhapsody in Gainesville, GA, you can sign up by calling 770-536-3130 or as soon as its available I’ll post a link for online sign up through paypal. All yarn, patterns, and supplies should be purchased at Yarn Rhapsody.

First things first, Christmas Stockings, one of the most requested holiday gifts a knitter will be asked this time of year. Never made one? Don’t worry I’ll get you through this one. This is a 3 session Apprentice Level Class. Sessions will be held November 4, 18, & December 2 at 10:30am and ending at 11:30am. Price $60.

You should be confident with most basic stitch techniques, cast on, bind off, knit, purl, basic shaping (decreases).

You will learn stranded color work techniques and afterthought heel techniques.

Homework: Choose your colors and chart choices from the pattern before session 1.

Bring to class: Size 7 – 16” circular needles and your chosen yarns

Session 1. Begin leg, learning stranding techniques for color work.

Session 2. Learn how to put live stitches on hold and continue working.

Session 3. Learn how to pick up stitches on hold and finish heel.

There’s a bajillion of beanie patterns out there, but you’re on mission for something specific, something one of a kind, something…Just. For. You. Why not Design Your Own Beanie? This is a 2 session Apprentice Level Class, with two separate offerings. Price $40

Set 1: Wednesday, November 1 & 15 at 6:00pm and ending at 7:00pm.

Set 2: Saturday, November 4 & 18 at noon and ending at 1:00pm

(Please note, the set dates are not interchangeable, you’ll either be committing to Wednesday only sessions, or Saturday only sessions)

Basic hat construction knowledge and stranded color work knowledge would be helpful but not necessary.

Homework: Turn on your imagination and think about what you would like to design

Bring to class: Markers or color pencils. Size 6&7 – 16” circular needles and your color choices in Worsted weight yarns

Session 1. You will learn how to lay out a stranded color work design for your own hat, and a few pointers on how to make your knitting life easier once you cast on your completed design.

Session 2. Trouble shooting, and finishing.

Nothing says snuggly warm like a good cowl, but it’s Georgia, so snuggly warm usually means lighter weight yarns and some lace work so that good feeling doesn’t evolve into smothering hot. The Daylight Savings Cowl is a good fit! This pattern features Japanese lace motifs (Scared of charts? No worries there are written directions too.) and is designed to make the most of a small gradient kit or ombré yarn. Personally I think it would look just as wonderful in a solid or a slightly speckled. All you need is 400 yards of a fingering weight yarn you are in love with. This is a 3 session Apprentice Level Knitalong (I’ll help you along if you hit a sticking point while you work at your own pace). Sessions will be November 4, 11 & 18 at 1:30pm and ending at 2:30pm. Price $30

Bring with you: Size 5 – 24” circular knitting needles and 400 yards of fingering weight yarn

Sessions 1-3: Knit at your own pace (Knowledge of basic lace work needed)

And for the last offering of the month, meet the Beeswax Scarf! This is a bold pattern knitted in worsted weight yarns, so it’ll work up fast and would be a great gift for anyone, male or female. This is a 3 session Apprentice Level Knitalong. Sessions will be November 4, 11 & 18 at 3:00pm and ending at 4:00pm. Price $30.

Bring with you: Size 7 needles (straights or a shorter circular will work) and at least 600 yards of worsted weight yarn. This pattern has several size options from a standard scarf, wide scarf, or a wrap. Yarn requirements increase accordingly.

Session 1-3: Knit at your own pace (Knowledge of basic lace work needed)

So there it is! Some solid knit work waiting for you to pick up and cast on.  I hope to see you soon.

Sticks & Cables: Knitting Needles

When I began knitting a little over 10 years ago, my teacher bought me a set of size 8 Takumi straight bamboo needles, and I’m convinced most of us that have started knitting in the past decade probably started on those needles, others started on aluminum, some on plastic.  Those sticks with capped ends got us through those first projects, and either made us or broke us as knitters.

Then, inevitably we begin to get adventurous and begin to look at projects that require a size other than an 8 and we start buying our own needles, and find that materials and options are endless.  Bamboo, wood, plastic, carbon fiber, straight needles, circular needles, interchangeable sets, double pointed, and on, and on, the options can get a little intimidating.  But we get over it and eventually find the combination of materials and needle type that fit our own knitting styles the best.  Then we all eventually get adventurous again and start find what preferences fit us best depending on what we are actually knitting or to fit yarn preferences.  I’m sure you get the idea by now, we can be a fickle band of people when it comes to the bits of sticks we work with.

Over the years, I’ve been trying to assemble my own master set of workhorse knitting tools, and with the arrival of a surprise gift yesterday think I may have filled the stable, with virtually every size I could need.   Am I saying I will never buy another set of needles again, no, of course not.  I travel now and then, knit on the road, and have a fear of having a favorite set of needles snatched by TSA during pre-flight screening so I will pick up a wooden circular set here and there that won’t crush my spirit if they are taken or lost.  Even though knitting needles are leagal to fly with all it takes is one misinformed or cranky TSA agent to ruin your day.

Picking out needles boils down to personal preference more than anything, but here are a few options to consider if you are on your own mission to build a master set of tools.

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My personal preference has led me to appreciate interchangeable sets, tons of options, plenty of cables, all wrapped up in a cute little package that’s easy to keep all the bits organized.  After switching to circular needles, I use straights once in a very blue moon.

The ChiaoGoo 4″ Twist set is a stellar set for someone that’s getting serious enough about knitting to invest some cold hard cash.  This package comes with a lot of bang for the buck with stainless steel needles ranging from sizes 2-15, a wide range of cable lengths, tightening keys, end stoppers, needle gauge/ruler, and stitch markers, pretty much everything you would need to start any project.  I’ve owned this set for a little over two years, and have put a lot of yardage on it.  The points are sharp, making them great for lace work, or yarns that have a tendency to split.  These are stainless steel, I think they are less slippery than aluminum, but still slippery enough that yarn will move easily for tight knits, and the tink tink of metal hitting metal doesn’t seem to be as loud on steel.  The cables are flexible, and have “no memory” they can stay wound up in the case for months, and will lay flat as soon they are pulled out of the case, so there is no frustration caused by a cable wanting to stay curled or not move freely.   The joins where cables and needles meet are smooth and stay connected well.  It’s a very rare occurrence when I can feel the cable beginning to loosen up from the needle, but always in ample enough time that I can pull out the tightening key and set things right again.  If I could recommend one set of interchangeable circulars for a knitter looking for their first set of interchangeable circulars ChiaGoo Twists are it. 

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Now on to the newest addition to the knitting arsenal, a surprise gift, and what I fondly call knitting porn because these needles are bee-you-tee-ful, it was love at first sight when I saw them at the local yarn shop.  These are the Lykke interchangeable circulars.  Even though the ChiaGoo set is extremely versatile, wood has a very different feeling to them, as odd as it sounds they feel alive and feel warm.  As soon as I was off  work yesterday I switched out the ChiaGoo set that was in my current project over to the these just to see how they felt, and yep, birds sang, the sun rose, and love happened.  But like I said wood needles are a different monster from metal ones.   This set ranges from sizes 4-17 and comes with cables, tightening keys, and end stoppers.  The cables are a little less flexible than the ChiaGoo cables but it’s barely noticeable.  The joins are the same size from 4-17 which I think is a plus.  There’s a few projects in my queue that alternate rows between two different sizes, I can put both sizes I need on the same cable and not manage two different sets.  Whoo hoo!  This set is made of birch and stained to look like driftwood, they are very smooth but “grippy” stitches aren’t going to slide off this set unless you intend for them to  but the yarn moves on and off of them well.  These are functional pieces of art, which I will use quite often, but they probably won’t be my go-to-set for detailed lace work or on yarns that are likely to split.  These are great and gorgeous, but a set that may not be the best option for a newer knitter.

img_0753And last but not least, double pointed needles make it into the discussion, and this set is the Knitter’s Pride Karbonz.  Personal preference has left me making socks and small toy knits on DPNs instead of circulars.  This set ranges from sizes 0-3 in groups of five for each size.  After snapping a few wood needles or finding flaws that caused snags while working, and loathing metal DPNs (tink scrape tink scrap ughhhh sound) I thought I would give these a shot and went all in on the full set, and didn’t regret it.  The body of these are carbon fiber, the sharp tips are nickel-plated brass.  So you have the benefit of a sharp metal point where you need it, the grip of wood in the body, and Herculean strength.  The size 0s can be used without fear of them snapping like little toothpicks in your hands.  When you break a needle mid-project and drop a bunch of stitches broken needle phobias develop instantly.

No matter what type of needles you prefer, my greatest recommendation is get the best you can get within your budget, like most tools, the better the quality, the longer it will last.  If at all possible please order from your local yarn shop and support your crack yarn dealer!