I’ve gone over MOST of the tools of the trade at this point, but there are a few tools that cover knitting, crochet, and design that I’ll cover here so that everyone has a list of tools in one place. This is not an exhaustive list of EVERYTHING you’ll ever need, but some good general pieces that you should have on hand. I can’t count the times that I’ve needed something on this list and it WASN’T called for in the pattern at all.
With that in mind, let’s take a look!
It may seem silly, but I’m going to say it: a yarn needle and a sewing needle are NOT the same thing. A yarn needle is a large, usually plastic, needle with an eye you can ACTUALLY see through. They’re intended for passing yarn through and used to sew sweater seams or tuck long tails. Sometimes to darn work (that doesn’t mean cursing the work, really!).
The thing about keeping a yarn needle on hand is that sometimes even when you “don’t” need it, you’ll use it to pull ends through to the back side of the work when they get unruly or to help tie difficult knots. Recently I used on to hold a stitch that I had dropped in my knitting until I could find a way to reintegrate the stitch into the work.
These little guys come in several different varieties, but I have to say my hands down favorite is the safety pin style pictured above (officially, these are called “locking stitch markers”). They’re like small plastic safety pins and they work for crochet, knitting, design, and holding finished parts in place for sewing.
In general, stitch markers are used to keep your place in a work. Sometimes for counting rows, sometimes for keeping patterns. In knitting, you’ll often be asked to use ring makers (the whitish markers shown above) and slip them as you work the pattern so you know where increases or decreases are. In crochet, usually you’ll place a marker so you can count back so many rows. In either art, you can use them to mark the *’s in the pattern so you know where the repeat starts and ends. When designing, I often use these markers to help me keep track of changes in the pattern or where I am trying something different to see what it looks like.
Spare yarn is EXACTLY what it sounds like, yarn that you have leftover. This can be ANY length of yarn, whether it’s a small ball or just a 6-8 inch length that you keep hanging around. Spare yarn is often used for holding knitted stitches when there are either too many for a stitch holder, or in place of a stitch holder. Crocheters will use spare yarn less often, but it does happen from time to time.
Designers, you should keep as MUCH scrap yarn on hand as you can. You will use it for practicing stitches and working out patterns before you make the nice copy. When you’re designing something meant for cashmere, DO NOT practice it ON cashmere, seriously.
I expect that most of you are familiar with this tool from somewhere. There are two kinds of measuring tape, one is pictured above and the other is the semi stiff version usually used in construction or found in tool boxes. I prefer the flexible kind for yarn work, but either one will do really. The point is to have SOMETHING that will allow you to measure your work.
Knitters and designers, you should have about 5 of these hanging around your house, you will lose them and you will use them. Most knitting patterns have SOME section that says “knit even for x inches” or something similar. Having one of these on hand will make life a LOT easier. Designers, it doesn’t matter WHAT medium you’re using to design, you need to know if your work matches your measurements. You’ll need to check things like waist sizes of garments early and often if you’re making anything fitted.
Crocheters, don’t think you’re off the hook here. You may not need this tool as often, but when you find that awesome sweater pattern, you’ll probably need it to either measure yourself or the garment before sewing or blocking the work.
There are all kinds of really cool stitch counters out there. You can get some pretty neat digital ones if you like those, or you can just stick with the old fashioned twist to count kind pictured above. One of the cool things about the plastic ones is that you can slide it onto your hook or needle and it will pretty much just hang out there. Either way you go, the point behind these is to help you count either stitches or rows.
I’ve mostly seen these called for in clothing, both knit and crochet, but I’ll be honest, I have a three year old, one one the way, and limited concentration. I use this tool on just about everything I work right now to keep track of where I am.
Plastic or Metal Gauge
This odd looking tool is starting to become one of my favorites. The holes in the top portion of it correspond to US knitting needle sizes and can be used to measure a crochet hook if the size is unknown or worn. The slide at the bottom helps you determine what your gauge is (knitted or crocheted) when you don’t have a ruler handy. I use mine mostly to measure unlabeled hooks or needles (especially DPNs) to make sure I have the right size for the pattern I’m starting.
This is one of those weird tools, and a rare occasion, where I’m going to tell you to just get one. You won’t use it often, but when you need it, you NEED it and every time I have needed one I have needed it at a time when I couldn’t get to the store to get one (either they were closed or I couldn’t leave).
A stitch holder is almost exclusively a knitting tool. It is used for–as the name indicates–holding stitches. I have also used them for marking rows and the beginning of rounds, but that is not their intended purpose.
Knitters you will often see these when making gloves or working with cables.
These are another tool that I would expect you know from somewhere already. Safety pins are used all over all kinds of crafts. When it comes to knitting, crochet, and design, I use them for marking stitches, holding small amounts of stitches, pinning sections together before sewing, pinning ends to the ironing pad for blocking, marking size changes, and several other things.
All around these are just useful. They work for just about anything in a pinch, if you know their length (look on the box they come in) you can even use them to measure.
Straight Pins are more common in sewing than they are in knitting or crochet, but you WILL use them if you choose to block your work. We’ll be talking about blocking work soon, so keep an eye out for how to do that coming soon. For now, know that straight pins are pretty much exactly as described. They come in several varieties, some with large plastic heads like the ones pictured, some are just small pieces of metal that look almost like penny nails.
When we do get around to blocking work, you’ll use these pins to make sure you work is at the right measurements before we block it.