Knitting notions. The best ones to keep handy.
Do you have a notions pouch? I’ve road-tested a lot of tools over the years. Here’s what I keep in my notions pouch these days, including a few knitting bits and bobs I can't live without.
For the longest time I didn't have a notions pouch or bag. I had random little bags, bowls and boxes, but no one bag that kept all my notions together. It was actually a complete pain. When I really needed something, more often than not it wasn't handy. Invariably, rather than getting up from my comfy, warm seat and going to find the tool I needed, I'd attempt some long-winded or tricky way of doing something or approximate the length of something. It didn't usually end well.
Somewhere along the way I decided to bite the bullet and keep all my tools in one place. A lovely new notions pouch.
The one I'm currently using was made for me by a friend. She modified the Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead with a curved top and I love how it's long enough for my pens and stitch holders. Plus, I love how it opens right up, isn't too deep and has a light coloured lining, so I can easily see everything inside. It has a long leather pull on the heavy duty zip and a leather tab at the other end to make opening and closing easy and secure.
So if you're after a good pouch I'd recommend looking out for these features:
long enough for pens
not too tall
knitting needles and a needle gauge
Strictly speaking I don't keep my knitting needles in my notions pouch. They have their own case. But I try to keep my notions pouch and my needle case in my current project bag or within easy reach so I don't have to move ;)
I do however keep a needle gauge in my bag. I love how my needles have their sizes printed on them, but mine are metal and at night I find it impossible to read the print when the light reflects off them!
Stitch holders/Waste yarn
If you're a garment knitter, stitch holders and/or waste yarn is essential. My knitting needles are interchangeable so I tend to use spare cables to keep live stitches on instead of waste yarn. I also have safety pins in several lengths to hold stitches. A small safety pin is great to catch a dropped stitch until you're ready to deal with it and the "old school" blunt stitch holders that look like giant safety pins are useful to quickly pick up and hold a handful of stitches, like a shoulder for example.
I've tried a few row counters including manually marking off rows with pen and paper and I think I've finally found the row counter I love the best. The Cocoknits row counter not only looks stylish but it's super easy to use and it locks! I’ve even got the fancy magnetic strap to stick it to my wrist and although my teenagers scoff, it’s absolutely brilliant for making sure my row counter and various stitch markers don’t disappear into the sofa!
Crochet hooks/tool to pick up dropped stitches
I bought a fancy tool to pick up stitches that looks like a double-ended crochet hook. I’m not a fan and to be honest, I prefer a teeny crochet hook with a slightly pointed end. Go for about a 2-2.5 mm head.
Needle & cable caps
I've recently discovered needle caps and I love them! I've got a selection of squishy cones that fit neatly on the ends of my needles to stop my stitches falling off.
Cable caps are essential tools in my kit. Because I keep my live stitches on cables instead of scrap yarn, I use screw in cable caps to keep my stitches from falling off the ends. They're great to use when you're trying on top-down garments, as well as when you're leaving stitches live to pick up later. Your knitting needle brand will have cable caps that fit the ends of your cables.
I mostly cable without a cable needle, but when I'm crossing a large number of stitches or using very slippery yarn, a cable needle is invaluable. Size isn't that important so long as you're using a needle size the same or smaller than your working needle but the shape of your cable needle can make things easier.
I've got several curved cable needles, they have a kink in the middle of the needle, and they're great for keeping stitches just where you want them and not slipping off the ends.
Stitch markers, including plenty of removable markers
I can't live without stitch markers. Of course you can make-do and use waste yarn but I prefer stitch markers and I have my favourites.
I'm not a huge fan of dangling stitch markers, instead preferring small round or slightly shaped markers. I have a selection of round rubber rings, metal rings with a bead on them and some gorgeous hexagons that I'm loving using.
I've also got a bunch of removable markers and these are so useful when you're knitting garments. They're great to mark lengths to measure from, like the top of a shoulder and also to string together under your arms to try on top-down garments before you've joined the fronts and backs.
Make the strings of removable markers roughly the same length as the stitches you'll cast on under the arms to see how your sweater or cardy fits you.
Stitch markers can get into a muddle and get lost so I like to store mine on hinged rings to keep them neat and easy to get to.
You don't need sharp needles to sew up yarn although it's helpful to keep a few sharp needles handy for sewing on buttons. I have a lot of sewing needles in my pouch. I'm not sure why. Unlike knitting needles and stitch markers, they seem to multiply.
I keep my blunt needles in a wooden needle keep that my mum bought for me years ago with the sharp ones threaded though a piece of felt.
It's good to replace your tape measure reasonably frequently because they can stretch.
Like knitting needles and stitch markers, tape measures seem to vanish so I usually buy a few at a time and try to keep a few in my pouch. Cute retractable tape measures are perfect for notions pouches but they tend to break if you have children ;)
I like tape measures that have both centimetres and inches and before you use a new tape measure - just check it against a ruler … some of the cheaper tape measures around are wildly inaccurate!
There are so many cute scissors around, you can take your pick. There are even "aeroplane friendly" scissors!
It's better to measure your gauge with a firm ruler, not your flexible tape measure, and there are lots of tools around to choose from.
I love specialty gauge tools and I particularly love the frosted plastic tool in my photos. You can find them here.
They’re firm and easy to use and the little arms have teeth at the end so they don't wriggle around.
A good trick to help you count stitches and rows is to slide a pin at the beginning and end of the stitches you’re trying to count and when you’re counting, poke the end of a knitting needle into each stitch to keep track.
Oh yes, essential! There's nothing worse than a chipped nail catching on your lovely yarn!
I have a couple of pens in my notions pouch and I find that I have to replace them fairly regularly because they walk. Highlighters are great for noting which size you're following in a pattern.
Sticky notes are wonderful to use when you're following charts or when you want to make notes on a pattern but don't want to write in your pattern book.
Although I have pens and a notebook in my project bag for making notes and writing down important things, I mostly use an app for my patterns. I don't tend to print them out.
There are a bunch of knitting apps but I really like Notability app (only for Apple devices). I can download my pattern into it, enlarge the bits I'm reading, mark on it with a pen and a highlighter and send the amended file to myself again. As a designer, it's a fantastic tool. I should note, I have a phone with a big screen so it's easier to read but if you don't you might like to use it on an iPad instead.
So how about it? Tempted to try something new or get yourself in order? It has made such a difference to keep all my tools in one, handy place. I can really recommend it.