My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Big Thank Yous!

In no particular order:

A huge thank you to Marit, who created my wonderful new blog button and banner, featuring the lovely Miss Lucy.

And an equally huge thank you to Catherine S., who made a donation to the Montgomery County Humane Society in Izzy’s name. I got a card from the Humane Society yesterday letting me know. I love that you have honored her memory in such a wonderful way.

Some Sock Talk

Cheryl had some toe-up sock questions in yesterday’s comments.

First, when you undo the provisional cast-on, don’t you end up with one less stitch? Or do you automatically make an extra stitch while picking up?

Yes you do end up with one less stitch. and yes, I always automatically make an extra stitch whe picking up.

Second, some people recommend using a reinforcing thread (I know some sock yarns come with this), especially for toes and heels. Do you do this, and if you do, does it make a difference with wear?

I don’t use reinforcing thread. I think the sock yarns I use all wear pretty well, because they are all approximately 20% nylon. But I give all my socks away, so I can’t give you a personal report on their wearability. Anyone care to comment on this?

Last, do you swatch when using a new sock yarn or do you go by the recommended gauge? Some toe-up patterns claim that gauge doesn’t matter because you can adjust as you knit.

I am the Queen of No Swatching. I do have a pretty good idea what my gauge will be so can easily estimate the number of stitches for a sock. If I’m unsure of the width of a recipient’s foot, I’ll do the sock in a few more stitches and do a rib pattern — that way if I’ve over-compensated, the rib will pull it in for a snug fit.

Ebony Needle Tragedy

The other night I was ready to switch to my larger needle while knitting Roscalie. Imagine my horror when I whipped out my 80cm 3.25mm (US 3) ebony needle and discovered that there is a chip out of the tip of the needle. I have absolutely no idea how this could have happened. I last used the needle for the body of Hank 8 and put it away carefully as soon as I was done with it. I tried to use it, but the chip bothered me too much, so I sadly put it away and am using a Crystal Palace bamboo instead.

What makes matters worse is that no one seems to make the ebony or rosewood needles in size 3.25mm anymore. The sizes jump from 3.0 to 3.5 mm.

I suppose I could grind down the tip of the needle and make a new point . . . assuming I had the ability to do that. I don’t think sanding it with an emery board is going to get it done in my lifetime.



Lucy’s being a big help with Roscalie.


Her fur does look lovely knitted into the pattern.

A close-up:


Speaking of Lucy, does she look like she’s settling in?



  1. Yes she does ! And she looks like she’s been brushed / combed a few times too.
    Pretty girl :-]

    I would re-inforce a yarn like Koigu ,but not ‘sock’ yarn as the 20% nylon content makes them wear really well.

  2. Your new kitty looks so HAPPY!

    Thanks for the lovely photos — they make me want to run home and pick up my knitting needles (and adopt a cat).

  3. Lucy definitely is realizing how lucky she is!

    Re: knitting socks…. I don’t bother with reinforcing, especially now that there are so many great sock yarns with nylon. I throw my socks in the washing machine but usually let them line dry. My socks have held up well. The heel gets a bit felted (I wear shoe clogs to work) but that adds to the cushioning!

    Sorry about the ebony needle. I am not even going to go down that road. Don’t want to get hooked!

  4. Mary from MD says:

    Lucy is just beautiful! She looks like a big kitty, too. She looks like such a sweetie and I hope she stays like that. We have a cat named Lucy (a.k.a. Luci-fur because of her demonic personality). In her defense, she has had a rough time of it. Her previous owner had Alzheimer’s, which apparently left this cat with anti-social personality flaws. Enjoy your lovely kitty and give her extra hugs from me.

  5. I brush and comb Lucy every evening as soon as I get home from work. She adores it and wriggles and purrs and flops around — which makes the whole operation very interesting.

    She’s got a larger frame than Izzy, but feels like she weighs abut the same. I think she could stand to gain a little weight and hopefully she will.

    This morning when my alarm went off, I saw that she was curled up asleep at the foot of the bed, her head resting on my ankle. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I think that Roscalie–as lovely as it is–is taking a backseat to the gorgeous Lucy! We should nominate you as poster girl for successful cat adoptions!

  7. Hehehe! I see what you mean about the eyes… ๐Ÿ™‚ She’s gorgeous, and looks perfectly happy! ๐Ÿ™‚

    And about sock yarn: I thought the nylon WAS the reinforcement? We knit much thicker socks here in Norway, though. Need it in our boots for the cold winter days… The yarn is pretty rough to knit with. I have never tried this thin yarn that you use. It looks very soft.

  8. Thanks L-B! Lucy has only been with me for a few days, but already I adore her. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. That’s what I think, Marit — when the sock yarn has nylon in it, it doesn’t need reinforcement. I’ve knit several pairs of socks out of thin sock yarns (like Regia) that have nylon in them for Ian — they’ve all been worn and washed a number of times and hold up very well.

  10. Jo from Boston says:

    Wendy, a place called The Needlepoint Joint ( claims to have US size 3 ebonies in various lengths including 32″ and 39″. They’re Noble brand not Suzanne’s. I haven’t bought anything from them or tried the needles but it might be worth a try. Hope this helps. P.S. Lucy is gorgeous.

  11. Karen Berglund says:

    Wendy, when I stopped at Pieces of String in Moorhead (MN) a month ago to check out Dale of Norway, I noticed that they had ebony needles. Now, I don’t know if they have the size you want, but if you’re interested, it’s, the owner is Julie.

  12. Thanks for the suggestions on the needles — I know I’ve cntacted both those vendors in the past when searching for ebonies and they were out of stock (I did a VERY exhaustive internet search!) but it certainly couldn’t hurt to check again — maybe they have more in now.

  13. I was going to suggest needlepoint joint too, they just had a newsletter with a sale on ebony and rosewood circulars and I ordered some. Didn’t notice if they have the 3.25mm, they might have in rosewood. You should call them on the phone rather than emailing. I was going to say – get out the sandpaper and smooth that baby, if it is just the tip you won’t ruin the gauge of it.

  14. P.S. What a beautiful kitty, she looks so happy.

  15. What a face! She really *does* look like the “other” Lucy Liu (although I don’t now if I’d have thought of it if that hadn’t been her name).

    Thanks for answering the question about provisional cast-on — I just thought I was crazy (or inept, or both) because I kept getting one less stitch. I just increased one at the very end, but now I know I should pick up an extra. (Hmm – doesn’t that mean I’ll have one too many on the first half of the toe?) Anyway, like the wrap pick-ups (thanks, Suzanne, for the book ref), it works out one way or another, and I’m happy with my resulting socks!

  16. The best compliment I think a person can get is when animals are comfortable and happy in your presence – and Lucy seems right at home after only a few days. She has so much personality – it really comes out in the last pictures on your blog!
    I too have avoided the reinforcement yarns for socks – I don’t think a good quality sock yarn needs them. And a good quality thicker (sportweight) yarn usually doesn’t either, although I don’t wear mine that much. I remember the knitting beyond the hebrides list had discussed the ebony and rosewood circular needle issue, and concluded that the 3mm and 3.25 mm needles for fair isle work are out of stock at pretty much all the usual needle sources in the US and Canada. You may have to start calling individual yarn stores that don’t have web pages. I don’t think they tried the European sources though, so that’s one other possibility.

  17. Is there really a difference in using rosewood and ebony circular needles vs. ordinary circular knitting needles? I would be interested in hearing what the differences are.

  18. Wendy, this may be a stupid question, but I’m about to cast on for Na Craga (the Aranmor gauge saga is done with..heh), and I just wondered if you did a long-tail cast on? It’s going to be my first sweater for myself so I want to make sure I make it look as good as possible, and I know that the pattern starts out with a RS row, which would put the “bumps” of the long tail in the front instead of the swoops, and I wasn’t sure that was right.


  19. oh I’m happy to read your sock responses this morning! I’ve made a 1st pair of socks using your pattern and I’m in LOVE!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m working with yarn that’s coming to a 10st/inch I’m having a bit of trouble converting that into the pattern. Using Confetti yarn which I think might be thinner than Regia.

    Anyway love the pattern, it’s really well written and even *I* understand it! LOL! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Daphne — I did a long tail cast-on for Na Craga. Actually, I like having the bumps of the cast-on on the right side rather than the swoops.

    Good way of describing it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jo, thanks! I’m so glad you find my pattern useful!

  21. Wendy,

    Thank you for your prompt replies to my novice questions. I completed the toe of the sock and a couple of inches of the foot last night. I feel very chuffed!

    I’m using a sock yarn, but I have several 100% wool fingering weights I’d like to use. I like the idea of combining colors to make my own Mexiko-type socks. So I’m still pondering whether to strand in some nylon or something, especially for toes and heels.

    Lucy looks like she’s here for the duration! She must have a very sweet personality to have come through the traumatic past and still have such great trust in people. Or do you have a magic touch with cats?

    In some past entry you said you prefer “classic” knitting. Are you never tempted by the wild and crazy yarns which have flooded the market? You don’t want to make something frilly and frothy in eyelash or a drapey top in one of the i-cord type yarns? And do you always do traditional fair isles? In Celtic Knits there’s a jacket which I covet, with big swirls of greys, lavenders, and beiges (sorry I can’t remember the name of the design).

    One last nosy question – what do you do with your leftover yarns? You must have tons of partial skeins in a rainbow of colors.


  22. Thanks for the quick reply Wendy! Another friend of mine who did Na Craga pointed out to me that there are two ways to do knit and purl, so she thinks she alternated every couple stitches. I think I’ll do a practice ribbing swatch both ways and see what I like best.

  23. Wendy, there must be some guy (or gal?) in your vicinity just waiting for a chance to use their dremel that they bought and haven’t really found a need for. Have one of them try fixing your needle!

  24. Charlotte says:

    Could you fix your ebony needle by putting the end in a pencil sharpener for a few turns?

  25. There you go again,Wendy, breaking the “rules”! Preferring the “bumps” to the “swoops”! I love knitting through your eyes—it’s liberating! ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Cast On:

    Why don’t you try the kitchener cast on. It really makes a finished edge without a right or wrong side. It is fun to do and I like the sturdy but non-binding edge. It’s a challenge in circular knitting, but worth the effort.

    I adapted the instructions in ‘Big Book of Knitting’, by Katharina Buss.

    BTW, the kitchener bind off works very well for pocket tops, neck and sleeve bind off, too.

  27. Rachel K-G says:

    Sanding the ebony needle down should work; I’d recommend getting a few different grits of sandpaper, something like 50 or 100 for getting rid of the chip and then a couple of finer grades in succession for getting a smooth finish again.

    An ebony needle would probably kill a pencil sharpener, and if the sharpener worked, the tip it’d make wouldn’t be worse than a regular tip with a little chip out of it.

    Karen, rosewood and ebony needles are more durable than other wood and bamboo needles, and if you’re using light-colored yarn, the stitches show up better than on lighter-colored needles. But mostly they’re just beautiful.

  28. Stephanie says:

    Wendy, are you friends with your dentist? The attachments to the drill that they use for filing and smoothing teeth make swift work of this kind of trouble with ebony. Maybe you could bribe them with socks…

  29. Cynthia says:


    I’ve sanded a “chipped” ebony doublepoint needle with fine sandpaper. I have zero talents when it comes to this type of thing but the point sanded relatively easily and quickly – just kept eyeballing it until it looked to be the right shape.

    Good luck

  30. If it were just a little chip, I wouldn’t have any problem sanding it down, but roughly a third of the tip of the needle is gone from one side of it — it will definitely take more than just a little sanding to fix it.

    I may get that done eventually, but in the meantime, I was fortunate enough to order the very last 3.25mm 32″ long ebony circular that The Needlepoint Joint had. Yippeeee!

  31. A more specific leftover question: what do you do with leftover sock yarn? Maybe I should just knit lots of kitty toys with it all?

    (And did you change the font of the comments or did my computer do that?)

  32. Never mind – the font went back to normal. Must be the gov’t computer.

  33. So far, any leftover sock yarn I have I either send to a friend who has little children (if it’s enough to make a pair for one of them) or stuff in a bag.

  34. I’ve been gone for a while, so I just read about Lucy. Congrats—she’s beautiful!


    PS–>I just got a new kitty, too. Named her Merlot, cuz she whines so much. (Witty, aren’t I?)

  35. Hi Wendy;

    Lucy is devine! I had a chip out of my Nobel 4.5mm ebony needle and sanded it a bit with an emery board and then applied some clear nail polish. It did the trick!

    Glad you found a new pair.

  36. Corinne says:

    What a beauty Lucy is! And she’s already showing you her tummy!

  37. You can def save the needle. These things have worked for me: 1. def. get different grades of sandpaper…emory board is too wimpy a piece to work with. [suck it up and bring the needle to the hardware store – they will guide you on grids]. 2. Put the sandpaper on a stable, flat surface and rotate the needle tip as you drag it along the length of the sandpaper, using steady pressure [this is actually quite pleasing to do] 3. Oil nicely after progressing to the finest paper.I am not picky; I use olive oil, works fine. [your needles are probably starved for oil anyway] 4. Finish with wax paper. You have nothing to lose and will feel as though you could survive knitting in the Amazon. There is something about the feel, the noise, the silky “grab” of the rosewoods and ebonies that is unmatched. I have scrounged the internet for them since they are rarely stocked these days around and about, and scoop up whatever I come across.

  38. Lovely Lucy Metermaid…oh damn, wrong song.

    She *is* a honey, though. Makes me almost want another cat. But Milo LeMew would probably be piqued.

    I never reinforce my socks either. No matter what I use. And I keep and wear about half of what I make. My oldest pair is approx. 4 years old and just now wearing thin in the toes, after who knows how many wearings and washing.

  39. Hello,

    I have a suggestion for Wendy’s chipped ebony needle. Take it to your local hardware store and ask for the closest matching Permanent wood filler. If you follow the application directions and afterward sand with a very fine grade (a manicure nail buffer bar perhaps? the spongy type with various sand grades on each side) you may have a barely visible seam and you won’t lose any length or worry about having to make a matching point.