Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for May, 2014

Needle Review: Quills

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Quill needles were originally manufactured in New Zealand by a family-owned company, but I believe that they are now part of the US-based Bryspun company, though Quills do appear to still be made in New Zealand.  I assume therefore that UK suppliers are importing them from NZ.

I started buying my Quill needles about seven years ago, and this was about the time that the New Zealand manufacturing was going over to Bryspun I think. I saw some in a yarn store where I was teaching, and was interested in their milky white colour.  I bought a pair and have now got quite a nice collection.

They are made of plastic, but the plastic is casein-based plastic.  This is a milk-based protein, that has been used in plastic manufacture for many years.

QUILL 5.5mm DP Knitting Needles 24cm, Pk of 5 BNIP

These are the DPNs.  I mainly use my short single point Quills though, for swatching or for small projects.  I think of them as very workman-like tools.  They are also very light for transporting, but not lethally sharp.

They are not beautiful, but they are really satisfying to use.  The milk-protein based plastic is warm to the handle and also quickly further warms up to your hand temperature.

They are quite flexible, more than wooden needles, and are very light weight. I think they would be kind to sore, arthritic hands.  The plastic has a slight grip to the stitches, about the same as, or maybe a little more than, some wooden needles.  The tips are well defined, but not actually sharp. I like really sharp points, but in fact, I find these are good for knitting yarns that tend to split the ply as you work.  Less good for Kidsilk Haze which seems to ‘grip’ as the stitch goes over the tip.

When I first used them, I was put off by the bendy feel.  But I now think it’s a bonus for me, as a harsh and ‘clashy’ knitter.

The ‘best bits’:

  • warm
  • flexible
  • very light
  • smooth but not slippy
  • grips the stitches
  • inexpensive – the  DPNs (set of 5) and short single point pairs retail for under £4
  • great for hands that are sore, or for children as they are nowhere near as bendy as the so-called child-friendly super-bendy plastic needles (almost unusable in my view), but they are still light and flexible for small hands


  • supply is patchy and limited in the UK but I did find some UK websites with Quills at under £4 for single point pairs – Google will reveal this to you
  • the smaller sizes that I favour are harder to find
  • for heavy projects, they may feel too bendy, but I have only ever used DPNs and short single point needles
  • they will really bend if they get too hot, e.g., if left in front of the open fire, as I did with one pair and though still just about usable, they are really deformed (I may use them for the Halloween Workshop), and I dare not re-heat them to bend them back.  Possibly, this will never be an issue for you…

Quills get 7 out of 10, and it would be 8 if I could get the smaller sizes more readily.


Needle Review: Knitpro Karbonz DPNs

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

I love knitting needles.

Well, no shizzle, Sherlock?

Yes, but some people don’t seem to mind which needles they use, do they?  I really do.  In this new and I am sure you will agree, absolutely riveting blog series, I will review knitting needles.  And no, this is not just a thinly veiled excuse to buy more needles.  It’s not.  I honestly wouldn’t bother with the thin veil.  I’d just buy them.  I’m like that. Un-veiled.

Anyway, first to be reviewed are a new brand to me, Knitpro Karbonz.

I am familiar with Knitpro, of course, but I had not tried their fairly new carbon needles.  Now, I am going to ask you to do as I did and please overlook the terrible punnage of the word carbon, tortured to the form:  Karbonz.  I know.  Just try.

I have knitted with the DPNs, in size 3mm, 15cm length.  With these I have now knitted two pairs of mitts, involving knitting in the round, adding beads, bobbles, cables etc.

They are carbon with nickel plated brass tips.  The carbon is warm to the touch, and soft in the way that wooden needles can be, but yet it also feels stronger.  The tips are long, tapered and sharp (but I was using 3mm needles, bear in mind) and the tip joint is really very smooth.  It’s there, but I have had no yarn-snagging.

They cost £7.50 plus P&P.  I think this is very good value for money indeed.  I really loved using them and will certainly get other DPNs in my favourite sizes and also try the single points and the circs.  They also do the Karbonz as interchangeables.  I never use interchangeables, but I do often use fixed cable circs instead of single points.  Or for Moebiuses.  I will get one for this purpose and that will be an acid test – will the needle/cable joint be smooth?  On the carbon to metal point with the DPNs is is.

Best things:

  • good value, at £7.50 for a set of 5 DPNs
  • attractive – this matters to me
  • warm and with a soft ‘handle’
  • sharp tips
  • smooth transition
  • slight ‘grip’ on the yarn, not so much as wood but way more than steel – I liked this
  • very light weight
  • strong – less likely to snap if you sit on one.

Not so good:

  • obvs, they are dark grey, except the tips, so this might be an issue if knitting with dark grey or black yarn
  • the needle size, printed on the side of each needle, is already worn away in several places.  In a few more mitts, it will be gone.  Not a big deal, and I am a harsh ‘clashy’ knitter, but it’s nice to be able to identify needles without a sizer to hand.

Overall, I really rate these needles.  I love DPNs, break wooden ones for a past-time, and these are perfect:  economical, stylish and a pleasure to use.  I’d give them 9 out of 10.

I got mine here.



Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Sometimes you just get really lucky and overhear little gems of conversations.

Here are two examples from last weekend, both true, other than the names of the children.

First, overheard in a car-park in Taunton.  I was standing behind a couple who were getting a parking ticket from the machine.  The woman, who was deploying the money, did not see me, but the man – Steve – did.  The woman appeared to be, even as I had approached, quite angry; she was hurling the coins at the machine, and some of them actually went in. She then, steadfastly addressing the machine, not the man, said:  oh just sod off, Steve! You’re really really annoying me now! You’re being all – all…un-shoppingy!!

Steve’s eyes and mine met.  The woman then turned round, having snatched the ticket from the machine.  She raked both of us with an icy glance of utter disdain before stalking off.  Then Steve left too.

Mark had to physically restrain me from following them, so you can blame him for not knowing what that even means or what happened next.

And the previous day, we pitched up in Somerton, a Somerset village with picture-perfect features (and also, by the way, impressively off-hand staff in the Market Bar Bistro – which used to be a nice pub).  We were cycling, and this was about half-way round our route.  We stopped and sat on a bench in the sun outside the vast church.  It was really lovely and quiet.  We look pretty hot on our rides.  Not ‘hot’ in the sense that Young People might infer.  We just get, you know, hot, when cycling a long way, especially up hill. We were sweaty, OK?  We were also eating cold left-over pizza out of foil packets – our snackage. Classy.

Then, from the church, a crowd of Christening guests started to flood out.  It was a big crowd, and, as befits Somerton, a smart one.  All monochrome maxi dresses and mustard-coloured velvet-corduroy get-ups.  The ‘fascinator’ – a barely-there sort of hint-of-a-hat affair, largely, perhaps exclusively, sold in Johnny Lou Lou’s is, by the way, enjoying a confident resurgence in Somerton.

As they mingled about and snapped one another with their iPads, trying to avoid shots of us, ramming cold pizza into our faces, I overheard:

Lady (distracted):  sweetie – don’t do that…NO, Portia, do leave Monty’s hair alone…um, Johnny – where is the reception…?

Johnny (waving hand in general direction of entire village square):  just follow the bunting, darling, follow the bunting…

And we thought they’d put the bunting up for us.

Your best ‘overheard’ nuggets please?



Show and Tell: a lovely Cornish Moebius

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

This is the Moebius that Felicity knitted after attending my recent Intro to Knitting a Moebius course at Coastal Yarns in Bude:

Felicity & Moebius

I understand that Felicity has now cast on another Moebius.  I love this size and also the use of colours.

Very proud face here!

Courses for 2015

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

I am still thinking about what to teach here next year.

And after a lot of thinking, this is what I settled on:

It’s the cake we had yesterday for the second Cave Pearls workshop.  I made the cake and Lily made the frosting, and the chocolate rose leaves.

Knitting…?  Oh yes!  Sorry.  There will be knitting.

If you would like me to teach something specific, please let me know, by emailing me or leaving a comment here.

The ideas I am considering are:

  • Full Moon Shawls (the January 2015 date is already available, maybe repeated later in 2015)
  • New Mitts (February, repeated in October)
  • Design Weekend (March)
  • Frill-Seekers:  2 designs taking frilly concepts even further in a boa, maybe also a cape-lette. (April, repeated in September)
  • Summer Florals (June)
  • Christmas (November, maybe two dates depending on demand). The Christmas workshop will focus on quick gift knits
  • New ideas with entrelac work (no idea when this will fit in!)

I tend to teach project-based workshops.  The reason I do this is simply that I can pack a lot of ‘technical’ stuff into a project, which I always design myself, so (hopefully) you learn some new things, but at the same time, you get to make something real, rather than just going home with a swatch.

Often a day will start with you knitting a small sample or scaled-down version of the real  project, so you can ‘nail’ the stitches or any new techniques; then the real item is cast on after that, and completed at home.

If you have attended a course here in 2014, I will probably drop you an email to let you know when they are live on the site.  If you haven’t, I won’t have your contact details, but if you want an alert, let me know.

In 2015, I will not be including yarns and beads in the overall cost of the workshops, partly because this really limits the design/project options I can offer on the day, and partly because so many people have *significant* yarn stashes of their own, and can use this.  However, I have yarns here that can be bought on the day if the mood strikes you and I offer a workshop discount on these.

But anyway, nothing is settled, except the January Full-Moon Shawl course, so if you have an idea that you think might be fun, please let me know.  Ideas for cake also accepted.


Conversations with Lily #6

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Me:  why don’t you ever post on Face Book anymore?

Lily:  Face Book is boring.

Me:  I like it, it’s not boring.

Lily:  yes, but you like groups about Dachshunds and knitting – it’s lame.

Me:  none taken.

Lily:  And FYI mum, the people on your Dachshund Groups aren’t your friends.  You’ve never met them, or their dogs. And you never will.

Me:  *hurt silence*

Lily:  also, lots of old people use it.  Like you.

Me:  wow.

Me:  I’m not old.

Me:  you’re mean.

Lily:  It’s also very embarrassing that some of my real friends have added you on Face Book.  And you accepted!

Me:  it’s because I am cool.

Lily:  *eye rolling* yeah, OK whatever…but it’d be fab if you could stop up-dating your status every time you have a cup of tea or make a sandwich.

Lily:  and what’s with the carpet shampoo stuff?  Please stop.

Me:  no.  It’s interesting.

Lily:  it really isn’t.  Nor is the stuff about wine making and going to Nandos.

Me:  really?

Lily:  yes.  Really.  It’s sad.

Me:  OK…

Me:  I’ll delete my FB account…


Lily:  oh yeah, that reminds me – all the stuff about caving – that needs to stop too.

Lengthy pause, in which I contemplate life without Face Book and Lily continues to interrogate her mobile.

Me:  so, what is the social media of choice for Young People nowadays, then?

Lily:  I am not going to tell you.

Me:  why not?

Lily:  because you will get all over it like a rash and RUIN IT for me.

Me:  I won’t – and anyway, I can just ask Millington, she is a Young Person and also she will know AND she will tell me, AND she will then set it up for me!  Ha!

Lily:  Sarah is a bad influence.  Sarah set you up with a lock on your phone so I can’t frape you anymore.

Lily:  Snap Chat – ever heard of that?

Me:  no, what is it?

Lily:  you send a picture to someone on Snap Chat and it only lasts for, like, a few seconds.

Me: (trying, successfully to resist almost overpowering impulse to say:  ‘Is it “like” a few seconds, as in similar to a few seconds? Or is it, in fact, a few seconds?’)

Lily:  then it vanishes.

Me:  HOW??  That’s magic!*

Lily:  oh please mum, you’re such a massive loser.

Me:  I made you griddled chicken for tea with buttery mash.  Because I am making curry for me and dad and you don’t like the one with coconut in it.  Now I am sorry that I bothered, because I am, apparently, *a loser*.  

(Flounces out of kitchen, ramming my leg into the door of the dog sleeping crate as I go, thus a) utterly ruining flounce effect; b) making me curse a lot and almost cry; and c) rendering Lily speechless and incapable of normal function, as she is literally convulsed with hysterical laughter).

* (I have since looked this thing up.  It is called snapchat and it’s a mobile image messaging application.  The image – picture, video, whatever – is limited by the sender to appear to the recipient for between 1 – 10 seconds.  No, I have no idea why either.  Often, I am glad I am old).