Handmade: Knitting needle collection gets out of hand

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

My knitting addiction started when I was 9. That's when I received my first pair of needles as a gift, along with a skein of white worsted-weight acrylic yarn. The needles were pastel green, metal and size eight. After learning the garter stitch, I made my first knitted project -- a headband.

The following year, I took a knitting class as part of a summer program at my elementary school. The instructor gave me a ball of red wool yarn with instructions for buying a pair of size six needles. My mother, who was a crocheter, took me to Sears Roebuck & Co. on Gratiot in Detroit, where I picked out a pair of long, pink metal needles. That summer, I learned how to add stitches, and made a triangle-shaped head scarf!

Jocelynn Brown and her collection of too many knitting needles.

By the time I reached my mid-20’s, I was no longer addicted to knitting because I’d gotten hooked on crocheting -- something my mother and I spent hours doing together on the back porch and in front of the TV. So, one year, as we did our spring cleaning, I donated both pairs of knitting needles to a resale shop, thinking my days of casting on were over. Boy was I wrong!

About 15 years ago, I started knitting again, after a yarn shop opened near downtown Detroit. I think it may have been only the second time I'd ever stepped foot inside a store that sold only yarn, and mostly knitting-related notions and books. It was there where I discovered wooden knitting needles. As someone who has a fondness for anything wood, I found them aesthetically pleasing, and couldn't wait to try my hand at knitting with them.  

I later purchased several pairs, and the more I bought, the more I wanted them in every size -- both long and short lengths. I later learned the feel of the wood varied by brand. I had my favorites, of course, but not without the constant urge to try new ones. As any tactile person knows, much of the joy of creating with ones hands comes from the feel of the materials.

Around 2008, I joined a knitting group at a yarn shop that opened in Grosse Pointe Park, where I honed my skills and started experimenting with making hats. That led to the need for circular needles and double-points. I started buying a popular brand of metal circulars with the same addictive enthusiasm I had for purchasing wooden straights. I was buying one pair after another with money from my grocery budget. Food was becoming secondary on my list of must-haves! That's when I knew I had a problem!

I started using circulars with other projects because I liked the idea that the needles are connected by a narrow cord, so you never have to worry about misplacing one. But, then it seemed every project, or new yarn, I purchased dictated the need for a new pair  in a different length and/or size. My collection of circulars was starting to grow.

Luckily, I had self-control with buying double-points, and with the exception of one metal pair, all the others are wooden. I only have 5 pairs in various sizes, and they work well with my different size circulars for decreasing stitches to shape the crown of hats, and for knitting I-cords. 

Last October, when I started knitting hats for the homeless, I decided I needed to purchase some circulars in wood because my fingers sometimes crave the warmth of wood over the cold feel of metal. So, now, I'm buying circulars in wood, which can be far less expensive, depending on the brand, of course. 

My collection also includes a pair of straight plastic needles in size 35, which I purchased to learn broomstick lace, and another in a flexible rubber-like material, designed for persons with arthritis. But, whether they're wood, metal, plastic, rubber, short straights, long straights, or circulars -- my collection continues to grow, even after years of being a knitter. When does it end? Overall, I have 61 pairs of needles, which I'm sure pales in comparison to some collections. 

As I reflect on the evolution of my knitting addiction, I have to wonder if maybe -- just maybe -- I could have been HELPED with a label that read something like:

WARNING: It’s been determined by the board of knitters that purchase and use of this product may cause sudden and uncontrollable urges to sit and knit for hours, with a worsening affect after each use, followed by the onset of buying more of the same for years to come!

However, after giving it some serious thought, I must say -- "Probably not!" Oh well, see you in the knitting needle and yarn sections!

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.