Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

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05 August 2008

Taking the Sharp Point off an Eyed Needle

I already had six of these Dritz doll needles, so I could have four in my knitting and knit with the fifth. When I started the latest Valdani bag, I found that knitting a hexagon on five needles and knitting with the sixth needle is not easy.

So I went out and bought another pair. Same needles, higher price, different packaging?

I hate change:
Old needles, 1.10 mm.
New needles, 1.02 mm.

Instead of being about halfway between a 4-0 (1.25mm) and a 5-0 (1.00 mm), the new pair is as near a 5-0 as makes no difference.

This is exactly like when the cereal manufacturer quietly drops the number of ounces in the box and raises the price, while leaving the box the same size. The price went up, the size went down.

It's a cost-cutting measure in an economy where old farm machinery is being dragged out of the decades-old brush that was growing through it and sold for the value of the scrap iron. More needles, less stainless steel.

The process of taking the point off is the same, though.
On the left, the Dritz needle, and on the right, a 4-0 knitting needle. Addi, I think, or maybe Inox. Nice rounded point like a ball-point pen.

Ready? Here we go!
First stop (or step), a steel mill file, which unaccountably got into the picture upside down. This one cuts on the push stroke, so I should be dragging that needle the other direction.

As I drag the needle down the file, I roll the needle in my fingers. This takes off the point evenly, so I don't slant the point like a new lipstick.

The needles are surprisingly tough. They take more filing than you'd think! I sat and listened to radio and just kept working until I had roughed out the point to how I envisioned it.

Next stop (step), sandpaper. This was a nice packet, three grades all in one package and nice big sheets. I've used it on bamboo needles, too.

I start out with the 220 grit and work down to the 400, using a scribbling motion to get all sides of the needle point. Around and around, trying to get it nice and smooth and rounded.

But even 400-grit sandpaper is not quite as smooth as I'd like. The next step is a little weird, but it works so well.
This is a black-white-gray three-step set of nail files. Maybe you can guess that I don't use this set on my fingernails!

Among other uses, when I buy old steel knitting needles, this will smooth the rust off of them if it's not too bad. If you try this (rust removal, I mean), use gloves: if you've read up on dyeing at all, you might have read than an iron kettle will "sadden" or darken/gray the dyelot. It will also sadden and darken fingernails and skin. Not so pretty.

For smoothing a sewing needle point down to a knitting-needle point, these three guys are the last step. I use the black cleaning file as long as I need to in order to give the point a final smoothing and shaping, then go on to the white. The gray really does polish the metal at the end.
On the left, the newly-smoothed needle point, with the second needle from this package for comparison.

And this you might call the acid test: I drag the finished (or finished-I-hope) point across an old nylon stocking. If it catches or snags at all, I back up to the white nail file and polish again on the gray until it passes.


Blogger Knitting Linguist said...

Wow, that's a job -- but it looks so nice there at the finish. Your comment about iron and dyeing reminded me of something that made me think of you a few weeks ago. I was showing my younger daughter that there is, indeed, a walnut inside that green husk, and in the process managed to permanently dye parts of my thumbnails. There's nothing for it now but to wait for them to grow out or for that layer to wear off! It's a pretty reddish-brown color, though...

7:49 PM  
Blogger Roxie said...

What are you knitting on those itty bitty knitty needles? You just blow me away!

9:46 AM  
Blogger Bells said...

wow. you learn something everyday!

7:58 AM  
Blogger Donna Lee said...

That gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I can't file metal. The scraping against a metal file with a metal needle might as well be fingernails on a blackboard. I recently read an article on how sizes of grocery products are diminishing while prices are staying the same or going up. One company sait the change was "minimal and most folks won't notice" (?) I notice when boxes and ice cream containers are smaller.

11:38 AM  
Blogger Felicia said...

I think I have an older package of doll needles. No idea why I have them! But I don't have a micrometer(?). If I can find the needles, would you like me to mail them to you? Being older, they might be the right size.

9:12 AM  

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