Monday, July 17, 2017

Learning Curve: Bent DPNs for Sock Knitting

Note: This piece was first published in Fall 2016. It was originally a "donation" (i.e. I wasn't compensated to write it) for an e-magazine that is no longer available. Since I really like this piece and I didn't grant exclusive rights, I want to finally share it with my readers. Also, I was asked SO many questions about these bent DPNs when I was using them last year! Perhaps it's a little belated, but I hope this answers everyone's questions about these interesting needles.

ASKallthesocks

I've been knitting socks on DPNs for over ten years. For much of that time, my preference was one-at-a-time, top down projects, although I did dabble here and there with toe-up, two-at-a-time, and magic loop. Those experiments never really stuck, as I was always drawn back to the tried and true. I’m sure I’m not the only knitter who feels this way!

It wasn’t till recently that I’ve felt the need to step out of my comfort zone once more: last year, I decided to give two-at-a-time socks another try (top down, of course…I’m not willing to go THAT far) using some very long fixed circular needles via magic loop. Why the change? The idea of finishing the pair at the same time without having worry if they matched was alluring. Also, not having to worry about losing a DPN while knitting on my the go, never to see it again, was another plus. I’ve lost a lot of DPNs on trains and buses over the years; though DPNs are my first love, I'm definitely starting to make friends with magic loop.

One of my slow burning sock projects this year was inspired by last year's Scoreboard KAL with the Knit Purl Hunter: I am knitting my husband a pair of socks to commemorate the winning 2015 Royals baseball season by assigning colors to home and away wins and losses to create a striped pattern. Second sock syndrome isn't something I'm usually afflicted with, but I was pretty sure that I'd knit the first sock and never start the second because I was totally daunted by having to repeat the strip sequence perfectly. Two-at-a-time just seemed like a no-brainer.

When I was at H+H Cologne earlier this year* (an international trade show for the craft and hobby industry) as part of my day job with Stitchcraft Marketing, I came across bent DPNs by Neko Knit. I was intrigued by them: there were only three in the package, and I had a hard time envisioning how to use these boomerang-shaped needles. Luckily, a very tall German woman gave me a live demo on the show floor, and I purchased two sets to try out in the name of science. When I’m using them, they seem to pique the curiosity of my fellow knitters, and I am often asked what I think of them.

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Here’s what I've concluded while knitting my first sock project on them:

  • They're basically a hybrid of magic loop and DPNs - you work each half of the sock on one DPN, as you would magic looping, but you slide the stitches and knit as though they are regular DPNs.
  • I find them a little awkward to use, most likely because I am so used to regular DPNs and magic looping. One side of the curved DPN is often flopping about and occasionally gets in my way. I assume this subsides with practice!
  • A plus is that it is much easier to join in the round without twisting using the bent DPNs than the other two needle types, at least in my opinion.
  • The plastic is quite flexible and though I don't consider myself a rough knitter, I'm pretty worried about snapping them as I work.

Ultimately, I don’t think I am ready to make the switch to using bent DPNs exclusively, but they are a fun and novel way to shake things up if you find yourself in a sock knitting rut. You can check out their website for more info; I haven’t spotted the needles at very many yarn shops in the US, but I did happen to stumble upon them recently at Maker’s Mercantile.

*March 2016

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