I admit it - I love eensy-weensy knitting needles. Why I like knitting socks so dearly. But holy smoke, I have my limits, or so I thought. Smaller than toothpicks. Who'd have thought? But here I go, triple aught and all.
This February, I'll hop on a train bound for Tacoma, and participate in the Madrona Fiber Festival for the fourth time in five years. Fabulous classes taught by renowned experts in the fiber world. Each time I go, I look for classes that push me outside of my comfort zone and skill set. The first year it was color theory and Fair Isle knitting with Mary Jane Muckelstone. On my second trip, I learned how to design my very own Norwegian Fanna sweater (as well as some fantastic Norwegian history). And I courageously applied sharp scissors to my beautiful knitting in Mary Scott Huff's infamous Eeks Steeks class. Wildly fun, and not scary at all. Thanks for the confidence, Mary. Last year, I spent the day with Nancy Bush, learning about Estonia and creating a miniature Haapsula shawl. Lots of fun new skills in my bag 'o tricks. So now what? I thought this go round, it'd be to learn the history behind and the techniques involved in making Scottish Sanquhar Gloves. Imagine my surprise to learn I'd be delving into the world of triple zero size needles. Now that deserves a 'yikes.'
With class looming just 3 weeks away, I decided this past Friday that I'd better get my homework done - a gauge swatch, followed by the ribbing on the cuff. The instructor, Beth Brown-Reisel has us doing an in-the-round 22 row colorwork swatch 3 times, each with needles of increasing size. The materials list specified needle sizes 1.5 to 2.5mm, "whichever size yields gauge," and a formula to figure that out. After dividing the number of stitches (88) by my hand circumference, I determined that, with a quarter inch of ease, I needed to get a gauge of 11 stitches per inch. That should have been the first red flag that something funny was coming my way. Now, I usually knit socks on 2.25mm needles, so I figured, "OK, I'll start with 2.0mm, then work up, and likely fall in the middle." WRONG! After my first work thru of the swatch chart, I dutifully measured my swatch and counted 8 stitches to the inch. Oh oh! Immediately emailed Beth, who's response was "smaller needles, and perhaps thinner yarn.
After a trip to the yarn store for those smaller needles (1.5mm) and that thinner yarn, I again sat down to swatch. Scary, yes, to be knitting with needles smaller than toothpicks. But hey, I want to embrace the learning process and do this right. So with my US000 needles and skinnier yarn (Swans Island Sterling Fingering, with 525 yards per 100 gram skein), I dove into a new gauge exercise. Beautiful stitch definition, but wow are those stitches hard to see. Again, after knitting the 22 round chart, I pulled out my handy dandy gauge ruler and . . . AAAAAAAAAAAARGH! 10.5 stitches per inch! Again, I contacted Beth, whining that I couldn't possibly go smaller. Bless you Beth. She offered that I could go ahead with my triple aught needles, so long as I was comfortable that my gloves might be a little big. Really? How can anything be too big when knit on minuscule needles. And do smaller needles even exist? Turns out they do - but only as dpns. No way!!!
Conclusion? I'm gonna knit me some lovely Scottish Sanquhar gloves, with gorgeous burnt orange and oatmeal colored yarn, using the teeny tiniest needles I've ever worked with. And I'll have a little extra ease. But I will be happy for the experience, and wear my lovely Scottish Sanquhar gloves (that I knit on triple aught needles) with great pride.