Double-pointed needles have officially taken over all of this year’s Christmas-gift knitting, as well as any bit of my free time: Now that it’s the end of November and I have time for only one or two more knitting projects to give, I have been knitting constantly and obsessively – knitting for a deadline puts me in a crazed state – and so I am cutting back on my knitting-reading for the time being and am only letting my fingers change pace here to do a bit of typing. Then back to knitting. 

I am determined to not repeat the same mistake I made the last two years by finishing my gifts only minutes before wrapping and giving (and sacrificing  the time for much-needed blocking).  Couldn’t I just make a whole bunch of small things? I made one lavender-filled sachet, above, from the book “More Last-minute Knitted Gifts” by Joelle Hoverson (STC Craft, New York: 2010), but after finishing it I felt dissatisfied: I wanted to make something more substantial for my recipients, like a hat or socks.  There is a beautiful pair of socks later in the book, also using DPNs. And there is my friend Leora’s  several Rowan and Kim Hargreaves books which she lent me recently and which have the most fashionable hats, of course (and where I could apply my DPNs).

“Robin” beret from “Thrown Together,” by Kim Hargreaves (Kim Hargreaves, 2008). The pattern asks for Rowan Classic Cashsoft 4ply but I used a very soft Dalegarn wool. 

So my new gift plan is set. But why double-pointed needles? Why torture myself with sharp needle points poking into the palm of my hand, stitches threatening to surreptitiously sneak off either end, tiny 0’s and 1’s bending and breaking under the strain?  And then there is the ubiquitous – condescending? – reminder in all such patterns: “Be careful to not let the stitches twist when casting on” (as if we had any control over such rogues).  All of this to avoid sewing. And to not have to purl so much… But there’s more to it than that, I think.  More than just getting the use of two needle points for the price of one (twofers!). I realized why I like DPNs – that I romanticize them, I suppose –  while recently browsing my latest knitting-history book, “Knitting America,” by Susan M. Strawn (Voyageur Press, 2007).  Double-pointed needles were really the only way to knit in the past, as you can see in the book’s 19th and 18th century grainy, spotted black-and-white photos: women wearing their Sunday best and sitting formally in carved wooden chairs, or in their aprons and sitting on the porch or in a field, are holding knitting that is always double-pointed, in-the-round.  They bring to mind one of the oldest pictures of knitting which dates to the beginning of the 1400’s and shows the Virgin Mary knitting, of course, with DPN’s in the round (Madonna Knitting, by Bertram of Minden). So when I knit with these needles too, it seems there is some connection I have with knitters of so many centuries ago. There is something rustic and genuine about knitting with something so simply made out of wood; maybe the struggle with the points and stubborn stitches makes it more so.

IMG_4932So the hat has turned out beautifully, as seen above.  Unbelievably – or not, really – I have to admit that I didn’t read the pattern very well and only assumed I was to knit the hat in the round. It turns out that the directions are to knit flat and sew up. The only problem I see with my hat is that at the corners where the needles met, and where the stitches were stretched out a bit, there is the slightest jog at the ends of the purled rows. Other than that the hat just needs the pom-pom on top (the color to be determined by my recipient’s coat). Incidentally, I do have a similar yarn in red: I’d have to transpose the pattern for the larger gauge, but the hat is so cute and was such a delight to knit that I would do it again. Maybe I should have done some double knitting while using my double-pointeds? Now that would have been a real Twofer.