Help husband find wife knit stuff for xmas
December 1, 2009 6:09 AM   Subscribe

This year my wife has gone full out knit crazy. She has accumulate a lot of tools but wishes more for xmas. She gave me a list which I plan to order from, but would like additional suggestions for those in the know.

Her list as follows:

blocking mats
knit sock blockers; small 8.25 inch
knitting yarn ball winder
knitting yarn swift
needle felting mat
needle felting tool
Book: spin control: techniques for spinning the yarn you want
Book: sock Innovation
Needle: Size 15
Needle: Size 13

She fallen in love with the whole knitting process. She'd love a wheel but claims it would cost $700 for the one she wants.

Any suggestions?
posted by bleucube to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It would be fun to get her the supplies to make a project or two from the books you're getting. Like small needles and yarn for making socks, and roving for spinning.
posted by apricot at 6:20 AM on December 1, 2009

My wife is knit-crazy too, and has been for a few years. If yours wants to try spinning her own yarn, get her a drop spindle and let her get used to that before flirting with wheels. My wife likes Abby Franquemont's instructional stuff.

Also, be careful of those needle sizes. Knitting needle sizes refer to the diameter of the needle. I believe a size 15 or 13 needle would be huge, and wouldn't fit with the sock-related requests. If these needles are wanted for sock knitting, perhaps she was referring to the length of a circular needle?
posted by jon1270 at 6:20 AM on December 1, 2009

How about a drop spindle? Portable, a little easier to pick up (so my spinner friends say anyway) and not quite $700. This looks like a decent one, but I'm sure actual spinners will be along soon to give you insider advice :)

Since she likes KnitPicks (who doesn't!), I would put in a vote for these beauties- interchangeable needle tips! They make life much easier, bypassing all the damnit-to-hell-why-do-I-not-have-this-needle-size kerfuffle.
posted by psychostorm at 6:25 AM on December 1, 2009

Damn, jon1270 pipped me. Just while I think of it, why not try a knitting bag? Cute range (Namaste) here.
posted by psychostorm at 6:27 AM on December 1, 2009

If you're having purl problems, I feel bad for you, son--I got 99 problems, but a stitch ain't one.

One thing I'm sure she'd love, if she hasn't done it already, is to set up an account on's sort of a facebook for knitters, it's FREE, and will allow her to connect with people for knitting get togethers, share info, share photos and encouragement. It's a really great thing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:28 AM on December 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

I know you can make a drop spindle with the clear discs that come in blank CD packs and a few other supplies. I'm not saying that should be your main thing at all, but if you made one to go along with something else it would also go along with her DIY hobby.
posted by theichibun at 6:29 AM on December 1, 2009

$700 for a good spinning wheel is not exorbitant. But a spinning wheel is not (usually) something that can be given as a gift, or ordered without trying. There's a lot of personal preference that goes into selecting the right wheel, and trying to use a wheel that doesn't "fit" is an exercise in aggravation.

Get the swift and ball-winder first. (If she's as much into knitting as you claim, I'm quite shocked that she doesn't have a swift. That was my first real "gear" purchase, and I quite honestly can't imagine knitting without it. The ball-winder is handy, but not essential -- hand wound balls work just fine.)

Get a set of blocking wires to go with the blocking mats. And some blocking pins -- they really do work better than sewing pins (I've got some needle pins that work, but most sewing pins are too short and fine to block knits).

Some sort of case for needles (unless she's got a good system already).

And what jon1270 said about needle sizes. US13 and 15 are pretty darn big needles (9 and 10 mm diameter, respectively), and used for bulky and superbulky yarns. If that's what she wants, that's good, but it may not be.
posted by jlkr at 6:38 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sometimes mats like this are cheaper than the ones specifically sold as blocking mats. (They're more colorful, too.)

I nth the interchangeable needles -- that's something I couldn't live without now that I've had them -- as well as the drop spindle and some roving to go along with it. (And the roving will work for the needle felting stuff as well.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:41 AM on December 1, 2009

I missed the mention of the spinning wheel! A drop spindle is definitely a better choice at first.

A supscription to Interweave Knits magazine would be fun too. It's very inspiring.

Knit Picks is great, but is there a local yarn store you could support instead?
posted by apricot at 6:44 AM on December 1, 2009

Pins for blocking? Sock needles? Long (40") circular sock needles for the Magic Loop method? Cable needles? A drop spindle is a good idea if she doesn't have one already.

Wendy's new book on toe-up socks? Sensational Knitted Socks? Cat Bordhi's book on sock architecture?

There are yarn club subscriptions also, so she could get a stream of new yarn for months (like new presents from you even after the holidays).
posted by vilthuril at 6:44 AM on December 1, 2009

Knitpicks is great, but there's not much about it that's luxurious. Since she's requested the Cookie A. book, I would bet she knows her way around a sock. Many of the socks in that book would be stunning in a solid yarn.

So, I suggest finding a solid color sock yarn and getting her 100 grams in a color you know she loves.

Some brands to consider

Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select Semisolids (1 ball is plenty)
Shibui Knits Sock (2 balls)
Colinette Jitterbug (2 balls to be on the safe side, the yardage is a wee short)
Lorna's Laces (2 balls)

If she's not interested in making solid socks, all of those companies have variegated options.
Other sock yarns I love

Prism Saki
Malabrigo Sock

She'll be surprised and, I bet, glad that you went beyond Knitpicks. It might not be too hard to find out if she has secret dreams about one of these yarns. (for me, it's Jitterbug that makes me all woobly inside, but I'd be thrilled to find any of them under the tree since I work in a yarn shop and can't afford to buy the stuff I'm selling.)
posted by bilabial at 6:46 AM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd put in another vote for the interchangeable needle sets that psychostorm recommended. I asked my husband for one of those, too.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:47 AM on December 1, 2009

Oh! Also. Save yourself some money on blocking wires.

Go the a welding supply store and tell them you want stainless TIG rods. You want a bit of flexibilty, but not too easy to get them bent out of shape. They sell 'em by the pound and the length is perfect.
posted by bilabial at 6:50 AM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you really want to mess with her (in a good way) buy her a small rigid heddle loom, like the Ashford Knitter's Loom. It's designed for knitters who want to try weaving.

I second getting the blocking mat squares at Target or some other local store where they will be cheaper.

Another idea is blocking wires, which are used to block lace shawls and the like.

And the Interweave Knits subscription is a good idea.
posted by cabingirl at 6:55 AM on December 1, 2009

Seconding the KnitPicks interchangeable needle set - my best friend loves them. And while you're at KnitPicks, if she's interested in dyeing her own yarn they have a wide selection of dyeable yarns and a dye starter kit (you can also dye yarn with Kool-Aid or food coloring - I've used both successfully).

Other ideas:

9" circular needles - these are circular needles with a very short cable that are just the right length for sock knitting. I love mine.
Soak wash - for washing your knitting! The store I linked to has their own exclusive scent, and so does Ravelry.
Stitch markers - I like Lizard Toes. Lots of stores and Etsy shops sell handmade stitch markers with all sorts of dangly charms and whatsits on them, but these tend to have snag potential.
A general knitting reference book or stitch library might be a good idea if she doesn't already have them - The Knitting Answer Book and Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Vol. 1 are my go-to books.

She may have enough yarn as it is, but if not, sock yarn is the easiest to gift because you don't need much to complete a project and there's a great variety of stuff out there. I like Simply Socks, Woolgirl, and The Sweet Sheep for sock yarn. Webs has a fantastic selection and really good sales. If you're lost, it's hard to go wrong with Malabrigo sock yarn. (Make sure you buy at least 350-400 yards of sock yarn - often one skein will be enough for a pair, but some varieties are sold in 150-200 yard skeins.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:59 AM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Get the swift and ball-winder first.

Seconding this. Lots of times the fancy yarn you buy is sold in "hanks," which is sort of a loosely-coiled loop of yarn (kind of like how you coil up a garden hose). This is better for the yarn if it is being stored for a while (i.e., on a shop shelf), but it has to be wound up into a ball to knit with first or else it will get all tangled. And winding things into a ball by hand is a pain in the ass.

As for extras -- if you get a book, adding enough of some particularly luscious yarn to let her make one of the projects is a good way to go. Most of the time the patterns in the book will suggest a brand of yarn and also tell you how much to get.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on December 1, 2009

I'm going to third the winder and the swift. Mine were a present from my husband that I'd never have bought for myself, and I love them. They also make storage of a significant yarn stash more tidy. (And cats love them!)

I am not a sock knitter, but someone I am gifting is, so I picked this Sock Cocktail Kit up from Knitpicks. Warning, they had a set of warmer colors that has sold out permanently, and this set has already been restocked once. So you should act quickly. But it's sort of a mix and match set of yarns and patterns so she can be an evil mix-master of sock genius.
posted by librarianamy at 7:12 AM on December 1, 2009

Wanna spoil her? How 'bout some qiviut?
posted by cass at 7:46 AM on December 1, 2009

The swift and ball winder are absolutely the top things to get. Fourthed!

Get someone at a local yarn shop (LYS) to help you find a particularly luxurious yarn. Better yet, just get her a gift card. It's much safer to let her choose based on her preferences or her current needs; "luxurious" doesn't necessarily mean it is automatically made from God's Magical Pubic Hair or something; there are plenty of plain old wool yarns that are fantastic, and there are plenty of "luxury" yarns that are hard to work with or just plain low quality. (I do like the aforementioned GMPH in some situations, but it's a royal pain.)

The Vogue Stitchionaries are pretty good, but the Barbara Walker Treasuries are really the go-to guide for hardcore knitters.

If she really gets into socks, there's always the Rockin' Sock Club (Socks That Rock) or similar. There are, of course, other sock yarns that may be more to her liking, but STR has a cult following, and a monthly/quarterly thing is super fun.

Finally, along the lines of supporting her habit but giving her the opportunity to choose what she wants, you might offer to subsidize the construction of a sweater -- her first, if she hasn't knit one yet, or a really wonderful one she might not get for herself. The yarn on its own will likely run $100-$200 (KnitPicks is cheaper, but there are many unique kinds, like Noro, that they don't sell), or she might be interested in something like a Hanne Falkenberg kit.
posted by Madamina at 7:59 AM on December 1, 2009

Thanks for the great suggestions so far!

She has her own spindle and spins her own yarn. Has a ton of roving (I catch her huffing it often). Her second life is on Rivarly and she attends a local knitting group every Sunday.

Will check into the needles listed above - thanks for the warning.

She has 5 projects on the go currently: Socks, 2 Sweaters, Lace Shaw, and Hat. She's pretty diverse and has a mild case of ADHD when it comes to knitting (I assume this is par for the course).

She has updated her wish list with a Interchangeable set

Thanks again, good suggestions that will win me lots of points!
posted by bleucube at 8:03 AM on December 1, 2009

Get her a book or two by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot.
She is a fun easy read and pretty inspirational about knitting. She inspires you to try new things.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2009

If you get the interchangeable set, you might consider also getting a few extra cables in varying lengths. A 40" cable, for example, could be nice for a large shawl, and there are even longer ones for afghans, etc. If she's got the very common knitting ADD (or start-itis, as it's also called), it can be nice to leave one cable in the work and have a spare or two for other projects.

If she doesn't have a needle gauge yet, they can come in handy when you mix up your interchangeable needle tips. This one has a ruler on the side, which is also nice.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:43 AM on December 1, 2009

I'd get her the ball winder and swift first. I've been knitting for 30 years and I have a ball winder but the swift is my number one want. They're expensive though and I've never been able to justify the expense. It's the perfect luxury for a knitter. Make sure it's an attractive wood one. It needs to look good. Knitting isn't just about function. Seriously.
posted by Lorna at 8:54 AM on December 1, 2009

Nthing the swift and ball winder. Also agree with Madamina about the Barbara Walker Treasuries -- I get inspired every time I pick mine up. They retail for $30 each, but you can order all four from Schoolhouse Press for a slight discount.
posted by jillsy_sloper at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2009

What kind of a drop spindle does she have? One thing spindlers always want is another spindle. I have *counts* five, AND a spinning wheel. Look into the beautiful Bosworth spindles at

Get her the interchangeable set. And if she doesn't already have Knit Picks' set of sock needles, get her that too.

BALL WINDER AND SWIFT OMG YES. Go for that. Also, many small producers of hand-dyed or hand-blended spinning fiver have monthly clubs, like a batt-of-the-month club. There are yarn-of-the-month clubs, too, like the Rockin' Sock Club from Blue Moon Fiber Arts.

as for a wheel: Do not buy her a wheel without her trying one first. They are quite individual purchases. However, if you have a spinning guild in your area, you might consider buying her an annual membership to the guild. Not only will she then get the opportunity to try a ton of different wheels, but she'll have a Real Life helper community, and one of them might be willing to sell an older wheel. That's how I got my wheel; my husband paid $150 for it, it's a thirty-year-old Ashford Traditional Double Drive, I freaking love it, and Judth MacKenzie-McCuin described it as "the most versatile wheel in this room" at a fiber arts retreat.

Other spinning tools she might want: a nostepinne (fancy stick) and a niddy-noddy (device for making skeins). both of these are available in prices from about $15 to $jesus god WHAT, depending on the wood and the craftsmanship.

boy I could go on and on even more than I have. . . memail me if you want more ideas.
posted by KathrynT at 10:00 AM on December 1, 2009

I got my Barbara Walker books on eBay for a decent price, just fyi. Book Burro is your friend when pricing books.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:41 AM on December 1, 2009

Does she have a bag or an organizer for her needles? A couple Christmases ago, my partner got me a Namaste bag with pouches (for dpns and circular needles) and organizing inserts for the straight needles. You can find other organizers on Etsy as well.
posted by pised at 3:56 PM on December 1, 2009

The Options interchangeable needle set is fantastic -- I got it for my birthday last year and LOVE it. I bypassed the Knitpicks blocking mats in favor if a cheaper, bigger set -- interlocking foam floor tile things designed for kids' rooms. They were about 15 bucks a set, I think.

A ball winder and swift is also a great idea -- they make dealing with hanks of yarn SO much easier.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:08 PM on December 1, 2009

If she does not have them yet I would prioritize the yarn winder and swift. They really do make life so much easier and they're fun!

If she likes KIPing (knitting in public) I really like my Jordana Paige bag.
posted by like_neon at 3:54 AM on December 2, 2009

Oh my, I would not trade the world for my interchangeables. Sock blocks, drop spindles, even dpns you can make from things you find around the home. I like winding my yarn by hand but if she is making her own that could get a little stale, so yes swift/winder would be a fantastic investment. But don't overlook the interchangeables. It's marvelous to have all those sizes and lengths at your finger tips, very cost-effective, and the little case keeps them so orderly. I get knittynerdgiddy just thinking about it...
posted by Syllables at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2009

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