I’m not the best knitting teacher. I crochet better. And I’m merely competent, not expert. But I’ve come to realize how deeply I believe in this process–teaching one another to knit or crochet. In this time when we learn so much through technological interface, how subversively countercultural to sit with a friend around a heap of natural fiber–wool, cotton, flax–and stand in lineage with generations of women (and men, of course, but that’s newer…) in sharing this peaceful, practical art.
So here’s a simple gift for you: Package up some homemade knitting needles with a skein of wool, an easy scarf pattern, and a heartfelt promise to teach your friend to knit. Choose wool rather than cotton for yarn–it is more forgiving, and much easier for learning. This is a wonderful last minute present–you get credit for woollen-knittiness, but you don’t actually have to knit anything!
Making knitting needles is really fun. For US size 9 needles, cut two 11 inch lengths from a 1/4 ” dowel (they can be shorter–10 inches is good for kids–or a little longer if you like). Use an old fashioned pencil sharpener, the kind that attaches to a wall, to sharpen one end of each needle. Sharpen it until it looks like a knitting needle, but don’t worry if it gets too sharp–you’re going to sand it down. Take some medium-grain sandpaper and sand the whole needle, including the tip–take care with this part, the needles should be very slippery, and the tip nice and round. Finish with fine-grain sandpaper.
If you want to make the needle a different color than natural this is the time to do so. You can rub any color of kraft paint on them with a old rag. t
Next rub on a thin coat of mineral oil, furniture oil, lavender oil, or sesame oil, and use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess.
Let your imagination guide you in finishing the flat ends. Today we used buttons, but I also like to roam the neighborhood and see what the natural world has to offer–hazelnut tops, dried seeds, and shells all work even a large bead. Stick your chosen end on with a healthy dollup of strong craft glue, and stand them in a jar to dry.
If you are an experienced knitter, you might find knitting on wood to be a little “slow,” but they are great for beginners. And if I am crabby or stressed, I like to knit with wooden needles–something about the combination of wood and wool is very calming (I can’t explain this, you’ll just have to try it yourself!).
I love this web site. You can find alot of free patterns for your knitting projects or copy one to put in the gift set of homemade knitting needles to give to a friend. If you don't know how to knit look: