07 March 2006

handmade knitting needles


Handmade knitting needles are a fun craft and an economical source for knitting needles. This is an especially suitable project for children just learning to knit since they begin with a healthy respect for and enjoyment of the tools of the trade. Instructions abound for these, online and in books, and they're fairly intuitive, so I won't post a step-by-step, but basically you just cut wooden dowels of desired width (gauge) to desired length. 8"-10" is good for kids, and 6" is by no means too small -- longer needles can be unweildy in small hands. Sharpen to a point (we used an electric pencil sharpener, then refined the point with sandpaper). Sand the dowels, first with medium coarse, then with fine sandpaper, and finally rub all over with wax paper or a soft cloth to clean the dust. Finally, rub with oil or beeswax to make them a bit slippy. Use polymer clay to make small beads (not more than 1/2" or the needles will be heavy), 'drill' a hole in them using the blunt end of the needle about halfway through the bead. Bake the beads with the needles still in them, resting them on the rim of the cookie sheet to avoid flattening one side. I turned ours every 12 minutes to avoid scorching. My 5 and 8 year old easily managed all steps except the baking. Wren cast on and knitted the first 3 rows of garter stitch for her first 'real' project (a scarf), and Robin can, with minimal help, do a knit stitch.

Besides making knitting needles, we did a lot of cooking that day, and the house smelled delightful: cinnamon and apples from the applesauce, molasses and ham from the Boston baked beans, and walnuts from the soda bread. Yesterday was equally scrumptious with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, wine, and spices served over pasta and sauteed chicken breasts. Today I used the remaining chicken breasts (I'd been too lazy to separate the supersale megapack of boneless skinless chicken breasts back when I bought it) to make lemony chicken tenders and served them with egg noodles tossed in butter, salt and pepper, and asparagus with hollandaise sauce. This was my first attempt at hollandaise, and I look on past meals with asparagus as altogether wasted, so delicious was this sauce. Tomorrow I think we'll settle for a baked macaroni and cheese, a bit of ham, and some green beans. Soon I'll be spending my afternoons soaking up the sun or working in the garden, rather than cooking and baking. We'll be eating more salads, quick sautees, and simple grilled veggies and meats, and young Finch will make his appearance (and wreak havoc no doubt). I'm ready for Spring.

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