Truth be told, my needles were never disorganized. I kept the circular ones in one big make-up bag, and the straight ones (double-pointed and single-pointed) in another big (and long) make-up bag. But I wanted more.

Lots of really attractive and functional knitting needle cases are available: Circular and Double Point Solutions are quite popular (although these clearly fall into the “functional” category only), The Organized Knitter makes very cute cases for both types of needles, and once Google gets involved, the sky is the limit.

I still wanted more.

I wanted something attractive, and I wanted something cheap, and I wanted the cases to be exactly to my specifications. So I obviously I had to sew my own.

The goal was set, the adventure began. First, I acquired a sewing machine for “Christmas.” I’m not sure how I pulled that one off, considering my family is not Christian, but lo and behold, Santa brought me a gift. I decided to make my cases out of placemats and dinner napkins because they are cheap, sturdy, easily available, and come in a variety of colors and textures. In addition to some placemats and dinner napkins, I bought a pair of good fabric scissors (I heart my Ginghers), and fabric chalk.

I measured and re-measured, and cut, then cut some more, and sewed and ripped (I heart my seam ripper), and the first few needle case incarnations didn’t work out for me. Reason being that of course I wanted the fancy shmancy placemats, with the sequins and the silk and the shedding and the melting under the iron and the getting stuck in the sewing machine and the gray hair and the grinding of the teeth and the stomping of the feet.

Things were not helped along by my complete idiocy when it comes to the sewing machine. I still need the manual to thread it, and I don’t know why, but I always have to take the bobbin thing apart because all the threads get caught in there. Don’t ask me to explain, because obviously I don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re like me when it comes to the sewing machine, I have two pieces of advice: (1) if you press the “reverse” button the machine will sew in the other direction, and (2) don’t forget to raise the needle and the presser foot if you want to retrieve your fabric – yanking it as is will rip your fabric and break your needle, and then you will have to replace the needle, and that involves the manual which you “misplaced” two months ago into the recycling pile, so just raise the freakin’ presser foot and the needle.

So once I was clued into the kind of fabric that was good and bad for making needle cases, I bought one Isaac Mizrahi table runner, and one package of “restaurant quality” dinner napkins, because only the best cheap crap will do for my needle cases :-D.

Straight needle case


And now you get a full look at my needle stash, too! I decided to keep my straight needles in their original cases and cardboard holders, because that’s just how I operate: I even keep my perfumes in their original (although completely tattered) boxes. So, I made the pockets a little bigger, and layered them on top of each other to provide plenty of space for future needle acquisitions. To unfold, I undo the ribbons wrapped around the big buttons, unfold the case once, unfold the little flap that keeps things contained, then unfold again. Voila!

Circular needle case

As much as I would have loved to keep my circular needles in their original little bags, we all know taking them out and letting them breathe is the only road to sanity. In designing my bag I imitated the Circular Solution. Why didn’t I just buy the Circular Solution in the first place? I’m cheap. I’m stubborn. I knew I could do better. I wasn’t crazy about how open their design is, with needles hanging out everywhere and potentially getting dusty and rubbing against my clothes; I wanted more containment. To unfold this case, I undo the ribbons wrapped around the big buttons, and unfold the case cover. The needles are arranged by size in little pockets just like the Circular Solution.

The labels on the pockets are completely removable and customizable: it’s just a strip of sheet protector plastic sewn into place, and pieces of paper stuck inside (I think I might have a thing for using sheet protectors for unintended purposes). This is a great feature because now I’m not wasting six pockets for larger-sized needles (I have only three pairs) as the Circular Solution would make me do with its pre-labeled pockets. If I ever make one of these things for a friend, or give this one away, the recipient can customize the labels however he or she wants (size 6 bamboo, size 6 metal, whatever).

In addition to the case cover providing containment, there’s a little pocket at the bottom of the case to keep needle tips inside. I decided not to attach it permanently, but rather use snaps, because it seemed to me fishing out the needles might be easier if the whole thing is open.

Although I have no intention of hanging my circular needle case in the closet, I can see the advantage of having gravity work in my favor when it comes to straightening the cords. So, it has not escaped my attention that the table runner is the precise width of a standard clothes hanger, and that a clothes hanger can be easily looped through:

Now you can see the functionality of that little containment pocket at the bottom!

That’s it! Those are my DIY knitting needle cases. What is the cost of this project? I want to know, and you might want to know. For the two of them:

table runner – $15.29 (sale!)

napkins – $4.99

4 buttons – $2.59 (student discount!)

2 snaps – $0.40 (student discount!)

I think the orange ribbon is from a bouquet of flowers I received last year – free!

There were also some other expenditures which I typically do not count in the cost of a project: placemats and napkins which didn’t work out, matching thread, fabric marker, industrial-size seam ripper, package of bobbins, Fray Check (I don’t even want to go into what happened to my old bottle. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing it was in a double Ziploc bag with only a few ribbons).

And of course the most expensive thing of all: time. Making these needle cases priceless.

As a closing thought (this blog entry is so loooong), for those of you who are considering embarking on your own needle case adventure, I have one recommendation: it really helps if you have a healthy dose of frugality. Self-acquired is okay, but the kind you inherit from mom or dad is really the gold standard. Because there will be times, especially when the sewing machine isn’t cooperating, when frugality will be the only thing keeping you going.


21 thoughts on “Unfolding

  1. Colleen

    Hey, those are some of the most creative needles cases that I’ve seen in a long time. I love them!

    I “heart” my Ginghers, too. It never hurts to have a couple good pairs of scissors.

  2. Carolyn

    Very nice! I have a pattern, I acquired some decorator fabric, I have a sew machine, thread and seam ripper, I have really thought of making these….but I just have never made the time. Maybe now I must embark on this needlecase making adventure!

  3. Karma

    I heart my Ginghers, three. I was raised in a seamstress/tailor sort of family, and good for you for getting a really decent pair of scissors. I also heart your fabric (table runner) choice!!

  4. Agnes

    My mother made her living out of a sewing machine (tailor-made pants) … but I don’t know how to sew! So, I can only look for what I need on ebay!

    Your needle cases are very beautiful! I love the flowers!

  5. Nancy

    Absolutely beautiful work! I would spend $$$ to buy your stuff…fortunately I do sew so I’ll just be inspired by your wonderful stuff! One tip to avoid the thread jumbling is to hold the tails of your thread in your left hand and stitch a couple of stitches and then let go. Prevents that sucking under of the threads that get caught in the bobbin.

  6. CatBookMom

    Absolutely in keeping with the high standard of creativity that you have set! I think the giant poppy is classy, and I’ll be sure to consult with you when I finally decide to make my own crochet hook holder.

    Trust me on this: Turn of the Century or the ‘fabulous’ Graydog handmade wooden hooks do NOT fit into any of the standard crochet hook holders, not even Lantern Moon’s opulent silky ones!

  7. Athelas

    Machine-sewing in a zipper on a hoodie or before you cut open armholes in a knit-in-the-round sweater must be next!

    Thanks for the inspiration–I have so much fabric in my quilting stash, I am already planning some 30s-style holders right now!

    (You should see my needles–just in one big bag poking each other–shudder)

  8. Judy

    You should seriously consider making these and selling them at a huge markup, for those of us who are sewing-machine-challenged. I’d pay (fairly) big bucks for the circular holder, because it’s better looking and more functional than anything else I’ve seen! I bought the outrageously expensive Skacel holder, and it’s OK, but not as good as yours, since it forces you to curl the needles into little balls to get them into its pockets, instead of letting them hang reasonably uncurled.

    Think about it, and let me know!


  9. Betsy

    I love it! Of course, it may be said that I love anything with orange flowers on it, but I really love this. Was the table runner from Target? If there is a big orange flower theme, I must run and not walk!

    I doubt I will ever dig out my sewing machine…

  10. Ann

    Love them! Love them!

    God help me when I actually purchase a sewing machine. I will be a total needle case fool.

  11. laurie

    This is possibly the BEST POST ON THE INTERNETS. I just bought the Isaac Mizrahi duvet set for my bed that matches your table runner and I wanted to buy every last stitch of his items because 1) I was in the retail therapy mindset bad bad bad and 2) I love the big poppy flowers! Love them! Now I have an excuse to go back to Target. Love you! Thank you!

    I also keep my needles in the packages. I cannot wait to make this awesome needle holder! You rock!

  12. MelR

    Those are really cute, good job. Sewing can be addicting. I love sewing even more than knitting. (PS, Santa Claus isn’t a Christian figure and is NOT the reason for Christmas.)

  13. sara

    I’m doing the back tack swap, and I’m really interested in needle cases right now. Aren’t you clever to make it out of placemats and tablerunners! It’s so pretty – and practical.

  14. karen

    What a great idea…and I love the colors in the table runner.

    I do think it deserves a prettier hanger though or at least one that is white.

    Nice job. You have inspired me to make my own!

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