Grubby little hands

If you’re knitting with wood or bamboo needles, how many sets do you go through before completing your project? For me it’s definitely more than one set.

Now, I want to be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about the points of the needles getting dull or the needles bending out of shape, and I’m not talking about the excess dye rubbing off on the needles and turning them colors, although all those things are highly annoying. I’m talking about the needles getting covered with gunky sticky crap of all craps that makes stitches impossible to move from one needle to the next.

What is the source of this gunkiness? I wish I could blame my grubby little hands, but I am borderline obsessive-compulsive and probably go through more handsoap than any human ever should. Leave it to Grumperina to point the finger to yarn manufacturers – yep, I think it’s the gunk left on the yarn after the manufacturing process. But what to do? What to do? Washing yarn before knitting with it is not my idea of fun. Especially if you’re knitting something sizeable like a sweater. Can I wash my needles?

The inquiry comes about because I’m on my fourth set of needles for the Pretty Comfy Socks.

1: Some Clover bamboo dpns which weren’t brand new and therefore are already coated with crap of all craps. They lasted… maybe two inches worth of knitting.

2: Metal dpns. These were fantabulous, except they come in a set of four and I like to knit socks with five needles. I improvised by using four metal dpns and one Clover dpn. I grunted every time I would have to use the bamboo one, and naturally became too irritated to continue in this manner.

3: Brittany Birch dpns. These were so wonderful to knit with, that I almost blogged about it. And the gunk stayed off for a long while! But I say were wonderful because, yes, they’re now coated with the crap of all crap.

4: I’m back to four metal dpns and one Brittany dpn.

I want to rescue my gunky wood and bamboo needles. What do I do?

Speaking of Japanese things like Clover needles, do any of you read and understand Japanese? I was checking out my website stats, and notices that a whole lot of hits came from this website. If only I knew what it said!

I stepped outside this morning, and the air smelled like Bath & Body Works (From a few blocks away, of course. Because I know you know how overwhelming it smells inside that store). Yes, spring is here, and it’s quickly turning into summer. Look what I spotted in my neighbor’s garden:

It’s just like the one on my needle cases!


24 thoughts on “Grubby little hands

  1. Sarah

    I have this weird love for metal needles and I was very frustrated by the sets of four that Boye sells. But I found the greatest thing ever in AC Moore a while back: a Susan Bates “sock needle set”. It comes with five needles of each size from 1 down to 000.

    If you can’t find that/don’t want it, you could always use a fifth DPN of a slightly different size. I think it was Elizabeth Zimmerman who wrote about the way your hands automatically adjust tension of one needle is different than the rest. I know that has worked for me in a pinch.

  2. Agnes

    What you said here didn’t happen to me at all. But it maybe because I am not a very sensitive person … I mean I am a bit blunt with my physical senses.

    I tried translating the pages using the Google language tool page, but the thing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Perhaps you can try on your own …

  3. jenifleur

    Never got the sticky needles. But I cannot imagine a single reason why you couldn’t clean the needles. The bamboo are polyurethaned usually and the rest should be automatically waterproof. How about a little orange cleaner/degreaser? Or some Dawn? Or goo gone. Worst case scenario-something bad happens and you can’t use them. Much like they are right now.

  4. Karma

    I also don’t have this problem with my needles. I use Brittany Birch dpns and find them to be smooth and easy to use. But I agree with jenifleur that a little gentle cleanser shouldn’t hurt your needles.

    Something I just thought of… Are you using hand lotion frequently?

  5. Emma

    Try wiping with baby wipes.They won’t dry wooden needles out.I find that over time my wooden needles develop a patina,that makes them smoother and easier to use.

  6. Colleen

    I’m not sure that I have this problem. Then again, I’m not sure that I DON’T have this problem. Sometimes my bamboos get a little sticky with the stitches. Maybe a bath would help.

    To build on Emma’s idea, what about those Murphy’s Oil Soap wipes?

  7. PumpkinMama

    I think you must be special! I like many other commenters, don’t have this problem either. Do you wear hand lotion regularly or somesuch? Maybe its that? Your needles should be pretty easy to clean though – probably just some hot water would do it.

  8. jess

    I just started having this problem — I used the wax paper method and rubbed it on my clover bamboo dpns. It seems to work, but I have to do it oh, every 6″ of a sock or so.

  9. Diana

    Hmmm, can’t say I’ve ever experienced this either. Is it happening mostly with a certain yarn? Maybe rubbing alcohol would help?

  10. Carolyn

    ok, this has never happened to me. I do get the dye coming off from the yarn…but nothing sticky. Could be hand lotion that some other readers have mentioned. I am rediscovering my love for addi turbos…although I like bamboo for lace work…I hate the joint that I have on my bamboos…the yarn always gets stuck there. I did once have a love for “Pony” plastic needles…they are very nice for sock knitting. Let me know if you are interested in trying them and I can get you a pair. Other than that, I’m sure you can wipe your needles clean…but what is the gunk? Solving that will solve the problem. Can’t help you with the japanese…but do I love the flower…exactly like your cases!

  11. Tara

    Hmmmm, I must admit that I’m clueless about the crap of all craps. All I know is that I stopped using bamboo needles b/c the Dog has an affinity for them.

  12. Susan

    I use a lot of instant hand cleaner from that Bath and Body Works that you mention. It keeps my hands clean and dry and my knitting smells nice. Do you turn your jewelry (tarnish) or are you sensitive to base metals? Perhaps your body chemistry is just really strong and your skin is acting against the sealer on the needles.

    Don’t soak your bamboo or wood needles. It will raise the grain and then you will have to sand them. But if all fails maybe that would be the thing to do.

    Good luck!

  13. Stephanie

    Hmmm, one of life’s little mysteries. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s something in either your hand lotion or soap. Maybe try a natural handsoap like Method (available at Target) and/or a new lotion. Otherwise, I’m quite sure you could wash your needles – wouldn’t really be any different than mopping a wood floor or wiping off your kitchen cabinets. Let me know how it goes.

  14. Sue

    This hasn’t happened to me either but you never know. Maybe it’s your hand soap or lotion. You probably shouldn’t wash bamboo needles as I don’t believe they are polyurethaned (see for confirmation). You could try a very fine (400-600) grit sandpaper to clean your needles. Follow with tackpaper (or not) and then rub them with waxpaper.

  15. Purly Whites

    I totally know what you mean about the sticky crap! Only I use Addi Turbos circulars for everything, even socks or hats, as I have mild hatred of DPNs, so two circulars or one long circular have become my needles of choice for small things in the round.

    The needles don’t get sticky, but my hands will after a longer session of knitting. I’m a compulsive hand lotion user, so based on other comments, I’ll chalk it up to the combination of the lotion and the yarn. There must be something on the yarn that mixes with the lotion. Unless you aren’t using lotion and then my theory is a load of crap.

  16. Mary Tess

    Instead of, or in addition to, the fine sandpaper, try 0000 or 00000 steel wool on both kinds of needles.

  17. sara

    Have you tried 2 circs or 1 long circular for the magic loop? I find that I can knit faster if I don’t have to switch needles all the time—and I can use my turbos. Perhaps Inox metals come in those nice, long lengths?

    I’m getting fussier and fussier about needles these days. Unless the yarn is extremely slippery, I don’t care for the wood needles.

  18. Rebekah

    Okay I too have never noticed the problem, well I take that back I have noticed the stitches getting harder to move but I’ve always blamed it on sweaty hands, or to tight of stitches. Maybe I’ll have to pay attention to my needles.

    Of course except for socks I’ve switched mostly to Addi’s for everyting I just love the slickness of it.

  19. Ken

    So you’re on your way to establishing an international presence now. Good for you! Here’s my translation of the Japanese knit blog conversation –

    Ma writes:

    Orochi-san, I found this thing. Why don’t you guys at Zanmai Patterns (the website’s name) make a link for it in the help section?

    Orochi writes:

    Hm, seems like this person knits in the French style.

    Reminds me that I recently bought a web-cam. I got it to play around with making movies of my goldfish, but I should be able to use it to take knitting videos as well. Maybe I’ll try it out soon…

  20. Tipper

    Is it gunk, or is it the finish wearing down? I find that my smooth wooden needles have quickly turned un-smooth after very little wear. I’m particularly sensitive to traction, if you could call it that, and need my stitches to just fly off my needles. Brittany’s are awful for me, because I find them far too grabby, especially after using them for a litle while. Bamboo has been better for me, particularly the smaller sizes.

    I’ve always been baffled by people referring to their wooden needles as fast and smooth, but then those are people who think that Addis are too slippery.

  21. Michelle

    Malabrigo dyes my needles like crazy; I have taken to prewashing the skeins which is in itself an incredible chore. I just started swatching up with that newfangled banana silk yarn and holy moly my needles are totally blue. Sigh.

  22. Juno

    I’ve never experienced this, but it could very well be natural lanolin on the wool, or hand lotion or something. I don’t think washing your wool first sounds practical, but washing your needles in some kind of mild solution sounds perfectly reasonable. Just don’t let them soak! I speak from experience, as I once turned a bunch of vintage plastic needles into Dale Chihuli sculpture by soaking them to get them clean.

    But mild soap, warm water, a nail brush and an immediate drying with a soft cloth ought to be fine.

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