It is!

Surprised! For two reasons. First, I so confidently posted about my grubby bamboo and wood needles because I figured everyone had this problem! And why shouldn’t I think that? My wood and bamboo needles get coated with the crap of all craps no matter the yarn, the pattern, the needle brand, the size… And it has so far happened to each and every set. But, wow, now I’m shocked because clearly I’m the only one! I’m going to take the pointing finger and move it from the yarn manufacturers to my own self. It is my grubby little hands.

To answer many of the comments, I hardly ever use hand lotion, and never use it while I’m knitting. I use a more or less harsh soap – Softsoap – that leaves my hands totally clean and uncoated, as far as I can tell. I do have very sensitive skin. If you look through the many pictures of my hands on this blog, you’ll notice I never have any rings or bracelets on; at best, I have my watch on, although typically I take it off as soon as I get home. Reason being that even precious metals can cause my skin to bubble up in a reaction. So it could be some kind of gunk my body is producing in response to the yarn and/or needles. A second reason could be that my hands are always very warm and… sweaty isn’t the right word… moist? Never dry? A third reason is that I work in a lab, wear and change gloves very often, and wash my hands very often as well. Years of this may have conditioned my hands to produce extra gunk, promptly deposited on the needles. Where are my fellow science knitters? What are your experiences?

Whatever the reason(s), my body is gunking up my needles, and I need to clean them off. I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I got tons of ideas from all of you – thank you so much! But no method has been recommended that’s been previously tested. I think it’s innocent enough to start with baby wipes – they don’t have lint problems, and I have them in my house, mwahaha! I love Murphy’s Oil Soap, I have very sensory-rich memories associated with it, so hey, might as well use it for something! Because you know with these needle dilemmas the floors aren’t getting washed any time soon :). So far I’ve done nothing other than to switch back to metal needles, which clink-clank when I knit and come in sets of four, but don’t have any other drawbacks as far as I can tell.

Other comments:

  • I’m not a fan of two circs or magic loop, thanks to those of you who suggested these methods.
  • Because I can knit very quickly with the right needles, I am also developing a high preference for non-wood needles in all situation. This is a bit different from the gunk problem, because even brand new bamboos retard my optimal speed. In lieu of this, here are some great ideas for me:
  • Inox makes plastic, aluminum, and steel dpns. They come in sets of five! In fact, I already have a set of the aluminum ones, but they are the wrong size for this project.
  • Bryspun double-pointed needles also come in sets of five! Again, I already have a set, but they are the wrong size.

Really, there’s no reason I should ever have to use bamboo or wood needles ever again. Maybe I shouldn’t even bother cleaning them!

The second reason I’m surprised is that, wow, my entry got so many responses! There are two possible interpretations: (1) you think (correctly) that I’m a freak of nature and are intrigued by the weird gunk and/or (2) you understand my dilemma and are genuinely trying to help me.

Thank you :).

Because no blog entry is complete without a picture, here are the suspects.


9 thoughts on “It is!

  1. Colleen

    I’m not convinced that it’s you, because if you’re needles are getting that dirty, then you’d also see the dirt on your knitting. Does your yarn get dirty?

    What if you tried knitting with laytex gloves on your hands? That would be the test.

  2. Tara

    Oh Kathy, we LOVE you b/c you’re a freak of nature! Just kidding 🙂 But I wouldn’t be too quick to blame it on yourself either. I mean, do you really think you ooze gunk? Colleen’s right. If it was you, I would think there’d be gunky fingerprints everywhere! And I know you would have noticed that by now… hee hee

  3. Stephanie

    You are not a freak! That’s just about enough of talk like that. If you like metal and can find sets of 5, then don’t worry about it – go with metal. I’m guessing that it has something to do with the fact that you wear gloves at work and your hands are conditioned and the wood gets warm as you work with it, whereas metal doesn’t do that as much. If I were going to wash my needles, I use a mild solution of water and ivory soap or Murphy’s and a rag or sponge. The wood is finished so it won’t hurt it. 🙂

  4. freecia

    Our uncoated chopsticks survive well enough. Just be sure to thoroughly dry unless you want the black mildew at the bottoms after several several months of washing and leaving them in a cup to dry.

    I would use a bit of mild dish soap and if that doesn’t work, some makeup remover/shampoo. Somehow dish soap is suppossed to be more harsh than shampoo but I figure if shampoo can get that oil out of my bedhead, then it should work on all sorts of human produced oils. I use shampoo to clean my hairbrushes (okay, fine, I brush my hair with shampoo in it when in the shower to clean the brush) Then again, I think tea is an excellent natural grease cutter, too… I’ve also been known to tighten floss around an object and use it to scrape gunk off.

    See, there are those much odder than you. And possibly more gunk productive.

  5. naomi

    Maybe part of the reason I haven’t had this problem is that I work in a lab with few “scary chemicals”, and my tissue culture is only overnight, so I don’t really wear gloves all that often. Although…now that I think about it, I didn’t have that problem when I was wearing gloves either to protect my PCRs or to protect my hands from acrylamide. Maybe it’s a response that has to build up over years, rather than months.

    At any rate, enjoy your metal needles. There’ll just be less competition for the wood and bamboo, now. 🙂

  6. Teresa

    Try washing your hands before you start kntting, drying well, and rubbing your hands with baby or talcum powder. Got this tip from a crochet magazine for working with fine white cotton thread. Supposedly, the powder absorbs your hand’s oils before it can be deposited on the yarn, or needles, with a side benefit of making the lace smell nice.

  7. Laura Neal

    Actually my bamboos are really slick from the oils off of my hands and I like em that way. They have a nice patina on them. hee hee. Okay so there are some slob knitters out there and I am one of them. Ha! As to the problem with the 4 dpn’s, my MIL complains too about this and then you have to buy another pack. Companies need to realize that some of us like to knit on 4 needles and the 3 needles really bite the big wazoo! I am working on a beanie that requires 3 dpns, I changed it to 4, I went with brittany birches, they come in 5, and it is progressing so much faster.

    I love how your socks turned out and I have to say that the yarn that you used, I have used several times and intend to make a bikini out of. Should be interesting. You know where to find me on that one. I need to take pictures, yes, I have been saying this for a while but, I am putting everything off for a while. I am out there enjoying my pool! 🙂

    On another point you should see my little baby bubba okra plants, I have 3 count em three okras in my fridge now. I need a couple more and I am going to have a feast all by myself. I will be gorging myself on the fruits of my labor.


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