The more mainstream knitting becomes, the harder it gets to find something that’s truly unique. This is especially true with our needles, most of which are mass produced by a machine in a factory.
Allow me to introduce an exception, a two-person company called Turn of the Century, based in Ohio. It offers all sorts of hand-turned wood items including lace bobbins, chopsticks, and—lucky for us—knitting needles.
Each lathe-produced item is individually “freehand turned” by woodworker Bill Schmidt. Freehand turning means that no shaping tool is used to make a particular design—it’s all truly shaped by hand.
The needles are made in cocobolo, a type of rosewood whose durability, strength, and smooth surface are ideally suited for knitting. It also happens to be a gorgeous wood with a warm hand, rich color, and striking, almost marble-like detail—especially in the pieces that Bill chooses for his needles.
Bill tops each needle with individually turned rosewood caps that vary in shape and style but are all designed to be lightweight and balanced. You won’t know what you get until you open the box, which is part of the fun.
The needles carry no size markings. Tips have a brief, almost concave taper.
Even within pairs, one needle can be slightly longer than the other—a charming byproduct of hand-fabrication.
Larger needle sizes (13, 15, 16, and 17mm) are offered in wild cherry, a domestic hardwood that’s less sturdy but lighter than rosewood.
Getting the Goods
If you don’t happen to see Bill at one of the many shows and festivals he attends, you can peruse his needles online. Once you decide what you’d like to order, simply follow the instructions to email them for a total. Then you can either send a check or money order, or pay online via PayPal.
Shipping and handling are a flat $4 per order. Each pair of needles I ordered came in its own protective tube that is far more useful than the standard over-the-counter needle packaging.
They do their best to ship all orders within seven days of receipt. But remember, this is a small operation, and everything is done by hand.
Your patience will be rewarded with a very special, beautiful pair of needles that will give you great pleasure every time you use them.
10-, 12-, and 14-inch length:
US 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17 (mm 4.25, 4.5, 5.25, 5.75, 6.5, 8, 9, 10, 11.5, 12.5)
Average retail price: $15-$19
Made in: USA
Source of review needles: Purchased privately
Review date: 1/29/04, prices updated 2017