Julie Weisenberger has a history of making tools that elevate your experience of a task. The Knitter’s Block frees us from the
cumbersome, monolithic blocking board. The Knitter’s Keep helps us keep our favorite tools at hand. And the Sweater Care Kit made even the most curmudgeonly knitter smile at the thought of washing a garment.
Now, Julie takes aim at another process we often take for granted: setting stitches aside.
We use stitch holders when we need to hit “pause” on a certain number of stitches and continue working on the rest. When knitting a mitten, we need to set aside a few stitches for the thumb, which we return to later. When working a sweater from the top down, we set aside more stitches on either side of the body, which we return to later when we’re ready for the sleeves.
Tailored top-down sweater construction forms the basis of Julie’s Cocoknits Method, which she teaches in her new book Cocoknits Sweater Workshop—and which may be why she wanted to improve the way in which you hold those stitches.
The Way We’ve Held
Most yarn stores stock metal stitch holders, which are either formed like large safety pins or with an elastic arm to secure both ends of the metal holder. While they work, they do have a tendency to stick out like oars, stressing the end stitches and annoying us in the process.
Our home-brewed workaround has been to thread a darning needle with some waste yarn and pull that needle through the stitches to be held. This works except when you snag only part of a strand by mistake. Undoing that can be a mess.
Waste yarn can also be too thin and flimsy for any kind of stitch support. Your held stitches start to slip into the row below. By the time you get back to them, you have to perform an archaeological dig to retrieve the buried stitches.
If only we could improve upon that home-brewed technique with, say, a more knitting needle-like tool for capturing each stitch and a sturdier yet flexible cord onto which they can go.
Which is, in a nutshell, the Leather Cord and Needle Stitch Holder Kit from Cocoknits. In this case it isn’t a nutshell, but a sturdy little box with a ribbon-pulled drawer in which the tools rest snugly on a bed of wool felt. Because that’s how Julie does things.
The kit retails for $24 and contains three lengths of leather cord: two 29.5-inch (75cm) cords for sleeves, and one 59-inch (150cm) cord for a sweater body. In addition, it has two nickel-plated steel needles (very reminiscent of an interchangeable needle, only shorter) with a threaded interior at the base.
I urge you to read the instructions before you begin. There is a way to use these, and it isn’t how I did it the first time. Don’t jam the cord into the hole and expect it to stay put. The more you jam, the wobblier and more frayed the cord end becomes. Trust me on this. (Fortunately, you can snip the frayed end with a sharp razor blade and try again, as I did.)
Here’s the proper way to make the tool work: Holding the cord in your left hand and the needle in your right, place the cord onto the hole of the needle and begin slowly turning the needle while pushing the cord into it. There’s no jamming, you’re engaging the threads with the leather until they are holding it snug. After that, the needle stayed put.
When it’s time to put those stitches back on a live needle, simply untie the cord, screw in the needle end, slide the stitches over to the needle, and then knit them off that needle and onto your working needle. Your stitch gauge will be fine. It’s the working needle that dictates stitch size, not the needle currently holding the stitches.
Just One Snag
The leather cord does have a bit of a texture to it. While being pulled through the delicate cashmere fibers of my sweater, it dragged and pulled at the yarn. I’m confident the cord will grow smoother over time (or you could further condition it with an oil). But in the short-term, if you’re working with an extremely silky smooth material, you might want to go to your hardware store and get your hands on some 1.5mm nylon cord instead—which Julie tells me will also fit snugly into the needle’s threaded base.
Getting some extra nylon cord (or extra 1.5mm leather cord if you can find it) will be a good idea if you’re the kind of knitter who has multiple projects going at once. The more cords you have, the more stitches you can hold. As it is, the three cords in this kit could get lost in the UFO pile pretty quickly.
This simple toolkit is an elegant upgrade to a very basic task. It also makes the perfect gift for the knitter who thought she had everything.
Source of review kit: Cocoknits