Knitting with Dowels and Pencils


When I leave the house, I always have a yarn project with me in case I end up with a few free minutes.  At school pick-up the other week I found myself with 10 minutes and a ball of yarn and no crochet hook or knitting needles.  Oops.  It started me thinking, and I decided to see whether I could make my own knitting needles.  They are just pointed bits of wood.  It couldn’t be too tough.

I bought some 36 inch long, 1/4″ (6.35 mm) dowels (50 cents each) and cut one into five 7 inch lengths.


I sharpened both ends in a pencil sharpener, but they felt a little rough, so I sanded with some fine sandpaper.  They felt too dry, so I rubbed them with some olive oil and beeswax skin balm I happened to have.


The result looks like regular double pointed needles, just a little thicker and shorter than the cheap 6 mm, 8-inch ones I have been using (darker needle, below.)


But would they work?  The answer is yes, with a minor qualification.  They worked well for regular, smooth, plied yarn.  They were a bit awkward for fuzzy boucle yarn because it catches on even the tiniest rough spot.  I wouldn’t replace all my store bought needles with homemade ones, but it’s an easy, cheap way to have plenty of extra needles.  Now I can stash some, with a small ball of yarn, in the car or my purse and not be caught unprepared again.

Then I started thinking, what if I were really in a pinch?  What if I didn’t have a craft store or a hardware store, or just wanted really quick needles for a project*?  How about pencils?  I had some double pointed colored pencils, so I gave it a try.  Again, it works as long as the yarn is pretty smooth and you work a little loosely.


I cast on fewer stitches for the center, blue hat, so I expected it to be smaller.  The pink hat was done with the thicker pencils, and the striped hat with thinner store bought needles, so the pink is a little larger.


*The yarn-but-no-needles scenario isn’t totally far fetched.  It hasn’t just happened at school pick-up.  I was at a kids activity for a few hours early in the winter, and they had a bunch of yarn for a wrapping project, which nobody was doing.  I had my hands free and had forgotten my usually project bag.  I ended up finger crocheting a scarf while I sat there.  If I had thought a little more, I might have grabbed a pair of pencils instead.


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