In which I soup up the knitting needle set and notions I inherited from my grandma to make a beautiful, compact travel knitting kit.
Are you the sort of person who hems and haws over a purchase and does a ton of up-front research to make sure that you’re getting the most perfect, best-suited item and not wasting your money on something that’s not quite right?
Serious pre-purchase research is only something I do when I know I’m making an important (and not inexpensive) purchase. A piece of outdoor gear, a nice and well-made piece of clothing, or… the parts required to assemble the perfect travel knitting kit.
My grandma’s interchangeable knitting needle set
I am the proud owner of my late grandmother’s set of interchangeable knitting needles: the classic Boye Needlemaster with different coloured metal needle tips and (what I think are) atrocious, stiff clear plastic cables in a retro brown faux leather zippered case. The plastic cables are springy, annoying to knit with (I think) and they do not roll up nicely or pack small.
Recognizing the value of having inherited a perfectly good interchangeable needle set, I felt I couldn’t justify purchasing a whole new set to myself, plus there is a nostalgia in using my grandma’s old set, since she knitted all the time and was the one who taught me the basics and got me started.
The other challenge with my grandma’s original needle set is that the cable connectors have gone missing so I’m out of luck for knitting anything like shawls or cowls or sweaters in the round. Finding replacement connectors has not proven easy and/or cost effective.
So the engineer in me asked: what are the possible work-arounds?
Alternative cables for the Boye Needlemaster
Plunging into the knitting-nerd corner of the internet, I found the following general categories of solutions to the question of cable alternatives:
- Some very clever tutorials for making your own cables. (Amazing! While I salute the creative folks who are out there doing this thing, I am just not motivated to do this particular kind of DIY-ing.)
- Make peace with the horrible stiff plastic cables.
- Use Chiaogoo Twist Red Lace cables and cable adapters instead (with varying degrees of success depending on whether the needle tips in your Boye Needlemaster set are small-diameter or large-diameter.)
A possible 4th option: the lovely ladies on the She Can Make Podcast (episode 3, I believe) suggest that for some interchangeable needle sets, boiling the cables can work to soften them. That said, I haven’t found any info on whether this works for the Boye Needlemaster cables specifically.
Chiaogoo Cables Hack!
I decided that I had the best shot with the Boye Needlemaster + Chiaogoo Twist Lace Red cables (size “S”) hack. The cables looked so bendy and nice to use plus they are a fun red colour! This solution would also mean that I could purchase cables in a variety of lengths to knit garments of any size and not necessarily need a connector to join them.
These posts were particularly helpful in my research:
- An amazing human shared their discovery of using Chiaogoo Twist Red Lace cables with Boye needle tips (with helpful photos) in this post.
- This Ravelry thread points out the difference between the large and small diameter Boye needles and links to this KnittingParadise.com forum post, which has a helpful photo showing the potential compatibility problem. (Note that the Chiaogoo “S” cables and cable connectors fit into the smaller diameter tapered Boye needles.)
(Canadian) Chiaogoo Suppliers
The original poster on the KnittingParadise.com forum recommended HandsomeFibres.com for the Chiaogoo Twist cables (size “S”) and Chiaogoo cable connectors (size “S”), but I wanted to find a supplier that would ship to Canada at a reasonable rate.
Amazon does sell Chiaogoo replacement parts, and I did place my first (trial) order on Amazon. However, I later discovered that YarnCanada.com also carries Chiaogoo products and because they are based in New Westminster, BC (a stone’s throw from Vancouver) they could ship them within the week. Perfect!
I purchased a 2-pack of Chiaogoo Cable Connectors (S) and Twist Red Cable 22” / 55 cm (S) as a test. They fit perfectly on almost all of my needles except my tiniest set of Needlemaster tips (size US 2, the silver pair on the left in the photo of my needle case below.) My needles all have small-diameter ends OR large-diameter ends PLUS brass-colour Boye adaptors (which must have come with the original Needlemaster set?)
Below is a close-up of the connection: see the red cable with silver tip, tiny Chiaogoo “S” cable connector (silver), Needlemaster adaptor (brass-colour), and copper-colour needle tip.
I was so pleased with the fit that I immediately purchased two more Chiaogoo Twist Red Cables, one 14″ length and the other 30″ length, and two more sets of cable connectors so I can just leave them attached to the ends of the cables for quickly connecting the needles.
Woohoo! Now on to the travel kit!
My travel knitting kit
Now that I have the right tools, what is the best way to organize and carry them for my upcoming year-long work/travel trip? I needed to put my life into a couple backpacks, so space is at a premium.
One of my local yarn stores (Three Bags Full on Main Street in Vancouver, BC) sells these gorgeous made-in-the-USA Twig & Horn needle cases. It was a wee bit $$$, but I’m indulging in my new hobby so I went for it.
I love the little zippered pockets for carrying stitch markers, stitch holders, measuring tape, tapestry needles, and a little needle-sizer. Also the Chiaogoo Twist Red Lae cables coil up *perfectly* in one of the pockets.
Ready to knit abroad!