Handmade Wooden Knitting Needles
Making your own wooden knitting needles is quite simple, and fun! The way I made them was to basically use wooden dowel rods (from hardware or hobby/craft stores-hardware stores are usually cheaper), around 1/4" or so, or whatever size makes the needle size you want. I take my needle sizer to the store with me to slip over the dowel and check what size needle it will make, and shoot for about a size 7-8 US for beginner needles. Then cut the dowels into pieces that are about 10" long, or whatever length you feel is appropriate for what you are doing (a heavy duty pair of kitchen scissors worked for me, or try scoring them first with a blade and snapping them). Then use a pencil sharpener to make the rough points, and then take sandpaper to the whole needle. First a rougher grain to do the shaping, and then a very fine grit one to make them very smooth. I've also used some wax paper to rub on the whole needle to help smooth it after sanding, and check for snags. I've also used wood oil, or mineral oil, to condition the needles, but wax paper does work, too, or even after doing the oil.
To make the ends, I used the type of clay that you bake in the oven to harden. Sculpey was the brand I used. We've made all sorts of colors of ball ends, from plain to polka dotted, swirls, and even acorns! (See note below) Then carefully put the clay ball on the flat bottom end of the needle, and push it on enough so that it will make a good hole to attach it with, but not so far as to make it come squishing out of the end. Then, they are ready to put in the oven, and bake according to the clay maker's instructions (usually about 30 minutes), having the clay ends hanging off the edge of a baking pan or rack, so they don't flatten out while hardening. After taking them out and letting them cool down, carefully pull the clay balls off of the needle, and put a dab of good glue (I usually use Aileen's Tacky Craft Glue) in the ball, and put the needle back in, and let dry, preferably overnight.
Then, they are done and ready to go! They are pretty cheap, and you can get quite a few sets out of a few dowel rods, and the clay makes lots of ball ends, if you don't make them too huge! In fact, don't make them too large, or you'll have heavy needles wearing out your knitting fingers!
Acorn Needles Notes: My favorite needle design to make is the acorn topped ones pictured above. Fall is a great time of year to make them, with the nuts all over the ground waiting to be collected. I made them by getting the gold colored clay and using that to shape a ball the size of the actual acorn nut, and using the "real thing" for the outer top. I pulled the nut part out of the top case part of acorns, and then put the clay nut into the acorn top, and inserted the needle gently and shaped the clay to be smooth around the needle and into the top of the acorn. I must say they look so real that people have done a double-take when they see them!
And a few more hints: Bake the needles complete, with the acorn tops attached. Then after they cool and you remove the clay ends to glue them to the needles, also see if you can pop the acorn tops off and put some glue on them and re-secure them to the clay. While the tops might stay on all by themselves at first, they'll probably pop off at some point, so it's best to stick them on securely right from the start. The real trick to doing the acorn ones is to get the clay nuts to be just the right size for the tops. It took several tries when I first made the clay balls to get them to fit the tops after I put the needles in them. At first I was making them too large, and when I put the needle in them it would squish the clay out of the edges of the top, and I had big blobs instead of acorns! But after I got the hang of making the right size nuts, the rest was easy.
And most important, have fun and make some to share, especially with kids, while you spread the art of knitting with others!