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Susan's Needle Report

On Swallow Casein and Bryspun needles I spent the weekend test-driving some needles I ordered from The Mannings, who carry both Swallow and Bryspun casein needles. I ordered the smallest and shortest I could get (Swallow 1 1/2 and Bryspun 2, 3, and 4), plus Crystal Palace bamboo in US sizes 0 and 1. The Swallow and Bryspun are quite different, but I love them both for different reasons. The Swallows are longer (7" are the shortest they make), more, tapered, and more flexible; they are a beautiful translucent faux tortoiseshell and have a funny vinegary musty smell, sort of like your grandmother's knitting basket. I moved an Aran cable sock onto them. The extra length seemed a little awkward at first after using Brittanys, but their flexibility (without the sense of imminent disaster that birch needles give me) was wonderful. The length also proved to be an advantage; It's very easy when transferring the empty needle from your left to right hand to grab the wrong one and these needles don't have the grab that stops you in time, but the extra length does give you time to react.

The Bryspun needles (5") are made to look like bone. They're quite blunt, which can be a nuisance for picking up stitches if you have to frog, but I had no problems while knitting. I was making the child's lace sock from the Vogue book in Brown Sheep fingering, so splitting isn't a problem, but I imagine these needles would be great for yarn that does split. They're warm and flexible, but not as sensuous as the Swallows, and they don't have the funny smell--even when you hold one in your mouth. They also have more grab, rather like birch needles that have been used long enough to acquire a patina.

Casein is a milk protein, and I wonder if that's what the baleen needles were made of (from the name I guess they were fake whalebone). I've read warnings about avoiding temperature extremes and not letting these needles sit in water, so I'll have to treat them with care. But I'm definitely a convert.


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