Ancillary tools

Various tools have been developed to make hand-knitting easier. Tools for measuring needle diameter and yarn properties have been discussed above, as well as the yarn swift, ballwinder and "yarntainers". Crochet hooks and a darning needle are often useful in binding off or in joining two knitted pieces edge-to-edge. The darning needle is used in duplicate stitch (also known as Swiss darning), while the crochet hook is also essential for repairing dropped stitches and some specialty stitches such as tufting. Other tools are used to prepare specific ornaments include the pompom tree for making pompoms conveniently. For large or complex patterns, it is sometimes difficult to keep track of which stitch should be knit in a particular way; therefore, several tools have been developed to identify the number of a particular row or stitch, including circular stitch markers, hanging markers, extra yarn and row counters. A second potential difficulty is that the knitted piece will slide off the tapered end of the needles when unattended; this is prevented by "point protectors" that cap the tapered ends. Another problem is that too much knitting may lead to hand and wrist troubles; for this, special stress-relieving gloves are available. Finally, there are sundry bags and containers for holding knitting, yarns and needles. A swift is a tool used to hold a skein of yarn while it is being wound off. It has an adjustable diameter so that it can hold skeins of many sizes, and rotates around a central rod. They are generally made out of wood or metal, however other materials may also be used. In the 18th and 19th centuries, swifts were sometimes made of whale ivory and they are now ought-after antiques. Swifts are not used very much in the textile industry, but are used more by knitters and crocheters who buy their yarn in skein form. The swift allows for easy balling, without the yarn getting tangled and knotted. Tufting is a type of textile weaving in which a thread is inserted on a primary base. It is an ancient technique for making warm garments, especially mittens. After the knitting is done, short U-shaped loops of extra yarn are introduced through the fabric from the outside so that their ends point inwards (e.g., towards the hand inside the mitten). Usually, the tuft yarns form a regular array of "dots" on the outside, sometimes in a contrasting color (e.g., white on red). On the inside, the tuft yarns may be tied for security, although they need not be. The ends of the tuft yarns are then frayed, so that they will subsequently felt, creating a dense, insulating layer within the knitted garment. A row counter for hand knitting is a tally counter for counting rows or courses worked, for counting stitch pattern repetitions, or for counting increases or decreases of the number of stitches in consecutive rows. The first commercially produced one appeared on the market in the 1920s after the general public started regularly knitting from unfamiliar printed and complex patterns. Design variations include on-needle barrel-shaped counters for straight-needle work, stitch-marker counters for knitting on double-pointed and circular needles, complex counters which attempted to assist with decreases, increases and lacework, stand-alone hand-held counters in imitation of the hand-tally, pendant counters worn round the neck and online software for iPhones.