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Digital Scholarship Innovation Studio

3D model of cable needle  Cable needles in various sizes

Cable Knitting Needle

By: O.A.
Project Status:  Complete

I am a third-year history major who enjoys knitting, especially honeycomb cables. Last year, when I embarked on my first cable-knit sweater project, the process of knitting large stretches of honeycomb cables got me thinking about the shortcomings and advantages of various cable needle shapes. The repetitive, iterative process of knitting things allows me to test slightly different methods and arrive at choices that balance personal preference, objective optimization, material constraints, and the overall project's aesthetics and function. This is similar to when I figure out the best way to design a very simple cable needle, or when I try to translate complex SVG paths into a physical drawing with a Cricut machine. Knitting is quite simple -- just yarn and needles, ultimately -- which makes it an excellent sandbox for testing novel ideas and processes.

Describe your project. What is it, and what were you hoping to achieve with your project?

This is a cable knitting needle, which holds stitches during knitting so that one can make braids, honeycombs, and all the other types of knit cables. I wanted to fix the issues I had with my own standard plastic cable needle: most importantly, the dip in the center of the cable needle was too shallow, causing stitches to often slip around and off the needle. I also found the needle tips slightly too blunt, and I wished that the cable needle were a bit longer to make easier to handle and manipulate -- more like the regular knitting needles that a cable needle is used alongside. I applied these changes to my design, deciding on an extra dip in the center of the needle, so that it can hang with the stitches securely in the central vertex. I think this is an improvement on the rounded rectangular dip of the regular cable needle, at least for my preferences.

What materials did you use for this project? Did they meet your needs, or would you use different materials if you were to make this project again?

I used PLA and breakaway filament, as well as pliers and a file to remove the support breakaway. These materials met my needs very well.

What equipment did you use for this project? Did they meet your needs, or would you use different equipment if you were to make this project again?

I used an Ultimaker 3, which met this project's needs well.

What software did you use for this project? Did it meet your needs, or would you use different software if you were to make this project again?

I used Blender and Cura, both of which were the ideal choices for this project.

Is there a part of this project that you would like to explore more if you have the time? If so, talk about what that is and how you would go about exploring it.

It might be interesting to explore 3D-printing other knitting/crochet-related tools and accessories. I had the idea to make an extender for regular crochet hooks, so that you could use them for Tunisian crochet; back when I was first trying to learn Tunisian crochet, I attempted this by attaching a zip-tie to a crochet hook with tape, and this, predictably, was ineffective. But I think that a flexible extender (like the cord part of circular knitting needles) would be a better option than rigid plastic, so I'd have to think about that more. I also had the idea to laser cut a Bosnian crochet hook and sand it down or otherwise modify its edges; it is a flat tool often made out of wood, which would lend itself well to laser cutting.

Who do you think would be interested in learning about this project or using the final version of this project?

Art history, art, and anthropology students might be interested in thinking about how this project compares to other crafting tools throughout history, and how people have otherwise modified crafting tools to fit their purposes. For instance, there are different versions of the standard crochet hook that make it suitable for Tunisian crochet and Bosnian slip stitch crochet.

Did you iterate on any part of this project? If so, what was that process like? What were you trying to improve upon during the iterative process?

I wanted to design a cable needle because it is such a simple item, allowing me, a complete novice to 3D modeling, to experiment with different design methods and learn their advantages and disadvantages through practice. I started this project in Tinkercad, designing and printing a cable needle whose ends were far too pointy and which had ungainly joints where I joined the shapes. As I learned the basics of Blender, I designed a new needle by extruding surfaces and shapes, then rounding out and smoothing those polygonal shapes. My final and best option, though, was to figure out how to use Bezier curves in Blender -- familiar to me from Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, but not in a 3D context. I shaped the cable needle with Bezier curves, mirrored it to make it symmetrical, and added a modifier to shape the cable needle so that it was smooth and tapered at the ends.

What was something that you thought was particularly successful in this project?

I like that this tool is easy to scale by just changing the Z dimension in Cura, because the millimeters correspond directly to knitting needle sizes in millimeters. I printed a large version for worsted-weight yarn and a small version for lace-weight yarn.

Now that you've gone through this process, what might you do differently next time?

It might be interesting to try to laser cut a cable needle or crochet hook, though it would need to be a large size because of the width of the wood.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about this project?

Creating this project was a really interesting way to think about how tiny changes in design can change the functionality of a tool, even a very simple tool like this one.

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