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updates from three old friends

Product Updates from Montana Mountain Needles, Alsatian Soaps, and Debra's Garden

updated woods
Montana Mountain
It's been a while since we checked in with Sam Bolton, the woodworker who, in 2005, began making hand-turned knitting needles for his wife's yarn store in Montana. Dabbling quickly turned into passion. Sam collected feedback from knitters and made steady improvements to the tip and taper, also adding more exotic woods to the collection.

By the time I reviewed the needles again in 2008, they had matured into high-quality products of consistent construction—still with a loving touch that only comes from the handmade.

Sam recently sent me a new batch of his creations in even more types of wood, including a dense jet-black ebony, a mahogany-hued Bolivian rosewood, a lighter rose-colored kingwood, and a surprisingly bright ivory-colored American holly. They're part of a fun new Needle of the Month program that Sam and his wife are offering.

Here's how it works: You sign up for six or eight-month durations, and you can start any time. You pick the wood category or leave it up to Sam; you also can choose the needle lengths (10" or 14"). The needle size will range from US4 to 11. The price ranges from $138 to $216 depending on wood types and needle lengths. Each month, a new surprise.

three happy tubes of Knitters Hands balm
Alsatian Soaps
When I first saw the knitting-themed Alsatian Soaps and included them in my 2007 gifts round-up, I figured that the knitting "thing" was just a phase for Alsatian Soaps and that they'd soon move on to other markets. I was mistaken. Not only is Alsatian Soaps still working for knitters, the company is expanding its offerings from soaps to skincare products.

Of particular interest is the new lotion bar called Knitters Hands. Here in the northeast U.S., the dry winter air can bring chronic dry-skin problems that are particularly frustrating when knitting, since the cracks and calluses love to snag against yarn. A lot of folks use products with beeswax (especially those from Burt's Bees) or shea butter. The Knitters Hands lotion bar contains the best of both worlds, with beeswax, shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba seed oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, and vitamin E—friendly materials for both skin and fiber.

Knitters Hands is available in unscented form as well as in Tahitian vanilla, apricot, aloe, and apricot freesia fragrances. Each 1.5oz tube retails for $9 (from Alsatian Soaps or Jimmy Beans Wool), while the 2oz tins retail for $9.95. Either should give you several months of steady application. I plan on giving mine a thorough workout this winter.

the lace needle gauge pendant
Debra's Garden
The handiest gadget of 2008 continues to get handier, as the Debra's Garden Needle Gauge pendant is now available with both US and metric needle size markings, with an optional US crochet hook sizer (sizes B through O) and—sound the trumpets for fine-gauge knitters across the land—lace and sock gauges (with holes to measure US000/1.5mm to US6/4mm).

The price remains unchanged at $16 (from Dream Weaver Yarns or directly from Debra's Garden). You can get utilitarian needle sizers for less, but they won't give you a tool that doubles so well as jewelry, a key fob, or even a zipper pull; nor will they get you a tool made of a very durable metal that does not warp or crack, which most plastic needle sizers are prone to do.

The first needle gauge pendant that I reviewed in 2008 had US-only markings for sizes 0 to 17. Most knitters may not see a need for the finer gauge markings, since not everybody loves to work with size 000 needles. But the finer needles rarely have markings, and holes for measuring them would need to be extraordinarily precise—which lends itself to a well-made, highly calibrated metal sizer exactly like the one Debra's Garden has given us.

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