Knitting Needles: Where do they come from?

We knitters love our tools, and knitting needles are arguably the most important of knitting tools. (Although, what came first—the yarn or the needles?)

But how often do we think about where these treasured tools come from? Editorial Director Karin Strom and Interweave Knits Editor Lisa Shroyer  recently took a trip to India to visit the Knitter's Pride factory. Here's Karin to tell you all about their trip and what they learned.

Birch needles in process at the factory

The Needles We Knit With

The needles and hooks from manufacturer Knitter's Pride are made in a modern factory outside the famed Pink City of Jaipur in northern India. This past November, the company invited a group of women from the American yarn industry to tour the factory and explore the colorful country. It was an incredible adventure to share with fellow knitters: Interweave Knits editor Lisa Shroyer, Yarn Market News editor Erin Slonaker, and industry consultant Phyllis Howe.

The facility, dedicated purely to making needles and hooks, was built in 2011. We saw hundreds of smooth wooden dowels and metal poles transformed into circulars, straights, and interchangeables. It was fascinating to see how much handwork is required to make these tools, even though state-of-the-art machines are used throughout the process. We saw women sand wooden crochet hooks by hand, individually test each joint of interchangeables, and glue the metal tips onto carbon needle ends, one by one.

To see the genesis of the very tools we use in our craft was a unique experience. So often in our day-to-day lives, we pick up an item, a seemingly mundane tool or object, and don't think about where it comes from. Now, I won't be able to slide stitches down my needle without thinking about those wooden tools coming fresh and nude from the polisher, the shiny round shapes and new tips, hundreds upon hundreds, in so many colors.

Knitter's Pride got its start in the needle business from an industry that depends on another narrow wooden tool: the paintbrush. The basic technology for brushes can be adapted to make knitting needles, and from that realization, a new division of parent company Indeutsch (which includes a brush business) was born.

Another aspect of our visit was getting acquainted with the people and culture of this company. Generous, transparent, and eager to show us their homeland, the people of Knitter's Pride gave us a memorable trip. We visited the Taj Mahal, forts and palaces, open-air markets, and the sacred Ganges River. Suman Sharma, manager of sales and marketing and our faithful guide throughout, invited us to her own knitting group in Delhi—a group of women who met through Ravelry.

Students at Apna School (funded by
Knitter's Pride) welcome Karin Strom
and her companions.

We also became acquainted with the company's corporate giving, which includes establishing and continuing to fund a rural school that prioritizes the education of girls. Knitter's Pride executives are passionate about the advancement of girls and women, as the company's hiring policy demonstrates: any woman who wants a job with the company is hired, no exceptions. For women in remote villages, such economic opportunities are rare.

Because the end users of these needles are predominantly women, it's encouraging to know our crafting cash goes back to women in some important way.

You've probably heard it said before, but a trip to India is life-changing. The people, the landscapes, the architecture, the food, the handcrafts . . . all leave an indelible mark. I won't even mention the shopping.

You'll just have to go.

—Karin Strom, from Interweave Knits, Spring 2014

For Christmas, I got a set of Knitter's Pride Symfonie Rose Interchangeable Deluxe needles. Lucky me! I love the smooth, pointy rosewood needles so much. I've been knitting on them almost exclusively. They are beautiful.

I'm so glad to learn more about Knitter's Pride and the wonderful work they do. The knitting world is full of interesting, important stories like this one, and Interweave Knits brings them alive like no other publication. Get yourself the Spring 2014 issue of Interweave Knits today!


P.S. Sound off! What is your favorite type of knitting needle? Tell us in the comments!

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