But let's talk a little knit science. I took the hat prototype on my trip last weekend, and wouldn't you know it--I picked up the work, the yarn, and left the 5th needle behind. I figured I'd go ahead and work on it that way, although I haven't had the peachiest of experiences with four needles in the past. My first double pointed needles were a super cheapie Boye brand set, and only came with four needles in the first place. At that point I was unaware that a fifth needle even existed. So naive...I used them for a sweater sleeve and soon noticed that the point of transition between one needle to the other formed a vertical line of loose bars in between the stitches. A little searching on the internets revealed that this was a blight called a 'ladder'. My solution was to knit a few stitches past the transition point for each needle switch (so for instance, if there were 4 stitches on each needle, with the empty needle I would knit 4 stitches from the 1st needle, then 2 from the 2nd needle, and repeat this round and round so the transition kept moving 2 stitches to the left). This was, how do you say? A big pain in the ass.
Then a kind-hearted friend clued me in to that fifth needle, and life was better. No more ladders at all. It was like night and day. But why such a dramatic transition? Let's look at both configurations. What's the difference?
Sorry, an asterisk was the closet thing to a degree sign that I could get Gimp to do. Try not to be afraid of the specter of a hand coming out at you there.
Well, 30 degrees. If you think about how you typically knit, you probably hold your needles at nearly a 90 degree angle. If your needles are forced into a 60 degree angle instead (like in a triangle), the stitches on the ends are being pulled at an unnatural tension. Hence, the bars of yarn between the stitches get pulled loose. What's the moral of the story? Splurge for the fifth needle!! Trying to knit the hat with only four brought this lesson to the forefront of my mind. Never again.