Craft Product Review: The Knook by Leisure Arts

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The Knook by Leisure Arts is a system for creating knitted fabric using a crochet hook and a silky cord instead of a second needle.

The Knook Beginner Set in its original packaging

The Knook Beginner Set

From The Knook page:

• Learning to knit is easy with the Knook and our step-by-step instructions! Great for beginners!

• One tool—a new & unique specialized bamboo crochet hook—replaces the traditional needles!

• No more dropped stitches to chase after! Hook & cord keep them secure!

I have a confession to make: I can’t knit with needles. I am an expert loom knitter and advanced crocheter, but I have dexterity problems with my left hand and also just don’t seem to be able to get it when it comes to knitting with needles. Oh how I have tried, but I always make a huge mess. So I had very high hopes for the Knook. I purchased this set the moment it was available. (Then it sat in my studio for a while because I was scared of it.) Finally, I thought, I could make all of those cool knitted things I see all the time on Ravelry! I had been salivating at the list of things that had so far eluded my crafty grasp but The Knook was going to make it all possible for me.

The components of the Knook Beginner Set, out of the packaging

Getting a closer look at what comes in the kit

How wrong I was. The Knook turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, in my opinion. I’ll walk you through it.

The Beginner Set comes with three sizes of crochet hook and three silky cords that are all the same length. There is an Expanded Beginner Set with five hooks and five cords of varying lengths, plus cord clips. (I’m not sure what the clips are for, I am guessing it’s to stop your stitches from sliding off the end.) Both sets have an instruction manual. The hooks are well-made bamboo. The cords are a multi-ply “silk” cord such as is often used in jewelry projects.

Three crochet hooks with holes at the end plus three cords to use with them

The Knook’s system with one crochet hook and one cord does address several problems that I and other wannabe knitters face: The hook makes it easier to catch yarn when pulling through a stitch, it makes it nearly impossible to drop a stitch, you don’t have to remember to push the just-worked stitch off the needle (a big problem of mine), and ripping back within your current row is a breeze with no risk of dropping stitches.

It does actually live up to all of these promises. I think the system in many ways has some good potential. But the problems that were inherent with the current set up proved to be even more troublesome than the issues it solves.

Although there is an instruction book in the beginner sets, I chose to use the videos on The Knook site as my primary instruction. There are some patterns in the book but they are also available on the website. The instructions say to start with 10-stitch swatches but I thought it would make it easier for you to see if I did 20 stitches instead.

First you thread one of the silky cords through the hole at the end of the hook. This was fairly easy as the cords had been held in a flame to fuse the ends together. The instructions say to do that again if the ends get frayed.

The silky cords are easy to thread through the holes in the Knook

So much easier than threading a needle!

There is only one cast on described, where you make a crochet chain as you would with most crochet projects, then pick up knit stitches out of that. I found this part very easy. After you have finished picking up the row, you slide the live stitches onto the cord then turn the work to begin knitting. So far, so good.

Knitting the first row

Not so bad, at first

I actually found it easier to pull the working yarn through the live stitch with the aid of the hook. I think this will be the secret to The Knook system if it is ever perfected because I know I have struggled a lot with trying to keep a grip on the working yarn with just the pointy end of a needle while trying to pull that yarn through a  loop without the friction of the yarns touching making them want to stick together and just jump off my needle entirely.

But as you knit, instead of having another needle holding the stitches, you have the cord. Well yes, you expected that. But what you may not have expected is that the cord has a knack for getting in the way. You don’t pull the stitch off the cord when you have completed knitting it like you would with a needle. Instead you leave the cord in until you have completed the whole row. This is how you avoid dropping any stitches.

The cord wriggles about as you knit

Whether you try to knit above the cord or below, it still wriggles about on you

It’s not the end of the world, as you do pull the cord out once you have completed the row, this was just the first thing I found frustrating.

One thing I was disturbed to notice was lacking in all of the instructions was a very basic function of crochet hooks: in order to get even stitches and correct tension, you don’t just pull a loop through with the hook and let it sit in the crook/throat just at the hook, you have to slide it all the way to the fuller part of the hook. That’s the part that determines the size of the stitch. In crochet you get used to sliding the new stitch down before reaching in for another one but I found it a bit awkward with the knitting and I think all the sliding back and forth is part of why the cord was bunching up on me so much. But if you don’t do this, I don’t see how you can possibly get evenly sized loops or proper tension.

Once you’ve finished knitting your row, it’s time to count your stitches. This is always a good beginner step whether with knit or crochet, as it can be easy to miss a stitch or accidentally make too many because you forgot to drop an already knitted stitch off the needle and then forget and knit it again. The latter is less of a problem with The Knook but I did occasionally skip a stitch by accident and have to rip back to that point. (The ripping back was painless, by the way.) Counting the stitches also gives you a bit of a chance to make sure all of your loops are about the right size and to check for tension problems. However, you can really only do that part if you don’t have more stitches than will fit on the hook. Once the stitches move onto the cord their size can shift about a lot as the cord does not hold them to a fixed shape (same as a cable on a circular needle, to be fair). I guess more experienced knitters would be used to this, but as a newbie I found it a little concerning. 20 stitches was all that would fit on my hook with the yarn weight I was using.

A row of live stitches on the hook

The stitches line up neatly even if the cord is wibbly-wobbly

I was able to do the knit stitch fairly well for several rows when I was just going along in garter stitch. When the live stitches were on the cord they didn’t distort too much so I could rock along at a decent rate. Then I got brave enough to do the purl stitch. To be totally honest, the purl stitch with The Knook is easier than any other way I have tried to do it before. It’s sort of like crocheting back-to-front but once you get the hang of it it’s very easy. I could bust off a purl row in half the time of a knit one, especially when I started to see some of the real problems when working stockinette on The Knook.

When knitting back after a purl row, I found that the live stitches on the cord did NOT keep their shape so well. I don’t know if it was the way I was pulling the yarn through while purling or what the deal was, but the stitches were now tight against the cord. It became a fight almost every stitch to get my hook in there to knit it. (I admit I had already wanted to throw the whole thing at the wall due to frustration over the cord wobbling around on me, at this point I want to have a full-on temper tantrum. I restrained myself…barely. But my beloved spokesmodel and yarn-loving cat stayed well away from this project, so no kitty pictures this time. She knew Mama was in “a mood”!)

The live stitches shrink down to very small

I had to cajole, tug and generally fight to get that stitch on the left to open up enough for me to stick the hook in to knit that stitch. SO frustrating and time consuming!

Once again I should be fair. For all I know this happens with circular needles. Remember, I’ve never successfully purled on needles let alone knit back the next row. But this was really the last straw for me. If it does this on circs too I give up on the whole concept of needle knitting! (I doubt it happens with circs, as that’s the point of having a proper needle on the other end and not just a loose cable. The needle will keep the stitches a uniform size.)

If you already know anything about knitting, you may know that stockinette stitch likes to curl up. I found this another problem when my live stitches were being held on a cord. The whole thing wanted to curl downward so first I had to gently uncurl the fabric and only then could I fight with the stitches to knit them. (Again if this may happen with circular needles, although I suspect the needle part will hold it in place as it’s not on the cable at that point, I don’t know. It was far less of a problem than the shrinking stitches issue but just contributed to my general grumpiness.)

The live stitches curl downwards when on the cord when knitting in stockinette

The yellow cord is holding the live stitches. See how it's curled down below where I am trying to work at the top?

I was using a cheap acrylic yarn to test, which was splitting on me a bit. But it really didn’t help matters that the cord itself was easily split when I was in the phase of fighting with the shrinking stitches and curling fabric. If it was getting this bad on just a test swatch, I don’t know how long these cords would last in regular use. It could just be that I am unusually violent (maybe I should have thrown this at the wall to get out my frustrations first?) but splitting happens with multiple plies in all kinds of yarn craft, so I think I am probably not alone in this. I can see why they didn’t want to use something like a circular or extended Tunisian cable but I think some kind of single-play cord would be better, perhaps a faux leather?

The cord was splitting and fraying as I was working the project

I don't even have split ends this bad on my hair

Purl bind-off was a snap though. I’ve never had such an easy time binding off anything! I’m tempted to use this system even when loom knitting: just take my stitches off the loom and onto a cord and then zoooooom with the binding off. I’ll give it a think anyway :)

I did, eventually, persevere and finish my swatch. Ta-da! Garter stitch at the bottom, stockinette on the top. The edges are a little uneven at the bottom because I was an idiot and was doing something wrong on the very first stitch of each row but soon figured out my mistake. Also please ignore the little bump at the bottom, I didn’t really weave in the ends but just tucked them behind for the photo. That’s a me-being-lazy problem, not a flaw in how The Knook knits.

A swatch of white yarn with stockinette stitch on the top half and garter stitch on the bottom

Looks like regular knitting, I think!

So although The Knook does do things in an unorthodox way, the fabric it produces is regular knit fabric, just like if you had used needles. Here’s a close-up just in case you still doubt:

A close up of the stitches in my swatch

So let’s summarize the whole experience:

Pros:

  • I did actually complete a knitted swatch, something I have never done before except when loom knitting
  • I didn’t drop any stitches
  • When I failed to knit a stitch it was easy to rip back to that part of the row to pick it up
  • Casting on and Binding off were very easy
  • Would be a great way to combine crochet with knitting, if you can stand the knitting part. (Especially to combine with Tunisian crochet.)

Cons:

  • I was so frustrated I will never try this method of knitting again unless someone can provide solutions for all of the problems I outlined above
  • Not sure the cords will hold up to repeated wear
  • Only one cast one and one bind-off demonstrated

Now this doesn’t mean I will never pick up The Knook again. The hooks themselves are a great bamboo, excellent texture and held my yarn well. Just as crochet hooks they are fantastic. I also think that if I find some alternative for the cord it could be wonderful to have a Tunisian crochet system where I can have a cord any length I want. (I know there are interchangeable sets out there, and I do want to get a set sometime, but in the meantime this is cheaper and also has the option to have the cord any length I want, not just what the manufacturers offer.)

The Knook Beginner Set with three hooks and three cords is available at several big box craft stores, the Leisure Arts web page, and some online retailers (although beware of price, some were charging a lot more than the suggested retail) and sells for $9.95. The Expanded Beginner Set has five hooks, five cords of varying lengths, and cord clips. As far as I can find this is only available from LeisureArts.com and Amazon sells for $19.95. Both come with instructions and a few easy patterns included.

Who knows, you may have better luck. But personally I’d avoid this product. If you already needle knit, there’s really virtually no point to trying this product. (All of the knitters I have talked to that have tried it have despised it.) If you crochet and want to learn to knit, this might work for you but I personally think they have several bugs to work out of the product before I’d want to commit to using it. If, like me, you loom knit but want a little more flexibility with increasing and decreasing, again I don’t think this will really satisfy you. Go ahead and spring for an adjustable loom.

Disclosure: Leisure Arts did provide one hook and one cord to this website for review purposes, but I reviewed the complete package of the Beginner Set which I had purchased with my own funds.

[Both are available at Amazon along with some pattern books, if you want to add links.]

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3 Responses to “Craft Product Review: The Knook by Leisure Arts”

  1. Sada Says:

    Hi Jillian, I wanted to offer a couple of observations, comments, and explanations that will hopefully be helpful to you in your continued attempts at knitting with a crochet hook as well as to your readership so that they may have a fair review :)

    When you described your difficulty in making the stockinette stitch part of your swatch, I suspected that you had fallen victim to a very common beginning “Knooker” mistake, especially as someone with lots of crocheting experience. It’s a problem that I myself had when first using the kit, and I actually do knit with two needles, but somehow with the Knook in my hand, my “crochet brain” took over. Looking at the photo of your swatch up close confirmed it–you have twisted knit stitches. It’s most likely that you are performing the “yarnover” incorrectly on your knit rows, that’s one of the most common causes I’ve seen. And interestingly enough, it *works* for garter stitch. But when you add in the purl stitch, due to mechanics of stitch mount in knitting (it’s a little different from what you’re used to in crochet, since you are actually entering the stitch “from the side”, so what you do on the rows before and after affect how the final stitch is positioned in relation to the face of the fabric), things don’t get turned around the proper way and twisted knit stitches results. Take a look at your swatch and you should see how in the stockinette section, there are alternating rows of knit stitches with their “legs twisted” and stitches that look more like an upside “U”. They should all look like the upside “U”, that’s the real knit stitch. (As a loom knitter, you are perhaps familiar with the concept of twisted knit stitches, as the simplest way of looming (the “e”-wrap-and-knit-off) actually results in a twisted knit stitch and a real knit stitch is performed differently and is a bit more complicated.)

    Basically, like I said, the whole problem often springs from doing the knit stitch “yarnover” wrong–doing it “just like crochet”. You actually need to do what could better be described as a “yarnunder” from a crocheting perspective–do not wrap the yarn around the back of the hook, simply grab the yarn with the hook above it and pull it through the live stitch and onto the shaft of the hook. Doing it the other way causes problems on the next row because of the twisting of the yarn in the stitch, which limits the amount you can pull up from neighboring stitches as you make each new one, and that often causes a struggle of too-tight stitches that disappear into the previous row with a stranglehold around the cord. There have been lots of people with similar issues to yours come through the Yahoogroups knitting with a crochet hook group as well as the Ravelry Knooking group :) So looking in either of those places or searching Google should yield plenty of in-depth explanation and links to videos, blog posts, and more showing how the get the most out of The Knook and other similar sets.

    By the way, many people do prefer to use thinner, smoother cord instead of the thick satin rattail that comes with the Knook kit. I personally like plastic lacing (like you use to braid lanyards, etc), other people prefer a thin leather shoelace :)

    I’d suggest giving your Knook set another try, but take a close look at the directions in the book and look around for some clearer video/photos for closeups of what the stitches and especially how the yarnovers are done and how each stitch should be entered (another common problem), and I think you’ll be much more successful. I do have to admit, however, that it is faster for me to knit with two needles, and you may find that to be true as well if you can simply find the method that works best for you. For me, it was learning how to knit Continental instead of English…others do well with the hooked needle of Portuguese. I have encountered some people who *do* primarily use the crochet-hook-and-string tool, and some do amazing things with knitting looms and rakes. My person interest in The Knook is the way that it makes it so very easy to combine knitting and crochet in one piece. It’s also great for knitting lace or other patterns where a built-in “lifeline” for ripping back is handy :) I do hope you’ll give knitting (with any method) another go, and perhaps spend a little time studying the mechanics of knitting–it’s great fun when you find the right way for you to do it!

  2. Jenny Says:

    Sada- thank you for your in-depth comment! We at CTD approach craft products the way most “average consumers” do, and often encounter the same frustrations that most crafters would. It’s our policy to approach each product with “fresh eyes” and alert crafters/consumers as to what the advantages and pitfalls might be BEFORE they make the purchase. What Juliann’s review illuminates that the provided cording (rattail cord) and instructions do not necessarily set up the novice user for success.

    Your comments are helpful for those who have purchased the Knook and are looking to use it more successfully, and we thank you for that.-Jenny

  3. Caryn S Says:

    This was an interesting product review. But I don’t think this is a product I will ever buy. I already knit and crochet and even have a crocheknit hook which I used to make a baby blanket. This just seems like an alternate way to do the same thing, maybe good for those who just haven’t gotten the whole knitting thing down. But from your description this seems just as frustrating, if not more so. I think I do pretty well with my knitting needles and don’t see a use for making the same product in a different way. Thanks for the review though.

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