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.
From The Knook page:
â€¢ Learning to knit is easy with the Knook and our step-by-step instructions! Great for beginners!
â€¢ One toolâ€”a new & unique specialized bamboo crochet hookâ€”replaces the traditional needles!
â€¢ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Â 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.
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.
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”!)
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.)
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?
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.
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:
So let’s summarize the whole experience:
- 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.)
- 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.]