The Weird Needles

Y'get it? Like the Weird Sisters, but knitting needles instead, cause there's 3 of 'em? Ah, you get it.

Lucille, Shanice, Bethany (and Tiny Tina)

Wow, I was not expecting to take to the idea of knitting as solidly as I have, but I think I'm hooked. I started out turning some old shirts into shirt yarn. From that I knitted my first square, being used as a slingshot-cozy just... because. But that didn't take much yarn, and chopsticks don't work well. I needed new needles. I started by rescuing some willow branches from a poor, scraggly scrub in the back alley. I picked the least-curved sections with the closest-to-the-same widths, and ended up with 3 approximately even needles. They would work wonderfully :D
From two branches, I was able to obtain two bark-covered needles, and one stripped needle (which also needed minor shaving down to match size). I also held onto a tiny piece for testing whittling/painting/etc. After that I carefully trimmed them to size and sliced any branch-segment bumps from the surface, making bands of green here and there.
The green worked out amazingly! I'm guessing that since I collected it cold and worked on it quickly before varnishing overtop I was capable of retaining the green colour just beneath the bark. Since the core of the branches is a softer, spongy material, I created steel cone tips from a recycled whiteboard surface, and used 12 gauge titanium rings as the yarn-stopper on the back. Before attaching those though, I had to get the needles as finished as possible.
The first needle I left with simple detail lines swirling around and over it. I added my signature, and a small heart which ties the set together. On the top segment (this one had two segments with one joint in the middle), I started with thinner lines, and moved to slightly wider ones for the bottom segment. It comes with a small patch where it had rubbed against another branch, and I was able to preserve the look nicely :)

The second needle had 3 segments, so I carved a little pseudo-question-mark and a heart in the top segment (symbolizing a love of the unknown), added 'ZEBETH' on an angle in the middle section, and curvy lines on the bottom segment (the titanium ring is technically sitting on a tiny fourth segment).
The one without bark I decided to challenge myself to whittle my business name into the side. Since it has no bark, I opted to carve deeper grooves in the wood, then add a pop of colour to the lines. I went with the nailpolish I was wearing at the time (Pink a Card), and filled in all of the hearts with Pink Elephant polish. I added curvy detail lines where I felt they were needed, and gave them all a sealing coat of varnish.
An overnight drying later, and I attached the metal pieces. I trimmed down some 12 gauge titanium rings to size, and coiled metal tips. I scored between the surfaces, and attached the tip with glue. The titanium rings were glued on as well, and clear topcoat was added in places I felt could either use a little extra protection (that drier branch-rubbed section), or that I wanted to fill in to make less of a 'dent'. And then added a splash of sparkley topcoat to the signatures, just 'cause :)
I quickly discovered that the metal tips being glued on wouldn't hold to the stresses at the very tips of the knitting needles, so changes were needed. I soldered 16 gauge stainless steel wire into the cones and drove them into the cores of the needles, JB Welding them in. No more weak, spongy section at the business end of these needles :)

I also found that spray varnish was unsuitable for this project, since despite seven layers being applied, it seemed as though the wood was still drying out somehow. As well, the tips began to break through to the bark after several hours of use. That was touched up with a marker, and since these seemed to have literally eaten the spray varnish (which on the plus side will give them a well-preserved interior), I gave them an additional seven layers of liquid varnish. They're now significantly smoother than before, and most of the grooves have filled in significantly.

I learned a fair amount while making this set. These came out amazing, but future ones will be further improved. Throughout the building of these, I've either been able to rule out things that didn't work, and have learned ways of improving the preservation of the wood. Collect it cold, work it quickly, preserve it well. The chlorophyll-green colour sealed inside of them means I must be getting things right somewhere :)

Total build time: approx. 12 hours - Dec. 2016

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(or back to whittlings)