Catie was asking about tiny needles (quad zero in my case, but anything blow a one, in hers) and what materials and where to get them; she's having trouble with the slippery-ness of metal needles.
Unfortunately we're back to the issue that I originally brought up about a year ago, namely, what materials can take the stress of knitting, when less than a millimeter wide. (See here, here, and here if you're bored or curious.) Bottom line, once you get down below size zero/2mm needles, you need metal. Mostly steel or aluminum, and aluminum's skating the edge because it gets bendy when that small. (There is always platinum, titanium, and like that, which would work, but let's be realistic.) You can get bamboo needles down to size one, and I think birch too, but you will likely snap them in your hands, working the stitches. You put more stress on a knitting needle than you think, when you work on it.
So to work those tiny stitches, you'll probably just have to get used to the slippy-slidey because I don't know of any solution. You might try wetting the thread. That will increase the 'grab' of cotton, but it makes it a bear to work with. Still, to get through those first five or ten rounds of a doily, it would work.
Yesterday, I had occasion to go through my 'library' of old knitting magazines. I was looking for a pattern that later turned up on the hard drive of my computer (I knew it was somewhere), but I had occasion to flip through Vogue Knitting, Interweave, and Knitters' magazines going back to 1993. After a few flips, my brain kicked in and I thought to pay attention to what still looks good. Basically, to try and figure out what makes a pattern last. What, of those patterns from the nineties, would I still knit and wear today, and why?
After a few more magazines, it became obvious what worked: Classic cuts and shapes. A lot of us have the urge to go avant garde on the whole knitting deal, and it's fun for sure, but the patterns that last are those that are a slight tweak on a classic pattern.
Casual, semi-fitted pullovers of all kinds work forever. Some cuts can date a style, but you can't go wrong with the regular old 'sweatshirt' cut. Some are embellished with cables, some color, but if you avoid dated motifs, you can wear it forever.
There was a coat from '95 that I still love and wish I had the figure to wear. It would not have looked out of place in the Edwardian era: Wasp waist, peplum to the hips, long sleeves, shawl collar. There were some cables thrown in for interest and to make it 'different', but again, you could wear it until it fell apart.
It was also interesting that even back in '93, the patterns I was putting stars next to were done by people we still recognize: Shirley Paden, Nicky Epstein, Lily Chin, Vladmir Teroikhin, Sally Melville. The first magazine I opened was from '93. There was a fitted cable-knit cardigan in it that I'd marked (and would still consider knitting and wearing). I took a close look. "By Nicky Epstein." Not a coincidence.
Up until about eight years ago, super-bulky yarn was treated like super-bulky yarn. Meaning the designers used it for appropriate garments that you'd reasonably make with inch-thick fabric: car coats, jackets, an occasional outdoor pullover. Sometime around 2000, there was some kind of movement to make super-bulky hip and cool for some reason, and that's when the lunacy appears, with super-bulky lace dresses and the like. Lots of people learned to knit at the same time as the 'super-bulky is hip' movement started, and I suspect there's a relationship between those two facts. Which is odd, because super-bulky is in fact very difficult to work with, due to the thickness. Darning in ends becomes a real circus.
With super-bulky in mind, Wenlan Chia has done some interesting things with super-bulky cables. I wish she'd work in sport weight, or even worsted, because I bet she'd turn out some REALLY cool stuff. Right now she's hampered by the fact that only fashion models can wear inch-thick fabric and look good.
Anyway. Thoughts for the day.
And the day's issue. I got myself put on the designer's list for Twist Collective, and today they sent out their ideas/requirements/suggestions for the Fall '09 collection. I'm tempted to send in a proposal. Life here is insane and the idea of knitting a sweater in a month on deadline kind of makes my head spin. But that little voice in the back of my head (you know, the one that always gets me into trouble) says "If you wait until everything is perfect, you'll never do it."
So do I send a proposal or not? I've got about a month to come up with a design and a swatch. But if they want it, I've got six weeks to produce the sweater and pattern. Help? Is this true insanity, or the good kind of insanity where you push yourself to improve? Some days I can't tell the difference.