Bitybean Child Carrier

There are lots of infant and toddler carriers out there to suit personal preferences. What makes this carrier special — and a big reason why it’s become our everyday go-to carrier for our 22 pound six-month old — is its unbelievably compact size and simplicity.

Unlike other carriers like the Ergobaby and Babybjorn, when not in use our Bitybean carrier can be stuffed into a sack barely larger than a soft drink can. This means it can be easily slipped into a small diaper/travel bag, or even in our stroller’s cup holder. It’s there when we need it, out of the way when we don’t.

Its fast to put on (either front or back facing), very lightweight and stays cool in warm weather. While I was initially concerned about the relative lack of padding or support, our little one is quite content in it for short errands and trips to the grocery store.

We still occasionally use the Ergobaby carrier we got at our baby shower, but the Bitybean sees much more daily use.

-- Rayan Parikh  

Bitybean UltraCompact Baby Carrier
$60

Available from Amazon



Dahon Speed D7 folding bicycle

Of all the ways to navigate cities, I find I get to know them best on a bicycle: not too slow, not too fast, just high up enough to observe, and quasi-meditatively conducive to thought. In the past three years, I’ve got around Los Angeles primarily by bike, not just as a means of running errands, but of meeting up with interviewees for my podcast (Notebook on Cities and Culture), discovering new elements of the city to write about, and of simply exploring. In that same span of time, I’ve also visited and tried my best to understand other cities around the world, from Osaka to Mexico City to London to Copenhagen to Seoul, and I always, without exception, understand them more fully with a bike handy.

Urban cycling does have its downside. The ever-present threat of bike theft, for example, never recedes from my mind. Still, even that downside has an upside: the afternoon I returned to the subway station where I’d parked my old Schwinn Traveler that morning to find it gone without a trace, I seized the opportunity to order a folding bike. The advantages had already mounted: not only could I take a folding bike on my regular trips to foreign cities, but I could more easily take one on the train and even into the coffee shops in which I usually spend hours at a stretch.

You can spend as little as $150 on a folding bike, or as much as… well, as much as you like, if you go custom-made, but prices for the high-profile British make Brompton get up toward $2,000. Having heard that Dahon offers “Brompton quality without the Brompton price tag,” I browsed their models and landed on the Dahon Speed D7, so named for its seven gears (or “speeds”), which seemed to have the durability I needed while only costing about $500. It also promised a fifteen-second folding/unfolding time which, even if quadrupled in reality, sounded pretty convenient to me.

A few months in, I’ve got my best personal folding/unfolding time down to about thirty seconds, and I doubt I’ll need it any faster. Ironically, I don’t fold the thing up quite so often as I though I might — part of me just likes to know that I could — though the bike’s generally small size does make the riding life a bit easier. When folded, the Speed D7 gets just small enough to wedge into the empty back seat of a compact automobile. I wouldn’t want to carry it folded very far, since it weighs about thirty pounds and takes a somewhat unwieldy shape — I get the sense that spending an extra thousand dollars shaves off a few pounds and jabby edges — but I don’t see the necessity arising often except at the airport.

The dedicated traveler will want to invest in a bike bag, without which you’ll have a hard time bringing one of these onto a plane. And even then things might get tricky; beware, to name one threat, the potential $100+ “sports equipment charge” with which certain airlines try to stick you. And wherever you ride it, beware also the Speed D7′s tendency to get its chain stuck in the gears when you shift too fast. (True, the bike comes with a sticker on its handlebar warning you not to do that, but I wouldn’t consider it a solution.)

I sometimes miss my old Traveler, a classic road bike, but I don’t miss its tendency to get flat tires. The thicker-wheeled Speed D7 has so far proven somewhat less vulnerable to the shards of glass strewn across the streets of Los Angeles, though its rear tire did once get taken out by a mere thorn. But it has demonstrated a reasonable hardiness overall, along with a reasonable compactness and, most of all, a reasonable price — a reasonability trifecta, you might say. And for those simultaneously addicted, like myself, to urban travel and urban cycling, nothing feels quite so enabling (in whichever sense of the word you please) as knowing you can, theoretically, get rolling as soon as you hit the ground. Pack light.

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Dahon Speed D7
$499

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Dahon



Finn Wallet

Carrying an iPhone or an iPod Touch around is always a delicate matter. There are many cases designed to offer protection as you transport these iDevices. We tend to keep them in our pockets or in purses. While cases do protect the sides for the most part, I want protection for the Gorilla Glass face. With this in mind, Waterfield Designs now has a wallet that will handle and protect these important iDevices. Waterfield Designs, based in San Francisco, has been making computer accessories for over twenty years and is continually coming up with innovative products.

The Size 27 Finn Wallet is a fine leather container that can comfortably hold your iDevice as well as credit cards and money. It has been set up in two side compartments, with the iPhone residing in the central section in between. The full-grain cowhide leather has a deer-tan finish that looks and feels great. To ensure that its contents don’t fall out, it zips and locks shut. Since the leather is naturally-tanned, each finish will be unique. This wallet is made in San Francisco not like many others companies that make products overseas. The quality of the wallet is the first thing I noticed. It just felt and looked expensive. The WaterField Designs Finn Wallet is a light cover that will serve to protect your iDevice from smudges, scratches and minor dings.

I like to keep my wallet in my back pocket. I put my iPod Touch in the wallet and I hardly noticed that it was there. The Finn Wallet is a bit longer than a conventional wallet but it is narrower. When filled with credit cards and the iPod, it was the same thickness as my old wallet. The zipper was also of superior quality, closing and opening easily and able to be locked when the top was placed flat. Because it only opens through two sides instead of three, nothing spills out.

The Finn Wallet comes in two sizes. The Size 25 is the conventional wallet size. Its two compartments can hold 20+ credit cards, and money can be kept in the central section. It measures 4.5″ x 2.8″ and weighs only 1.4 oz. It is the same length and thickness as my old wallet but a bit skinnier. I found it to be lighter and noticeably less bulky. I had to keep checking that it was still there. The size 27 is the one made to hold the iPhone/iPod Touch. It measures 5.1″ x 2.9″, weighs 1.7 oz and can hold up to 15 credit cards and money in addition to the phone. It is slightly longer than my wallet and as such I do notice that it is there, but all new wallets take some getting used to.

Not only are the Waterfield Designs wallets available in two sizes, but both come in a choice of six colors to match your taste. If you want some fairly inexpensive protection for your iDevice, but do not want to sacrifice bulk, the Finn Wallet is perfect. My new Finn Wallet has quickly replaced my older wallet. It is so light weight, and I can get to all my cards and money quickly.

-- Marcel Dufresne  

Finn Wallet
$39

Available from Waterfield Products



Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener

Any chef will tell you, a sharp knife is the most important tool in the kitchen. I have tried many different types of sharpening methods, from stones to steels, electric to manual. Stones are hard to use because you need to maintain a very consistent angle while using it, and other gimmicky sharpening tools are just not good enough to give you a good edge. And very, very few can sharpen a serrated blade. I won’t lie — I can’t use a manual sharpening stone to save my life.

My dad got me the Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener and I swear I’ve never seen its equal. It is approximately the size of an electric drill and uses sanding belts of three different grits: 80 for repairing blades, 220 for sharpening, and 6000 for putting on that smooth polish. The sanding belts are very easy to change and last long enough for you to sharpening everything in the house, from your scissors and kitchen knives to axe and lawnmower blades. The head of the tool swivels so you can use it free-hand to sharpen very large items, like shovels.

One of the best features is the guards that attach to the tool that keep the sharpening angle perfectly consistent. The first guard offers a 50° angle for large hunting and butchery knives, and a 40° angle for thinner knives. The second guard allows you to sharpen serrated blades and heavier outdoor blades.

Best of all, this sharpening system only costs around $70 and packs of 6 replacement belts cost around $9. They also offer packs of 2 diamond belts for around $26 for sharpening those pesky ceramic blades.

-- Joel Roush  

Work Sharp WSKTS Knife and Tool Sharpener
$69

Available from Amazon



 

What’s in my bag? – Eric McClellan

Eric McClellan spends his days working with talented people creating advertising for Ford as Executive Creative Director of Content and Brand Entertainment at Team Detroit. In his spare time he’s obsessively doodling in pursuit of the perfect Superman symbol, making to­do lists, and communicating with his 14 year old via Instagram and Snapchat. His blog, “Rough Ratio”, chronicling his life with his daughter and dog can be found at ericmcclellan.tumblr.com

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If you’re like me – and as a New Century Techno-­Narcissist like the rest of you, I’m assuming you are – the shoulder bag is more than a personal carry­on item – it’s a multi­functional makeshift pillow-­slash-­storage device and, at times, slash-­battering ram. My current bag of choice is a black canvas Jack Spade Messenger. I don’t particularly love it a lot but it was a thoughtful gift and has become a constant companion in my travels (Now that I think about it a lot of the things I carry around are some form of thoughtful gift and for that I am grateful). The thing I do like about this bag is that I can seemingly keep stuffing it’s 11 x 18 x 6 inches full of all the stuff I want to lug around (or at least all the stuff I want to arrange neatly and photograph for this post ; ) As you can see I travel around with a garden variety grid of laptops, chewing gum, notecards, notebooks, printed pages, pixeled screens, tools, eyewear, ID, and assorted health & beauty products. I like to think it’s the individual selections of the items that make it interesting and by “it” I mean “me” but that’s just the Techno­-Narcissist talking.

Disclaimer: Despite 20+ years as a professional art director, having access to state­-of-the-­art automated cameras (thx LV), and the constant critique of my image-­fluent kid I remain an ungifted amateur photographer. But I do arrange things neatly.

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Big(Ish) Computing
In the dark times before TSA Pre I slogged through life with a 17-inch MacBook Pro. I have since opted for the 64GB 11-inch MacBook Air. Its light weight and super thin profile more than make up for the small screen size and relatively scanty memory. I use it mostly for stuff that requires typing on a larger-than-thumbsize keyboard — work email, messages, Tweeting, Googling, a little bit of ‘shooping and shopping, updating my blog, etc, and it sits smartly atop my sturdy worktable (a mass-produced dining room table from CB2 which they claim to be made of wood recycled from The Darjeeling Limited. I have my doubts about its provenance although the same table is in Cam and Mitchell’s home in Modern Family). The Air is also perfectly sized and weighted for the wobbly, under-engineered trays found on most commercial jets. When not in use, I keep it snugged up inside an InCase 11-inch Neoprene Pro Sleeve. Also, I use the MagSafe charger WITH the AC extension cord as I find the AC adapter itself never stays plugged into the outlet. Never. In any outlet.

Disclaimer Two: In addition to being an amateur photographer I am also an amateur brand taxonomist so I might get lost in the bliss of naming things. Please bear with me (If there are any others out there similarly afflicted find me on Twitter @mctweet).

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Smaller Computing
It almost seems crazy to carry both an 11-inch MacBook Air AND a 128 GB iPad Mini in the same bag but they are different and distinct platforms that I use for different and distinct platform-critical things. Plus my golden Nike Free Powerlines look sick nasty as a lock screen image on the Retina display. One would think my 64GB iPhone 5s would be extraneous in the extreme but, to tell a family secret, I use it more than the Mini and Air combined. That’s where I keep my jams, y’all. Sharp-eyed fashionistas (is that still a thing?) will spot my kid’s Birkenstock Mocha Birkenbuck Arizona Sandals. Who knew? AND she wears them with socks! After my cool friends at Vice News made fun of me as I unspooled skeins of white cable in a meeting, I immediately acquired a Mophie Juice Pack Plus. P.S. They were right to laugh at me. The Anker Astro 6000mAh External Battery was another thoughtful gift. It effortlessly powers the Mini (btw another thoughtful gift) when I burn though its battery while over-admiring my collection of photos of my collection of sneakers.

Disclaimer Three: I have no idea what “Powerlines” means any more than I know what “6000mAh” means.

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The Reddy Kilowatt Collection
In addition to the flock of free-range charging outlet adapters (which apparently migrate regularly to my kid’s laundry hamper) I also carry a snarl of USB-to-USB and Lightning-to-USB cables for things such as the 500GB Seagate Backup Slim. This isn’t just an external backup for me – it’s an external hardrive for my Air, running iTunes and iPhoto and their ever-expanding libraries (I know, I know… Spotify). The Kingston DataTraveler 16GB USB Flash Drive makes the cut for it’s superminimalist approach to life alone. It’s close to being my favorite all-time great looking thing although nothing will dethrone my matched set of vintage Panasonic PanaPoint Electric Pencil Sharpeners (not for travel use). The small Tumi bag was also a gift from Delta I received in exchange for full fare first class ticket. Although it originally contained a sleep mask and footies I now use it for all the EMF-emitting things you see displayed here.

Disclaimer Four: The Anker Astro shows up again because I needed something that color, shape, and size for an optimal composition. Plus I do really like it.

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Eyewear And Earware
I hate my Apple In-Ear Headphones. Not only did I have to Google a how-to video just to rewind them into the triangular case but I can’t keep them in my f#¢king ears. Actually the video was kinda cool but the phones themselves? Ugh. No matter which size tip I use unless I sit completely still they tumble out of my ear. I realize they’re out-of-date and I could get a new pair but I’ve spent so much on earbuds over the years that frankly I’d rather complain. Speaking of polygons, check out that sleek Lindberg eyeglass case that protects my sleek Lindberg sunglasses. It’s unique right-triangle design has stood up to being sat on, stood upon, and crushed. It has the scars to prove it. Normally I’m an aviator type guy but the Electric Knoxville XL Polarized Sunglasses were an impulse purchase made under the influence of UVB rays. At first I felt like I just walked out of a 3-D movie in 1996 but now I like them. And then there are the Beats By Dr. Dre´ Studio Headphones. Unh. I was a Bose Quiet Comfort loyalist but this thoughtful gift dropped the bass in a way the elegant Bose just never could. Plus the built-in mic brings the noize.

Disclaimer Five: I’ve since changed from Lindberg to Mykita eyeglasses but kept the case. It’s just that good.

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Analog Things Mostly Made From From Logs
My very first job was at a stop sign factory. I got it because I could sorta draw (you’d be surprised how much drawing was required back then). Now I can write, too, so I’m really into paper and pencil, and, to a milder extent, pen and ink. My go-to pencil is the wood and graphite Palomino Blackwing 602. It lays down a sensuous, authoritative line that is easily modulated with just the slightest change in pressure (“Half the pressure, twice the speed” as it says on the barrel). The Palomino KUM Automatic Brake Long Point Two Step Pencil Sharpener sounds complicated but it’s not; it’s just two holes. The first hole is used to sharpen the wood, and the second is used to sharpen the lead. Plus it’s orange plastic. The red Sharpie Fine Point Marker is for marking done things off to-do lists with satisfying finality while the black Pentel RSVP Ballpoint Stick Pens are fine for doing crossword puzzles (#humblebrag). The Whitelines Wire Slim Squared Notebook isn’t just a great spiral-bound notebook, it’s a philosophical manifesto – namely that dark lines on paper distract. The perforated 6-inch x 11.625-inch sheets are light grey superimposed with a grid of white lines creating a clean, open space on which to scribble obsessive to-do lists and scrawl Superman symbols. The little East of India Office Clips are from Crate & Barrel (and, yes, another gift – my friends know me so well). The 3.75-inch x 5.5-inch Rhodia notebook contains all my passwords and appropriately sports Boing Boing’s always hard-working Jackhammer Jill. I also carry thank you cards because I find I have so much for which to be thankful. Currently, I love the Kinaloon “thx.” cards I got at Nora Modern in Detroit.

Disclaimer Six: I prefer the fat inky line of most Uniball pens but they don’t seem to be able to withstand pressurized cabins without leaking. Get on it Uniball.

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The Other “R”
I travel a lot. And despite all the gear I use to wrangle electricity sometimes I find my devices fully discharged or that I just need to Dis. Con. Nect. I hoard New York Times Crossword Puzzles and paperbacks for just those times. I try to limit the my crossword selection to Friday through Sunday editions with Saturday being the hardest while Sunday’s is just the longest. I have a theory that not only do the puzzles get progressively more difficult during the week but also more difficult throughout the year. Unfortunately I can’t test that hypothesis now that I do them out of order. I also believe that the more people who correctly complete any given puzzle make it easier for subsequent puzzlers to complete it so it all balances out. The book I’m reading now is Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler which guides the reader through David Wilson’s Museum of Jurassic Technolgy and the hoaxes and head fakes that gave birth to both science and art. The canson paper feather bookmark is a hand painted watercolor from one of the coolest musicians I know. Plus she’s my pen pal. I know what you’re thinking, “A pen pal in 2014? Shut up.”

Disclaimer Seven: To people who claim they can’t do crosswords, I say this: all puzzles want to be solved. The crossword puzzle makes this particularly apparent by printing helpful clues in English. A really difficult crossword would be a grid of white squares with no clues! Plus after you do the NYT puzzles for a while you realize the same answers show up again and again. ELON College? Really, Will Shortz?

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Gettin’ My Drink On
Maybe the single-most jaw slackening bit of technology I carry is the reusable and foldable VAPUR Element 1L Water Bottle. Emptied it’s just a flexible swatch of BPA-free plastic that clips to my bag. But fill it up with water and it’s a squeezable flask that stands stalwartly on its own bottom. Its deceptively simple form conceals a lot of future state plastics design and manufacturing. And I must admit it’s yet another gift that, like all the best gifts, just keeps on giving. The two little boxes of Revolution Golden Chamomile Tea is caffiene — free but not a particular recommendation — it’s just what they were serving at the last hotel I stayed in so I grabbed a couple. I’ prefer green tea myself although I do like PG Tips builders tea.

Disclaimer Eight: While tea is easy to travel with I’m really a coffee guy and have my eye on the travel-friendly, Cory Doctrow-recommended Aerobie Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker.

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Spoiler Alert: TMI
These last few items are, to me, essential for the traveler who gives more than a passing care to personal grooming. Let’s start with the biggie: Preparation H Totables Wipes. I spend a lot of time on the road headed towards strange locations and not all of them come equipped with toilet paper (have you ever been to the San Bernardino Airport?). As an Eagle Scout I’m trained to be prepared for this because hygiene. A mini squeeze bottle of a hand sanitizer and a travel pack of Kleenex tissues (no aloe, no lotion, thank you) help deflect and denature the sneezes, spills, squirts and eruptions one encounters in the great wet world. I indulge another mild obsession by cleaning and caring for the sneakers I travel with with Jason Markk Quick Wipes. This shoeshine-in-a-pouch keeps my kicks clean whenever I’m away from home base. Each wipe is suffused with what I believe to be a magical potion – one side is pebbled to gently scrub while the other is smooth enough to wipe away the filth. The 24-count bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol contains a few Tylenol along with some pharmaceutical grade zinc capsules which I believe boost my auto-immune system. The tub of Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 is, in my experience, the most effective lip moisturizer and protector in the world. Orbitz Wintermint Chewing Gum is always a welcome breath-freshener after hours of recycled and pressurized shared air. I like the Bubblemint flavor, too. The Hy-Ko Cable Lock Key Ring is something I discovered after losing my ex’s pricey gold keyring and while it does as good a job as expensive imitations it’s here primarily because the orange tab on the key for my Kensington Microsaver Twin Notebook Lock accurately quoted the the color and shape of orange field behind the Kleenex logo. What can I say? I’m an art director who had some time on his hands to arrange things neatly.

Disclaimer Nine: While I was getting the exact name of the Kiehl’s lip balm I discovered it contains pertrolatum AKA petroleum jelly, an ingredient which I had previously convinced myself it didn’t contain. I’m now in the market for a new (and verifiably petroleum-free) lip balm. Thank Glob for obsessive brand taxonomy.

 

[Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $100 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service like Bitcasa to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. See all of our What's in my Bag? posts. -- Mark Frauenfelder]



Wire Rake Poop Scooper for Grass

The dreaded poop-scooping chore. I’ve been using a variety of tools for this job over the years but nothing holds a candle to the Wire Rake Scooper (designed specifically for Grass) on Amazon. I’ve had it for about six months now and have to say that it is the best tool out there. The scooper is great for all types of poop in all types of climates. It is easy to slide underneath your dog’s poo – even if it has lost its form due to the elements or your dog’s illness. It’s easy to use and super easy to clean (much easier than the claw-shaped tools designed to do the same thing). Also – you can’t beat the price.

-- Jodi Robinson  

Wire Rake Scooper for Grass
$9

Available from Amazon



Avalanche Roof Snow Rake

I’ve used the Avalanche Snow Rake for the past three Duluth, Minnesota winters and it’s the best snow removal tool I’ve ever used. Old school roof rakes were clumsy, hard to use and damaged shingles. Climbing around on a snow covered roof is no treat either. The Avalanche Snow Rake makes quick work of snow removal with a fraction of the effort. The snow slides off the roof with ease, even on roofs with a relatively shallow pitch. By far one of the best investments I’ve ever made!

-- Ivan Hohnstadt  

Original Roof Snow Removal System AVA500
$163

Available from Amazon



Nuance Wine Finer

This is my girlfriend’s cool tool — not sure how long she’s had it but I’ve been using hers for a couple months. It’s a multipurpose wine tool. It fits snugly down inside the neck of a wine bottle (never had it pop out), allowing you to pour without drips. At the same time, it’s aerating and filtering the wine. It also comes with a stopper for when you’re finished pouring.

We did a taste test with friends at Thanksgiving. Uncorked a bottle of red, poured a glass, then put the wine finer in and poured a glass. The difference in taste was amazing. I’m sure there are people out there who have the patience and forethought to uncork and decant their reds ahead of time, but I’m not one of them.

I love that this thing fits down inside the neck of the bottle and then acts as a stopper – not some separate aerating device that you have to go get each time you want to pour a glass. And since it’s acting as the stopper, you don’t have to deal with cleaning it until you’re finished with the bottle.

-- Mary Lindsey  

Nuance Wine Finer with Flat Top
$21

Available from Amazon



Index Knobber, Backnobber, and Jacknobber

I’ve been using products from Pressure Positive for about 20 years. They are great for self massage. I especially enjoy the Index Knobber, the Backnobber, and Jacknobber.

indexThe Original Index Knobber lets you apply deep pressure to muscles, and tendons, without stress to the fingers or hands.

The Orignal Backnobber (photo above) is solid chrome molly steel rod with wooden balls on each end, and can be used to apply deep pressure to the back muscles, using your arms (or even the knees, if you’re limber enough).

jackThe Original Jacknobber, along with a hard solid rubber ball (lacrosse), can be used to get deep tissue in the pelvis / hip, by resting it on while laying on the floor. Lacrosse balls can also be used for the back, by rolling around on it, very slowly. Cheap and effective.

It can really hurt to do this, if you’ve got trigger points, but over a month or two, the pain diminishes during the massage, and between massages, so it’s well worth it for chronic muscle / tendon pain.

I’ve been doing self-massage most of my life, and these 3 tools are “best in class,” IMHO.

None of these has ever broken, and 15 years after I purchased it, I asked the owner if I could buy the small wooden balls to replace the larger one on my Backknobber, and he sent them for no charge. Nice people to do business with. I have no business relationship with them, other than as a long term very happy customer.

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-- Michael Rostagno-Lasky  



Addi Turbo Knitting Needles

I’ve been knitting for almost 50 years. Addi Turbo knitting needles are the best: smooth, sleek and well-made.They are made in Germany. I can’t buy them often, but when I need a new size for something, I am willing to pay their premium price. Quality and a size range that can’t be beat. Mostly they make (and I use) circular needles, but they also make 3″ glove needles that I have used for making tiny little finger puppets. No one else makes needles as short (that I know of).

-- Bonnie Phillips  

Addi Turbo Knitting Needles
Prices vary depending on size and type

Available from Amazon