Friday 27 October 2023

An (Almost) A to Z of Knitting Needle Brands

Back in 2014, the volunteers working on the Knitting & Crochet Guild collection had a week of concentrated work trying to sort out the hundreds (or thousands) of knitting needles that had been given to the collection but weren't at that point organised in any way.  We called it Hook and Needle Week, but in fact we didn't get beyond the straight, single-pointed needles until much later. The photo gives you an idea of the task we were faced with. 

During the week, one of the other volunteers decided to try to put together a set of needle brands for every letter from A to Z.  It wasn't quite possible, but almost.  This September, I gave a talk on the collection at the Guild Convention weekend, and showed an A to Z set of needles as part of the talk.  I have decided to similar needle alphabet here. 

A is for....  Actually, lots of needle brands, the most obvious being Aero - still the most common brand if you look at the knitting needles on sale in charity shops, although new Aero needles have not been on sale for many years. But here A is for a much rarer brand, Anlaby

Anlaby needles, size 4, 10 inch 

Although it is almost invisible, the needles have ANLABY REGD. 4  engraved or stamped into the plastic, and then filled with some sort of ink or paint that has almost worn off.  It is white on pink, anyway, so can't have been very obvious even when new.  Anlaby was a brand of knitting wool in the 1930s - I only know that because we have two Anlaby pattern leaflets (not in very good condition), one shown below.  

The company making Anlaby wools would not have made the needles themselves  - I imagine that they were commissioned from a knitting needle manufacturer, for sale in shops that sold the wool, as a way of promoting the brand. 

B is for Bonette - full marks for making the brand and size easily visible on the needle.   Bonette needles were advertised in 1957, though they may have been made much earlier.  They were made by a London company, and I think only made plastic needles - whereas the traditional needle manufacturers around Redditch were originally metal workers.  The name may have been intended to suggest that the needles were similar to bone (only better, presumably).  Bone was a common material for knitting needles and crochet hooks until the 1920s, when it was replaced by the early plastics. (See here for an account of how bone needles were made).  The cream colour of this pair may be intended to reinforce that, but Bonette needles were made in other colours too, though perhaps later, when bone needles were no longer made.  

Bonette needles, size 2, 12 inch 

Cronit was a brand of rayon for crochet and knitting (hence the name) in the 1940s and 50s.  Like the Anlaby needles, the Cronit needles would have been made for the Cronit company, to promote the brand. 

Cronit needles, size 8, 10 inch

These needles may have the brand name and size marked on the needles, but if so, the marking is completely invisible.  They are only identifiable because of the paper label. 

D is for Duralite.  The paper label reads Shrimpton's Duralite, so this was a brand name of Alfred Shrimpton & Son, a long-established needle manufacturing company in Redditch.  The needles are coated aluminium. 

Duralite needles, size 13, 10 inch

They have a flattened area towards the head, embossed with Duralite on one side and the size on the other.   There are Duralite crochet hooks in the collection, too, which are marked in the same way. 

I know nothing about Ezeenit needles.  We have a single needle in the collection, along with a very discoloured pair - the photo shows both ends of the single needle. It is rather soft plastic, which makes it very bendy, though in its favour, it is clearly marked.    

Ezeenit needle, size 9, 12 inch

Flora MacDonald
was a brand name of Abel Morrall Ltd., needle manufacturers in Redditch.  The name was originally used only for sewing needles, but then applied also to these unusual knitting needles.  

Flora MacDonald needles, size 7, 12 inch

The needle is only the stated size (7, i.e. 4.5 mm.) for a short length (about 4 inches) at the pointed end, the rest is much thinner.  Oddly, the narrow part of the needle is steel, while the thicker part (and the head) are some other (non-magnetic) metal.  Possibly it is an aluminium alloy, since knitting needle ads sometimes claimed that pure, uncoated aluminium could discolour knitting wool.  A size 7 needle entirely in steel would be heavy, as well as liable to rust, but I don't know why the Flora MacDonald needles were not made in the aluminium alloy throughout - as Stratnoid needles were, for instance.  It seems a bit of a gimmick - and I don't think that Flora MacDonald knitting needles were current for very long.  

The name Flora MacDonald name is stamped into the head of each needle. The thicker part of the needles is stamped with the size, and a registered design number, 703016, which dates it to 1924. 

Registered design no. 703016

The only pair of Golden Spinning Wheel needles in the Guild collection are a slightly translucent yellow (or gold) - I assume in reference to the name. 

Golden Spinning Wheel needles, size 5, 15 inch

I searched for "Golden Spinning Wheel" in the newspapers in FindMyPast,  and found a few ads for the shops of John Smith & Co. (Wools) Ltd. from the 1920s and later.  Further searching found this article on the company.  The main shop was evidently in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow, though later there were shops all over Scotland, and in England too.  The Sauchiehall shop had a golden spinning wheel as its shop sign.  The shops sold knitting wools, as well as ready-made clothing, and many other things as well.   I don't know for certain that these Golden Spinning Wheel needles were made for sale in the John Smith shops, but I think it's very likely. 

H is for Hella.  (You would think that it would be fairly easy to find knitting needles brands beginning with H, but this is the only pair in the Guild collection.) The needles are metal - not steel, so I guess an aluminium alloy.  I don't know anything else about them.   
Hella needles, size 10, 12 inch

I is for Ivoree.  (I guess now it would be spelt Ivori - equally annoying.)  We only have one Ivoree needle in the collection.  It is cream plastic,  presumably to imitate ivory, but it is not as smooth as ivory, or bone either.  

Ivoree needle, size 7, 12 inch

To represent J, I have chosen Jaeger needles.   

Jaeger needles, size 7

The Jaeger company started selling knitting wools in the 1930s, along with pattern booklets produced in association with Leach's, who published many needlecraft booklets at that time.  I wrote about one of the Jaeger pattern booklets in the collection here. The lettering on the needles dates them to the 1930s as well. 

K is for Kirven.  No idea about these. 

Kirven needles, size 8, 12 inch

Ladybird needles are white plastic, like several of the other plastic needles shown here.  We only have one pair of Ladybird needles, so I don't know if they were made in other colours too. 

Ladybird needles, size 5, 12 inch 

As well as the paper label, the needles themselves are marked, not very clearly.   

I searched (as usual) in the newspapers in FindMyPast, and found a couple of ads from 1935 mentioning Ladybird needles.  The ads were for Anchor Tricoton knitting & crochet cotton, but had a footnote in small print reading 'Always use Milward's "Ladybird" Knitting Pins and "Archerite" Crochet Hooks.'  

I think that our Ladybird knitting needles are the ones mentioned in the ads, though Milward's was one of the big needle manufacturers based in Redditch - making plastic needles would have been a significant departure for Milward's at that time. 

In the 1960s and later, there was a Ladybird brand of knitting wool associated with the Ladybird children's clothing made by the Pasold company, but I'm sure our needles are not from that time.  

I've just mentioned Milward's and we next have Milward Disc needles for the letter M.  

Milward Disc needles, size 14, 12 inch

These are grey coated aluminium needles, introduced in the late 1950s, and in production for many years.  A 1961 ad explained their advantages: 'Size recognition is easy and immediate, with the bold, clear, permanent numbers on "DISC" Knitting Pins. And with the plastic "KEEP", provided free with every pair, pairs of a size are kept together with no trouble at all.'  Milward Disc needles were produced in the same design for a long time, and were still current when metric sizes were introduced in the 1970s.  The larger sizes were made in plastic, also grey.  Milward Disc needles are still very common in charity shops.  

With M, we have finished the first half of the alphabet.  That's enough for one post - I'll finish the A-Z in the next.   


  1. now youve set me a mission to notice what brands i have in the ancient needles i bought at the jumble many years ago

    1. It can get quite addictive! You can also check Susan Webster's website "Webster's Knitting Needle Notions" - she has a very comprehensive list of knitting needle brands.

    2. Nice to read about Golden Spinning Wheel, as I'm currently knitting on an identical pair - they are very nice to use

    3. I had never heard of Golden Spinning Wheel needles until I came to write this post - it was fascinating researching the brand and finding out about the John Smith stores. It's a pity that for so many brands, you can't find out anything at all


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