Another day, much like yesterday, of feverish work on the top-secret project: two out of three swatches are done and cast off. I just need to weave in the ends. The last one is mostly done, but mid-afternoon my eyes refused to focus on the teeny-tiny needles and super-thin thread for one minute longer. I switched to slightly-thicker thread and needles for a break. Previously, I would have considered that quite fine work but my perspective has changed!
To give you an idea, the super-thin thread is on the bottom of the quarter, with the slightly-thicker thread in the middle (used on sample #3). The yarn for my black sweater (a worsted weight) is on the top.
And the needles I have been using, with a toothpick for perspective:
Size 4/0 (as in four zeros, or 0000—heading into the negatives!) needle on top is for the super-thin yarn. It was a relief to switch to the size 1 needles on the bottom for sample #3. They felt positively weighty in comparison, even though they are closer to the toothpick in dimension. I had previously considered them beyond small. If I switched to my size 15 knitting needles now my hands wouldn't know what to do with themselves.
My question is: how did those knitters 100+ years ago do it? Most of what they made was on needles similar in size, or even smaller, to the one on top. They are hard on your hands and even harder on your eyes. The mind boggles at the thought of knitting an entire pair of stockings on them—and this was when stockings went all the way up to your thighs!
Like anything else, it was probably just a matter of getting used to it. My eyes and hands will be grateful for a short break starting tomorrow, when I mail off the samples for approval.