Paula Lalish, harpist

The Case of the Exploded Knitting Needle

It was just an ordinary day. It was, in fact, a flawlessly sunny, not-too-hot, not-too-cold First of August, 2004. My husband and I were returning home from a camping trip in the Olympic Mountains. As is often the case, he was driving; I was knitting.

Then, BANG.

A tremendous blast deafened us both. Bless my husband's long experience as a volunteer ambulance driver; he pulled us to the side of the road without mishap. We sat there shaking and asking each other, "What was it? What just happened?" It sounded exactly as though someone had stuck a rifle barrel in the window, and fired. But there was no visible damage: no shattered glass, no holes anywhere, no blood. Besides, we had been traveling at 50 MPH on an open road.

Then I glanced down at the knitting in my lap. One end of the circular needle I was using had blown open (see photo). My right pointer was beginning to swell, discolor, and throb. Whatever residue was inside the needle, or maybe just the blast of released air, had hit my finger with enough force to cause tissue trauma.

We were just a few hundred yards from the Sequim Costco. My husband drove there; I jumped out and bolted for the outdoor soft-drinks stand, crying, "I've been hurt! I need ice!" The kind lady gave me a generous baggie-full.

I wrapped a bandana and the ice around my finger, and though we gave ourselves a few minutes to calm down, we were unquestionably still shaken on the drive home. In fact, I went to bed immediately, and slept all afternoon.

When I awoke, my finger was stiff and swollen, and remained so for some days. Both of us experienced notably muffled hearing for several hours after the event.

No other long-term effects have been noted, except to the needle, which will never knit again.

I joined an on-line knitters' chat-room, to see if anyone else had heard of such a thing. No one had. As far as I know, my experience is unique. In fact, initially there was a great deal of skepticism, and suspicion that the image was photo-shopped and the whole thing a hoax.

But I did meet an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms) bomb expert in that chat-room, who volunteered to test the needle. I sent it to him, and he did a number of experiments, including X-rays, but was unable to draw any conclusions.

So he returned the needle to me. I still have it; it's unusable, of course; and the other end still sits there, so far intact, and I have no idea if it's going to decide to go ballistic one of these days.

If anyone reads this page and has a SENSIBLE theory on what happened, I would love to hear it!

PLEASE DO NOT waste my time with suggestions of:

  • Supersonic speed-knitting
  • Terrorists
  • Demonic possession

I've heard 'em a million times.

Exploding knitting needle
Photos by Reuben Lalish

Some observations:

  • This knitting needle is perhaps 10 or more years old.
  • The ends of this "circular knitting needle" are made of aluminum they are completely sealed (a factor that makes an explosion possible).
  • The needles are connected to each other by a hollow, flexible white plastic tube, which allows the material to slide between the needles.
  • There is some sort of dark residue, or corrosion, on the inside of the knitting needle (somewhat visible in the photos).
One (incomplete) theory is that the hollow aluminum needle had something sealed inside during manufacturing (would simple condensation do it? An oxidation process, over time, built up enough pressure (due to release of gases during oxidation, corrosion?) that couldn't be contained by the aluminum body.

















Needle has hollow plastic tube




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