Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Evolution of a Knitter

I'm the kind of person who dabbles. And when I dabble, I do something for just a little bit and get a little bit good at it, enough perhaps to realize a certain innate talent at whatever it is I'm doing, or to realize my obvious limitations. And there I stay. And that skill, whatever it is, does not get developed beyond the rudimentary level.

This is true for folk art painting, which I dabbled in and impressed my friends and family with for about three months several years back (it's all about having good brushes, people), doing crafts with beads, crochet, playing guitar (I got to the simple "accompany camp songs and praise choruses" level of mad guitar skills way back when I was about 12, and have improved very little since then), cooking etc. etc.

There are two things I have developed beyond "beginner" level, and those are sewing and kitting.

And the knitting took less time to develop and learn than the sewing. Two years ago I was at the "I've knitted a couple of wonky ill sized plain flat sweaters" level of knitting skill. So today I'm going to tell you the steps I took to get from there to here. (See post below to see what "here" is...I just made a lace knitted cardigan coat length sweater in a month...and you could too because it's not hard the way computer programming or calculus is just takes time and effort and a bit of practice and some nimble fingers.)

So, lets pretend you are at the "I knit scarves" stage of back and forth knitting business. Here's is your step by step guide to developing your knitting skills to the place where you can do pretty much anything with two needles and some wool.

Step One: You must know how to knit and pearl and be able to do this with a good even hand. This is where many beginning knitters stop their mad knitting skillz development. It's a great place to start but there is so much more, grasshopper, so much more! When you get to this point, develop your addiction by knitting some scarves to give as Christmas gifts to your friends. If you've been dating a man or woman for a year or so, a hand knitted scarf might be appropriate. Do NOT, however, knit him a sweater until the ring is on your finger, girl!

Step Two: Add a hat to the scarf. This will teach you how to use small circular needles or double pointeds to knit on the round. Knitting on the round is like knitting a giant spiral. In such a project you will learn how to do decreases. If you are knitting a beret, you will also learn to do increases. Good skills to have. At this level, you will be learning how to follow a knitting pattern if you do not know how to already. You will check out some knitting books from the library and read them, peruse the pictures, and get addicted to the idea of whipping out little knitted items of adorableness for yourself, friends and family members. I call this the "one skein wonder" stage of knitting.

Step Three: Now is the time to learn how to do a yarn over and knit two stitches together, how to pass a slipped stitch over and how to use a cable needle. Again, none of these new steps are hard, per se...they just take experimenting and some practice. When it comes time for baby shower gifts, you will be the envy of all your friends, when you gift someone with something unique and hand crafted.

Step Four: Become a yarn snob. By now you will have done enough knitting and read enough books and be addicgted to the craft sufficiently that you will leave the world of acrylic yarn far far behind. Only the best will do: Cottons, wools, silk blends. Explore your city for the cute locally owned knitting shops. Join Ravelry if you have not already. You are SO on your way!

Step Five: Plunge into knitting socks (if you have not done so already). You have the mad skillz for socks already if you can do all of the above, but you might not know it yet. Many people are very frightened of the heel. All the heel involves is knitting short rows, that is, knitting part of a row and then turning your work and knitting back in the other direction. You will be able to pick up stitches at this point as well. Youtube is a good resource with lots of knitting how to videos. Join a knitting group.

Step Six: Lace and Fair Isle. You have the skills, youe stitches are even. You've made many small projects. Some of these small projects might have lace in them, and you realize that knitting lace is not hard, it just takes an even hand and patience and lots of stitch markers. At this stage you can read a lace chart. You borrow books such as this one from the library.

Step Seven: You find yourself asking for more knitting books and large batches of wool for your birthday, or for Christmas. You are hopelessly addicted to knitting and carry your knitting bag or basket with you everywhere you go. Your outfits have evolved into eclectic accumulations various of multi-hued hand knitted items such as a beret, a scarf, fingerless gloves, a cardigan and hand made socks. You start wearing sandals in the winter time to display your homemade socks better. The only difference in your summertime wardrobe is that your hand knitted items are made of cotton instead of wool. You have a mad look in your eye. At this point of addiction you are no longer a safe driver, since you will automatically slam on your brakes and rubberneck if you drive by anyone on the street who is wearing hand knitted items. You find yourself distracted in Church by persons wearing sweaters and such that could be done by hand, as you are busy memorizing the pattern.

So there you have it. How to develop your mad mad knitting skillz in seven easy steps.


Matushka Anna said...

That was a HOOT! I have SO got to link to this!

Frankly, it also gives me the nudge that I need. I'm a crocheter and have that "mad look" you noted. I'm on the cusp of asking for yarn and such for birthdays. I'm already a yarn snob. I have never been able to get my stitches to keep from tightening into steel on the needles, but it will take work.

xallanthia said...

Hah, Alana you've come a long way since I left Louisville! And I used to say the same things: it's not that hard, just try it! And I do recognize myself in that list, though I have arrived at a Step 8: get depressed because you are unemployed and moved away from all your friends, stall out on a cross-stitch project, and knit nothing at all for a year... the urge is starting to come back though.

And Matushka, I have friends that when I taught them to knit, I would sit next to them saying constantly "relax, relax, it's too tight, relax," but they get there eventually if they keep at it. One thing I've found that helps is, after every row, grasp the needle with the stitches on it in one hand and pull down on the work gently but firmly with the other. The stitches will stretch a little and become slightly easier to work with, and I've also found that people tend to knit at a similar gauge to the work they're knitting into.

Monica said...

After reading Knitting Harlot by Stephanie PEarl-McFee, I see myself interested in moving from knitter to Knitter. I send my husband to the yarn shop for the kids to pick out my Christmas present this year and I just made my first hat.

My thing is, I need someone next to me, walking me throught it. I'm a social knitter.

Alana said...

Monica, find a knitting group. Your yarn shop might be able to hook you up.

Xallanthia, we here in Louisville sure do miss you. Can't imagine you not knitting or a year. Must have been a bad depression. You were on of my main teachers there for a bit. A person cannot be in the same room as you and not get better at knitting.