16 December 2009

The post about knitting


First of all...these booties. Couldn't you just die? I can't wait to wrap them up and send them off to my sweet expectant friend. The pattern is Saartje's Bootees which can be download it for free on Ravelry! These are easily knit in an evening or two (though the pattern may not be for a brand new beginner). They are just so dang tiny that I can't stop myself from cooing over them every time I look at them.

And now...on to my wise and mostly unsolicited advice on knitting. I've been knitting every Winter for the last five years with a few Springs and Summers thrown in between. Clearly, I am an expert.

I credit N8tr0n for the fact that I knit. We were newlyweds living in Bellingham, WA where we were both going to school. I had just finished my first quarter of graduate school and was trying to "decompress" with very little success. The evening of my last final (I kid you not, I couldn't even relax the first evening of my break) I was pacing around the house. N8tr0n was playing video games and I was whining about how I didn't have anything like video games to quiet my
mind. All of my scrapbook stuff was packed away as we had no room for it in our little tiny apartment. I didn't own a sewing machine yet. It was raining outside. "I just need something to do with my hands" I sighed over, and over, and over. N8tr0n, already being an attentive husband in tune with his wife's needs (and entirely done with the whining thing) decided to get me an early Christmas present.

He came home one afternoon with this book,

a skein of kitchen cotton, and a pair of bamboo size 8 needles. I ran out and bought this book,

because my sister-in-law had recommended it, and I was set. I practically read Stitch n' Bitch from cover to cover and I made three dishtowels over the course of my break. N8tr0n teased me about all the work that went into those dishtowels saying, "Man, I can't wait to run that thing over a greasy pot...." but you know what?...we did. We used the heck out of those dishtowels and I still have two of them in my drawer right now. I didn't mind at all that the product of my work was going to be used for a dirty job. The memory of my early knitting days sometimes make the task of washing dishes a little more pleasant.

I often recommend that people try something like dishtowels when they're learning how to knit. The reason being that it is a great way to learn new techniques without committing to a huge project or even a monotonous project like a scarf. Making dishtowels I quickly learned how to knit and purl, and then I realized that every other "advanced stitch" after that was basically a variation of those two stitches. Now of course, dishtowels aren't very cute. They aren't warm and snugly. And they're not tiny and destined to be on a baby's feet. But if you're looking to learn and establish a good technique before you start cranking out gifts, I think they're worth a try.

Okay, that's enough of the dishtowel soapbox (I really like the words dishtowel and soapbox together but can't think of anything else to say about it), how about a bulleted list?

:: I love Stitch n' Bitch. I think it is a fabulous book for both learning and reference. I keep my copy out on my bookshelf at all times.

:: Start with good yarn. Something that isn't to bulky, nubby, or novelty. You want to be able to see the stitches and learn the "anatomy" of a stitch. Don't buy the cheapest acrylic yarn that Michael's sells either. Yarn that feels good in your hands will reinforce your desire to keep going when you get frustrated. It doesn't necessarily have to be baby alpaca, but it doesn't have to be squeaky synthetic either.

:: Most books will give instructions for right-handed, or English method knitting, and left-handed, or Continental method knitting. I would recommend you learn the Continental style. This advice came from my friend Sirrku who I have deemed a Finnish knitting goddess. She owns her own yarn shop in Washington and she actually IS andexpert knitter. She explained to me once that the Continental method was faster and easier on your joints, and probably some other really important thing. Basically all she needed to say was "knit Continental" and I would have said "okay." Already learned the English method? Have no fear! I learned the English method too but re-taught myself when Sirrku told me too. It isn't too late to change.

:: Find a knitting buddy. Grandmas are great for this. Books are great and all, but there is rarely any substitute for in-person guidance.

:: Join Ravelry. It's basically like Goodreads for knitting. I could write an entire post on Ravelry but instead, I'm asking you to trust me. Get on there. Oh, and let me know when you do, so we can be friends!

:: Knitty and Petite Purls are both great websites for free patterns.

:: Finally, Be persistent. Just like everything else, knitting is one of those things that is hard in the beginning, and gets easier with time. When I first started, it was NOT very relaxing. It was NOT very therapeutic. But now, it is my go-t0 craft if I need an escape. And still there are things I knit that throw me for a loop. For example, this hat:


Even after knitting this very same hat on two previous occasions, I could not catch a break with this one. I knit it and ripped it out three times before I was satisfied with the end result. And I mean satisfied...not happy. Fortunately the model is dang cute.

What about you? I would love to hear any advice that you knitters out there have. I always love to hear from you fiber folks.

Good luck and happy knitting!



michelle said...

oh my gosh, those booties are adorable! So tiny.

I actually love knitting dish cloths. It was my first project and I've made lots. It's a fun way to try new stitches without a big commitment. Plus, I love cotton yarn. And I love wiping up with those cloths!

I looooove Ravelry.

Gail said...

Sigh***** OK, you have convinced me. I'll give it another try - but I expect some very patient coaching from you and Laurel :)

Serin said...

My advice? Have a sister that is a knitting queen. ;)

hannah said...

oh, my. no advise from the novice here, but I appreciate yours!!

Lovely booties. So sweet!!

paws said...

I highly recommend knitting a hat in the round for your first project. If you are a true beginner, have someone cast on and join for you, then all you have to do is knit, knit, knit without turning or anything fancy. The point is to get used to holding the needles and yarn and, quite literally, knitting.

Beautiful booties!

Miranda said...

oh my gosh that is a great recommendation paws! I love that advice.

Laurel said...

Dude, not only are the booties gorgeous, the photo of the booties is gorgeous.

Here's my tip: If you're trying something new and you're a visual learner (like me), and you don't have a knitting buddy on hand, try looking up videos on the internet of the technique. Seeing where the yarn goes and being able to rewind (and rewind and rewind and rewind) until you get it is pretty helpful.

Also, I lent my copy of S&B to a friend and haven't seen it for years. I think I'm going to buy it again, as she's lost it, and I love it so so much.

Emmylou said...

I love those booties so much and have been looking for some for Mariah. Let's be real that there are no shoes that will stay on a babies foot. I would love to put my order in and buy some from you. I love them. They would go under your label of: I want that!

DW said...

Great advice, Miranda! Couldn't have said it better, myself.

karisa said...

I'd love to learn, but realize that no matter how much I say it, nothing it going to happen until I pick up some yarn and needles. I might have to commission you to make a pair of booties for an upcoming blessing. What do you think?

paws said...

Can't take credit for that advice. It's how my knitting idol, Susan B. Anderson (.blogspot.com) teaches people how to knit.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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