For today’s guest post, Hannah from Rain Mountain Crafts is back to share more of her knitting tips! In case you missed Part I, you can read it right here. Be sure to check out her blog to follow along with more of her knitting adventures!
Last week I shared a few pieces of advice for a new knitter. I had such a nice time thinking up the tips that I’m back with some more! I would love to hear what your own suggestions are for a new knitter, so be sure to leave a comment.
Quality vs Quantity
I remember when I went to my LYS to pick up yarn for my very first project. What a fun experience it was! So much yarn, so many colors, so many soft skeins to pet. As a newly-minted knitter, I didn’t really know what to expect. I hadn’t picked out a pattern, but had vague thoughts of scarf swirling around my head. Like most (but not all, of course) new knitters, I knew nothing about all the different types of fiber. I was also a college student with limited funds, so I blew right past the “pricier” skeins to the acrylic corner in the back of the store. To my delight, I found yarn that was affordable, soft and had an interesting marled look to it. I picked up several balls and went off to start my scarf.
It took me a little while in my knitting journey to discover and understand the differences in yarn quality. I distinctly remember purchasing my first skein of Madelinetosh and wondering what all the fuss was…and then, once I had knit with it, having the “oh!” moment of sudden insight. While I could get several balls of of Plymouth yarn for the same price of that one Madelintosh skein, the quality difference was so vast that knitting with it was like an initiation of some sort. It changed how I viewed my knitting — I knit for pleasure, for creating something beautiful, useful, and long-lasting, shouldn’t my material hold these same values?
There is nothing wrong with knitting and enjoying synthetic blends — we all have different preferences which provides us with a rich and varied community. For me, as a new knitter, “wool” was Merino. It wasn’t until perhaps a year ago that I began to learn about all the wonderful different breeds of sheep (and other fiber sources), and how the type of fiber that you choose affects your project. And, perhaps even more the greater, how the type of fiber that we collectively choose over and over again dominates and changes the market — our penchant for soft Merino shunts out some of the smaller breeds; our want for ‘cheaper’ yarn fuels bigger companies which unfortunately directly affects small farms, small businesses and indie spinners/dyers/etc. What I am trying to get at is that knitting has a long history that is coupled with animal husbandry, almost like a symbiotic relationship, and we take an active role through our choices in how the fiber industry changes, grows, and declines.
To me, and this is solely my thought and no one has to agree with me, fiber awareness is the separation or divide between a “good” knitter and an expert knitter. A good knitter can knit the sweater, the lace, whatever — but an expert knitter chooses the fiber that will best bring out the stitch definition, the fair isle, the texture, or whatever feature you want to compliment.
These are heady thoughts for the new knitter! Perhaps the next time you are standing in a shop (or even perusing an online shop, as I am so fond of), holding some yarn, just consider — where did this come from?
Trust Your Stitches
As a new knitter, I stuck religiously to the pattern. If I got lost in the directions, I would feel very anxious. I hadn’t yet learned to “read” my stitches. This made for some interesting looking rows in my first scarf — I set it down to go eat dinner, came back and started knitting the wrong direction, creating an impromptu short row.
I wish I had learned earlier to trust in my stitches. They can tell you where you are in your pattern, where you made the mistake, and even when your tension changed. I think it is highly beneficial to learn how to “read” the knitting — it will save time, headaches, and probably some swearing and angry crying once you’re lost in the row and have 350 sts on the needle to sort through…
The first step is to understand what stitches should look like. What does it look like when you purl, or knit? Or if you twist the stitch? What about if you increase or decrease? If your tension is too loose or tight? My advice is to get comfortable with how your stitches look, through an easy, repetitive project or with some swatches.
Ask (pt II)
Now that you are knitting along, working on all sorts of wonderful patterns, I bet you have the brilliant idea to knit something for everyone you care about. What a wonderful and kind thought you’ve had! However, it is so important that you ask first if the recipient would like the item you’d like to make. I know this sounds insane and implausible, but there are some people out there who just don’t want knit gifts.
Some knitters refer to this idea as being “knitworthy” — someone who is worthy of the beautiful knit you are giving them, who will love it and wear it and maybe even put a picture of it on Instagram because they’re so excited about it, and whom you will definitely knit for in the future because they’re so appreciative. People who are deemed “unknitworthy” don’t receive knit gifts.
It’s just a good idea in general to ask if someone would *actually* want that knit hat with the pompom that took you however many hours to make. Even if you think it’s the best hat they could ever have…ask. It will save you (and them) from a whole lot of hurt feelings or awkwardness when they don’t wear the hat, or the sweater, or whatever it is. While I have personally not experienced someone rejecting a knit (thankfully), I think it’s a good idea to learn from others and very important to keep in mind as a new knitter. You can read a horror story about a rejected knit gift here (it might make you feel crazy, as the responses to the story demonstrate!).
One exception to the rule — Mom. Moms by default have to accept everything we give them and love it. Don’t you remember making those glued macaroni crafts? Knit gifts are like a platinum upgrade compared to those. My mom dutifully accepted my first pair of socks, which were so long they looked like they were for an alien. I like to think that she still wears them.
Don’t Forget to Knit for Yourself (and wear it)
This is a trap I have fallen into over the years, even now. As a new knitter I was so excited to knit items and give them to people (who wanted them), that I started to only knit for others. Last year I think I made only three items for myself! It is important to Knit for Yourself. Wrap yourself in wool, or linen, or bamboo, or acrylic if that’s what does it for you. Demonstrate to yourself that you are allowed to wear the beautiful soft thing that took three months to knit. Sometimes I am afraid to wear something I knit, because I don’t want it to get inadvertently ruined. The good thing is that wool is pretty rugged. A gentle wash and a good block should set it straight again.
Last but not least — Your stash will take over your house (and your life and probably your credit card).
You might as well just accept it.
Are you a brand-new knitter? Have you been knitting for many years? How did you learn to knit? What have you learned over time?