Embarking on knitting adventures

This blog posting comes to you from chilly Edmonton, where I am here this week with family for my grandfather’s memorial and assorted sorting and family time. I’m snatching bits of internet time when I can, though, and am hoping to tell you about at least one new pattern release this week! In the mean time, the knitting continues, and over the past couple of weeks as the weather has turned, despite keeping busy with knitting I find myself craving it even more and more. There is no end to the number of projects I want to start, and I keep thinking of more ideas I want to work on. I’ve also been hitting the bookshelves, looking for new things to read. Sometimes I feel like I need to go back for a creative top-up, a refresher of words as well as yarn. You know?

Nov8-KnittingandReading

Writing this blog has been a great pleasure of mine these last five years (OH EM GEE, has it really been that long?) and I have no plans to quit blogging any time soon. Although I’m not able to respond to as many comments as I might like, I can reassure you that I read all of them – short ones, long ones, confused ones, excited ones. I love knitting, and I love taking on new knitting challenges. Being a part of the knitting blogosphere has broadened my impressions of what it is like to be a 21st Century knitter, of any level, and I often hear from knitters who are just starting their adventures in the crazy world of knitting.

I also sometimes hear from knitters who are relatively new to the craft who also find themselves a bit intimidated by all the choices and works that are already out there, and think something along the lines of “holy schlamoley I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that.” And if you’ve spent more than a little bit of time with me or my blog, you’ll know that the answer in my head is, “of course you can.” Even if you can’t do that thing very well right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. No one’s on a time clock here, and you can try new skills as frequently or infrequently as you like.

If you’ve happened by this blog and you’re someone who thinks of themselves as a new or beginning knitter, I want to first congratulate you on taking up this craft and sticking with it, and also to humbly offer a few encouraging words. I love knitting and I want desperately for others to love it as much as I do. I wanted to take a post to write down a few notes based on my experiences as well as on my hopes for new knitters – and hope that you’ll continue to have all kinds of fantastic knitting adventures ahead!

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1. First, I hope you’re really excited. There’s so much to see and do in the world of knitting that it can sometimes feel intimidating, as though what you feel capable of doing is at best vastly outnumbered by what you haven’t tried yet. But the fantastic thing about knitting is that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter when and where you try all of these things. No one is going to look for your Knitting 101 completion certificate before allowing you to purchase a book on colour-work knitting. (But if they do, you can tell them from me to go and take a freaking flying leap and have a glass of wine.) If you’ve decided to make a laceweight shawl your 2nd project ever, no one is going to teleport into your house and rip it out of your hands and tell you you’re not “ready” for that yet.

2. Allow yourself to experience frustration. It’s a rare knitter – of any level of experience – who does not encounter any moments of frustration at all, when it comes to knitting. All of us have, at some time, been screwed over by gauge, been stressed out beyond belief over why we can’t seem to read pattern instructions properly when the rest of the world seems to have no trouble at all, been scared to try a new technique because it “seems hard,” or any number of other challenges that knitting presents us. This is all fine. It may not seem fine in the moment we are experiencing the frustration, but it is. These are war stories that you get to go off and tell the next time you’re at a knitting group or meeting a fellow knitter for coffee, and they are going to leave you a better knitter on the other side of it.

I could tell you about the first time I worked nupps, on a laceweight shawl. The first row involving nupps took me about an hour, and by the end of it I was seriously considering ripping it all out, or possibly giving it to the birds because maybe laceweight silk makes a nice nest and seriously, it would be more fun. But then I had a pause, and on the next row involving nupps, they got easier. We’ve all got some of these. (In fact, if you’ve got a favourite, I heartily endorse including one in the comments.)

3. Try new things. Every so often, let yourself be taken in by a new skein of yarn, or a new kind of needle, or a technique you haven’t tried before. You really can never tell what you will take a fancy to until you try it. When I first started knitting socks I learned on double-pointed needles (DPNs), and was religious about it. I have the DPN collection to prove it – my favourite length is 7″, so that I can work comfortably with a set of 4 – and you could have talked all you wanted about Magic Loop but no siree, I was sticking with DPNs. Then, one week, I tried Magic Loop. Now I knit all my mitts and gloves and half my socks with Magic Loop. The DPNs are still there, and I still go back to them every so often. Nobody made me throw them away when I took up with Magic Loop, and I get to choose which ones I use when.

My point here isn’t to tell you that you too should use Magic Loop as a method of working in the round on small circumferences. I don’t think everyone should do a particular thing any more than I think everyone should eat the same food every day all the time. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think you should try it at least once before making up your mind about it. Which leads me to…

4. Every so often, go crazy. Cast on for a project that seems way too hard. Buy yarn that seems way too fancy for you. Go along with your friends and join in for a knitalong for a project that you never would have chosen for yourself. Walk into a yarn shop you’ve never been to before. Sign up for a class just for the hell of it. Flip through a book of patterns and choose the one that’s the most ambitious of the bunch. Maybe you’ll finish it in two days, maybe you’ll learn something that will blow your mind…maybe you’ll put it down and go back to the other project you already started. Maybe it will make the other project you thought was crazy before, seem less crazy by comparison.

As knitters, we have the luxury of being able to take little risks like this all the time, and still maintain our allegiance to our craft in a way that lets us control what we do and when. It’s hard to say that about a job, for example, or even some other hobbies. Every so often, let your knitting world go a little bit off kilter, and see what happens.

5. Finally, knit what you want to knit. I say this in all sincerity and with no allusions to any particular perception of skill or worthiness. If it brings you pleasure to knit something, or if there’s something you’ve been really wanting to make but have been holding off…just knit it. Even if you encounter challenge along the way, it will be worth it because your love of the thing itself will help you to finish it. If you really really love dishcloths and you can’t get enough of them and you feel called to knit them in every colour, for every person you know, and you feel comfort in seeing the little stacks of coloured cotton squares stack up in front of you, for goodness’ sake knit those dishcloths. Eventually you may well come to the end of your dishcloth jag and pick up something else, or you may not. Either way, your dishes and everyone else’s in the neighbourhood will have the best knitting ever.

Or, if what you really really want to knit is an Aran sweater with cables all across it, in bright magenta wool because magenta is your favourite and you really don’t understand what this business of knitting Arans in boring neutral pale shades of cream and beige is all about, you go right ahead and knit yourself a magenta Aran sweater. Actually, I would really love to see that sweater. Please tell me about it when you knit it, because maybe I want to knit that sweater too. Or maybe there’s another knitter in your circle who has secretly been wanting to knit herself a cabled Aran sweater in bright chartreuse green, but she didn’t think she had permission to do that until she saw that you were doing a magenta one, and seeing yours made her say screw it, I’m doing one too.

If it brings you pleasure to knit it, then knit it. Everyone else can do as they please.

Keep well this week, and I’ll catch you next time with more knitting in hand!

[ETA: Because you asked, and because it was terrible of me to tease you! - the pictures I snapped for this post include my new Gateway scarf pattern - which I am going to be sure to do a proper blog post about soon! - and the two ready-and-waiting wound skeins up at the  top are Lorna's Laces Shepherd worsted in Raspberry, and Neighbourhood Fiber Co. superwash worsted in a lovely purple/pink mix whose colourway name I can't remember.

More soon! Family to-do-ings are keeping me busy this week. ]

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42 Comments

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42 responses to “Embarking on knitting adventures

  1. Serenova

    I must admit that I’ve been seriously knitting since this past spring (I’m even writing a blog about it!) And only last night did I cast on for my first ever sweater, in the round, with front and back cabling. I’m still not sure i was quite ready for it but the 4 inches of 2×2 ribbing you start with is giving me confidence (I’ll see if it’s false as time goes on).

    When I started again (after learning YEARS ago) I did a scarf that had been left on needles all those years, then jumped right to a hat, then right to socks, and now I’m onto serious cables and a color-work hat, but until now I’d just been too nervous about the sweater but last night something just felt right and I went for it. I’ll see how blue cotton worsted yarn is working in a few days, but I’m hopeful.

  2. Great post and I agree with all you said! I spent a year only knitting scarves when I started because it was soothing (garter stitch scarves)before I finally branched out a bit. Then I spent at least a year saying I could never do cables before taking the plunge and finding out how easy they are. Same with socks. There is definitely a pattern here and I’m finally at the point that I know I can knit anything I want if I really, really want to, because I can always find help. Or not. But either way, it’s my choice and I love that. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I’m starting a beginners knitting course tonight and this is almost everything that I planned on opening with. I want to refer everyone to this now!

  4. This is honestly one of the most reassuring posts I’ve read in a long time and I want everyone to read it. I recommend adding this to your list of “greatest hits” posts. You’re so reassuring about knitting.

  5. I’ve recently entered into designing knits. I’m working on a collection and I’ve had people tell me that I ought to have “easy” knits along with the hard ones. That is so subjective though. Someone who finds mitten thumbs easy might be scared of turning a sock heel.
    I’ve always figured that if you want it bad enough, you’ll figure it out. Or in the least, you won’t know how good you are until you try. My very first lace shawl was the Shipwreck Shawl from knitty. I didn’t even know how to yarn over properly when I started. (I was doing a yo, k1) The project ended up being hurled across the room. But the next day I figured it out.
    I think all your advice is completely true. For all the new knitters out there, just go for it! The worst that can happen is that you’ll have to rip your knitting out.

  6. Great post! I especially resonate with the “knit what you want.” I knit a beautiful shawl in eucalyptus green because I felt like I wanted to expand my color horizons. Do you know what happened? I spent hours and hours and hours on a beautiful shawl that I will never wear because I don’t like the color. I love gray, and I embrace it!

  7. Thea Jacobs

    Love the advice to knit what you want. I really, really want to knit that beautiful golden brown pice in the pic between your computer and Rio(?) bag. What is it?

  8. nasen

    I really like this post. It resonates with me and I suspect with all people who love knitting.
    Just this weekend I had to rip out a project three times as I couldn’t make the short rows work. I finally went to the internet and found some alternate ways to do short rows, tried that on the project and it worked! No more holes!
    I went from being really annoyed and frustrated to being proud of my resourcefulness.
    I also tried using two circulars for the first time. It’s a great feeling to expand your skill set.
    Next thing will likely be more experiments in colour. Wahoo!

  9. AMEN!! I just taught one of my co-workers to knit and then read your blog. She was so excited to knit her baby girl a scarf she teared up!! Such an amazing thing to feel accomplished in knitting even with the most basic stitch!! :) I agree, knit what makes you feel good and what you love!! Power to the knitting people! LOL :)

  10. Jen

    I enjoy reading your blog very much – but my son requested a beige aran sweater recently and I’m relieved he doesn’t want magenta ;-)
    After years of me just trying things my knit club now thinks I’m an expert knitter. Yet I have never used stitch markers before, and someone had to explain them to me recently. You slip them every row? (aha, that does sound useful..)

  11. I totally agree with your whole amazing post!
    One of my favorite things about knitting is that I really can do anything I want, and choose any project I want, based on how much it appeals to me. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t attempted some of the methods needed to complete the pattern for, because I can learn. And you can find instructions for basically anything you dont know, on youtube, or elsewhere on the internet.
    And if you try, and you screw up, it doesn’t matter, because you can just unravel, and try again.
    That is why I love to knit…among dozens of other reasons.

  12. Great post! Bookmarked!

  13. I’ve knit a dozen or more sweaters and yet I made a colossal (to me) error on row 1 of the back of my current project. Only when DD (sweater recipient) said “why aren’t there two purls on both sides of the cable panel?” did I realize I had screwed up :(. Already passed the armhole shaping, so it’s gone from mistake to “design element.” At least it’s on the back and most people aren’t as observant as she is!

  14. Julia

    I love your blog! And your knitting – it always looks so neat and tidy. Would you maybe think about doing a tutorial based blog entry on magic loop?

  15. Debra

    Love the post. I learned how to knit when I was 8, many many years ago. The first item I knit was an all over lace baby outfit that was way beyond my skill level but my teacher encouraged me to take a chance and figure it out. It turned out not so bad. A little wonky but looked fine on the baby that it was made for. I learned to never ever doubt myself, to jump in with both feet and both hands and as many needles as needed- straight, circular, double pointed, small or large.

    I teach middle school girls the fine art of knitting. I love seeing the joy that comes when they finally get it. We don’t have mistakes in our knitting, we have interesting stitch choices and designer patterns!

    I like to stretch myself by learning a new technique or trying a new yarn every few months just to give my heart a flutter. I have even learned to enjoy frogging my mistakes- I just call it reverse knitting. So to new knitters every where – take a chance, walk on the wild side, learn to love living on the edge.

  16. Sharon

    Fearless knitter here, love this post. I’m constantly challenging myself, and now I am going to branch into teaching! And this after a mere 6 years of serious knitting. Oh and magic loop changed my life. I taught myself (You Tube anyone?)

  17. Joanne Perrow

    OMG – I just bought wool to knit a teal blue/green Aran sweater – I just love the pattern but look really really bad in cream or white (white hair /pale skin since I was 35) but thought I couldn’t knit and aran sweater in a color – I am now 63 and going to take a chance – your post makes me feel normal!!

  18. They are all correct. This is a great post. After knitting really boring stuff for years, I was challenged by a group I joined, and my niece—who jumped right into sock knitting. Now I love trying the “tough stuff”!

    I have some beautiful things now to prove that things we think are beyond our capabilities, really aren’t. Maybe we’ll have to give it a go more than once to get it right, but it’ll happen.

    Thanks for writing this! It’s so true and we need to hear it often.

  19. Funny, this is what I want to communicate to my beginning art students, too. Embrace the process! The frustration is… frustrating, but it’s only when you go through it that you get to feel the ultimate satisfaction of having conquered and learned and mastered. Be in the moment and love what you’re doing with all its ups and downs. Fantastic post!

  20. I am a new knitter and so so happy to see and read this post. I was sitting here talking to the computer – Glenna is talking about me!!!! I am going to my first Stitch and Bitch tomorrow at a shop I just walked into a couple of weeks ago. I am so looking forward to meeting and learning from seasoned knitters.

    Thanks so much for such a great post!

  21. Rebekah

    A wise knitter told me once that you should always have one project on the needles that is above your current skill level. I took that advice and cast on a lace shawl that took me 3 re-starts and 1 1/2 years to complete. I am so glad I stuck with it and finished it. It turned out beautiful. I can’t list all of the lessons I learned from the knitting of this shawl but both my skill level and my confidence level were greatly increased. I am now searching for the next project to cast on to take me on to the next level.

    I am mostly a lurker but I really enjoy this blog.
    Thank you :o)

  22. You touched on so many aspects of knitting that I hold dear and that keeps me knitting day after day. I adore knitting — it is a huge part of my creativity and I love it more and more with each project that I cast on. Sure, I experience frustration here and there but I can’t imagine a day without knitting, even if only for a few minutes. I’m about to cast on a cardigan, something that I haven’t tried yet, and I’m incredibly excited and incredibly nervous at the same time. But I know that I’m going to have a lot of support among my blogger friends who will rally me to completion!

  23. Wow! Beautiful post! I get it totally. I taught myself to knit in sixth grade. I never really got the “Beginner thing” and I caused myself alot of pain I’m sure. I have taught a few people to knit since and I tell them all to just go for it. They start with the traditional scarf and then they can go crazy and knit whatever they want. I think that’s the best way to learn.

  24. Lynne

    I’ve just found your blog. I started knitting 5 years ago to keep sane after losing my job. Learning was not easy for me and quite frustrating for a while. I took lessons at the local yarn shop, joined a group, and made wonderful friends. It’s become my second home. I gave my daughter lessons for her birthday and now she’s far surpassed me.

    Today, I attended the second organizational meeting of the prayer shawl ministry at my church. The woman leading it, plus several others, don’t know how to knit but want to learn. I suggested they sign up for lessons at the shop (which is struggling to keep its doors open). You would have thought I had produced a dead rat from my knitting bag. Apparently, this was discussed at the first meeting, which I was unable to attend. They want free lessons. The owner charges a reasonable fee because she has a business to run. This seemed incredulous to some in the group.

    I had the sense to close my mouth, and the dead-rat feeling passed. Sort of. It was decided that the next meeting will be for the knitters in the group to teach the non-knitters.

    I did timidly suggest that they start with a stockinette scarf so they can become familiar with purling. “What’s stockinette? What’s purling?” (The prayer shawl pattern is K3P3.) I had a shawl I’d just cast on, and held it up for show-and-tell. “Why are you using round needles?” “I’ve bought the straight ones, do I have to take them back?” “What’s worsted-weight?”

    I’ll do my best next month, but I’m not a teacher. Really. There was a woman at the shop who insisted on starting with socks, despite strong recommendations to do the stockinette scarf for a first project. She grew so frustrated and stressed that she gave up knitting altogether.

    Time to knit on that shawl now.

  25. Deborah

    I just had to comment because i want to put this entire post on a giant poster. And the part about knitting whatever the eff you want? Can I get an amen? Amen! That is why i love knitting, and what I sometimes think more people need to realize. There are no rules, knit whatever you want! If doesn’t end up turning up the way you want, you can just take it out and start over. I feel so empowered right now just thinking about it

  26. I just stumbled on your blog today and this post was exactly what I needed to read. I’ve had an on again off again relationship with knitting for the past three years. My last project was a bit too hard for me and it made me give up. Today I picked up the good ol’ needles again and found a project that made my knitting soul sing. It’s projects like that which make me wonder why I would ever give up this beautful craft. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts, your enthusiasm is contagious! Thanks for such a great blog.

  27. Great post :) I feel the same way. I’ve been knitting for 9 or 10 years now, and recently started my first project to steek (never starting small, it’s a lopi cardigan with a hood). I’m so excited! I threw my first lace project across the room and never finished it (about 5 years ago. Now I have piles of lace shawls). You have to keep challenging yourself. If you don’t, you’ll get bored and stop learning. Keep up the good work, and happy knitting!

  28. GeniaKnitz

    I so agree with your blog, and I loved reading it. Not because I’m such a brave knitter, but because I’m not. It seems that every time I want to start a new kind of project, I have to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and jam the needles into my hands. Can’t think why, since I’ve never made a total mess of anything but patterns marked “Easy”!

    Now, please, what is that gorgeous cerise-and-purple yarn in your first photo?

  29. nendyrn

    Amazing post! It really makes me want to tackle all of those things that I never thought I could. So here’s my list for after I’m done with holiday knitting:
    1. socks! (knitting 2 years and still intimidated by them!)
    2. a sweater for ME (knitted a few baby ones, but now it’s time for a bigger scale!)
    3. colorwork!
    Thanks for keeping these projects in the front of my mind!

  30. Thanks for this post! I’ve been knitting for over 10 years, but the one that still gets me is “knit what you want.” I love knitting accessories, socks and hats and mittens and shawls, but I always think I shouldn’t waste my time on making 20 pairs of socks and just knit some sweaters. But that’s not what I love. Socks all the way!

  31. Beth

    I love your blog and your insights, but I must confess to utter frustration, or denied gratification or just envy…. You post pictures of beautiful items, but no reference to what they are. Today it is the gorgeous harvest gold lace…. and then the stunning multi-color yarn at the top of the post. Please what are they?

  32. Janene Reeves

    Thank you! I needed that!!! ;-)

  33. Cynthia K-R in Canada

    Your blog entry today was SPOT ON. I read it and it gave me MORE confidence to keep trying and trying. I’ve only been knitting for a year now, and I just finished my first cardigan sweater. Well, at least – it looks like a cardigan sweater!!
    It’s isn’t PERFECT, but I sure learned alot from doing it. I love cables; I love knitting hats and do them quite well. Socks are my next step–I’ve started several times, but it’s getting me eaach time.
    I WILL PERSEVERE. I will NOT give up, and I’ll conquer them all.
    Thanks for the reassurances !!!

  34. Everything you said is true! I learned how to crochet about 12 years ago and the woman who taught me was very much a stickler about staying to pattern and if you screwed up, you ripped it out. And we were making dishcloths! When I learned how to knit 2 years ago, I took a class instead of learning from someone in their spare time (dishcloths again). I realized I had picked up a stitch a few rows before and asked the teacher if I should rip it out. She said absolutely not and took the opportunity to teach me how to k2tog and said that my dishes wouldn’t mind. It was such a liberating moment! I actually found the courage to try crocheting again and have been doing both ever since!

  35. I think the only thing that scares me in kniting anymore is nupps on a lace shawl but I will get over when the need to make such a thing becomes greater than the fear.:)

  36. Debbie

    What a lovely, thoughtful, inspiring, TRUE blog. I have been knitting for 50+ years and am still finding things that challenge me and are new to me. Knitting definitely keeps me sane!

  37. Sue

    That scarf is beautiful. Excellent blog today. I found your blog when I first started knitting again and have always found you inspiring. Your attention to detail and perfection in execution are something I aspire to. The way you write your patterns is great too. Easy to understand even for a new knitter. I made the podster gloves last year for a friend for a Yule gift and she flipped over them. I was wondering, what is your favorite stitch dictionary? Or is that a silly question because there are too many to choose from?

  38. I loved this post. Thank you for your words of encouragement about a craft that I am in love with.

  39. Diane Lanier

    I’m what you would probably call an advanced knitter. Your essay sums up entirely my philosophy! Don’t be afraid to try something new. Let your creative juices flow. Consider yarn as your canvas. Looking forward to reading more in your blog.

  40. Yaay, I just found your blog! I totally love and agree with this post. I’m a new knitter myself, just about 6 months, and have dove into color work, tiny-ass DPNs, etc…and I love it. I *love* that for the most part, you can’t permanently screw up anything with knitting…yeah you may have to rip something out, but it’s no big deal. This art form/hobby feels so free and meditative to me. I constantly find myself raving about it to anyone who will listen…and thus, am the crazy lady with the pointy sticks. Thanks again for this lovely post! Can’t wait to see what you have to say next.

  41. Elle

    I’m a new-ish knitter and this was just what I needed to read. Thank you for taking the time to blog & share your thoughts :)

  42. Arlene

    I love your blog !!!!

    I’m not really a new knitter, but I haven’t knit in years and just came back to it by taking a lace making course. I learned so much and now I’m obsessed. This is definitely the time to start if you’ve never knit before. There are so many places to find help (u-tube), blogs like yours, on line classes, support groups, knitting Mysteries..the list goes on and on. I feel blessed that I have given knitting a second chance and even though it’s only been a few short months I’ve been back, I’ve grown so much already, and the best is still yet to come….