Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How I Learned to Knit

I actually kept one of my resolutions from 2011. Please, please...hold your applause...

In a post I wrote at the beginning of 2011, I mentioned that I wanted to learn new and resourceful skills and at that top of that list was knitting. I know exactly why I wanted to learn so badly: SouleMama. As I've mentioned before, Amanda Soule's blog, SouleMama, is one of my favorite blogs out there. Many of her posts are about her various knitting projects (like making twelve sweaters in one year. Twelve!) and after reading knitting posts like this one, I just had to learn. It seemed so cozy, so rewarding, a resourceful skill (hence the mention on this blog), and I'd heard that it was a great way to relax (sidenote: check out this fascinating article about how knitting is better than Prozac. Wow.). It was Amanda Soule's book, The Handmade Home, that helped me overcome my sewing machine phobia and it only makes sense that she would inspire me to take up this newest craft.

My sister-in-law, Kristal (the same one who gave me sewing lessons), got a friend of hers to try to teach us how to knit. Of course, Kristal picked it up without a problem. Me? Yeah, as she was on her tenth row, I was like, "Wait...is this how you cast on?" (Nope).  I'll admit, it takes me a little time to figure new things out. I left the lesson feeling confused and decided to forgo knitting for a time. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

But then I saw those amazing posts from SouleMama and I still wanted to learn. I consulted Amazon.com, read a bunch of reviews,  and ordered a couple knitting books (more on those later). After perusing the books, I got casting on down really well, but knitting and purling? Not so much. The hard thing about learning from a book is that you can't ask a book a question.

So I turned to YouTube videos since there are a bazillion videos about knitting. I sat in front of the computer with my cheap aluminum needles from Walmart and a ball of old yarn, eager and ready to learn. It didn't work for me. Either the angles of the videos were awkward, the person doing the video was talking/moving too quickly (or making weird spitty sounds with their mouths. It's a strange pet peeve of mine), or the person teaching used too much knitting jargon and I couldn't follow. Sigh.

Then a friend of mine suggested taking a class at a knitting store nearby. In a cozy cabin/store (if you're a local, check it out) last November, I finally figured out how to knit. It was so great to have a person there that could look over my shoulder, make sure I was doing the stitches right, and who could answer all of my questions. I'd say that all my attempts before weren't a complete waste because I picked it up pretty quickly once I had someone teaching me one-on-one.

I am now addicted to knitting. I look forward to places where I have to wait when I have my knitting bag with me. I even find myself happy when I get a long stoplight! I love finding all sorts of fun knitting projects on Pinterest (you can find my knitting board here), The Purl Bee (gorgeous), and Ravelry. It feels strange to not have something to work on after the kids are asleep, when the husband and I stream episodes of Psych off Netflix.  And I'm currently trying to figure out how much money to send with my in-laws when they visit Peru this summer (all that alpaca yarn straight from the source!!). 

For those of you inspired to give knitting thing a try, I highly suggest taking a class (check out yarn stores, ask around, or use helpful site called Betterfly). I like paying for a class from someone I don't know -- they have to be patient with me because I'm paying them! Plus, if I don't know the person who's teaching me, I don't feel dumb asking all sorts of newbie questions. Everyone learns differently -- it took me trying every way before it all clicked with me.

I'll be the first to say that I'm no expert. Not even close. You should see the first hat I ever made. Yikes. But I love it and I'm still learning. It's a process. Here are a few resources that are helping me get better...

1. Those knitting books I ordered a couple years ago.
The two knitting books I ordered were Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book and Teach Yourself Visually: Knitting. There are things about each book that I really like and each has its own strengths. 

Vogue Knitting is a great reference book because it's so comprehensive. I love it for the pages like the one pictured above -- if I can't remember what a certain stitch pattern looks like or if I need a refresher about how to do something, I almost always can find it in this book. It covers everything from beginner stuff to advanced information.  There are so many detailed instructions, diagrams, and photographs in this book. It truly is, as the full title says, the ultimate knitting book.

The second book I got, Teach Yourself Visually: Knitting, is a good companion to the first. I think the step-by-step photos in it are more helpful than some of the illustrated instructions in Vogue Knitting. This book is great as a quick reference when I'm trying something new, like when I first tried knitting in the round. There's something that helps my brain when I can see what my hands should be doing when I compare them with the pictures (though mine don't even come close to looking as smooth and manicured as theirs...).

2.  Internet Videos
Last night, I was searching through the various videos on YouTube, trying to figure out how to do a technique called the magic loop. There were a bunch to choose from. Unfortunately, I wasn't impressed with the ones I watched. Again, they were either filmed from bad angles or they moved too quickly for me (even occasionally pausing the video didn't help much). Annoyed, I went to bed and decided to try again in the morning. I went to Pinterest this morning because I remembered a pin on my knitting board about best knitting tutorial site. I check it out and what a difference! The site is called Very Pink and the tutorials are awesome! I highly recommend her videos and I can't wait to check out more.

3. Ravelry
When I took my knitting class, the instructor told me that I had to set up a Ravelry account when I got home. I'd heard of Ravelry before from, you guessed it, SouleMama, but never created an account. Ravelry is a fantastic site, an entire knitting and crocheting community online. You can find all sorts of patterns, forums, yarn suggestions, online help, search engines, everything a knitter could possibly want. Best of all -- it's free to join and a lot of the patterns on there are free, too. It is such a great resource and I've only scratched the surface of it!

Knitting works so well for where I am in my life right now. I still love sewing, but it's so hard to get much sewing done with a crawling baby who is into everything (and putting everything into his mouth). With knitting, I can take it and do it anywhere. Even though I'm just a couple months into my new hobby, I am absolutely loving it. I'm even going to start a new feature on here soon about my current projects. Give knitting a try -- you might find yourself addicted like I am.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

1 comment:

Kristy said...

My heart just sings when I hear about someone who has recently started knitting and loves it. One more knitter in the world! Hooray! There is something so satisfying and peaceful about knitting. I feel all connected to my pioneer ancestors, and other women who have come and gone and knitted. Very cool. Good job hanging in there and here's to many many years of knitterly happiness!

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