Thursday, September 13, 2007

Advice to New (And Some Not-So-New) Knitters

Okay, all you Cowardly Lions of the Knitting World! Repeat after me:
It's just needles and yarn, it's just needles and yarn, it's just needles and yarn... :-D

My second project after getting back into knitting after a 37 year hiatus was a pair of socks. My first was a sweater. And aside from the fact that I would never want to meet the gorilla who would have fitted into that sweater (I frogged and then donated the yarn to the knitting guild years later, I couldn't bear to look at it any longer), I learned a LOT from the experience!

For the socks I bought a sock kit with yarn and pattern, and a set of double-pointed needles from Morehouse Farm while on vacation back home, a copy of 'Mary Thomas' Knitting Book' from Barnes & Noble, and sat down and knitted myself some socks. I had never made socks before, I had never used dpns (or even seen them before that day), never done short rows or heel turns, but I sat on the bed at my sister's house that evening with the instructions on one side of me, Mary Thomas' book on the other, and dove in. And before I knew it I had a pair of socks. You see, I didn't know I was supposed to be intimidated by that project. Now I can knit a pair of worsted-weight socks in a day with my little 12" circular.

My point is not that I think that I am Lynda the Amazing Wonder Knitter, but to show that nothing bad happened to me from deciding to just dive in and try it. I didn't die, I didn't lose any limbs, my family members are all still alive and healthy. :-) Nuclear war did not ensue, no one starved to death, global warming was made no worse by my efforts. No one yelled at me or made fun of me. And if they had tried to make fun of me they would have been in deep trouble, because I had a fistful of sharp pointy sticks, and I knew how to use them!

I think that what makes a person become a great knitter is not inborn talent, because none of us is born with knitting needles in hand (luckily for our Moms!). It isn't Years of experience - though Depth of experience is a great thing. It is NOT BEING AFRAID to try something new. If it doesn't work - and we are all guaranteed to make mistakes - you just rip it out and try again. See? No harm done. And you have learned something very valuable from the process. You get double value from your yarn because you get to knit it twice. Good knitters have to be fearless, and have to give themselves permission to be beginners, to know nothing, to make mistakes and to try again.

I sat that evening at my sister's house and looked at those instructions for the heel flap, scratched my head and thought, Huh? Well, okay, I'll give it a try. Then I read the part for the heel turn and thought, WHAT? Well, if that's what they say, I'll do it and see what happens. See, the thing is, I already knew and accepted that I knew nothing. So every idea, every instruction, every concept was new to me. That was the whole point of taking on the project: I wanted to learn something new. And there was no one sitting beside me to tell me that socks are tricky to knit, that heel turns can go bad.

What makes a great knitter is being absolutely fearless about trying new things. And one of the many things that I love about knitting is that it is filled with little tricks that are so easy to learn, and have such cool results and make you feel like a genius when you are done. I still think that heel turns are little knitting miracles. That you can make knitted fabric go around corners! Wow! How cool is that??? Look at me! Look what I just did! And every new project teaches you something new.

When choosing a project to start next, I always like to look for something that will challenge me, a technique I haven't tried before, or one that I haven't perfected. By the end of the project I know how to do that technique pretty well. Those knitters you can think of that seem to know how to do everything? That is only because they had the courage to try something for the first time. When you come to me on Friday mornings for Knit Dr. so that I can help you out of a jam? That is only because I have already made those same mistakes myself, on my own projects, and had to fix them. I can promise you that probably no knitter's projects are without mistakes, but you never look at them and say, Geeze, would you look at that! You can see that she worked a purl instead of a knit in row 57, and had to ladder back and fix it. Or that she forgot a yarn-over on the fifth lace repeat, and had to do a Make 1 in the next row to compensate. Yet I can promise you that those fixes are in there.

So by all means, have doubts, ask questions, come in to Kiwi for help and support and classes, but like the commercials say, just do it. It'll work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh knitting sista' you are correct on several scores in this blog. Only today on my way to the OR I was knitting a pair of socks and remembering the first sock I ever could fit your gorilla friend :) Some times you have to just put your faith in the knitting fairy and follow the instructions knowing that it will all work out...sometimes you have to just go ahead and frog and then some times you have to ladder down to pick up that stitch you dropped from your size 2 dpns. These are the basic truths of life.