On Knitting (for beginners like me)
I love knitting. There’s something to be said about the repetitive movements, the pattern of different stitches that twists and knots together to become a cohesive piece. There’s something to be said about the motion of the hand when knitting, the click clacking of the needles, the way a mind can drift while keeping count at the same time. Mind you, I didn’t get into knitting for the zen of it at first, but rather, started as a way of doing something productive while waiting. Every Sunday, I played Dungeons and Dragons with the guys and between turns, well, there’s alot of waiting. And then there’s TV. Watching TV is relaxing for the mind, a way for the stories to carry you away, but frankly, my hands fidget too much as TV doesn’t quite demand my attention like a book does. And so, I knit. I let the patterns take me away.
Knitting is not a creative exercise, contrary to popular belief – at least not until you start designing your own patterns. But it’s something that takes effort and patience and it’s a great tool to develop that. Besides, you end up with something both beautiful and useful on your hands. It has the right degree of portability that it can be done on transit, and knitting during conversations is not even considered rude. That’s a great thing for a multi-tasker like me.
I’m by no means an expert, but here are some tips for beginners:
- Start with a mid-range in cost, multi-coloured yarn. The first thing you knit will probably consists of alot of starting and restarting (especially if you’re a perfectionist like me.) this will cost your yarn to fray. A good quality yarn will for the most part, make up for this, but you probably don’t want to start with an expensive merino wool as frankly, your first knitting project ain’t going to be what you’re proud of the most. Which leads me to next tip.
- You’re going to have dropped stitches. This means that sometimes you’re going to miss a stitch, or somethings you might even end up with one too many stitches. That’s okay. Your first project is not going to be perfect. But if you pay attention, you’ll start spotting how dropped stitches look like and be able to spot early. Keep on knitting and you’ll figure out how the stitches in the previous rows are supposed to go together then be able to fix those by hand.
- Your first project should be a scarf. I know, everyone knits a scarf, but it truly is one of the simplest thing to do. My first scarf was a long skinny one full of dropped stitches but it was honestly the best thing I could have started on to teach myself and not let myself discouraged. And by using multi-coloured yarn, the scarf actually looks wearable and not a boring one-tone you would never return to.
- Ravelry.com – THE social networking site for knitters. But I use it mostly for their free pattern browser. They have a great filter system that lets you check off difficulty, what kind of items you want to knit, etc.
- KnittingHelp.com – the videos on this site really helped me learn the stitches. k2tog,p2,k2,yo,k5…wha…? The terms are practically archaic and even if I knew what yarn over it, it helps to have videos showing exactly what to do with the 2 needles and the piece of yarn in your hands.
- Local yarn store – There are knowledgeable people in those stores that are passionate about what they do. I personally love going to Stevenston Crafts n’More as their staff are friendly and not even my stupid questions are too stupid for them. They’ll readily point out what are easy patterns to start with and show you exactly what materials you need to get started. And they’re quite reasonably priced with lots and lots of variety, which always appeals to the Chinese in me.
For the scarf, it’s a simple ribbed pattern. Since it’s for a small child, I started with casting on 16 stitches on 4.5 needles in medium weight yarn. But really, any gauge (as in thickness) will do. The only thing you have to watch out for is to not use too thick needles for too thin of yarn. Makes it harder to work on.
For every row: K2 P2
I stopped at around 24″. The key is to make it long enough that it can be tucked into the coat, but not long enough to be dangling out of the coat. For tassels, I took the the rest of the yarn and looped it around my fingers (but not the thumb), 6 times. Then I cut one side, threaded through the scarf and tied it round the middle. (It is very similar to this method, but in steps 3 and 4, I pull it through a hole near the end of the scarf instead.)
For the hat, I knitted from this lovely pattern I found on Ravelry.com.
The problem though was that I didn’t quite have double pointed needles so I had to rely on the magic loop method which was pretty easy until I got to the tail end.
All in all though I think it worked out.
I was recently asked why I knit. In fact, I think it’s become something of a what-I’m-known-for in the office. I thought about all the reasons I listed here and while those attributed to what got me started knitting, I’m not quite sure if that’s why it’s kept me going. As you can probably tell (by the repeated state of my blogs/scrapbooks/etc.), I’m not very good at maintaining things, so maintaining a hobby that takes patience is news to me as much as anyone else. But knitting for me is effortless, more effortless than video games or writing this blog. The only activity that seems less effortless is reading and TV, and it’s definitely more productive than the other two. So what keeps me knitting?
Maybe it’s just that I enjoy watching the way the knots entwine.