Thursday, 24 September 2015

Learning to knit

It was not long after I discovered the wonderful quilting community over on flickr (that subsequently led me to blogging and forging some fantastic friendships.) that I noticed that many quilters are also talented knitters. I've looked wistfully at peoples creations. Everything from lacy shawls to chunky cowls; comfy sweaters to cute beanie hats and wished that I wasn't so cack-handed when it came to knitting.

You see up until these past couple of weeks I could only ever do the knit stitch badly (and I learnt to cast off when I made some scarfs from that loopy mesh material.) I could not cast on. I could not purl and quite frankly 99% of knitting terminology was a complete and utter mystery to me. 

Of course my Mum had tried to teach me to knit over the years. She is not a teacher. She has no idea how to communicate to me how you do something and finds it hard to correct my mistakes without picking up the knitting and just putting it right - which isn't a great way to learn. I confess on previous knitting attempts there were dropped stitches, gained stitches (if I'd poked the needle through the yarn) and tension that got so tight that Mum used to look if she was wrestling when she tried to get knitting needles into stitches to correct it. To be fair Mum was never a knitter. She made me a beautiful royal blue ballet wrap cardigan when I started ballet and refused to wear pink because it was just too girly! I also remember my teddy Walter being cold and in the space of a few hours she knitted him up a pair of navy tights and red jacket and a very fetching pixie hat with some left over bits of wool. She never did adult sized garments or fancy patterns or colour work. She'll admit she much preferred embroidery. Knitting was a skill she had the basics of, but had little inclination to develop.

I never persevered with learning to knit because I was so bad at doing the knit stitch and unable to master anything else. And quite frankly even at a young age I knew if I knitted, I wanted to make things that had pretty stitches and colours; not just knit stitch everything. I just didn't have the patience to try and improve and then learn skills that my Mum could not begin to teach me and all this was before the days of You Tube how-to Videos.

A chance comment on Instagram a few weeks ago led me to two fantastic offers from Helen of Archie the Wonderdog. (One offer will be saved for a future post.) The other offer was she was convinced she could teach me to knit. No mean feat considering she lives closer to Chief than she does to me and the learning process was all going to be done online (unless Chief could ever get me up there for an afternoons knitting session!) Mum looked vaguely amused when I told her. (and was more likely thinking Helen was going to need a medal by the end of it all!) She has been very impressed with my progress. The first cast on method I learnt was one she'd never seen before. 

In the past week I've learnt:  that yarn bands are full of useful (not mysterious information.) That needle size is important. That purl stitch is not half as hard as I always thought it must be and by knowing the knit stitch and the purl stitch you can create other patterns and stitches. I've learnt to cast on by two different methods.  I've also sorted most of my tension issues of old and my first practise piece had me finish a ball of wool from the charity shop! If I go wrong (and I have done.) I only have to tell Helen what's gone wrong and she's been able to talk me through what I've done.  Knitting is not an intuitive process for me. I am that person that needs to be told things like where the yarn needs to start or finish off. But despite any errors, I am having so much fun. I've placed two three yarn orders now and I've finished my first ever wash cloths. I am not hoarding yarn though. I've bought stuff from sale bins for specific projects and intend to continue this way, so I don't have to try storing a yarn collection as well fabric.

I have cast on for the first time ever!

When I was waiting for my first yarn order to arrive I did whip up a project bag using fabric from stash and my scraps bin. I think I may need a couple of these!

Project bag

I started off knitting a ball of wool from the charity shop in knit stitch. Then my first wool order arrived and I did some face cloth knitting. But seeing as I don't wash my face I was itching to try something else that I would use and I started my first scarf - I even made up my own pattern! I finished the scarf last night and currently it's been washed and 'blocked'. (Another learning curve for me.) Hopefully in a future post I can show you me modelling it.

Two completed wash cloths
Two simple wash cloths 

My first 'proper' scarf
my first scarf finished!


  1. I am so glad you are knitting, it is still my favourite craft sport of all. Those wash clothes work brilliantly in the kitchen if you have no need of them for your face.

  2. You did a great job! I love to knit, but from the moment I started quilting, the knitting is going very slow. I am making a pullover. Started three years ago !!!! Maybe this year I'll finish it.

  3. It has been a pleasure and you're making amazing progress!
    P.S. I love my project bag!

  4. Congratulations on learning to knit!! I still have a four year old, half finished scarf staring at me from my craft space. Your completed projects look great!


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