I learnt to knit as an adult on Boxing Day 2008. I had expressed some interest to my fantastic sister, mainly because she was knitting things herself that were extraordinary, and I was quite excited by the idea of making anything half as good (I still haven’t made anything half as good). My Christmas present from her that year was some yarn, some needles, a Dalek pattern, links to some knitting websites and a significant amount of patience from her in showing me all the basics. This was the result (the Dalek. Not the kid.)
Since then, a lot has happened. My knitting has got better, although recently it’s been improving in tiny increments (learning to wrap and turn for short rows for example) rather than the explosion of learning that happened during the Dalek pattern. The Dalek could almost have been written as a learning piece – not just knit, purl, cast on, cast off, but provisional cast on, bobbles, colourwork, knitting in the round and some tiny small-diameter knitting for the appendages that I would probably avoid now! I think there was something to be said for learning all of that before I knew it was supposed to be scary.
Over the three years I’ve learned some big lessons about knitting that I wish I’d known at the start.
1) Scarves are long. Really really long. Really really really long.
2) I have no attention span. This doesn’t combine well with 1)
3) If you don’t like the project a couple of hours in, it won’t magically get better.
Whenever I persevere with things that look dubious, they only become big and dubious. Feeling that “it’s too big to frog now” just ends up with an unloved item in a drawer. “It’s a bit big but it might work out OK”? I have the world’s biggest head. There is no-one with a bigger head than me for the giant hat to fit. Kill it now. I feel better now I’ve accepted the need to frog. I was talking to someone last night who was on her 5th go at knitting a particular ball of wool and it made me feel much better.
4) Similarly, if you think you are going to be sensitive to a particular yarn, then believe yourself.
Other people saying the mohair is ‘so soft’ does not make it knittable. It’s still an allergy waiting to happen. I’m gradually learning that blends, bamboo and superwash merino are some of my ideal yarns, and some of the yarns that people rave over are not going to be in my knitting vocabulary.
There is a bit of a problem in big wool shops. I reacted to something at WEBS but had no idea which yarn it was, so I had to take an educated guess on what to buy!
5) Good tools are important.
I just mentioned to @hfnuala on twitter that I once tried to make a small, fiddly Christmas bauble with shiny metal dpns and a silk/wool yarn and it was the worst thing I’d ever knit. On bamboo needles it would have been a million times easier. I have a tendency to be a bit of a miser and ‘make do’. This does not make a happy knitter. This is a knitter squeaking her acrylic along on the wooden dpns that she got when she first started, or having to suffer magic loop because “I’ve got the needle tips and a long cable, I’ll cope”. I really hate magic loop. I love dpns. I need to just suck it up and pay the fiver.
6) Going back to the Dalek… most knitting really isn’t that scary.
I was ignorant at the start not to need this lesson. My first finished project was the Dalek. My second was a cabled scarf (coincidentally, the same pattern that I’m knitting right now). I’ve tried lace and colourwork. I still haven’t been seduced by socks, and I’ve struggled with amigurumi but really those are a lack of application rather than intrinsic difficulty.
Crochet, on the other hand, I’ll continue to maintain is impossible…
Ooh, I must go off and knit now. I’m feeling all encouraged!