A group knitting blog.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So you want to be a knitter

Then pick up the needles, and join the fun!

There’s no need to be afraid. Trust me, I worried about if I could learn, if I’d like it, and what other people would think about *gasp* a guy knitting. I’ve worked through my knitting neuroses (mostly), and I can tell you that you have nothing to fear.

Easy for the person posting under a pseudonym to say, right? To explain in brief, I wanted to keep my knitting blog separate from my film blog. When I started I was very uncomfortable with how I thought my new hobby might be perceived by friends, family, and everyone else. Writing as “the secret knitter” allowed me to talk about my experiences without worrying that people I knew would stumble upon the blog.

I continue to use an assumed name because I feel I can be more open than if my name were plastered on the sidebar. It’s not a well-kept secret—go here if you must know who I am—but one that gives me an illusion of privacy to permit me to do more personal writing than I might otherwise.

OK, now that that bit of business is out of the way, on to more relevant matters…

I’m in my sixth month as a knitter, so I am certainly no expert. That said, I’ve picked up some knowledge that is worth passing along to those of you beginning now. Since numbers make for easy organization, here are six tips that will make knitting more pleasurable for you:

1. Find a knitting friend.

If you’re here, chances are you already have that covered. I started knitting because my friend Kristin convinced me to give it a shot. I’ve been lucky to have her around to answer questions, fix mistakes, and knit with from time to time. Sure, a teacher could serve the same purpose, but for me it’s been more comfortable and more fun to have a friend to share the interest with. One of the things I’ve come to love about knitting is how it brings people together. You’re lucky to have this group. (I’m up in Ohio, so it’s unlikely I’ll be popping in on Monday nights.)

2. Go at your own pace.

My first fourteen projects were scarves, thirteen of which were in garter stitch. That’s going overboard, although in my defense most of them were being knitted with a Christmas deadline in mind. You can mix it up faster than that. My point, though, is that you should stay as safe or get as adventurous as feels right. Find what works for you.

3. Allow yourself to make mistakes.

I had low expectations for what I thought I could do, so I knew mistakes were inevitable. Still, with a perfectionist streak, that’s not always easy to accept. Nevertheless, as clich├ęd as it sounds, that’s how you learn. Look at a dropped stitch as the chance to learn how to pick it up or to undo stitches, not a cursed error that’s going to ruin your hard work.

4. Knit regularly.

When I started I had an ambitious goal and exceeded it, largely due to a commitment to knit a little every day. Granted, that’s not always possible, but I think it helps in your first days and weeks to plug away until knitting becomes a habit. When it becomes a natural activity and not something you have to think about, you know you’re well on your way.

5. Document your progress.

Whether it’s making a list of what you’ve done, taking photos of your FOS, or blogging, keep track of your growth as a knitter. When I looked at my first bunch of FOs that I gave as Christmas gifts, I was astonished by the progress I made. The first scarf I knitted was embarrassing when I compared it to what I had done two months later, but it gave me a boost of confidence that I was improving. Plus, I think it’s nice to have reminders of what I’ve made, especially for those items I’ve given away.

6. Have fun.

I’ve mentioned on my blog that learning to knit is one of the smartest things I chose to do in the past year. It might not be a stretch to say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. No joke. I can’t believe how much it has helped me relax, give me confidence, provide a sense of accomplishment, and make new friends. Ultimately you’re knitting because you enjoy doing it. Be proud of your work. Share it. Show it off.

Welcome to our knitting community.It’s nice to have you join the club.

Knitterly Letter Swap

I've become a big fan of swaps. Mostly because I keep finding cool blogs and reading them, and also finding inspiration/ideas for projects.

Domesticat is running a Knitterly Letter Swap, if you'd care to participate. I just ran across her blog from a friend's, and it's fun and full of cool projects that she's done. She's interesting to read!

That's the thing with this whole online knitting world. There really are a lot of interesting folks out there, knitting, offering to share with readers. I like that. I'm glad we get to be a part of that. Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I find to read...

Anyone out there have any cool knitting blogs/sites they've discovered? Share! Share!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In Lieu of Knitting Group..

I was very, very ill last night. So knitting group was cancelled. Thus, I decided to post some helpful tips for beginners.

Choosing a project
You've mastered the garter stitch, so now what? It's not enough to launch into knitting with a set of needles and a ball of thread--you've got to have a project in mind. It should be what you want. And as Donna commented in a previous post, it doesn't have to be the "first scarf" that everyone deems you must do. Kathryn chose to make leg warmers because those sounded fun to her, and she's well on her way to being finished. My first project was a scarf--but only because I wanted to give a friend a scarf for Christmas.

In other words, choose a project that you desperately want. It should still be fairly simple, but it can be a scarf, a bag, a set of leg warmers--just because you're learning doesn't mean you have to be stuck on never-ending rows of the garter stitch. Again, Donna's post (as referred to above) offers some helpful insight. Choose something you actually want to make!

Of course, that being said, you should still find something manageable. Don't jump in for that massive afghan--you'll lose interest before you've finished. (That's why a scarf is usually a good choice because it is a fairly quick project). I recently advised one of this group's fledgling knitters to attempt a purse. Simple, small, easily made, and it incorporates all sorts of useful skills without being too boring (or taking too long) or being too complicated. Even I, as a more experienced knitter, get bored on projects that take too long--I had a rug that took me a while to finally accomplish (sheer desire carried me through that one--that rug is so freaking cool), and I have yet to finish a knitting needle holder because I was bored to tears of doing straight stockinette stitch for thirty inches. I think I'm at about twenty-six, so I really should just finish it...

Choosing a yarn
Pick a color you'll like. Pick something that feels nice. But DO NOT pick anything that looks like it'll separate or snag. You'll regret it. You may want to avoid "novelty yarns" at this juncture, unless it's ribbon yarn. That stuff is pretty nifty (I've never knitted with it, but it looks really cool). Until you have some experience wielding a set of needles, snaggy yarn only causes tears. In fact, my current project is with a fine cotton (nice feel, nice color) that drove me nuts at first because the strands like to separate. If you're not cautious, you'll end up piercing the strands and knitting extra stitches or knitting stitches that do not look very neat.

Once you get a feel for types of yarns (I will do a more detailed post on this later), you can find all sorts of nifty yarn peddlers online--just click on any in the sidebar! (I really should get a cut for advertising for them, right? right??) I like Knit Picks for their value and quality--they offer some nice yarn for an inexpensive price.

For the veteran knitters among us, what was your first project?

Friday, March 23, 2007

what to eat at a knitting party...

Jenn & I did some knitting this afternoon since we didn't have work today. Yay! I learned how to increase stitches on a row and also tips on what to do when my ball of yarn gets tangled up in knots.

We talked about what kinds of food to bring to our knitting group next Monday. Last week was not healthy I suppose. We had oreos and doritos. Jenn did make some healthy fruit salad and soda bread. And we had some carrots....but the cookies and chips left me feeling sort of gross. We thought about maybe bringing some edamame. It's super-easy to cook...and still counts as finger food. Fruit is always a good standby as well. But, since the food we eat on Monday night knitting group will be counting as "dinner" for some of us, we were thinking of making something a bit more substantial. It would be super-easy to bring vegetables and stir-fry them. I also thought about making a salad. Of course, these would require plates and forks....but, well, darn it, I get hungry and want some real food.

Just thought I'd post about the food and see if anyone else had suggestions on what kinds of things to bring to eat. Obviously I'm food-obsessed.

kb

turn, turn, turn

The best -- but most frustrating -- knitting lessons come through mistakes. Through a mistake yesterday, I think I've come to understand something I didn't know was possible in knitting.

It was such a beautiful day yesterday at Kniterati Headquarters (central division) that I took my knitting outdoors for a quick twenty-minute session. I had stopped the night before in the middle of a row. (Knitting a scarf the long way -- 360 stitches -- means I sometimes stop in the middle of a row.) I picked it back up and knit my stockingette stitch happily by the fountain. When the twenty minutes were up, I was surprised to find out that I was not yet at the end of the row. But I packed it back up and went on with my day.

Later that night I picked it back up, finished that row, and then went on to the next row. 360 knit stitches later, as I reached the end of the row, I realized something was wrong. The band of stockingette stitch was much narrower at this end than when I had started at the other end. In fact, when I counted rows, there were only 4 at this end -- but 6 at the other end!

I looked over the whole long scarf and there -- in the middle of the row, but closer to the end I had just completed -- was the place where 6 rows suddenly narrowed to 4. I couldn't figure it out. I knew you could add and subtract stitches. I didn't know you could add and subtract rows.

I unknit back to the transition point and stared at my needles. 6 rows on the left needle, now 3 rows (after unknitting) on the right. And then I realized what must have happened.

When I started knitting by the fountain that afternoon, I must have turned the work. The needle that was supposed to be in my left hand was in my right hand, and vice versa. Instead of continuing to knit onward on the row I was in the middle of (row 4), I knit back across the stitches I had just finished, back to the beginning of the row (adding row 5). Then I knit across the whole piece (adding row 6 to the first part, then merely finishing row 4 after getting to the point where I had turned it).

Earlier that evening, before I discovered my mistake, I was looking at a pattern that featured mini-bobbles. The instructions for the bobbles said "Turn." I know what turn means in tatting, but I couldn't picture it in knitting. Turn what?

Now I know. Put the needles in the opposite hands, thus turning the work over back to front, and thus working back across the stitches you just finished adding. Ta-da! I learned something, and it only took me 100 unknit stitches to do it.

Or more ... I still have to figure out how to proceed. I think I have to keep unknitting ... but I'm not sure I'll know where to stop.

Has anyone out there made this mistake before? I haven't seen it described in any of the "common mistake" tutorials I've perused (not that I've perused many, because I'm overconfident in my abilities and assume I'll never make a mistake). Or is this a novice rite of initiation I should have been expecting?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Yarn Purchase!


I bought some lovely yarn today for my ISE swap. I think I'm going to make a lace scarf for my pal out of Madil Kid Seta yarn in red:

I think it'll make a lovely scarf. It's mohair and silk, so it'll work really well for a lace scarf. And the color is also nice. I'll post pictures as I begin crafting it...hopefully my pal likes it!!

I also bought some linen yarn for Lance, since he's obsessed with linen. I'm curious to see how it feels and how it knits--I've only used wool, cotton, or acrylic and have just begun experimenting with different fibers and materials. And believe me, there's a lot out there. If you mosey on over to Yarn Country, for example (they have a large selection of yarns), you can see that they have ribbon yarns, yarns made from wools, cashmere, bamboo, cotton, silk, angora, mohair, linen and many blends of fibers. It's amazing just how much is out there to use in creating projects.

I may have some experience, but there is so much to learn about knitting that makes me want to keep learning. (Just like literature, I suppose...oops, wrong blog!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kniterati Kick-Off Meeting


Last night was our first meeting and a successful one at that! It was only four (six if you count the two cats who were trying hard to get at the yarn), but everyone had a good time and learned some knitting.

I had to quickly learn to knit continental style (i.e. left-handed) in order to teach the two lefties. Both of them picked it up quickly, though, and they were off! It was a great feeling to see them knitting so quickly.

Look at them go! Sarah is practicing casting on and knitting her swatch (she doesn't have a first project yet) and Kathryn is making these legwarmers. She's pretty far in on the first one!







There's Lance and I. Lance's yarn order hadn't come in yet, so he spent the evening learning increases and decreases.

And I'm working on this project. My very first wearable thing! (i.e. not a scarf or hat). It should be exciting.




And here's some other pictures:

Tiny cat wants to learn to knit!








Awww.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Novice knitters unite!

You have nothing to lose but your ... dropped stitches!

I don't feel much like an -ati of anything, and certainly not of knitting. But my dear friends and living inspirations Jenn and the Secret Knitter were kind enough to invite me along. I'll try to pop up every once in a while to speak on behalf of the ambitious yet inexperienced knitter, bewildered by options and cowed by stitch patterns, timidly approaching non-scarf and non-hat items (keep that sock where I can see it, sir!).

I have big plans to design my own this and adapt a classic that, but being a busy professional mom, I have little knitting time. (Maybe I'll write mostly about that.) Avoiding schoolwork and fighting exhaustion, I completed two rows of my longways scarf last night. And that's where I'm at. My blog, over there on the left menu, is Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy. Sometimes there is a post about knitting.

Here's my current thinking: Once I get this scarf done (and a longways hat to go with it), I'm ready to start my first real circular project (that is -- knitting a tube, rather than just knitting straight on circs). Most people would do a hat. But hat weather is almost behind us. I'm tempted by the contention in this Knitty article that socks are not as hard as people think they are. I have not yet ventured double-pointed needles, but I have some that I will be using for the endstage of the longways hat, so I won't be a dpn novice. What do the Kniterati think? Would a sock be an empowering or demoralizing affair?

(One non-knitting-related point in favor of a sock: My husband thinks knee socks are sexy. On the other hand: Knowing that in his eyes they can't be too long might cause me to delay doing the hard parts (heel turn and toe) indefinitely.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

KALs

I puzzled over this abbreviation for a little while--what the heck is a KAL? Well, I finally figured it out: It's a Knit-Along! KALs provide opportunities for knitters to knit a project with other knitters across the nation. They have a website where various knitters can post pictures of their projects: what yarn they chose, their progress, and finally their finished project. It's really pretty nifty.

If you want to participate in a KAL, here is a good website to find one. KALs are good ideas because they give you a support group to try something new (like socks, or perhaps some nifty scarf pattern). You can ask for advice from the other knitters or share ideas. It's another way of being in the knitting community!

Another neat thing that the Knit-Along website I linked provides are things called swaps. I recently participated in my first swap, and found it to be a satisfying experience. You sign up and receive the name of someone to make a package for--the one I did focused on favorite colors--and send it off to them, revealing your identity within the package. You in turn receive a package from someone else. It's a pretty fantastic way to meet new knitters (I now have two new knitting friends) and get some cool stuff in return.

I recently signed up for an International Scarf Exchange, where I will make a scarf for someone, perhaps overseas. International knitting buddies--how nifty is that?

As you can see, the online knitting community is strong and active. However, knitting with a group of people is also just as satisfying--which is why I wanted to form a knitting group in my area. Though, this blog is a meshing of both the online and the real-life knitting communities, something that's just really cool.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Buying Knitting Needles: Straights

They say that the tools make the woman (or do they? Maybe I made that up...), but in knitting it is important to have the right tools, starting with knitting needles.

Knitting needles come in all shapes and lengths and varieties, and made from all sorts of materials. For a beginning knitter, the types of needles you'll be using at first will be straight needles, or the single-pointed set of two needles you typically think of when you think of knitting. Here's one example from Knit Picks:

These are made of plastic. However, needles also come in bamboo, rosewood, various types of plastic and aluminum. The options are endless! Which is why SpiffyEnigmaticStyle asked about what you should look for in buying knitting needles.

I'll give some recommendations, but honestly it comes down to personal taste. I adore bamboo needles--and loathe to work with anything else--but when I was in a knitting store this past weekend, a lady pointed out some metal ones with fine tips that won't pierce the strands of yarn. Some knitters use plastic needles and prefer them to all other options.

For a beginner, plastic is often a good choice. For one thing, they are cheap and you don't have the "cold-feel" problem that you do with aluminum (also highly cost-effective). That's the problem with bamboo--they can run up to $10 a set. (I usually wait until all knitting supplies are 50% off at Hobby Lobby).

Knitting needles become a case of stick with what you like--I like bamboo, so I knit with bamboo. If you find a type you like, stick with it. If you don't like it, then try something else. If you have a knitting friend, then borrow a set of his or her needles. (Though, don't borrow them too long--I'm possessive of my needles, so I imagine others are too). And at first I would buy on a project-to-project basis--it hasn't been until recently that I've been building up my collection. Unless, of course, you find a great deal on a set or a pile of needles at a yard sale--then just get them.

Incidentally, Hobby Lobby has all of their knitting implements on sale for 40% off this week.

I hope this answers your question on how to buy straights! Look forward to a post on types of needles, coming soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We are the Kniterati

The Kniterati: A group of excited knitters of all levels and abilities coming together to knit. And have fun. Because knitting should be fun!

What to expect: Postings from members of the Kniterati showing off completed projects, sharing patterns and helpful tips, etc. Jenn (Kniterati guru and founder) plans to post a semi-regular newsletter of sorts. We'll see how it manifests itself.

Why "The Kniterati"?: Jenn (Lame Name Creator) was stuck on what to call this site. She wanted a place for everyone to come and ask questions and show off their knitting (and also to involve knitters who aren't in the area), but first she had to have a name. So she turned to her pal, Secret Knitter, and he came up with Kniterati. Get it? We're like the literati, but for knitting! (Nerdy, but charming).

Anyway, Jenn (Knitting Nerd) loves the blogosphere, so thus emerged The Knitterati Blogger site. Excellent, she said. Now to get people a'posting!