Saturday, September 30, 2017

3 Way to Make Your Knitting Less Stressful

Joining the folded hem on The Gigi Hat
(read on for a little backstory)
I read somewhere that blog posts with "number of ways to [blank]" are more eye catching and people like them more. I don't know why; they always irritate me. But heck, I'll do it anyway.

I used to teach a lot of knitting classes before "real" life got in the way. One time I even went on riverboat cruise (with a genuine sternwheeler!) and taught a beginner's lace pattern -- that was the pattern "24 Carats" available on Ravelry (free!) and so named because there are 24 diamonds and you can practice three different double decreases.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not very good at teaching brand new knitters; I haven't had enough practice to develop the right language to make knitting "click" in someone's brain. But I genuinely love to teach new knitters to expand their skills and abilities.

When I would teach a class, there were several things I would repeat over and over again. I don't know if it was helpful or not, but no one ever told me to stop. (I'm sure some of my old students would be able to tell you, yes, he used to say those things. A lot.)

  1. "It's Just Knitting." -- It's just yarn and two sticks. The fate of the world does not rest in your hands. Enjoy yourself. If you make a mistake, don't panic because there are really only two options: fix it (either rip back or some other method of "fixing"), or forget it. And you know what kind of person you are. If you can ignore a mistake and still be happy, forget it; if you will always focus on the mistake every time you see the project, fix it.
  2. "It Will Fit Someone." -- This mainly applied to hats and scarves, projects that either don't have to fit perfectly, or are small enough that you can knit them relatively quickly. (A little secret about my hat designs: I've never swatched any of them for gauge before I knitted them, only after when writing the pattern.) Especially for hats, they will fit someone. Is the baby hat too small or too big? I don't know. It will fit a baby!
  3. "There Is No Right or Wrong, There Is Only Generally Accepted." -- So many times I'd hear a knitter complain "I'm not doing it right" or "What is the right way to work this stitch" and I'd always say "Generally, most knitters/most books will tell you to do [this], but the end result is [that] so however you get there is good." This applied a lot to techniques like left-leaning decreases, cables and, oddly, stockinette. (The stockinette was probably mainly because a lot of people knit twisted and I'd explain the difference but, you know what, a lot of people knit a lot of twisted stitch patterns! Who am I to judge?)
A little bit more on that third point? There are so many self-appointed knitting police out there in the world (and no actual knitting police) that it can be difficult to find your own way, especially when you're new to a craft. I refuse to listen to them. You can if you want; but I think you'd be less stressed if you didn't.

And I'd like to tack on a 4th thing: "Patterns Are Usually Guidelines." Now I know this would sound counter-intuitive, but I'll elaborate. Yes, the numbers and stitch pattern and such - if you don't follow them, you may not end up with the pattern you envisioned. But maybe that's a good thing. There are so many reasons to change stitch counts (sizing) or patterns (maybe you hate cables but love the shape of the finished design). But the other place where you should use the pattern as a guideline: techniques.

I recently was trying to occupy some time in a hotel room on vacation and had packed two balls of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran from my stash and found a really great pattern on Raverly: The Gigi Hat by Margot Allen (free!). It's a different shape than I'd knitted before so I was curious to see how it would work up. Plus it has my favorite thing in a hat, a folded hem.

I whipped out my yarn and appropriate needles (no gauge swatch, see Point 2 above) and then read down the pattern: "With scrap yarn and using your favorite provisional cast on method..." Uh oh. Don't get me wrong; I love a provisional cast on--my personal favorite is crochet cast on and quite a few of my patterns use it--but I'm 6 hours from home with only a few knitting supplies and no scrap yarn.

So I just started with long tail cast on and got stitches on the needle and got started. I know that I can pick up from the cast on edge; I've done it before. And you know what, it worked this time, too. And I learned that there isn't a HUGE benefit to going through the provisional cast on. Yes, the inside edge isn't as neat but, guess what? No one will ever see it. Well, maybe whoever wears the hat, but it's INSIDE!