But it was only hard the first time

(Warning! A post chock full of photos and rambling.)


As I’ve been working away on the Endpaper Mitts over the past few days – using them alternately as bait (to do work) or procrastination fodder (just a few more rows and then I’ll work), my train of thought was enjoying itself. “I love fair isle,” my brain said. “This is easy. I know some people don’t like fair isle, but I love it. Why don’t I do fair isle more often? It’s so much more fun than other knitting. I should knit more fair isle. I love fair isle. Fair isle is the best ever.”


And then, it occurred to me that if someone – a non-knitter, say – were to happen upon me while I was knitting this slim and sleek little fingerless mitt on tiny tiny pointy needles with tiny tiny yarn in two colours, they would probably look at me with either fascination or trepidation and wonder what in the freaking heck I was doing. And I was quite sure that nobody would think that I was doing anything that could be remotely considered easy.

So the ‘represent’ voice in my head then reminded the ‘this is so easy’ voice not to dumb down my skills, and reminded me not to tell people knitting is easy, because, damnit, Knitters Shalt Not Undervalue Their Skill Which Is Mighty And Glorious. And I started wondering why I would feel so compelled to tell people that what I was doing wasn’t hard, because it’s certainly not because I think it doesn’t involve skill.


I think part of it is that the Recruiter Knitter in me doesn’t want non-knitters to be scared off. I don’t want them to see my fiddly DPNs and multiple colours and think, “damn, good thing I’m not trying to do that.” I want them to think, “I could do that! I’d do it in green and blue and make it 1/2 inch shorter to fit me better!” And because I like that knitting is challenging, and don’t like to think that challenge = hard = run away, I would rather people think it’s a fun, easy thing.

(I remember reading an interview ages ago with Jennifer Garner during her Alias super-spy days, where she responded to the eleventy-millionth question along the lines of “wow, you’re so fit! You must work out so much and be insane about exercise!” and she was all, “I just work out for an hour a day. Really. Anybody can work out for an hour a day. Really.” And I think my brain follows this logic with knitting, that if you’re convinced only some people can do X, then you’ll never let yourself do X. With the exception of out and out non-preference. If you just plain don’t like fair isle/cables/socks, then of course why the heck would you want to bother? but anyhoo…)


But that isn’t really all of the picture, either, because I know quite rationally that any knitting technique requires a certain combination of skill, fear, and blind faith. I remember the first fair isle sweater I did from Philosopher’s Wool, and was just getting used to the idea of working with one strand of colour in each hand and then got told that I would have to do steeks, which is a nice-sounding word for cutting up the beautiful and multiply-coloured fabric I was going to have to knit with my bare hands.

I had the fear then. Then, if a non-knitter had come upon me, I would have said that yes, yes this is hard, please save me from myself. But that’s just it, it was only hard the first time. Now I love it. It’s the bestest ever. I’ll happily join the Knitting Conversion Squad, Fair Isle Division. it was the same with DPNs. I was all, “are you kidding? Socks with 4 needles? Maybe I’ll just do these plain 2-needle ones first and then work up nice and slow to 4 needles…” And then with cables, too, I needed hand-holding, and now I chastize myself for not trying more cables. So much knitting, so little time.


And so now that I’ve had those little bits of fear I realize now that (with my knitting, anyway), I’m okay with the fact that there’s a lot of skill I haven’t learned or mastered yet, because I get what it’s like to have worked through these first few other fears. I’ll learn the other hard stuff all in good time. Now I will happily join the cheering squad for my new knitting friends who aren’t sure about cables or aren’t sure about socks or whatever, because I recognize now that a lot of knitters – myself included – need to hear people saying, “it’s not hard, I promise, you can do it,” before they can start telling themselves that. And I think ultimately that’s where my “knitting is easy” voice comes from.

So, anyway…did I tell you about how awesome fair isle is? 😉


Endpaper Mitt #1 is lovely. And fits, well, like a glove. (Yuk yuk yuk.) I’m already planning a second pair in solid yarn so that the contrast will show up better – this was an experiment using a solid colour paired with a single-spectrum self-striping yarn. The dark shades of purple aren’t as strong against the charcoal as the lighter shades are. Still, they fit well and are super comfy and I’ll enjoy wearing them. Now, to finish #2…


  1. Elinor · ·

    Your post makes me want to cast on for a pair! I love how they look and I really like color work but I’ve resisted the urge to cast on so far because I’m not sure I’d wear them. *sigh* Maybe I can think of someone who would wear them so I can have an excuse to make some!

  2. Wonderful post, and the mitt came out lovely! This is my very first “real” fair aisle project I’ve worked on, and I was intimidated for the first, oh, 6 inches?

  3. I feel the same way! After picking up some fair isle socks again, I so missed it and thought that same thing “why don’t I do fair isle more often – it’s easy and fun!” it sure looks impressive to non-knitters though!!!!

  4. PS – the endpaper mitts are beautiful – I love that you used variegated yarn – that is something I need to try next….

  5. Moggle · ·

    They look fantastic. That’s the second time I’ve seen these done in a verigated and a plain yarn and it looks great! I am itching to get on with mine (boring non-verigated), perhaps I should start this weekend. (no have to finish Ivy first)

  6. Hmmm, that’s quite a post, Glenna. Need to think about that one for a bit…! The mitts look wonderful, btw!

  7. Lovely mitt! I’m of the opinion that fair isle is evil. BUT I want to be able to do it and say “fair isle is easy.” That’s why I signed up for a class that will have us knitting a Dale of Norway sweater. I haven’t bought the yarn yet because I’m scared. I wonder if by August I will have rationalized giving up the deposit I put down for the class. *laugh*

  8. Lady O · ·

    They look fabulous! (Which colour is closer to the real thing, the more purple or the more blue?)

    I haven’t done a lot of fair isle, but want to do those gloves they are fabulous!!! (I also just finished flipping through a book I inherited on FI – weird- must be a knitting omen…) I also fear steeking – a pathological fear. (also the sewing part of my brain says – if you wanted to sew – do that stupid, this is knitting. If only my hobbies would get along!!) So I guess I’ll have to stick to steek-less objects for the time being, I don’t think my psyche is up to coping with that kind of abuse just now.

  9. Poppy is gorgeous, the colours really suit you and what a lovely shape.
    The endpaper mitts are really sweet, I love how small and perfectly formed pieces of fairisle they are.

    I think that fairisle isn’t easy, anymore than knitting itself is easy. However, it is a skill which, with a reasonable amount of effort and patience, anyone can master. I think you are right that we should not a) undersell our own achievement in acquiring these skills b) mislead beginners into thinking that they will not have to put in effort to be able to learn these skills themselves.

  10. Great mitt – it’s interesting to see the affect of using a variegated yarn – very pretty.

  11. Glenna, I absolutely love this post, oh so true and funny, had me giggling in fits.
    Those are beautiful little mits and well done!

  12. I hear you. I knit one scarf and then immediately embarked on mittens on dpns, and then on to socks because that is what I WANTED to knit. If you knit what you want, nothing is hard. I was afraid of the provisional cast on and one day when it was quiet, I sat down and did it, nothing hard about it, just do it! It is only yarn and sticks afterall…right?

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