This blog posting comes to you from chilly Edmonton, where I am here this week with family for my grandfather’s memorial and assorted sorting and family time. I’m snatching bits of internet time when I can, though, and am hoping to tell you about at least one new pattern release this week! In the mean time, the knitting continues, and over the past couple of weeks as the weather has turned, despite keeping busy with knitting I find myself craving it even more and more. There is no end to the number of projects I want to start, and I keep thinking of more ideas I want to work on. I’ve also been hitting the bookshelves, looking for new things to read. Sometimes I feel like I need to go back for a creative top-up, a refresher of words as well as yarn. You know?
Writing this blog has been a great pleasure of mine these last five years (OH EM GEE, has it really been that long?) and I have no plans to quit blogging any time soon. Although I’m not able to respond to as many comments as I might like, I can reassure you that I read all of them – short ones, long ones, confused ones, excited ones. I love knitting, and I love taking on new knitting challenges. Being a part of the knitting blogosphere has broadened my impressions of what it is like to be a 21st Century knitter, of any level, and I often hear from knitters who are just starting their adventures in the crazy world of knitting.
I also sometimes hear from knitters who are relatively new to the craft who also find themselves a bit intimidated by all the choices and works that are already out there, and think something along the lines of “holy schlamoley I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that.” And if you’ve spent more than a little bit of time with me or my blog, you’ll know that the answer in my head is, “of course you can.” Even if you can’t do that thing very well right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. No one’s on a time clock here, and you can try new skills as frequently or infrequently as you like.
If you’ve happened by this blog and you’re someone who thinks of themselves as a new or beginning knitter, I want to first congratulate you on taking up this craft and sticking with it, and also to humbly offer a few encouraging words. I love knitting and I want desperately for others to love it as much as I do. I wanted to take a post to write down a few notes based on my experiences as well as on my hopes for new knitters – and hope that you’ll continue to have all kinds of fantastic knitting adventures ahead!
1. First, I hope you’re really excited. There’s so much to see and do in the world of knitting that it can sometimes feel intimidating, as though what you feel capable of doing is at best vastly outnumbered by what you haven’t tried yet. But the fantastic thing about knitting is that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter when and where you try all of these things. No one is going to look for your Knitting 101 completion certificate before allowing you to purchase a book on colour-work knitting. (But if they do, you can tell them from me to go and take a freaking flying leap and have a glass of wine.) If you’ve decided to make a laceweight shawl your 2nd project ever, no one is going to teleport into your house and rip it out of your hands and tell you you’re not “ready” for that yet.
2. Allow yourself to experience frustration. It’s a rare knitter – of any level of experience – who does not encounter any moments of frustration at all, when it comes to knitting. All of us have, at some time, been screwed over by gauge, been stressed out beyond belief over why we can’t seem to read pattern instructions properly when the rest of the world seems to have no trouble at all, been scared to try a new technique because it “seems hard,” or any number of other challenges that knitting presents us. This is all fine. It may not seem fine in the moment we are experiencing the frustration, but it is. These are war stories that you get to go off and tell the next time you’re at a knitting group or meeting a fellow knitter for coffee, and they are going to leave you a better knitter on the other side of it.
I could tell you about the first time I worked nupps, on a laceweight shawl. The first row involving nupps took me about an hour, and by the end of it I was seriously considering ripping it all out, or possibly giving it to the birds because maybe laceweight silk makes a nice nest and seriously, it would be more fun. But then I had a pause, and on the next row involving nupps, they got easier. We’ve all got some of these. (In fact, if you’ve got a favourite, I heartily endorse including one in the comments.)
3. Try new things. Every so often, let yourself be taken in by a new skein of yarn, or a new kind of needle, or a technique you haven’t tried before. You really can never tell what you will take a fancy to until you try it. When I first started knitting socks I learned on double-pointed needles (DPNs), and was religious about it. I have the DPN collection to prove it – my favourite length is 7″, so that I can work comfortably with a set of 4 – and you could have talked all you wanted about Magic Loop but no siree, I was sticking with DPNs. Then, one week, I tried Magic Loop. Now I knit all my mitts and gloves and half my socks with Magic Loop. The DPNs are still there, and I still go back to them every so often. Nobody made me throw them away when I took up with Magic Loop, and I get to choose which ones I use when.
My point here isn’t to tell you that you too should use Magic Loop as a method of working in the round on small circumferences. I don’t think everyone should do a particular thing any more than I think everyone should eat the same food every day all the time. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think you should try it at least once before making up your mind about it. Which leads me to…
4. Every so often, go crazy. Cast on for a project that seems way too hard. Buy yarn that seems way too fancy for you. Go along with your friends and join in for a knitalong for a project that you never would have chosen for yourself. Walk into a yarn shop you’ve never been to before. Sign up for a class just for the hell of it. Flip through a book of patterns and choose the one that’s the most ambitious of the bunch. Maybe you’ll finish it in two days, maybe you’ll learn something that will blow your mind…maybe you’ll put it down and go back to the other project you already started. Maybe it will make the other project you thought was crazy before, seem less crazy by comparison.
As knitters, we have the luxury of being able to take little risks like this all the time, and still maintain our allegiance to our craft in a way that lets us control what we do and when. It’s hard to say that about a job, for example, or even some other hobbies. Every so often, let your knitting world go a little bit off kilter, and see what happens.
5. Finally, knit what you want to knit. I say this in all sincerity and with no allusions to any particular perception of skill or worthiness. If it brings you pleasure to knit something, or if there’s something you’ve been really wanting to make but have been holding off…just knit it. Even if you encounter challenge along the way, it will be worth it because your love of the thing itself will help you to finish it. If you really really love dishcloths and you can’t get enough of them and you feel called to knit them in every colour, for every person you know, and you feel comfort in seeing the little stacks of coloured cotton squares stack up in front of you, for goodness’ sake knit those dishcloths. Eventually you may well come to the end of your dishcloth jag and pick up something else, or you may not. Either way, your dishes and everyone else’s in the neighbourhood will have the best knitting ever.
Or, if what you really really want to knit is an Aran sweater with cables all across it, in bright magenta wool because magenta is your favourite and you really don’t understand what this business of knitting Arans in boring neutral pale shades of cream and beige is all about, you go right ahead and knit yourself a magenta Aran sweater. Actually, I would really love to see that sweater. Please tell me about it when you knit it, because maybe I want to knit that sweater too. Or maybe there’s another knitter in your circle who has secretly been wanting to knit herself a cabled Aran sweater in bright chartreuse green, but she didn’t think she had permission to do that until she saw that you were doing a magenta one, and seeing yours made her say screw it, I’m doing one too.
If it brings you pleasure to knit it, then knit it. Everyone else can do as they please.
Keep well this week, and I’ll catch you next time with more knitting in hand!
[ETA: Because you asked, and because it was terrible of me to tease you! – the pictures I snapped for this post include my new Gateway scarf pattern – which I am going to be sure to do a proper blog post about soon! – and the two ready-and-waiting wound skeins up at the top are Lorna’s Laces Shepherd worsted in Raspberry, and Neighbourhood Fiber Co. superwash worsted in a lovely purple/pink mix whose colourway name I can’t remember.
More soon! Family to-do-ings are keeping me busy this week. ]