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I Learned to Knit: Where it All Began

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knit book
Stitch ‘n Bitch Knit Book

Back around 2008 or so, I was looking for an inexpensive way to make a whole lot of Christmas and Winter Holiday gifts for friends and family. Not knowing what I was getting into, I picked up some cheap aluminum crochet hooks and knitting needles (not knowing which way I was going with this), and a bunch of squeaky acrylic yarn (mostly Lion Brand, which as acrylic yarns go, ain’t half bad).

I also picked up copies of Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘n Bitch and Happy Hooker, her beginning books for knitters and crocheters, respectively. On a whim, I went by Dollar Tree on my way home (because there is always an excuse to buy a couple of things at a buck apiece) and found, hidden in the back, a bin full of strange and wonderful novelty yarns for a buck a skein. I filled up my basket with them, not yet realizing that sometimes novelty yarns can be very hard to work with.

I got home and let the stuff sit. A month, maybe longer. I read the books. I read them again. I got them thoroughly damp reading them in the bathtub. Still the stuff sat.

Learning to Knit
Learning to Knit

Finally, the gears started turning. I picked up a crochet hook first, because, really, one hook is simpler than two needles. The patient lessons my mom had given me when I was little came back to me, little by little. I tore the same three inches out over and over, though, because every single time I did a row, I had either too many stitches or two few, resulting in a wavy scarf that got thinner and thicker at random (with more experience, I now call this a “design feature” instead of a mistake).

Finally I gave in and just kept crocheting until I got something long enough to wrap around my head a couple of times. Looked great, and it was very soft. I threw it in the wash. Acrylic, right? Wrong. I’d managed to pick up a couple of skeins of 100% wool. I now had a lovely length of felt that was far too short to wear.

When I dive in to something, I dive deep. In the span of a month, I’d made a granny square receiving blanket for a newborn and at least a half dozen different scarves for family members — anything that could be made in your basic rectangle.

knit anjou sweater
knit anjou sweater

Somewhere in the middle of that, I decided I wanted to knit, because some things need to just be knitted, not crocheted. So I pulled out Ms. Stoller’s other book and with it in my lap, and another squeaky acrylic yarn (I checked, this time) I set out to learn to knit. It took me a couple of days, heavily spiced with unsavory words, to cast on and knit a very few rows.

I would consistently get a few rows in and drop a stitch or create some other design catastrophe (again, now known as ‘design element’). I knitted one very ugly, uneven scarf, and gave it to my husband, who still wears it. Then I saw another scarf pattern, one I just had to make for myself (Lion Brand’s Scarf Hood pattern, made with Homespun yarn).

I was still having that same problem with dropping stitches here and picking them up there that I had when I crocheted, but with knitting, fixing a mistake is far more difficult than with crocheting. After I finally decided I just couldn’t stand the level of ‘design element’ in the scarf hood I was making for myself, I pulled out the Stitch and Bitch book again (now thoroughly understanding why the word “Bitch” was in the title) and went through the section on how to ‘unknit’ and use other techniques to back up and fix knit work.

Soon I was able to fix my mistakes with far less cursing involved, and completed several elongated rectangles that people oohed and ahhed over at gift giving time. Some of them were actually quite pretty. I didn’t take a picture of any of them, because I didn’t think in those terms then, but trust me, they were really, really cool.

The next step was to learn how to make things that were different shapes other than rectangular. I made a beautiful butterfly wing shawl, which I also didn’t take a picture of, and also gave away, and then a pretty little black hat with a brim, yet again given away sans pictures.

Next I made wet pixel’s “dogwood cable” hat for the Cave Dweller in Reynolds Whiskey, which is now discontinued. Try Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport instead).

This also involved learning how to use a circular needle and double tipped needles, which, all things considered, is easier than it looks. So is cable knitting, actually. Even lace knitting is just doing repetitive, soothing motions over and over, while counting to make sure the holes go in the right places.

Cover of "French Girl Knits: Innovative T...
French Girl Knits

Sock knitting was next. I knit three pairs for myself and one pair for my cousin before running out of steam. Then I discovered sweater knitting.I found an absolutely luscious yarn called, fittingly enough, Rapture, by Reynolds (another discontinued yarn, alas. If I were to make one today, I’d use acrylic for washability, and Lion Brand Heartland because it’s simply beautiful and soft), and free pattern by Drops Design, and made a sweater (which fits like a dream and suits me well) –>After abandoning one project (which will be detailed in a later post), I am currently working on the Anjou sweater, out of French Girl Knits, which I will also go over in a later post.If in the meantime, if someone wants to attempt to convince me that color work is really not the most frightening, dangerous thing ever, I’d love to hear it.

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