Ask A Knitter Anything #1: The Appeal of Knitting

It’s been almost 3 years since I started knitting. During this time, I went from barely being able to properly knit a knit stitch, to knitting full adult sweaters, knitting fair isle with both hands at the same time and being able to read and write patterns. While I’m far from knowing everything, I do know a lot and people ask me questions often that I happily answer.

After one such question the other day, I toyed with the idea of starting an AAKA – ‘Ask A Knitter Anything’ series, where I answer questions people commonly (and less commonly) ask me based on my personal experiences. While I will start this series with a set of pre-collected questions, you are welcome to ask me any question you’d like to see answered by commenting on these posts! I’m keeping close tabs on this and try to get everything answered.

These questions will be spread out in a series of posts. How many that will be, I don’t know! But you can look forward to 1-2 of these posts a week. 🙂 Now, let’s get started!

What makes knitting so alluring?

I find it difficult to pin point exactly what keeps me coming back to knitting. I think it’s safe to say I’m an honest to god addict by now, and there is a certain charm that can be attributed to the yarn you use as much as the knitting itself. The pretty colors, the texture of the yarn and the idea of endless possibilities of what you can do with it certainly play a huge role in this.

More than anything else, the process of knitting became addicting.

Before I even started knitting on two needles, I was only curious. I saw what my friend did, knitting beautiful scarves, cowls and other goodies, and my brain kept poking me with the question ‘How is it made?’. I really wanted to find that out by doing it myself, and it’s this curiosity that prompted me to ask my friend if she wanted to teach me. I was excited and nervous. She made me start with a rectangular knitting loom because it was easier to finish a piece quickly and experience the satisfaction of finishing a project, rather than repeated failure from starting with needles.

Oh boy how right she was! I spent a whole day loom knitting away. I just couldn’t put it down. Once I had the hang of it, I immediately noticed I got better. It was a bit of a rush to see my simple little actions of wrapping a peg and pulling the yarn over the peg create an actual scarf. The motions tired my hands and tensed my shoulders, but I couldn’t just leave the loom laying on my desk. Every time I took a break, all I could think about was continuing.

I finished the scarf in less than two days. I was ecstatic! I had actually KNIT something, all by myself and with minimal help from my friend. I had a scarf that wasn’t just pretty, but also functional on my first try. Sure, there were some mistakes in it, but you couldn’t really tell because I chose a black acrylic. Looking back on it, I think it was this excitement of knowing I created something from nothing, being proud of the end result and wanting to make more that drew me to the craft.

I put the loom down for almost half a year after a couple of other pieces. I was busy and couldn’t dedicate enough attention to learning new things at the time. But at the end of the summer that same year, that same friend put me on the path of knitting with needles. This time, the challenge was a bit bigger. The learning curve was more frustrating because a lot more was going on with my hands at the same time than with a loom. It was the memory of accomplishment I had with the loom that kept me going.

The allure of knitting lies in the creation process and the goal of finishing a creation that is useful, for me.

Once you started knitting, what made it such a huge, driving force in your life?

The ability to create things from nothing is addictive. The motion of knitting has a highly meditative quality and once you work your way past the frustrating bits of learning the craft, you can sit down, zone out and keep your fingers busy while your brain does its thing. This is no surprise to anyone who knits regularly, but something that non-knitters tend to be skeptical of. 🙂

What knitting did for me was a way of coping with my mental health issues. When depression struck and I felt like I couldn’t do anything, I could knit and finish my project. The sense of accomplishment is a massive boost to my self-confidence and vital in maintaining my mental well-being.

Knitting also taught me important lessons, such as ‘it’s okay to let go’ and ‘mistakes are just things that happen and there’s no reason to be ashamed of that’. For someone who struggles with ‘not being allowed to make mistakes’ and ‘keep ramming your head into the wall until you get through it regardless of whether you hurt yourself or not’, that is huge. Coming to terms with the fact that nothing I knit (or do) will ever yield perfect results has lifted a weight off my shoulders I carried with me for decades. Learning that sometimes you have to start over by undoing all the work you did before, but understanding that you learned many things and can do better this time, has improved my way of functioning in everyday life.

When I found out that charity knitting is a thing, I did a lot of research on how to get involved. I struggle with social interactions and an avoidant personality disorder on top of my other issues, so finding something that could help me overcome some hurdles was important and scary. Having it be knitting lowered the hurdle, making it easier to find some ways I can contribute positively to the world even though I’m poor and limited in what I can do. Currently, I knit breast prostheses for breast cancer survivors and people in the versatile gender community who are in need of more comfortable and affordable alternatives than what is currently available.

What started out as a curiosity and a hobby has quickly become a lifestyle. Knitting is not just wrapping a piece of yarn around a needle and calling it a stitch, it’s a doorway into a world of possibilities, healing and socialization, even for those who feel they have very little to nothing to offer in this world. It gives my life meaning, and it gives me a purpose.

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Why it’s good to know your tech stuff.

One thing that I really dislike about certain Ravelry patterns is that they are outdated, linking to a pattern on a website that no longer exists. It’s particularly annoying when it looks like you finally found that spectacular pattern you’ve been browsing around for the past 3 hours, only to run into a dead end. So much frustration, so much anger!

I ran into this issue today, when I found the Cats Love Sweaters pattern. The link brings me to a blank website that is no longer available. Now what? Thankfully I’m well versed in my Google-fu and know how to check a site’s cache. Alas, even here I just run into a plain ‘this domain is up for grabs’ page. Guess the site’s been down for years and nobody’s picked up the domain since. So then what?

There’s a website on the internet called “Way Back Machine” (which is linked to on the caching site as well), also known as the internet archive. How it works is quite simple: at the top of the page, you enter the URL of the site that is broken (or you want to see an older version of). In my case, I used http://www.christinelandry.com/?cat=7 as this is the URL the pattern gives. Click on “Browse History”, and it will take you to a calendar. Each time this website stored a version of this site, it is shown as a blue date.

So now you need to know when the pattern was published, so you know what year and month to look for. I checked and the pattern was published September 2007. Now in 2007, the website was stored once on October 11th. Which is good! That’s a date very close after publishing, so it’s likely the website was up and running without problems. I click this date and lo and behold, the pattern! Now to save this pattern for later use, I select all the text (and pictures) that I need, right-click and choose “Print”.  Nope, I’m not going to print this pattern at all! Instead I will save it to my computer in a super duper easy way. At the top left where it says “Destination”, I click the “Change” button and then pick “Save as PDF”.

When the print page is ready, I click on “Save” and save the now newly created PDF file to my computer! This means as long as I have this file, I can print and check this pattern on my computer, my phone or tablet whenever I need to. 🙂 This works for any pattern that is featured on a blog or website. It’s a great way to hold on to a beloved pattern that may one day disappear from the internet without wasting tons of paper.

Is this something you will be doing in the future yourself?

What a little QT 3.14159!

The first sleeve on my sweater is done (and fits this time!) and the second one is several inches in. It would have been done by now if I hadn’t had to redo the first sleeve and then got burned out on it. To alleviate that exhaustion, I focused on a different project. Something cute, fun and quick to finish. Taking my time it took 5 days from start to finish to work this plushie. It was a nice break and the end result is smashing!

So meet my little bud, QT 3.14159 (Cutie Pie)!

2016-01-14

I used the pattern Louie the Lovebot with Lion Brand’s yarn Hometown USA in colorways Dallas Grey and Key Lime. I won one skein of Dallas Grey last year when I placed in an art contest and bought one more in the same colorway and one in Key Lime (you can’t tell the gray is in two different dye lots). I used a size 7mm circulars. Two skeins of the gray turned out to be too little but one skein of green was plenty. I ended up knitting one arm and one leg in reverse colors so I would have enough yarn for everything.

The result itself is very cute but the pattern itself isn’t optimal. I ended up knitting the body flat with 2 extra stitches at CO so I could mattress stitch up the sides and avoid the impossible intarsia in the round. I stranded the colorwork. Next time I think I may just duplicate stitch for a better tension and neater look, cause working super bulky yarn on too small needles is hard work by itself, but colorwork becomes a drama! Some of the construction is also a bit weird.

Things I would do different next time:

  • Work the body in the round without colorwork and duplicate stitch the heart instead (marking the first color stitch with a stitchmarker).
  • Use a provisional CO for the body so that I can kitchener stitch the body closed after stuffing for a neater finish.
  • Instead of using the 3 needle bindoff for the body, kitchener stitch it closed on the shoulders and leave the stitches between the markers live on the needles. You’re going to pick them up again for the head anyway. You can sew the gap between the body and head shut later from the inside without it being visible.
  • Pick up stitches on the body to start the arms with to avoid having to sew them on (it was difficult and didn’t look neat at all).
  • When CO the feet, you start with the heels. I would use Judy’s Magic CO to avoid having a gap and needing to sew it shut, it would look better.
  • I’d probably pick up stitches and knit the ear bolts on directly rather than sew them on.

Part of these modifications stem from the fact I hate sewing. Most people dislike weaving in, or kitchener stitch or similar things. I like those. I hate sewing! The less I have to do it, the better.

I’m actually excited to knit him a little buddy. He’s about 55cm/21.5″ tall from the top of this head to the bottom of his feet with super bulky yarn on 7mm needles.  I think a worsted or DK yarn might be good for a little guy. 🙂

You’ve got to be bobbling me!

I finished vacuuming (+ tidying up the kitchen floor + bathroom floor + mopping both kitchen and bathroom) and while I’m resting with a very sore back, I found this article in my Facebook feed from the Real Men Knit group:

When a bobble isn’t a bobble.

Bobbles are new to me because I didn’t know about their existence until I got a sock pattern book from my friend wherein a pattern features it, only a couple of weeks ago. The instructions were less than friendly, and although I find bobbles intriguing and want to try them, I was scared off. After giving this article a read-over I’m actually itching to try it! I know just enough crochet to make this work. This ‘rosette’ is also more subtle than the traditional bobble, which I quite enjoy.

I hope this is useful to others as well!

Don’t sweat it

My back busted again earlier this week. No idea how or why, it just did. I had to lay down in bed or risk going down again. It’s a big bucket of suck, that’s what this is. I’m just glad it’s before Christmas and not on it like last year.

It’s a little difficult to focus on the socks’ legs and cuffs at the moment. I have to count constantly, my meds are making me tired, so I ended up casting on the sweater. I’ve already got 15cms done on the raglan and it’s a brainless matter until I reached 27cms. I’m not sure why I put off knitting a sweater for so long, socks are genuinely more difficult to make.

2015-10-31

I’m sing the Incredible Custom-Fit Raglan pattern with my boyfriend’s measurements and Ice Yarns Fiammato (Grey) yarn to knit with. It’s going to be a plain stockinette sweater with ribbed hems on the neck, sleeves and bottom, so hopefully it knits up fast. The yarn if flammé (meaning the yarn thickness varies along the thread) which shows in the knitting, and I really love it!