This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Do You Know What You're Doing?

Sometimes when people find out that I am a knitter, they say, "Oh, I could never do that!" Or, "How do you know what you're making? How do you know what it will turn into?" Or even, "Wow, you're so talented!"

Thanks for the kudos, but let's unpack these statements.

First, yes you can do this. Knitting does not take any special talent, skill, or magic. In many places it's child's work, and in Scandanavia children learn as early as 5 how to sling their sticks and string. 

Second, I know what I'm making because I either have a pattern that gives me detailed instructions, or it's something I've made so many times I know what I'm doing. A knitted touque is not something I even think about, from cast-on to bind-off.

Third, I am  not all that talented. Anyone can do what I'm doing with sticks and string. All it really takes is perseverance to master what might be a somewhat steep learning curve and to get through the "swear and stare" phase of knitting. 

When I am making a hat with worsted weight yarn, I know that 96 stitches on size US 7 needles will usually do the trick. That is perfect if I want to do a 2x2 rib, that the decreases will work out perfectly if I start at K10, k2tog across the row, and that there will be no extra stitches (or too few!) if I've counted correctly. One of my favourite scarf patterns is to cast on an even number of stitches and knit two rows, then do a 1x1 rib for two rows, lather, rinse, repeat. It gives a scarf with an interesting pattern. I've made the Brooklyn Tweed Noro Striped scarf so many times that I can cast it on in my sleep. It's when I make a Fair Isle hat that I'm really flying by the seat of my pants. I know how many stitches to cast-on, but I never know what I'm going to do first, or how many rows of it, or what's going to come next, until I get to that row. 

What prompted this is that I ran into a former co-worker and told him that I knit. I showed him my hat, a simple 2x2 rib, and he was amazed. To me, it's a simple and brainless piece of knitting. I probably didn't really pay any attention to it once I had established the pattern, until I got to the decreases. And then I need to remind myself that nothing is easy at first. I have been rapper sword dancing for over 15 years. Learning to listen to the swords, and which way to turn my body, and to protect my  hands (and legs, and face, and neck) from getting sliced by the blades was a bit of a challenge. But now, like knitting, sword dancing is second nature. I don't have to think about what to do, the swords tell me what to do. Likewise with knitting: the needles may not tell me what to do, but the pattern sure does! And if I don't have a pattern, then the yarn tells me what to do. Which  means that with ten years' experience under my belt, I've gotten good at intuiting what should come next. Or maybe everything I make looks all the same.

I like to knit. I like it so much that I cast-on lots of projects. Now if I could only finish a few of them! 

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