When I broke the news to my nearest and dearest that I was going to take up knitting, everyone smiled supportively with the exception of one, who did much ROFLing and declared knitting to be the domain of old ladies.
Firstly – there’s nothing wrong with old ladies (indeed I aspire to be one myself one day), and secondly, WRONG! Knitting is the new black. It’s the bee’s knees. It’s the way forward people!
As you know, last year I got some kids’ needles and wool and started practising my knitting. I was a bit rubbish at first, but persevered until I mastered the knit and purl stitches before joining the big boys and signing up for knitting class…
I cannot deny that I’m a sociable creature, so if there’s a chat and a cup of tea on offer then I’m pretty much in. Luckily for me, the class I joined offered just that and, contrary to what had been suggested, it wasn’t stacked out with octogenarians – rather, a few mums like me who were thrilled to be dodging domestic duties for a couple of hours. That in itself is going to make for a good night out.
In the class you pick a project for yourself and work on it. I had selected to knit a pair of men’s mittens (whoever knew these were ‘a thing’?!) from my own knitting book.
I decided that my dad would be the lucky recipient as I knew he’d be kind enough to overlook that a) they wouldn’t be perfect and b) they are mittens.
The great thing about going to a knitting group is that, if you get stuck, it’s only until your next class. It meant that I didn’t need to get disheartened about my project when I got into a muddle, because there would be someone to rescue me soon. If you’re lucky, you also build a network of knitters who can offer advice from within the group – in my case, one of my friends started coming along with me, plus I coincidently knew someone who went already.
Another advantage is that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for knitting around – of the ‘gorgeous yarn’, ‘great colour’, ‘let me stroke your needles’ variety. It’s catching, and it stimulates the imagination as to what you might create next.
In my class there are a range of skill levels – starting with those learning to cast on, right up to those who can make actual wearable garments. This provides visual evidence to us beginners that knitting is a skill that can actually be mastered if you stick at it.
It took me a while to make my mittens (3 months of working on them here and there), and it’s fair to say there were mistakes on the way.
I learned a lot:
- You Tube tutorials are amazing for showing you how to learn certain techniques – pictures in a book just don’t stand a chance against them.
- It’s important to check that you actually know what the abbreviations actually mean. I got caught out with WS facing (WS facing each other or WS facing me? I’m still not sure!)
- Tension matters. If you don’t pay attention to tension (that rhymes!) then you could end up having to knit three mittens so that two of them end up the same size.
I’m not saying that happened to me. That happened to me.
- Don’t leave your knitting out around small children. The children put the knitting in danger (and, obvs, the needles aren’t an ideal plaything for the kids).
- You don’t actually have to buy the colour of wool suggested in the book. The mittens would have turned out the same in a nicer colour – a different colour isn’t a jinx. Apparently.
- Your knitting will bring out the knitter in others. It turns out that some of my friends knit, and since discovering that, I have had text conversations about circular needles with one friend and spent a Saturday night in the pub talking about it to another.
- Knitting magazines are addictive. Walk away and share back editions with your friends.
So… I finished the mittens and they were duly presented to my dad, who appreciated them. Once he stopped laughing. In a kind way.
Before signing off, it’s worth saying that the reason I’ve taken up knitting is that it’s part of my grand ambition to create a more ethical and sustainable wardrobe. (See here for my post on learning to sew). I want to create clothes that I know have been made without exploiting workers abroad. I want to select my own materials – the wool was from Yorkshire – and I aim to cut down on the pollution caused when materials and garments are flown around the globe.
I’m hoping that because I have spent precious time selecting my materials, choosing what to make and then putting hours of care into creating an item of clothing, I will use the item until it falls apart. I’m so over buying things on a whim and ditching them after a few months.
I also hope to do more knitting for others. Personally I love handmade gifts and all that they represent. To show someone that you have put a huge amount of thought and time into a present is a gift in itself. That’s what I told my dad anyway….