A lot of people are intimidated about knitting. If you’re reading this and you know me, you might be one of the many people who has said things to me like along the lines of, “Wow, you are so talented; I could never do that.” I realize this is meant as a compliment, but it is also meant as a fact statement about the speaker. One looks at the two sticks, the string, and the beautiful piece of fabric descending from them, and is completely intimidated by the possibility of doing that themselves. (This is disregarding those who say “I could never do that” and really mean “I would never want to do that.”)
The thing is, it’s nowhere near impossible. If you can type more than 10 words per minute, chicken pecking or otherwise, you can knit. If you can play any kind of musical instrument in the most rudimentary fashion, you can knit. (I used to say that if you can wipe yourself, you can knit, but it’s been suggested to me that this is slightly vulgar. A “burlesque” sense of humor should have limits.)
Now, if you’re one of the folks who has said or thought that knitting is intimidating, I know how you feel. I used to feel really intimidated about making bread, mostly because I got the impression from my mom that it was really hard. Something was always going wrong when she made it – it’d flop, or be hard, or not rise enough, or rise to explosion while we were watching TV. Unfortunately, I was a child and did not care about her efforts to make whole wheat sandwich bread, but when I became an adult, I wanted to try it. I was worried – that it’d be time consuming, take a lot of trial and error, and that every time I tried it I’d be slaving over something that would have a rather meager success rate.
But I tried it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Thanks to my food processor and a recipe off a bag of King Arthur’s Flour, I’ve been making whole wheat sandwich bread for a year and a half, an effort which takes less than half an hour of concentrated effort per week.
So the moral of the story is, try something, and it won’t be that bad, right? Well, yeah, mostly.
But I’ve been noticing something about my bread lately. To be frank… it’s not very good. It doesn’t rise very much, and it’s incredibly chewy. It’s bread, it’s edible, and I made it, but it’s not great. If I want to make bread that is enjoyable, it’s going to take more work – experimentation, trial and error, expense, and time. And I tend to not want to do those things just to get sandwich bread at the other end.
I’m the same way about knitting – I’m a product knitter. I enjoy the process, especially at the beginning, but it takes me about five minutes to get bored with what I’m working on, so I keep going because I want the thing at the other end. This is one reason why I lack that quality so helpful not only in knitting and breadmaking, but in most of life: forethought.
Remember that pretty lace scarf I was working on a couple of posts ago? Well, I ran out of yarn. I mean, I really ran out.
This is partly because of lack of forethought, contributed to by a certain jaded-ness when it comes to knitting patterns as concerns the quantity of yarn they recommend. For the last several sweaters I’ve made, I bought the recommended amount of yarn and had 2 or more hanks left over. This seems to me like a scam, so I’ve started haphazardly starting projects for which I do not have the amount of yarn recommended by the pattern. Thus, for this Triinu scarf, even though Nancy Bush (author of Estonian Lace Knitting) clearly stated that she used a 500 yd. hank of fingering weight, I thought this project would be perfect for my 400 yd. skein of fingering weight suri.
The center part is supposed to have 29 repeats of a 12-row lace pattern, and before I was halfway through, it was blatantly obvious that I was not going to make it. I did some fancy calculating involving a postage scale, a calculator, and some very loose algebra, and decided I could make it 24 repeats. As I neared the finish line I got more nervous, so I just did 23. Then, halfway through the border, I ran right out.
This is where I got clever. The scarf has two lace borders on either end, both knit outward from the middle of the scarf. The way this is accomplished is that you knit the center portion of the scarf first, then one border, then you pick out your provisional cast on that you so cleverly made, since you follow Nancy Bush’s wise directions, and knit the other border.
I ran out of yarn during the first border. So what I decided to do was to take my work off the needles, pick out the provisional cast on, and start knitting the second border, using the end of the yarn and unraveling the other end of the scarf to get more.
I was greatly tickled by the observation that, in this manner, knitting on one end of the scarf using yarn being unraveled from the opposite end, one could hypothetically keep knitting on this scarf forever. I don’t know why this pleases me, because as a product knitter I would never even consider doing such a thing, but apparently I liked it enough to attempt to document it photographically.
Observing how much yarn I had to pull out from the other end of the scarf to finish the second border, I made a liberal guess as to how much I would have to pull out from the center section in order to do the first border. I ended up with 21 repeats in the center, after all was ripped and re-knitted, and even so I had to make the borders two rows shorter. It was an amazing feat of fudgery, but that’s what it took to make a scarf with 4/5ths of the yarn called for and make sure to have only this much yarn remaining:
So the real moral of the story is, even though it isn’t that difficult to get over your intimidation and knit/bake bread, if you want to make something that totally does what you want it to, it takes time, patience, planning, and that all important forethought to do so excellently. But if all you want to do is just knit/bake bread, you really can just do it.
But I have to say, knitting is definitely better than baking bread on this score. If your bread baking doesn’t quite go how you want it to, you’ll probably just end up with not-very-good bread. Not so with knitting. It’s true, things can go horribly wrong, but with a little ingenuity and cleverness, you can end up with something just as good as, or even better than, what you were aiming for.
Granted, I know lots of people who think very hard about their knitting before they start a project. They check for errata in the pattern, they read through the whole thing carefully before they start, they make sure to buy an extra skein of yarn, they swatch and then wash their swatches, and they think through every aspect of relating to the yarn to the project before they start. They are Artisans. I also am an Artisan, but I am also Lazy. And frankly, it works.
But I am learning. Learning that it may save stress, and in the long run, time, to stop and think ahead. (at least as much as I can before my ADD kicks in and I realize I’ve cast on without even looking at the pattern.) Learning that I am a pretty good knitter, but that I can take my craft to new heights if I think things through more carefully. Learning that I don’t just have to learn from my mistakes, but that I can avoid them.
But I will say this: If you want to knit, don’t be intimidated. Just knit.
The other moral of the story: If Nancy Bush says it, I will obey.