What a knitter should know is often a topic when designers and tech editors talk. We all believe that a knitter should know the basics, but what are the basics? Trust me, everyone has a different idea.
Where a Knitter Learns
There was a time when knitting was one of the things that society believed all “girls and young women” should know to be a homemaker. “Homemaking” skills were taught within families, school, or some other social or employment (or slavery) exchange of this information so written patterns and recipes were usually presented in a less formal way than we know today. If you can, take a look at Lace From the Attic by Nancie Wiseman.
Now it is just as likely that a knitter learned from YouTube as from their local yarn shop (where I learned), their mother or grandmother (my knitter), or a neighbor (my mother). Rather than getting a the same knowledge, we all end up learning what we need to know, or what we have access to.
My mother knew only the thumb version of casting on until I showed her the long-tail sometime in the 90s. She had learned to knit in 1930. No wonder she hated casting on a new project! As a teen I was thrilled when she learned seed stitch. That knowledge meant that we could then choose either rib or seed stitch for sweaters she knit for us.
What about SSK? Have you noticed that there are more than one way to work that? How do you know if you are using the “right” one (which would be what the designer used in that situation).
Or continental, flicking, throwing, and Portugese methods of holding and tensioning the yarn? Or Eastern, Eastern combined knitting? In the Andes, they knit in the round, but inside out, purling, rather than knitting. None of these methods are wrong!
What a Knitter Learns
I learned my favorite increase method after I heard someone at a knitting retreat say that their daughter (who knit samples at her local yarn shop) liked to use a lifted increase because it was nearly invisible and didn’t leave a gap. When I returned home I found instructions for a lifted increase and have never used a M1 since.
Likewise, I was working a pattern written by someone else a few years ago and it mentioned German short rows. I had never heard of them. Again, a tiny bit of research completely converted to me to that method and I haven’t used a wrap and turn since. I researched and learned Japanese short rows when someone asked me to teach them.
JSSBO opened my eyes to a couple of things. I was introduced to JSSBO at another retreat. Prior to that introduction, I had used a YO bind off for a flexible bind off. It had never occurred to me that the direction the YO was executed was a component. JSSBO changes the direction of the yarn brought over the needle for knits and improves how the bound off stitches sit next to each other. I am a JSSBO convert. Although I knew that changing the direction of the yarn wrap before a knit or purl changed the size of the YO in lace, I had never thought to extrapolated that elsewhere!
The flexible long-tail cast on was born after I phoned a knitting friend who had Principles of Knitting and asked her to read me the instructions for the double-needle cast on as presented by June Hemmons Hiatt. She read them to me once and I made notes, then read them to me again while I did it with needles and yarn. It worked great, so off I went. Turns out I had missed a tiny step. When JHH saw my reference to the double-needle cast on, I received a very stern email asking me to correct my instructions and not to use them as it was her technique. I liked my method, so I changed the name and the Flexible Long-tail Cast On became my cast on.
When Knitters Learn
Knitters have no dearth of access to knitting knowledge and that knowledge is available to us in myriad forms. Despite that, most of us will learn new things only when introduced to them or when it becomes something we think we should know. We have access to videos, classes (live and virtual), written text, books, magazines, patterns, podcasts, video casts, and other streamed content.
All the above are things I have learned long after I was a “real” knitter. I follow a lot of groups on Facebook where knitters rejoice in something new they learned, and it is almost always because of what they have seen or heard. “New-to-me” techniques may prove challenging, but we most often delight later in what we discovered because of the undertaking. That you used other techniques does make those less valid, you just expanded what you know!
What Being A Knitter Means
As a knitter you have to know a certain amount to get stitches on the needles and then create something. Beyond that you have the ability to challenge yourself, calm yourself, entertain yourself, and fill your time usefully. It doesn’t mean that every project has to do all or any of those things. Do acknowledge that your knitting gives you a lot and it is an important activity and worthy expenditure just because of that!
Wherever your knitting has previously taken you, the journey ahead may be improved and enhanced after you try something new. Generally speaking, our brains appreciate learning new things and will reward us for doing so. If you don’t like videos, you can check books out of your library, subscribe to podcasts, read blogs, buy patterns that are different than what you know. Join a local knitting group or guild. Knowing only a cast on not well-suited to her preferred projects, made my mother dread starting a new project; problem solved with the long-tail cast on. We all hope this will pay off in good knitting and good brain health.
When confronted by something they don’t get knitters often say, “I have been knitting for X years / I am an experienced knitter / I have knit many different types of projects / I’ve never seen it done that way”. Years at the job isn’t a guarantee of knowing all there is to know! Much better to delve into the why, than the why can’t I, or why should I. There is absolutely no reason you should know everything! You can always reject something after you investigate.
I love that knitting gives me so much! Also, don’t forget the cool people you have found out about because of your knitting. This week I bought a project bag (which I am gifting to a friend) made by Brenda Castiel. I am not using Etsy this week (sellers are protesting a rise in fees and other practices), so am not giving you that link. I also bought yarn from Neighborhood Fiber Company. The yarn will become a sample. Both purchases are to celebrate Ketanji Jackson Brown becoming a member of the Supreme Court. I do not stress about whatever dollars and time I choose to spend on knitting. Any expenditure is balanced by what I get back from my knitting in the form of entertainment, knowledge, meditation, friendship, and enjoyment.
Survey About What You Want to Know
A very quick survey for you to share what you would like to know. I’ll report next time on what I’ve learned.