Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Post Number One

Hi there. My name is Alec and I am learning to knit.

A brief background. I grew up with a mother that was a maniac when it came to making clothes and crafts. She was more of your late fifties/early sixties stay-at-home mom with 3 boys. She sewed clothes for us. She made Barbie clothes for all the girls in the neighborhood. Hell, she even made the bridesmaids dresses for my wedding.

She wasn't a knitter but I definitely got the crafts bug from her. I've been doing needlepoint patterns off and on for years. However that hasn't been very satisfying lately - seems more like a paint by number set than a creative endeavor. I'm a musician and am very into the creative and improvisational aspect of the arts.

So, for the past several months I've had this odd desire to learn to knit. I've always been intimidated by knitting, it seemed very complex and difficult, so I never investigated it. I thought - well, scarves, hats and sweaters, how fun can that be????

Then I discovered....

(drum roll)


Well, heck, I can get behind this! I'm a bit of a freak when it comes to goofy stuffed animals and such. Lover of most things Japanese.

So, I spent several hours poring over Amazon's selection of knitting books and DVDs. I must say those Amazon reviewers are certainly critical. Anyway I decided against books because I have a very hard time getting something like knitting from looking at photos. So I finally decided on The Complete Beginner's Guide to Knitting DVD by Nici McNally (

Huge PLUG here - wow I can't tell you how wonderful this disc is. Nici is a very friendly teacher and really goes out of her way to make sure you get it. The DVD is chaptered very well and it's really easy to go back if you didn't understand something. After simply learning the slip knot, casting on, and the knit stitch, I was off and running.

And it's a disc you can use for a long time. More advanced topics, increase, decrease, ribbing, gauge, troubleshooting, are all covered.

OK, that's enough of that, still, if you are a beginning knitter you could do well by picking this up.

My first week was spent beginning and unraveling this silly 10-stitch practice scarf. I think I must have redone it 30 times. It took forever to just get to the point where I wasn't ending up constantly increasing the number of stitches. Start with 10, then there's suddenly 12 stitches there! Where in the heck did they come from? The other fun one was finding giant holes in the knitting after I'd gotten through 8-10 inches of the scarf. Not to mention how uneven and loose my knits were.

The first painful week also taught me that I really don't like wooden needles. A lot of knitting pundits recommend starting with wood needles because they don't slip as much. My issue was that they just seemed like they wouldn't let go of the stitches. I had to really tug and pull to manipulate the stitches on the needle. I decided to try aluminum needles and - OH MAN - aluminum needles are awesome. For me personally I now cannot imagine knitting with anything else. I tried wood and plastic but they just didn't do it.

I say painful in a humorous way, because knitting is slowly teaching me to forgive myself for mistakes and that it's okay to start again. I went into this with the attitude that no matter what happened I'd have fun. I don't care how many times I have to start that scarf again! This is one of the more Zen aspects of knitting: it can teach you things about yourself. Maybe you can learn to forgive yourself for screwing up, or maybe you can turn a screwup into a unique aspect of the pattern. It can teach you how well or poorly you treat yourself, which is always a good lesson for me because I have been known to beat myself up pretty mercilessly.

There's s another cool thing about knitting: It's YOURS. The basic rules are there but it is so easy to really make knitting your own, choosing the threads, how you apply the patterns, and other aspects of the craft really leave you feeling like this is your creation, even though you may be using someone else's pattern.

Alright - that is my first week's struggle with figuring out how this stuff works. The next post will dive into my first tastes of success and accomplishment.