Today I taught him to knit.  We stopped in at Knit Happens in Scottsdale, and they were unpacking and labeling new yarn.  He picked out some Regia Hand-dye Effect, an incredibly soft superwash wool/polyamide/acrylic blend in a gorgeous variegated green colorway.  Sock yarn, of course; he’s crazy about sock yarn right now.  “Do you two knit?” one of the clerks asked me, as I was wandering around petting yarn.

“I do, but he doesn’t,” I said.

“Well, why not?” she asked.  She then invited us over to look at the yarn that was being unpacked (very pretty).  One of the things I like about Knit Happens is their knitting table, which often has random projects scattered across it, and plenty of needles, in case you need to borrow one, I guess.

He picked up one of these projects, which looked to me like maybe the beginnings of an I-cord out of beaded art yarn.  (I didn’t examine it that closely, so I’m not sure.  It was three stitches wide.)  It had a pair of double-pointed needles, about size 8, sticking out of them. “How do you do this?” he asked me, and I showed him.  Three knit stitches across, and then three more back, and he expressed frustration over the beads.

So I encouraged him to pick out some yarn.  “All that yarn you have at home, you can’t give me any?” he asked.  (Guys, he’s been knitting for five minutes and he’s already poaching my stash.  He’s a natural.)  Fortunately, we’re standing in a yarn store.

“You should pick some out for you,” I tell him, promising that he can’t hurt the yarn; if he messes up he can just rip it back.  That’s one of the blessings of knitting; it’s almost impossible to cause permanent damage to anything.

What he ends up picking out is a super-bulky ultrafine merino, Tundra Loop-d-loop, in a sort of taffy colorway, out of the sale bin.  (See! Natural.)  After we get home, I pull out my size 13 aluminum straights, which are the second largest needles I own, and are two sizes smaller than the recommendation on the ball band.  (The biggest needles I own, incidentally, are a pair of size 35 plastic straights. I have yet to use them; I found them at the thrift store.)  I cast on for him, and he knits for a while.  Occasionally he comments that he’s about hit the end of his attention span, and he’s going to stop – but he doesn’t.  He knits several inches before finally putting it down.  Several inches.  On aluminum needles.  He hasn’t added or dropped any stitches, either; he has the same number of stitches in the row that I originally cast on.

I think he may be better at this than I am.

He’s picking it up faster, at least, which may have something to do with actually having someone to teach him how to do it, rather than trying to figure out the diagram in the book.

Now, I’m also reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Free-Range Knitter, which I picked up at one of the Borders that’s going out of business for 60% off.  Between the teaching at Knit Happens and the second lesson at home, I read a section where she talked about trying to teach herself to knit Continental, (she normally knits English) and how she likes to watch people knit.  She’s watched a lot of people knit over the years, on book tours and various knitting-related excursions, and one of her observations was that no two people knit exactly the same way.  Every knitter produces fabric that looks essentially the same, but we all do it very differently.

Which is how, I suppose, that I, a Continental knitter, taught my boyfriend how to knit English.  This is not my fault.  He picked up the needles, and the yarn was to the right, and he asked how to do it, so I told him.  I’m left-handed; I’ve been flipping directions my entire life.  I learned to knit using the first Stitch N Bitch book, and her diagrams are all English.

For those of you who are not knitters, there are two styles of knitting, Continental (which is done primarily on the European continent) and English (which is done in England and America).  The main difference is which hand the yarn is tensioned around: Continental knitters tension their yarn around their left hands, and “throw” the yarn over the needle, and English knitters tension their yarn around their right hands, and drop the right needle, wrap the yarn around the needle, and then pick it back up.  When I was teaching myself to knit, I didn’t realize this.  In crochet, it doesn’t matter which hand your yarn is tensioned around, so, being both left-handed and a crocheter, I tensioned the yarn around my left hand and knitted following the English directions, flipped.  What this actually ended up doing, I discovered some eight months later when someone at Tempe Yarn & Fiber pointed it out to me, was producing twisted stitches.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with twisted stitches, and there are projects that expressly called for them.  But I felt a little silly.  (I felt less silly when I read a blog post from another well-known designer where she admitted that she’d inadvertently knitted through the back loops for the first fifteen years of her career.  I only did that for about three months.)

The point is, I know how to do both.  I don’t know if I could actually knit English right-handed, as I’ve never tried, and it strikes me as fairly inefficient.  When I start doing Fair Isle, I suppose I shall learn.  Anyway, so he’s right-handed, I taught him English.  I’d worry about converting him, but at this point, he’s knitting at all, so I’m certainly not going to quibble with how he’s doing it.

The thing that really thrills me about it is that he’s not only been incredibly supportive about my hobby, he’s interested enough to try and learn it himself.  Whether he keeps at it or not, he was willing to pick up the needles and knit several inches on a garter-stitch scarf.  (I’ve never actually knit a garter-stitch scarf myself; my first project was a ribbed scarf.  Because I like to make things complicated, and coming from crochet, my reaction was pretty much, “There are only two stitches in knitting? Well, I might as well just learn them both and get that out of the way, then.”)

The astute may notice that the title of this post is “Beginnings,” which is, in fact, plural.  They are doubtless wondering whether there’s actually more than one beginning going on, or if it’s just me talking about the Beginnings of the Knitting Path, both mine and his.

Today, using the long-tail cast-on, I cast on 241 stitches.  I actually did it twice, because I had way too much tail the first time.  I also had a lot of leftover tail the second time, but after 482 stitches, I didn’t care nearly as much.  I cleverly put in stitch markers every 20 stitches and I counted the purl row to make sure everything was correct.  And then I did my first lace row.  (About 15 stitches from the end, I realized I’d screwed up reading the lace chart and had to tink nearly the whole damn row back, about 200 stitches.  But I learned how to read a lace chart, and also learned what the problem was when I was trying to help my friend with her lace chart the other day.  Fortunately I had a copy of Stitch N Bitch Superstar Knitting close to hand; Debbie taught me to knit, so I don’t see why she can’t help me with lace.  There’s a section in the book about cabling that talks about how to cable without a needle, and I keep telling myself that I’m going to pull it out during the Celtic Moonrise Mittens and learn this, but I haven’t done it yet.

What I decided to knit is the Arroyo shawl from D’oh!Mestic, which is gorgeous and, at least so far, isn’t terribly complicated.  I can make sense of the chart (now that I’ve figured out that mistake) and I have hope of success.  (I’ve now completed the first lace row, with the correct number of stitches!)  Wish me luck.


~ by Amber on March 27, 2011.

2 Responses to “Beginnings”

  1. So, I feel like an idiot…I knit 125 and turned my work. Then I proceeded to do row 2 and 3 over and over again, but now only half the shawl is shaped. What am I nor understanding? I saw on your notes that you too had to restart a few times. This will be number three for me! How did you finally resolve the issue?

    I will be thankful for any advice you can share.

    • I actually ended up ripping out Arroyo and knitting something else for my first lace project! I’d suggest looking at the projects on Ravelry if you haven’t yet; maybe someone has some useful notes?

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