Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Knitter School: Diagonal Moss Stripe and... TIPS FOR NEWBS!

Forgive the terrible photography on this one - I think it's a combination of pinning the swatch out too tightly and the glare from my desklamp, and it turned out rather crappily, not showing off the stitch pattern to the best advantage.

It seems like January, in the Vogue Knitting calendar at least, is the month of diagonals (though in the February patterns there's a rather nice Parquet pattern that also relies heavily on diagonal shapes). I have charted this one, and will have the chart up soon.

I was thinking about what, other than photographs of swatches and slightly dodgy knitting charts, I could offer the knit-o-sphere. I check in with quite a few blogs (the list is to your right) and am always struck with the marvelous quality - and sheer quantity - of WIPs and FOs cranked out by some of the internet's most talented knitters, some of whom are also published authors (the Yarn Harlot has six books, two of which are on my knitting shelf - and Cosmic Pluto has a great book on sock knitting, to name two examples). I read these blogs and I feel, still, like a brand-new knitter (even though I know that I've amassed skills and knowledge that would have struck fear into the heart of actual brand-new knitter-me, back in the day). So, not only to reflect on what I do know, but to share with newbie knitters throughout the internet, I present...

I am not, nor am I sure I will ever be, a Master Knitter. I haven't joined a guild and have yet to attend the local Stitch N' Bitch group due to work hours and social shyness. I still tear my hair out from time to time over concepts and skill-sets that I feel I should know by now. But, with a growing library of knitting books and the internet at my disposal, I have learned a few things. Some were through trial and error; some were through constant repetition. Some things, you do a couple of times and suddenly it makes sense and everything is just gravy. (Other things you can try time and time again and feel like you might end up in a padded cell because it's just not going right, ever.) Some of the tips I'll impart might sound incredibly obvious, but maybe others could be the lightbulb moment you're looking for. It's not going to be in any particular order of importance; I haven't really thought out a game plan for these posts beyond scribbling a couple of ideas in my work book. So, without further ado, Tips for Newbs #1:

Take a step back from the Fun-Fur.

Novelty yarns are seductive. They have amazing texture, a visually dynamic appearance, and seem deceptively easy to use - it's just a little eyelash fringe... what's the harm, right?

The harm is, when you're a newbie - like brand-new, a just-born knitter - sometimes you can't tell knit from purl yet. Believe me when I tell you that although cute, fluffy yarns will hide a multitude of stitch definition sins, it will make it hard to see where you've gone astray... and don't even think of picking up a dropped stitch, friend - it's not gonna happen! Going wrong when you're a brand-new knitter can be discouraging at the best of times - when it's combined with a yarn that feels like a shag carpet or a thousand lashes of glitter in it, the discouraging feelings could urge you to quit. And you don't want to quit knitting! It's awesome!

I won't tell you not to buy a novelty yarn, ever (some ribbon yarns are quite interesting and don't bring on knitterly heartbreak), or to wait until you've knit a thousand swatches in some kind of matronly, sensible yarn - I just want you to benefit from the wasted hours and regretful tears of my dalliance with fun fur when I was just a wee novice. I still have a couple balls of that bastardly eyelash crap somewhere in my stash.

I will note that, when held double with a smooth yarn, eyelash/fun fur can make an interesting trim on a hat or some other accent piece (and it will be much, much easier to see where you've gone wrong), but by and large, it's just asking for trouble (and if you're thinking of making a cardigan out of it, just go and give yourself a time-out right now... I'll be waiting for you to get back). If you've ever tried to de-tangle a ball of wool and found yourself thrashing around, wailing about the injustice of knots (ahem), it's only about a thousand times worse to try and figure out how to un-knot eyelash yarn.

Join me next time for an important lesson about long-tail cast-on!

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