K 2 tog

by longtallyarn

I’m blessed to have two friends named Jennie.  Last week, Raleigh-Jennie came over and I attempted to teach her to knit.  I found that, to some extent, my love for knitting was unable to transcend my poor spatial communication skills.  “No, insert the needle into the stitch from the front but going toward the back of the other needle…”  See what I mean?  Knitting is not hard to do but is tricky to learn.

Jennie is knitting a wash cloth.  When it is finished it will be a one-of-a-kind hand made creation.  It has some original, artsy stitches.  Many will be twisted, and I anticipate that some will be dropped.  It will be the most unique thing she will ever make, probably, and it’s kinda cute.  Maybe she will keep it as an exhibit in her finished object gallery.

I wish I still had the first thing I made, but I gave that purple and black scarf away.  It was striped in the style of the cat in the hat, and was completely stockinette stitch.  I didn’t know at that time how to make a garter stitch edging, or any other kind of edging for that matter, and from the start it rolled up.  I thought ironing it would help.  Now I know that stockinette rolls no matter what you do.  It rolled from all sides but especially the long edges of the rectangle, and the friend to whom I gave it was in for a fight if she ever wanted to wear it as a scarf, since it’s natural tendency was to form a skinny rope.

Jennie knitted a couple rows, and then wanted to learn how to cast on—-to add stitches to the needle as the start of a project.  I showed her my usual method of casting on (I use the “long tail” method, unless something else is specified by the pattern).  The way I do it is the way my mother did it.  I’m not sure who taught her, since my grandmother knitted on her stitches according to the “cable” method.  I’ve never seen anyone besides me and mom cast on the way we do, but since that’s the method I learned for long tail, I have never bothered to learn another.  Jennie and I got online and looked at knittinghelp.com, which provides great tutorials on knitting techniques.  Included among the “free videos” was a more efficient, less confusing, long-tail cast-on.  My friend picked up casting on in just a few minutes from the teacher there, and her stitches appeared neat and consistent.

When I took my spinning class, the teacher would say at times that I was doing something wrong, and pull the project out of my hands to show me how to do it better.  I had difficulty discerning the difference between the wrong way that I was using and the right way that she was using.  When I learn something I like to have someone show me AND tell me.  So this is what I tried to do as a knitting teacher.  Strangely, for the first time in several years, I had nothing in progress on the needles.  I cast on a small knitting project so that I could show my student what I was doing while I told her what to do.  This way we could knit in parallel, working each stitch together.*

The ability to obsess is a very important quality in a knitter.  If a knitter is to ever finish a project he or she must obsess enough to keep picking up the needles.  Sometimes the knitter must keep ripping out and redoing until the stitches are right, or the garment size is right.  So you see, the enjoyment of a quiet obsession is necessary to the knitter, and Jennie, by her own definition, is obsessive.  I think she is going to pick up on the craft quickly and do just fine.  I am really looking forward to have someone with which to stitch and… you know.  I’m also hoping to have someone to go to the fiber festival with me in a couple months, since Oso has already said that he doesn’t want to learn how to knit and doesn’t want to go to the fiber festival.  Raleigh-Jennie and I going to have a great time.

*In some ways online instruction, such as knittinghelp.com, represents a huge step forward for the ancient craft.   A book can only tell you, as I well know, but an online instructor provides verbal step-by-step while demonstrating the stitch.  On the other hand, the yarn arts have been historically passed from teacher to student, one-on-one, and online instruction makes it possible to learn the craft in isolation.  Online instruction may be a gain for the modern, who does many things in isolation and has no other way of doing them, but a loss of fellowship to the traditional crafting community.  This is part of the reason I wanted to try to teach someone to knit.  For the companionship of crafting together, yes, and also to put back some of the tradition into the tradition.