After I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to learn to knit, a kind reader commented: "If you're serious about the knitting thing, send me an e-mail - I can give you lots of good tips on which books to buy (and not) and what type of yarn/needles to start on. There's a lot of variety out there and it can seem veeeerrrry intimidating."
Of course I emailed her immediately, saying, "Yes, I'm serious! I've been taught the basic stitches a few times and even made a scarf once, but it never stuck and the knitting needles always ended up stuffed back in the closest. Any tips you have on where to start would be really appreciated, since all the choices are overwhelming."
The kind reader -- DW -- wrote me back an 800+ word email. She told me everything someone in my position would need to know about knitting. She told me which books to buy (this one), what websites to check out (ravelry), and what to stay away from (synthetic yarn, overly complicated lace work). She suggested that I find a simple, small project to start on, and most importantly offered to do a knit-along with me, walking me through a project and helping me interpret the knitting instructions. I told her I wanted to make Gram a sweater, and she suggested that we knit Joelle Hoverson's Child's Placket-neck Pullover Sweater, from her book Last Minute Knitted Gifts.
DW sent me a shopping list, and I bought everything I needed and started watching youtube videos explaining how to cast on, knit, and purl. My first knitting projects were a few 6-inch squares for a local fundraiser (the squares were sewn together to make large blankets).
After a few dozen of those, I had the stitches down and DW prepared an instructional PDF explaining how to start the sweater. Seriously, can you believe how nice that is? She even took pictures of herself doing each step, and broke down the knitting instructions into plain English. Then, magically, after I'd completed the first step, she sent me the next installment. My sweater started to take shape:
Over the course of a month, I knit a sweater. Here is the final result:
And here's the best part: she took every one of our emails and every one of the instructional pdfs she made (there are 9!) and put them up on her own blog. You guys: she is so awesome. If you ever wanted to learn to knit, and if you happen to have a child you could make a sweater for, you really have no excuse now. I tried to learn to knit twice before, and failed both times. In the summer of 2001 I was in China, and one of my major goals that summer was to learn to knit from one of the countless old ladies I saw knitting every single day. One was kind enough to try to teach me, but I think she'd never encountered someone with fingers as giant and clumsy as mine. Despite her kindness and multiple attempts to explain knitting to me, I couldn't even cast on. A few years later, when we were living in San Francisco, I paid a fair sum of money to take an introductory knitting class at a gorgeous independent yarn store in Hayes Valley. After spending all that money on the class and expensive yarn, all I had was a pretty goofy looking scarf with lots of gaps and holes that I never wore.
But, as DW has pointed out to me, my conversion to a knitter is now complete. I have totally joined their club, and as evidenced by my tendency to buy yarn and expect my husband to engage in a conversation with me about how beautiful it is, and how awesome it is that its from a Michigan fiber mill. He refuses to talk about yarn, and luckily for me, DW has not stopped answering my emails yet. He is also a bit annoyed because now when I sit next to him on the couch I knit rather than scratch his head or rub his back. Tough luck, dude, scratches don't keep your kids' hands warm (next project: mittens).
I think the reason I finally learned how to knit this time is because I made something I really wanted to make, and something that Gram needed. It is cold here, and wool sweaters truly keep babies much warmer than cotton or acrylic ones. I loved the design of the sweater, and I was thrilled to see it take shape before my eyes. DW breaks the pattern down into easy steps, and the process was so satisfying that I started on another project the same night that I finished the sweater.
(If you use DW's instructions and make a sweater, please email me! I'd love to hear from you and see the final product.)
[EDITED TO ADD: The comments weren't working, so that's why they are turned off. It's not because I don't want to hear from you -- I totally do. Email me, or leave a comment on DW's site. My user name on ravelry is sjwood -- you can also contact me there.)