Monday, April 08, 2013

Beginner Knitting I - Changing the Mindset of the New Knitter

I've been teaching people to knit for a long time.  Whether in my studio, in the shops where I've worked, in schools or in an airport waiting lounge  (something about knitting while waiting for delayed flights  encourages conversation and fiber education)- So it may come as no surprise to you, that I have developed a few thoughts on the best way to share  the craft- 

I've neglected my blog for a few months, so I've decided to start a series of short entries for new knitters and those who introduce  others to the craft. Starting today with: 

Changing the Mindset of the New Knitter. 
 A new knitter is not doomed to failure and despite their own fears of such -  most new knitters will pick up and master  the basic knit stitch in little more than 15 or 20 minutes. 

 But so many are afraid, fearful of being incapable or whatever and,  are really surprised and pleased when they learn to manage a couple of sticks and some string. 

And of course, I've  come across it even more often.  Beginner knitters and their well meaning" teachers"  anticipate failure - always  insisting  on using some old and itchy or cheap quality  acrylic yarn ( nothing really wrong with knitting with  acrylic yarn  but, it is about the worst choice for learning to knit). Why waste the money, they say, "it's a first project"   Pity the  newbie  knitter learning  to make their first stitches  - at the side of the experienced grandma, auntie or friend, - the new knitter  who is convinced that the first project will be a failure so why spend  any money on nice  soft yarn.  The problem with this, however, is  the yarn has no give, adds to the frustration and fear of the newbie, not to mention,  it is simply too unattractive to want to complete, let alone wear.

I have a wholly different philosophy.  In my studio,  knitting begins with some nice bamboo sticks and some  practice yarn which is  usually a  soft merino or standard worsted weight wool.  Anything else  is usually doomed to failure. Choosing a cheap acrylic fiber is actually a waste of time and of money.    It feels lousy, it has no natural elasticity and it looks even worse. Why would you spend your precious  and valuable  time knitting  with something you'd never ever want to wear or use.   It  usually gets stuffed in a drawer, never to be seen again and knitting  becomes a forgotten hobby almost as fast as you can say " I got  the yarn for  two bucks at Walmart".   Start with  a basic worsted or bulky (no, not too bulky) and you don't need a whole skein, just some left over worsted from a fellow knitter.   Practice on this durable,  but pleasant fiber. The natural elasticity just lends itself to the tension of a new knitterā€™s hands and its stretch will allow plenty of room for a few random mistakes.   I is  also sturdy enough for repeat use should you need to  take out some stitches  and reknit. It's simply positive reinforcement.  You'll like how it looks, and how it feels and you won't want to put it down.   

Then, start your first project (immediately)  with  a lovely  skein of  soft 100%  merino in  a solid color (easier to see your stitches)  which  can easily  be found   for under $10. Knit some simple garter stitch ( all knit) fingerless gloves- quicker than a scarf and  you'll have a finished pair in no time.  

Next blog: Choosing the best needles for first projects.


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