It happens all the time. So many of our knitters have no idea how to assess their own skill levels or the skill levels required for the patterns they want to knit. On the one hand, we spend a lot of time teaching skills to people who are struggling with patterns that are beyond them. On the other we spend a lot of time encouraging people to break out of their comfort zone. As your friendly, patient, knowledgable LYS professionals, both pursuits are exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.
We’ve always had people opting out of classes or patterns that they are interested in, and are completely ready for, because they don’t understand their own strengths. We work with them to encourage their sense of empowerment. We’ve also had people opting in to classes or patterns that are well beyond their present skills. And that’s a harder situation. We want everyone to have a positive experience with their knitting and there is nothing relaxing or exciting or satisfying about struggling and frustration. We also don’t want to slow down a class that’s ready for a technique while we try to teach basic skills to someone who is not ready, but we don’t want to exclude the adventurous from pushing their own limitations.
As we’re looking at our schedule for the first six months of 2016 and subtly tweaking or completely overhauling our recurrent classes, we’re finding ourselves needing to put some parameters or prerequisites in place. But we don’t want to scare people away! What to do?
Well, we’ve come up with a list of skills that define the difference between Beginners and Intermediates, and here it is:
#1 – Casting On
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and if you’re going to knit, you have to know how to begin. There are dozens of ways to get stitches onto the needles. The method at the left is Long Tail. It suffices for almost everything and may be the only one you’ll ever need.
#2 – Knit
This one stitch is the basis for everything else. When you line them up, they look like little V’s nesting inside one another
#3 – Purl
The Purl Stitch is the front-to-back mirror of the knit stitch. I mean that if I work a Knit stitch while you look at the back of my stitch, it will be a Purl stitch from your perspective. They look like little bumps.
#4 – Ribbing
When you make Knits and Purls in the same row, and line Knits up on top of Knits and Purls up on top of Purls, you get a stretch fabric known as ribbing. No new knowledge needed here; still just Knits and Purls.
#5 – Left Leaning and Right Leaning Decreases
If you treat two stitches at a time like one stitch, and knit or purl them as one, you have worked a decrease. Forming the stitch in the front of the loop or the back of the loop makes the resultant decrease lean either left or right.
#6 – Knit Front and Back, Make One and Lifted Increases
Some times we want to add more stitches than we started with to make our fabric bigger. Increasing means making stitches where there were none before.
#7 – Yarn Over
You’ve heard the old saying that a weed is a plant that grows where you didn’t put it? Well, the same can be said for Yarn Overs. This maneuver is a common rookie mistake, but adding an extra loop of yarn that forms a hole in your fabric where and when you want it, means you can create eyelet and lace fabrics.
#8 – Short Rows
Start the row but don’t finish it. It’s just that simple. Short rows allow you to add height or diagonal lines where you want them.
#9 – Binding Off
Once you start, you have to know how to stop, right? Binding Off puts the edge on your work and stabilizes your stitches so they don’t run. Like Cast On’s, there are dozens. Learn at least one knit Bind Off and one Sewn Bind off
#10 – Picking Up Stitches
Some times we want to change directions or add on to an existing piece. Picking Up Stitches means add ing a new row that’s attached to the old piece. Think collars, or button bands on a cardigan.
#11 – Knitting in the Round
Double Pointed Needles for small circumferences, and Circular Needles for larger ones is enough to get you started. You can move on to Magic Loop and Two Circular needles later.
#12 – Chart and Pattern Reading
In a knitting chart, special notation marks symbolize specific stitch techniques. When you you lay them out in a grid, they correspond to the stitches, rows and columns on your needles. Patterns can also be expressed with word abbreviations in a sentence-line structure, what we typically call a knitting pattern. Some people prefer charts, some people prefer word patterns. It pays to understand both for t following reasons:
• Some designers have preferences, and will only give you one or the other to go by.
• Charts can give you an instant view of an entire pattern and how certain elements line up within it
• Written patterns can give you specific explanations of stitch techniques that are not readily apparent from the symbols on a chart.
• Working with both give your brain a chance to use more than one kind of engagement to give you a more comprehensive understanding.
#13 – Reading Your Knitting
When you can look at the stitches on your needle and all the stitches you’ve already worked, recognize them, and read them as if they were a sentence, you have reached a place where you can find mistakes and correct them before they get you into trouble. This is without a doubt the most valuable skill you can acquire. It is the skill that pulls all other skills together and truely makes you the Boss Of Your Knitting.
If you know that you know how to do all these things, you are a solid Intermediate Knitter and the world is your oyster. You are ready to explore cables and lace. You are ready to tackle mittens or socks or sweaters. You’ve hit your stride. Congratulations!
If there are some things on this list that you’re a little hazy on, you’re a Beginner and we’ve got so many opportunities for you to acquire these skills. We”ll be offering the Skill Builder series again in 2016. You can register now for the whole series or drop in for only the session that teach skill you still want to learn. Look here for registration information.
So…I let myself get waaaay distracted with the color charting for the sleeves. I wasted precious knitting time playing cards with my family on Thanksgiving. I was sick one day and had a migraine one other day and could not knit. I got involved in the business of running the shop. All of which is to say that I did not finish my November Sweater.
I’m half way up the body and half way up the sleeves, and I love it very, very much as I see it coming together. I’ll finish it while I’m away for Christmas. But I am wondering; is there a special ring of heck for those of us who don’t finish our November sweaters in November? Does anyone know? Are there demerits that go on our permanent record? Or do we go blithely on with no consequences at all…except the disappointment and frustration of not being able to wear our new creations on December 1st? Ah, well. I’ll have a sweater eventually. How did you all do on your sweaters?
If you’re traveling this Thanksgiving, you’ll want to give some thought to the knitting you’ll want to take along with you. It’s always a challenge to find something that is easy and mindless enough that you can chat with family and friends or watch the game, but interesting enough to make you want to do it. Something long term enough that you won’t run out of knitting even if you get stuck in traffic or have a flight delayed. But something that has milestones that can give you a sense of accomplishment…when you get stuck in traffic or have a flight delayed. It’s not an easy thing to decide. We’re here to help.
Our first suggestion is The Honey Cowl in two colors. It’s simple enough to memorize after the first round, yet intriguing enough to keep you interested. And it’s a beautiful end product. Start one for yourself, or make is as a Christmas gift for someone you love. It’ll go up faster than you think. You might even get it done over the long holiday weekend. It’s a free pattern on Revelry and you can get it here.
If you are a fast knitter and want something with a little more yardage, but not a lot more brain power required, try the Heartsong Shawl. The crescent shaping will keep it on your shoulders and the top down garter stitch pattern will be easy to work on while you’re in the planes, trains and automobiles. The lace edging comes last and gives you something to look forward to after miles and miles of garter stitch. This one is a pattern for sale and you can find it on Ravelry here.
Shawls are a great travel project, so we’re giving you a second option. This Traditional Danish Tie Shawls will be warm and cozy in your lap while you work on it, and even more so when you wear it. Simple, pretty and practical, this project lets the yarn speak for itself. Pick something that inspires you and have a go. Again, not a free pattern, but well worth the price on Ravelry here.
It’s easy to throw a bunch of scraps in a bag and let yourself be inspired by semi-random choice. As you pull colors out of your bag and watch how they play together in your knitting, the Mini Mania scarf will fly off your needles. This is the kind of thing you may find yourself staying up late to work on. It has a huge “just one more color, just one more row” factor that makes it irresistible. Ravelry pattern, free, here.
My favorite way to split the difference between a long term project and instant gratification is using scraps or yarn I’ve bought for the purpose to make one big thing out of many things. The Sock Yarn Blanket uses modular construction so you get the excitement of starting something new every time you begin a square and the satisfaction of finishing somethign every time you end one. It’s easy to pack, too, since you don’t have to have a plan for which colors you’re going to use. Even though you won’t finish the whole blanket just now, it’s a satisfying knit. Free Ravelry pattern here.
If you haven’t started a Beekeeper’s Quilt, this might be the perfect time to join the craze. This in one of the most popular projects on Ravelry and it’s perfect fro travel knitting. Toss a bunch of sock yarn scraps in your bag and go. The pattern is easy to learn and keeping a small project bag with sock yarn in it with you at all times means being able to make a lot of progress almost imperceptibly. And if there are other knitter heading for the same Thanksgiving table, you can trade some sock yarn scraps so you both get even more colors to work with. The only danger with this is maybe letting the potatoes boil over as you try to finish just one more puff. Not a free pattern, but you can get in on Ravelry here.
If you have favorite travel knitting projects, please share. We like to see what you’re working on. Have a happy Thanksgiving!