Mim Bird is the owner of Over the Rainbow Yarn and a knitting genius extraordinaire. In June of 2011, on her birthday, she opened this shop in Rockland, Maine in order to share her love of fiber crafts with the world. Mim is the creative mastermind behind almost everything that we do. She's a knitting history enthusiast as well.
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You probably won’t be surprised that we do a lot of teaching people how to knit around here. From the very beginner novice who is learning how to form a knit stitch to the advanced expert trying to wrap her head around decreases in the middle of a cable in single pass two color brioche in the round. And if you don’t know anything about the second category, don’t worry; there’s time. There are also a lot of resources in books and on the internet, so if you want to learn on your own and can absorb information that way, more power to you. If you look around, you’ll find that not only are styles changing, and pattern and knitting styles right along with them, teaching styles are changing, too.
You may have already heard me say it, but I’ll say it again anyway. I learned to knit when I was seven and how to crochet when I was nine. And I had my first student when I was nine. In the intervening 40-mumble years, I have at least dabbled in every other string craft you or anyone else has ever heard of, and some you probably haven’t. I’ve also always approached these crafts with an eye to teaching them some day. So believe me when I tell you, I’ve taught some people how to knit. And I’ve taught some people how to teach knitting.
Of course, just as you are the boss of your teaching just as much as you are the boss of your knitting, so you will adapt and develop your own skills if you go in for teaching. But today, I’m here to give you some tips on how to help your students to be successful right out the gate.
• First, where to start.
Though most books and video tutorials start with casting on, I start with forming a knit stitch. Whether you knit English or Continental, it is far easier to form a knit stitch than it is to put the stitches on the needle in the first place. In fact, I have a “Learn To Knit In Five Minute Or Less” guarantee which is successful because I cast on for them and start with simple knit stitches. It usually takes significantly less than five minute. In fact, it usually takes about 90 seconds and people are amazed that they are actually doing it so quickly. Also, when it comes time to cast on, it’s simpler because you can tell your student that casting on is just the same as knitting except that you do it off your finger instead of another needle. By then, they have the concept of pulling a loop through a loop and some muscle memory in their hands. Everything else in knitting is based on the knit stitch and everything else in knitting can be referenced to the knit stitch. So that’s where I start. My learning sequence goes…
- Knit stitch
- Casting on
- Purl stitch
- Binding off
Second, English vs Continental.
Most of us have a default style. Many of us can use either style.You’ll hear experts say that there are advantages and disadvantages to either style. You’ll hear claims that Continental is faster and looser than English, or that English is easier to learn and has better tension control. Bosh. I’m going to state here and now that knowing how to do both, and variations on both, will help you in a lot of ways in the long run, and I may write another blog post on that topic alone. For now, there is no need to worry when you are teaching a beginner. Just go with your default style. It will be easier for you to teach, and easier for your student to understand what you say, if you don’t load them down with choices, right off the bat. If you know how to knit in both styles, and your student seems to be struggling with whichever one you started with, you can try them on the other style. But don’t fret about it if you only know one style. One is plenty to start with. Both you and your student can practice patience and perseverance and it will come out alright.
• Third, Flat vs In The Round.
For most of the time I have been teaching, I’ve started with flat knitting. Some of that has to do with my decided preference for straight needles over circular. I find that straight needles do not fatigue my hands as much as circulars, and I have better tension control with my straights. Recently, however, I ran across a book by Susan B. Anderson titled Kid’s Knitting Workshop. I actually highly recommend that yoiu use the same teaching techniques with adults that you would with children, and I’m adding this book to my own teaching tool box. Susan starts with knitting in the round. It makes a certain amount of sense. If you cast on for them and join in the round for them, they can make a successful hat with nothing more than the knit stitch. Also, if they start right away working in the round, they will not be intimidated when they come to switching techniques. Too many people are intimidated by the joining bit and shy away from hats, mittens, socks and sweaters because they think it’s mysterious and somehow harder than working flat. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the small success and rewards of finishing a row. Beginners especially need to have small goals in order to feel like they’re making progress. Coming to the end of a row can serve as a frequent, tangible sign that they are advancing. Like with choosing a style, though, it’s going to be easier for both you and your student if you work with the tools you are most familiar and comfortable with. There’s always time to learn more techniques.
• Fourth, Process Knitters vs Product Knitting
Knitters fall into two personality categories; Product Knitters and Process Knitters. (A cute blog post about it on Twist collective and be found here.)Some folks knit because they like to have knitted things. Some folks like to knit because they like to knit. To use an analogy, some folks get in the car and drive to a destination. They use the car as a tool to get where they’re going. Other folks, get in the car and go for a drive. They have no destination in mind and use the car as a tool for the experience of moving through space. Product Knitters want to make a thing. They want that thing and they want to be the one who knits it. Process Knitter want to knit. They want the feel of yarn in their hands, the excited neurons in their brains or the sense of calm that comes over them when they pick up their needles. Product Knitters want to start with a project. They want to knit a scarf, or a hat, or a washcloth. They are also more likely to be nervous about making mistakes. Product knitters want to practice for a while before they commit to a first project. They are interested in learning how to fix mistakes, but don’t worry so much about imperfections. You’ll know, probably even before you start, which type of student you have. Product Knitters won’t care so much about what kind of yarn or needles you tell they to start with. They will actually ask you, “What am I gong to make?” Process Knitters will fall in love with a particular yarn, either the color or the feel. They may also want to do their learning on less important yarn before moving to the yarn that inspired them in the first place. No matter which category your student falls into, don’t try to change them. They’re the boss of their own knitting, even if they’ve never knit a stitch. Just go with their process. You’ll both be happier for it.
Beyond that, just go with the flow. Share your knowledge and skills, but don’t insist on your student learning to do everything exactly the way you do it. Instead, let them find their own preferences and ask questions at their own pace, you’ll both be successful.
It’s no secret that we adore Quince&Co’s Baby Duck Booties, look how cute they are! A wonderful pattern in equally wonderful Chickadee.
I’m not normally an orange fan, but I quite like the combination of it with orange and brown. I’ve had several people in lately who love it too, but have wondered if there are other possibilities for colors– especially if they want it to be more gender specific. Well, my lovelies, I’m more than happy to share some of the colorful discoveries I’ve made while pondering these requests!
We carry quite a lot of Chickadee, so this list is by no means complete. If you’d like to try out this pattern in different colors, I’d be happy to help you go on your own color adventure!
The 2017 Interweave Knits Holiday special issue is out and there’s a great article on the back page about holiday knitting for non-knitters. It’s sometimes hard to knit for people who don’t know how to appreciate what we make for them. They have no idea how much time and effort we put in, or how the nuances of what we’ve made make our gifts so darned special. For many of them, a sweater is a sweater and the intricate cables-and-lace all over pattern with the waist and bust shaping, pico hemmed edges, re-calculated neck line drop and modified saddle shoulder are unimpressive because the recipient has no idea how mad your skills really are.
In her article, Lisa Shroyer lists several things to keep in mind if you want to please the loved one you’re knitting for. Lisa’s first recommendation is to keep some perspective on what’s generally popular. She writes, “Remember, ‘normal’ people live in a world or mainstream fashion and ready-to-wear trends. If all the stores are carrying infinity scarves and cocoon cardigans, that’s the kind of knitting a ‘normal’ woman encounters and sees as stylish.” In other words, your non-knitting loved ones may not know what to do with the textures, patterns or colors that make knitting interesting to you. Especially the young women on you list. They know what they see, and they know what they like. And if you want them to love what you knit, give them what they are expecting in the way of style. If it’s meant to be a gift, this is not the time to try to educate them.
So…what are we seeing on the ready-to-wear racks, and how does that translate into knitting for the holidays? Well, I’m glad you asked. According to Vogue Paris, “Padding, protective lines and cosy knits came together on the catwalks, perhaps as a shelter from the doom and gloom of a world in crisis. But if trends are truly heading for more and more comfort, fashion is retaining its sense of fun, its color…” While most of us are not so very much into Paris runway fashion, there are a few things we can take from this. Padding, protective lines? Hmmm. I’m seriously hoping linebacker shoulders are not coming back. But cozy knits? I can get with that.
For the coming winter season, we’re expecting to see the following:
• First, a little…or a lot!..extra ease for women’s garments. Think soft, deconstructed shoulders, roomy busts and waists, and extra long sleeves.
Images from left to right from are from the fashion trend websites http://myfashavenue.com/2016/09/whats-trending-61/ and http://wachabuy.com/150-fall-outfits-copy-right-now/
Leggings, with boots or sneakers, will still be a thing, but they’ll be paired with simple, cozy, boyfriend style sweaters, layers with retro comfort pieces like denim jackets. No sleek, form fitting, fully fashioned shapes here. Did you see the textures? Smooth stockinette and simple ribbing. And are you taking notice of the colors? Neutrals. So, what can you do about it? Well, here are some Ravelry selections that could become the staples of your gift recipients wardrobe.
These are Ravelry patters are, from left to right, Cozy Sweater by Anna and Heidi Pickles, One Month Sweater by Lisa Shroyer, Cosy by Kim Hargreaves, His and Hers Sweater, by Sarah Hatton and Boyfriend by Ann-Kristin Knardal.
They don’t look like exciting knits by most knitter’s standards, but they could be the deeply thrilling thing your recipient will reach for over and over again…and think of you every time they build an outfit around your beautiful gift.
• Second, believe it or not, fringe. You may be one of those folks who believes that fringe never really went out, but fashion blog Fabulous After 40 has a great spread of updated, on trend looks that are a nod to our 70’s roots.
Images are all from Nordstroms where you can buy these styles off the rack
Notice the same loose fit and non-shaped shapes and the same neutral colorways.
Though the Ravelry selections I’m highlighting don’t look exactly like the Nordstrom’s offerings, they have the same “those-were-the-good-old-days” meets “now-what?” feeling. they all keep it comfy, cozy and a little bit retro.
• Third, I am chagrinned to say, ponchos are not going anywhere. Ponchos, capes, dusters, ruanahs, or those hybrid darlings called swonchos…a poncho with sweater sleeves in it…the longer and bigger the better are the outer layer to look for this winter. I haven’t been a fan of ponchos since I was 10…in 1972. But, here again, cozy deconstruction with a wistful sigh for our idealized past is the concept of the season. And keep it simple.
Of course, if you have an adventurous loved one who understands and respects your knitting, the sky’s the limit. Go all out for them. But if your going to knit for someone who’s primary experience with knitwear is commercially produced ready-to-wear fast fashion, take a look in your favorite ready-to-wear department store. See what your loved ones are seeing. Then go look for patterns that are going to work for them. Simple, cozy, deconstructed, neutral, maybe with a bit of fringe. They’ll thank you for it.