Reading Your Knitting

I shared my collection of knitting books in my previous post, but today I want to write about reading your knitting.

I remember when it would take me about eight hours to knit one bib, and now it takes less than two.

Many years ago around the time my husband and I were labeled infertile, there was a baby boom in my church. I had a lot of baby showers to go to, and I’m able to say I only cried at one (the one where my friend was celebrating the adoption of her son). I was still an early knitter at the time, but I decided to make a set of bibs for each of the babies following this pattern by Zbyszko. It’s a great little pattern which teaches a beginner the garter stitch, binding off and adding back stitches, and button holes. In fact, I’m teaching several women how to knit and this is the project I’ve chosen for them.

Supervising their work is a lot of fun. I can look at their projects and know how many stitches they’ve cast on (plus or minus one stitch). The ladies were amazed I could do that. To be honest, so was I. Then I realized I have knit dozens of these bibs and so I should know what I’m looking at.  I have developed something I call a knitter’s intuition which comes from lots and lots of practice.

Let me give you another example.  Earlier this week, I wanted to knit a baby’s hat.

I found a small hand-wound ball of Cascade 220 worsted-weight yarn leftover from my Infinitude Scarf and figured it should be enough for this small project.  I had already worked with this yarn, so I knew I wanted to use size 8 needles.  I cast on “about the right amount” of stitches (a nice round 80).  I knit up two inches of ribbing before switching to a cable pattern… which I knew the light shade of yarn would be excellent for.  I repeated the cable pattern until my intuition, upon the sight of dwindled yarn, told me I should start casting off.  The only problem I ran into was that I ran out of yarn when I was down to the last decrease row.  Thankfully I could spare some from my long-tail cast on and that’s what I did.  A pom pom put the finishing touches on the wee hat.

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Here is the hat made from scratch which fits beautifully on my younger daughter’s head:

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Perhaps some people would say this was a chance success, but I find it liberating to let the yarn do the work for me from time to time.  (Of course I don’t think I could pull off a sweater like Earth Chick Knits did, but is this simply because I haven’t knit nearly enough sweaters yet?  Oh, the Yarn Harlot is also daringly knitting a swatch-less sweater.  And if anyone has knitter’s intuition, it’s her.)

The same intuition principle applies to the rest of my knitting. Perhaps you know what I mean.  Have you ever paused to review your work?  You know that your thumb, from knuckle to tip, is roughly an inch* and you use that as a quick way to measure your edging.  Your eye assesses the lace patterns and then you notice an extra yarn over.  You notice an irregular spacing in your stitches caused from an uneven tension rather than an unevenly spun yarn.  These are things that you learn about yourself and your knitting from lots of experience.  You’ve logged hundreds of hours knitting** and finally you have unlocked the knitter’s intuition.

Part of the master knitting program is teaching me additional ways to read my knitting.  Before I might not have cared why I had gutters in the back of my stockinette stitch (it’s the wrong/body side so no one would ever see it anyway) or that I might have a slight hole between the purl and knit stitches of my ribbing (meh, am I right?).

Now I see so many imperfections I hadn’t noticed before about my knitting, and, not only that, I’m beginning to care about them.  What’s been difficult about this program is that I’m having to come to terms with the fact that my knitting is not perfect (not that I’ve ever claimed that, no, seriously, I haven’t).  What’s been great is that even though I’m reading my knitting and finding mistakes, I’m learning how to improve.

I’m determined to still pursue my master knitter’s certificate.  I’m going to submit my work, because according to my welcome packet:  “The program is appropriate for knitters of various skill levels.”  While I’m supposed to submit a swatch which represents my best work, I think it’s reasonable to assume they don’t expect perfection.  And I freely admit no amount of knitter’s intuition will ascend my knitting to the level of perfection.

 

* Your mileage may vary.

** Again, your mileage may vary.

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3 responses to “Reading Your Knitting

  1. This is an interesting article. I have observed that everyone’s knitting has differences (which I assumed were due to the tension each person applies to the yarn) but I’ve never given attention to “gutters” or other imperfections. If I looked at these things it might take my knitting to the next level. I realize that my knitting is always so loose that I never use any needle larger than 5 unless to cast on with, and sometimes can’t achieve the required tightness of gauge with 2s on a pattern for which the author uses 7s. I want to take a basic knitting class to learn whether it’s my purl that is the problem, but can you recommend a book for diagnosing knitting problems?

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    • I think this might be a problem best assessed by a second pair of eyes. There is a Taming Tension course offered by TKGA, the same folks who offer the Master Knitter’s certificate, which might be of benefit to you. If I come across something more helpful in my research, I’ll reply again.

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  2. Pingback: Turning Yarn into Ribbons: A Recap of My First County Fair Judging | Knit Me For a Loop·

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