Sunday, November 1, 2009

Knitting resources and freebies

Wood contacted me after I commented on her "wanting to learn to knit" post. She said she very much wanted to learn to knit up "real" garments (not just garter stitch scarves, the scourge of beginner knitters). I sent her the following e-mail (and yes, I really am this long-winded):

"You have no idea what you're in for. You've probably read a lot of sewing/fashion design blogs and you figure that knitting is just another branch in the family tree. You would be wrong. Knitters are a whole other breed. It's a cult. And it's wonderful.

Here are some first steps to take:

1. Go to and sign up for an account. They are currently Beta testing, so I think there's a waiting list, but make sure you get on there. Ravelry is like Facebook for knitters, only it's NOT annoying and it IS immensely useful. You can search and find almost every single knitting pattern ever published and see how many people have knit it/what type of yarn they used/photos of their finished projects/progress photos/whether or not there are issues with the pattern/etc. It is fantastic.

2. Purchase a simple learning-to-knit book. Just one for now. And just your luck, I know which one you should get. It's called "The Knitting Experience, Book 1: The Knit Stitch" by Sally Melville. She was a school teacher so as you can imagine, she actually knows how to teach. Don't pay any attention to the style of the designs for now - the important part are the instructional photos and diagrams. She's really excellent.

3. Some must-read books to borrow from the library or buy over time (there's more, but until you know what you like, it's hard to narrow it down):
a. Anything ever written by Elizabeth Zimmermann (she is to knitting what Coco Chanel is to fashion and sometimes referred to as "St. Elizabeth of the Schoolhouse"). Anything. Written. By. Her. Anything.
b. Book 2, The Purl Stitch by Sally Melville (just as good as Book 1)
c. Last-Minute Knitted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson
d. Stich' N 'Bitch by Debbie Stoller (a fun and colourful read)

4. Go to and check out the on-line goodness (the patterns are not free, but all the articles are)! There are 4 issues in their archives, so read away. Another great resource for free-ness is Everything is free, there.

5. Find a simple, small project to start on, like this one. I know it doesn't look simple, but it really IS! There are also some cool ways to use what you already know how to do and practice your stitching (without always having to make scarves) - like this neckwarmer (I think Jim would like that one...). Debbie Bliss has a gazillion simple clothing patterns for children - google her and brace yourself for the cuteness. My friend Lori just made a couple of cardigans for her girls and they were very easy (I can find out whose pattern she used, if you like).

6. Stay away from sock patterns, lacework, multicoloured (fair isle) knitting, cables, fluffy or "hairy" novelty yarn and any other fancy stuff for now - you can try them out after a little while. Stick with simple, straightforward patterns that use DK or worsted weight/aran yarn (16 to 24 stitches/4" inches - that's how knitting gauge is calculated and it will always be indicated on the tag when you buy yarn) and use 4 to 6mm (sorry, I don't know the US sizing) needles. Choose wool for now - it is springy and forgiving. If you don't like the scratchiness, get some superwash merino (no, it's not organic and there are some ethical issues related with merino, but in my opinion, you can delve into that when you're more comfortable with your knitting and you understand what you're looking for). Superwash is machine wash/dryable. Perfect for kids. And it's not synthetic (stay away from those). Mission Falls makes a great yarn called "1824 Wool" in a bazillion colours. It's really great to start out on.

Ok, I'm done for now. Sorry to overwhelm you - I really really really love knitting and I'm so excited when I meet someone who wants to learn. If you have any questions (seriously, any questions), let me know. If you run into any problems and you need help, e-mail me and we can video-Skype, where I can show you how to figure out any glitches."

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