Friday, August 15, 2008

Knitting--Ugh!

One of the things on my summer to-do list was learning to knit. Well, I've been teaching myself, a little, and it has been so frustrating! I don't have a real live knitter to help me learn, so it's all from books. I've found Melanie Falick's book, Kids' Knitting, to be the clearest in terms of its instructions. Still, even with the good instructions, this pathetic little scrap is all I've managed to churn out. And that is with lots of ripping out and starting over. And there are lots of mistakes even in this last attempt. I have several thoughts. Knitters, please feel free to chime in if you have any insights. I should say I'm not looking to be a great knitter, but it would be so fun to make some scarfs, hats, fingerless gloves, maybe some slippers. If children can knit, I should be able to too, no?
  • Maybe I just need to sign up for a class and work with a real human.
  • Maybe I should go on YouTube and look for "learning to knit."
  • This yarn, although I do love the color, is super cheap "Vanna's Choice" yarn (no joke--Vanna White is on the label) and it keeps splitting every time I try to stick my needle in to take a stitch. The yarn splitting has been my main problem. Also, I tend to knit too tightly, so this time I focused on keeping the stitches loose, and they are perhaps too loose.
  • Several years ago, I got this far in knitting-- I knit a few squares then put it down--but that time it went much better. I came across one of those squares the other day and it was mistake free (as far as I could see) and dense and stretchy. That was knit with bulky wool yarn from the yarn store (rather than cheap acrylic from the craft shop). So maybe the yarn itself makes all the difference?
  • I love the look and feel of the yarn and needles and would love to do this craft.
Well, that's my little rant in a nutshell. At least I know how to sew, thank goodness!

42 comments:

Rachel said...

There's a great site www.knittinghelp.com which has video tutorials and lots of free patterns - I've found it quite helpful when trying new techniques or even just trying to remember how to cast off! The yarn definitely makes a big difference - and also the needles! My favourite needles are bamboo - I can't use plastic ones anymore - and I definitely prefer natural fibres. 100% bamboo yarn is kind of like a very narrow tape - and so does not split! I haven't progressed any further than knitting scarves so am no expert but I do enjoy it! Good luck! x

Jessica said...

When I learned to knit I used the same book...it is very clear and the projects are well described. It is nice to have a person there to help you out every once in a while. Try going to a local yarn shop and asking a person there to help you. More often than not, you can score a free knitting lesson there if the store isn't busy. I, too, use bamboo needles and they don't split the yarn nearly as much. As far as the tension goes, I think that is the most challenging part of learning to knit, once your tension is even you are good to go. Of course, a good yarn doesn't hurt either. Happy knitting!

Sinta said...

I recently learned how to knit and I used the Stitch n Bitch book as well as some online videos :) It will click sooner or later.

cygnetsmall said...

Oh I feel your pain. I love to do lots of things but knitting is not one of them. I have "learned" several times (always from a human, books were useless to me) and never had much success. I finally decided that I was just meant to be creative in other ways. I hope you have more success!

Carrie said...

I think it is cool that you are always so willing to teach yourself new things.

Meg said...

I used that same book a couple of weeks ago to teach myself to knit! I checked out a couple of other kids' knitting books as well--I figured the kids' books would have really clear instructions, and they did. I also watched a few videos online as well as reading some how-tos from the big yarn companies' websites.

I use bamboo needles because they're really light and I like how they feel, but I also bought some aluminum ones because my daughters wanted to learn too. They've been doing some finger knitting.

I have ambitious plans for knitted Xmas gifts this year, so I may find myself in a yarn shop asking for help soon!

Stick with it! I love the repetitive motion--it's like meditation (once my wrists got used to it).

melissa s. said...

sorry, a knitter i am not, but just wanted to offer some encouragement. i'm sure your desire to learn will get you where you need to go!

misadventuresofkellyandkelly said...

Good quality yarn & needles make a huge difference in my experience. Knittinghelp.com helped me a lot but more so was a local knitting store. They were able to help show me some things. Best of luck!!

Erin said...

I taught myself from a book too. But then I signed up for classes at a local yarn shop. They're pretty inexpensive around here and you usually get a discount on materials. I found I liked to be able to ask questions and keep moving through, rather then having a question, setting my stuff down, looking it up and then trying it. Good luck! It's so easy and satisfying once you get past the initial hump.

Fiona said...

erin has a good point about discounts. If you sign up for lessons in a yarn store, you can get good quality materials at a discount. I use bamboo needles and wool or cotton yarns and I find them a pleasure to work with. Knitty.com is a good patterns site with lots of how to articles as well. Its more for an intermediate knitter but will give you lots of motivation! Good luck!

Fiona said...

erin has a good point about discounts. If you sign up for lessons in a yarn store, you can get good quality materials at a discount. I use bamboo needles and wool or cotton yarns and I find them a pleasure to work with. Knitty.com is a good patterns site with lots of how to articles as well. Its more for an intermediate knitter but will give you lots of motivation! Good luck!

Miss Sandra said...

Hi there!
I've been knitting for over 30 years and I'm under 50 years of age and the most important thing to remember is: There are NO KNITTING POLICE. If you ask 20 different people how to do a single knitting manuever you will get 20 different answers. The internet has been the biggest help even to me. I just google until I find what I'm looking for and what makes sense to me. Good luck on your quest.

Leslie said...

Mary Beth,
I REALLY wish I had some insite! I too bought the same book this spring to teach my self knitting. I thought I could do it as I used a similar book to teach myself basic crochet. Alas, I got NOWHERE! Your swatch is MUCH better than mine. I think it just might be easier reliving nursing school than to teach myself knitting. Good luck to you! I too wish I had a "live" knitter here to help. Maybe we can talk Amanda Soule into visiting us? Keep dreaming! Many blessing!

Warmly,
Leslie G.

Annie said...

I taught myself to knit this summer using Stitch 'n Bitch, although to be fair my mom actually taught me to knit years ago and I think that helps (although I never got much further than a few rows). I also spent years watching her knit so I think all of that comes to mind when I started trying to seriously learn this summer.

When I get stuck I either call my mom, look up videos online (sometimes watching several videos before I find one that makes sense) and I check out LOTS of knitting books from the library. Lately I seem to have at least a couple different ones around the house at all time so if I need help figuring something out I'll look it up in each of them. LIke someone else said, there are so many ways to do things and sometimes they explain them differently or have different diagrams. I really like Stitch n Bitch, but sometimes the diagrams aren't the best (hence why the first item I purled on, a dishcloth, I was purling through the back loop instead of the front, that's what the diagram in SnB looked like to me!And in the end I preferred that way for a dishcloth than the way I was supposed to do it).

Anyway, I started out with a toddler scarf and then a few dishcloths and now I've made felted bowls, my first pair of socks (well, I'm still working on the 2nd, it's for my toddler), a net tote bag, and a few other little odds and ends (toys). Sometimes I have to start a project four times before I get it right. At first it was really hard for me to pick up dropped stitches, but now I figured it out.

Just keep trying! If you love it, it is worth it. I am certainly no expert but it is so much fun once you get going on something. I try not to worry too much about how loose or tight my stitches are. That's why I started with things like dishcloths that don't have to be perfect, or felted bowls because the felting obscures small mistakes. I also think good yarn makes a difference :)

ames said...

First off, of course you can knit! It just takes a little getting used to the motion, and then like riding a bike it just all clicks. And your little garter stitch swatch there looks great! With the splitting the yarn issue, it sounds to me like you're knitting too tightly, so I would experiment around with a few different ways of holding your yarn to loosen up the tension a little. There really isn't a right and wrong way, whatever works for you.

As for some tips, I'd say use bamboo needles to start because they aren't as slippery as metal or plastic, so it's harder to drop stitches (which still gives me a minor heart attack). Also use largish needles and a yarn thats bulky enough that you can make progress quickly but not so fuzzy that you can't see what's going on as you knit. I used the Stich N Bitch book as my beginner manual, and I loved that it had a little project at the end of each chapter so you could try out the techniques and it also shows you how to tell if a stitch is a knit or perl (a big help for me) and how to fix problems like a dropped stitch. Other than that, it's a lot of practice and watching what you are doing until you learn how to spot and remedy mistakes and your hands develop their own rhythm. I know you can do it!

serenitymeadow said...

Practice, practice, practice. You can do it. Your off to a great start because you have the desire. Knitting ends up being addictive because it's very soothing.

Elfin Goddess said...

Hey there! Here are my two-bits :) I learned to knit from my mum- learn the two basic stitches, Knit and Purl. And then try simple squares and very basic projects. I learned to knit as a child but still it takes a lot for me to get myself to commit to a project :) Knitting is fun, relaxing and i think every knitted project just looks so pretty! Have fun!!!! I can totally see u posting one of ur projects here soon! Cheerio!

Emilie said...

It took me a couple years of trying off and on before I really felt comfortable with knitting. First I started out using metal needles and acrylic yarn and the yarn kept splitting or slipping off my needles and I was so frustrated I just gave up. A couple years later I got the book Stitch n Bitch, some bamboo needles and wool yarn and tried again. That time it was a success. I started out really slow and only tried simple projects like scarves. The bamboo needles kept the yarn from slipping off the end and the wool is so much nicer to knit with than acrylic. Fast forward a few years later and I'm a knitting machine! Just give yourself some time and be kind to yourself. I'm a perfectionist so it was really hard in the beginning for me to see all the mistakes I made. You can do it!

Machelle said...

The last commenter was right. Just learn to knit and purl. I think the secret is, just get used to doing it and then worry out perfecting it later. It will always feel awkward when you first start knitting. That is normal.Knitting has saved my life in so many ways.

By the way, I like reading your blog. I am inspired by all the bread making, recipes, or just playing with your cute kids. Thank you for sharing.

Mary Beth said...

Thank you knitters, so much, for all your encouragement, insights, and good advice! I'm so pleased with all your good vibes being sent my way. I'll press on!

Suzanne said...

I would definitely take a class--so much fun and a great way to learn. Even though I have been knitting for a long time I use knittinghelp.com when I forget how to do something. Very helpful:-) But learning to knit with others opens up a whole 'nother world of fiber art and artists:-) Good luck!

Hannah said...

You've had so much great advice here! Like a few other posters, I started teaching myself to knit last autumn using a children's book from the library. I'm still not doing anything fancy yet but I'm improving all the time. I read somewhere once a really good article about letting go of the perfectionism with knitting and seeing the flaws in your creations as part of what makes the items so special. That really helped me to just jump in and try things. I recently made my son a gnome hat from "The Children's Year" and he's itching for cold weather so he can wear it!
Good luck - you'll get there in the end!

Miss 376 said...

You've done really well to do what you have done by yourself. Keep it up

debj said...

Keep us the good work! I, too, learned to knit recently, and without personal support. I have two suggestions that I have seen posted. First, knit in public. Knitters will come crawling out of the woodwork, and you'll find out who and where they are. Also, find the local knitting guild, and attend a meeting. The one here is very friendly, and eager to help.
Keep trying. I knitted several scarves and dishcloths before I felt comfortable knitting, and several more before I got bored enough to try something a little more complicated. I still have lots to learn, but I'm enjoying it immensely!

hanna said...

Well I don't have much advice as I've just started myself, except do keep it up, don't give up, one stitch at a time and soon enough you'll get the rhythm of it. :o)

Mom2fur said...

I knit once in a while, but only simple things like dishrags. I'm much better at crochet. But I used a book years ago to learn it called "I Taught Myself to Crochet." See if you can find the one on knitting at your library. I found the crochet version to be easy to follow and would assume the knitty one is, too. Anyway don't give up!

monkey said...

i haven't read the other comments but just wanted to chime in since i consider myself a somewhat 'frustrated' knitter. i tried learning from books and all i really picked up was bad habits. i really think it's important to have a real live person help guide. they can tell you when you've made a mistake, explain why/how and help teach you to recognize the mistake before it's too late. then, the books and videos become great references when you need a reminder on something.
check knitting stores where you can go and knit there with the people. and then, all of a sudden, you'll draw other knitters to you and you'll have people to do this craft with.
good luck!

Anonymous said...

I concur—www.knittinghelp.com for web.

With that said I enjoy (and continue to enjoy) taking classes at my local yarn store. I always wanted to be able to knit and was so frustrated with how hard I found it to be. But, I stuck with it and it's been one of the best things I ever did for myself. I am now enjoying making my soon to be born son his first handknits and I'm so thankful I stuck with it.

You could also check to see if your library has any videos. I personally like Elizabeth Zimmerman and Lucy Neatby videos.

Good luck and just keep knitting it gets easier and more relaxing!

Happy learning.

Chris said...

so interesting - i have had learn to knit on my to-do list for ages. i tried once with an instructional dvd and didn't get very far, but maybe i will try again if you report on your success!

Barbara said...

Oh I have no suggestions I'm afraid - I'm just commenting to say I know how that feels. I've never really been able to knit properly even though I know theoretically how. My mother is a great knitter which makes it worse and now my daughter wants to learn. I think it's one of those things that if you stick with it (i've never wanted it enough!), find a yarn and needles that you love then it will fall into place. I'm going to read all your comment now to see if I can get any tips for teaching my girl. Good luck! x

periwinkle said...

Good luck with the knitting, I always shout for my mam when I get stuck. Once you get going its quite theraputic - don't give up.
lisa x

Harper said...

I am fortunate in that my public library offers free knitting classes so that's how I learned. However, in some ways, I've learned more from the internet because a human teacher usually teaches their personal style which may not fit you. I can search a technique and try several methods until one clicks.

If you feel your stitches are too tight you might try going up one or two needle sizes. I also recommend bamboo or wooden needles over metal. And I prefer to knit with circular needles even when I'm knitting a flat piece -- the needles don't tend to fall out of your knitting. Also, I agree you should use smooth yarn, preferably wool because it has a lot of give.

Rather than knitting a scarf [which I think is not the best beginner's project because you begin to despair of it ever ending] what about a garter stitch fingerless mitten? Cast on until it seems long enough for the recipient [say, from 1.5 inches below the wrist to just above the knuckles, knit a rectangle until it is a little smaller than the circumference of the hand [you want it to stretch some to help hold it on], cast off, hold the cast-on and cast-off edges together making a tube and determine where you think the thumbhole should be then whipstitch the seams together above and below the thumb. Voila! There are much better patterns out there for this kind of thing but this is pretty easy. And much quicker than a scarf.
This one at http://ysolda.com/wordpress/patterns/ has shaping

Aunt Kirstie said...

I think your little patch looks good. Just as a new knitter's patch should(rhyming unintentional). I used to work in a knit shop and I used to teach knitting to beginners. One of the most important things to realize is that knitting is a slow craft. Just relax and keep going and don't beat yourself up you are doing just fine. I wish I could come over and give you a few tips and talk you through them! A book recommendation - Knitting Without Tears- This is an old book and it is a wonderful read. It changed my attitude about knitting. Keep on knitting and if you want any assistance I would be happy to help. Keep on knittin' Kristin

Lil D said...

I taught myself how to knit using a dvd aimed at pre-teens. It came with yarn and a pattern for a hat. It really worked well, though, as I could slow it down to a frame by frame version during bits that confused me.

Crocheting was taught to me by a friend in the space of an hour. Before that I couldn't follow what the books were showing in their diagrams.

So, I think it helps to see a live person do it - even if it's on the screen - to get a grasp of the basics. The internet probably has loads of free videos.

eight feet said...

I agree with harper that a scarf is not the best beginner's project as it drags on and on (you may however, use it as a way to watch how your tension relaxes and your stitches even out as you gain experience with each row). Hats in the round (on circular needles) are not as difficult as they seem and they give you a chance to learn several new techniques in one project. If you are using 100% wool, you can always felt your project and the inconsistencies (and mistakes) just melt away.

Another book suggestion is Teach Yourself Visually Knitting and Crocheting.

Have enjoyed your blog for a while now; thanks for your yummy recipes, ideas for craftiness with my young ones, nice photography and all around inspiration.

mbutterfudge said...

I also taught myself to knit this year and I have to say it has been the most rewarding, theriputic experience. The rhythum of knitting is addictive, almost like a form of meditation.

Stick with it. I was lucky enough to stumble across lots of different yarns in a thrift shop and I read lots of different books at the library.

Dont feel under pressure to master it. Change yarn, choose a quiet corner, and focus on something simple. Maybe you could sew up some of your square to make a purse (thats what I did, I attached an old doily and now use it as my wallet, lol).

Your so talented you'll get there, I have faith.

Best wishes, ClareX

mbutterfudge said...

Hi Mary Beth, I've given you an award on my blog, best wishes, Clare

Rebecca said...

as a knitter, was going to weigh in here, but it looks like you have tons of great advice already. just don't give up. keep at it. it's a nice skill to have and once you get the knack of it, it's soothing and calming AND productive!

said...

I am sure you'll be doing it as well as you sew pretty soon!
your blog is lovely!

Its_Lily said...

oh, yea, I just completed my first project. I can't post it yet or else my son will see it, but it's a moebius strip basket. Very cool! Ha, I laughed when I was reading the comments because I still haven't gotten over "full body knitting", which means I lean this way and that when I'm struggling to get the stitches from one needle to the other. *grins*

shannon said...

Go for some great yarn and some nice bamboo needles. It makes all the difference to be working with something that inspires you and feels lovely while working. Also if you spend a bit of money on the yarn you are less likely to just abandon the project (or at least I"m that way!)

Anonymous said...

Again, I'm responding to an old post, but I'm just catching up. I really enjoy your blog. I'm not a blog reader per se, so this is all new to me. I'm a knitter (still learning) and found Stitch 'n Bitch to be the best resource for stitch descriptions - and you can't beat the photos for clarity. Another you might try is Knitting in Plain English.
This is all considering that you're still looking for resources and haven't already heard as much as you can stand about what to read :)

Nellie (I don't have a profile - nbewley@gmail.com)