Friday, November 08, 2013

My first (major) knitting project

I have already told the story of how I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was 11 or 12. The headband I made is still in use to hold hair back while washing my face, or applying moisturizer. (You can read the story), but basically due to impatience on both my grandma's and my part, I didn't knit anything again for 20 years.

first project I wanted to write more about that project,because I felt this sense of connection to my grandma as she taught me to knit. It is kind of hard, though, for me to write much about my grandma in November. Not only did she pass away in November, but I spent much of that last November thinking that she "wouldn't survive the night." In the end, I decided I'd pick up after the 20 year hiatus.

So, almost eleven years ago I found myself 400 miles away from all of my family, with infant twin girls. After a really rough first year of motherhood, my wonderful husband wanted to gift me for my birthday with some sort of "fun get out of the house class type thing." He gave up trying to surprise me, in part because he was kind of stumped as to what I would like. It just so happened that he was looking at quilting classes at a store that also offered "learn to knit." I'm not sure what made me say--This! I want to relearn to knit. Maybe it was remembering that closeness I felt when my grandma tried teaching me a skill that she had. I wanted a skill I could someday teach to my children or grandchildren.

So off I went with a ball of acrylic yarn and US size 8 needles to my first class. Over the next four weeks we learned to knit, to cast on (cable and knit cast ons), to purl, to decrease, to yarn over, and to bind off. We learned how to read patterns. We made dishcloths!

knit baby

I don't use dishcloths, but I made several of the two patterns we learned. I gave dishcloths to my mom, who did use them. I did keep the first two though.


Where the story gets more interesting is here. I finished the class, knowing all the basic skills and having only made 4 dishcloths (plus the 20 year old headband) and I decided to knit a sweater. Actually two sweaters, one for each of my now toddling daughters. I asked the instructor on the last class if that was even a thing I could do at this point and she gave me wise wise words of advice:

Take the pattern one step at a time.

Sure, there are a whole page of directions but really the first step? Cast on. After that one step at a time.

So I went to the library and browsed patterns from books and found this great Debbie Bliss book. Then I didn't write down the name of the book or the pattern, so it is forgotten through time. I balked at buying *that* much baby cashmerino and so found a cheaper and more washable yarn substitution. Of course not knowing anything about what baby cashmerino felt like, I picked instead a sock yarn in baby colors and then had to go up to size 3 or 4 needles to "get gauge." So yes, I got gauge, but the fabric that it created was much looser and airier than what the original pattern called for. And since I didn't get row gauge (because really how could I--the yarn I picked was so much thinner than baby cashmerino) they ended up a little bigger than I intended. But hey, the longer to fit them in right? Um yeah.

Tip: don't just match the stitch gauge, but attempt to get row gauge too.

Yarn substitution tip: Try to match your yarn to the other characteristics of the original yarn first sweaters They came out huge. I think I made the 2T size and they look like maybe 4T. Also, even though I was "careful" about the sleeve directions, I ended up with four sleeves that were all different lengths. The funny part? every sleeve was too long. Every single one. In this picture I have lined up the sleeves at the top.


My knitting instructor invited all of us to come in and visit her during the store's holiday open house later that year, and I asked her how to get the sleeves to all come out the same length. Her tip was:

Knit both sleeves at the same time

I have done this and it does really work if you are the kind of person who forgets to decrease when you are supposed to. Although if you are the kind of person who gets yarn tangled up, then it may not work that well for you.

In the end though, learning to knit was about trying to recapture some of that closeness that I felt with my grandma. And perhaps make things that would make my family feel loved and warm. And even though the first sweaters didn't quite come out the way I would have wanted them to, knitting has given me so much. Not just (eventually) warm knitted stuff, but also the closeness I wanted. I don't have pictures of my grandma and I knitting, and I don't have pictures of my daughters and I knitting. But I do have one of my mom and I knitting. And you can tell we are having a blast with it.

Mom and me

Submitted for Knitting Daily's Blog it to win it contest

The Prizes I picked are:
Penny the panda kit

Ashbury knitted mitts kit in hunter

Best of Knitscene

Sockupied one sock two ways firefly kit

2006-2011 Interweave knits Holiday gifts CD collection

I picked the above prizes for various reasons. I have a panda girl, I love knitscene, and it is time to start making holiday gifts.

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