I knit when I can’t weave


One of my early knitting projects was a shawl, knitted in a “feather and fan” pattern, using unspun Icelandic pencil roving. That was early into my weaving career, yes, I said weaving. How did we get from knitting to weaving? In my story they are pretty closely related.








When I could finally afford to learn to weave and start buying the equipment I needed, I also started buying yarn. Lots of yarn in lots of colors and lots of fibers: wool, alpaca, llama, silk, cotton and more. I bought hand-dyed, kettled-dyed, variegated, commercially dyed and natural colored (the color of the animal it came from) yarns. I bought wools from all kinds of different sheep in addition to every “natural” fiber I could find. I did buy some “synthetics”, rayon and rayon chenille, and some wools that had nylon blended in.

I collected an awesome stash, and then I realized that some of the yarns I was buying were more suitable for knitting than weaving. Mostly it was because I wasn’t buying enough to weave with.  200 yards of yarn sure sounded like enough. Nope!

I also realized that  I couldn’t drag a loom everywhere I went, but I was seeing my weaving friends pull out knitting almost everywhere they went, keeping their hands busy while they visited, chatted, listened to presentations. They encouraged me to learn, promised it would be easy. It wasn’t the easiest thing I ever learned, but it wasn’t the most difficult either.

I started with a video on how to knit, and then got some pretty wooden needles and tried it. Thus began my knitting equipment stash. Trying different kinds of needles, different brands, and different sizes. Then I started collecting knitting patterns. Then I learned how to read a knitting pattern. Some projects were so far over my head that I had to put them back on the bottom of the pile.

Little by little, I learned new stitches and techniques. I learned which brands of knitting needles I liked and started to trade, give away and sell the rest. Which are my favorites? Addi Turbo circulars. They are the most versatile, as I can knit in the round or straight back and forth. And they are connected with a handy cable, so I don’t’ lose one and they are metal but a warmer metal, very smooth and easy to knit with. I’m a fan, not an affiliate.

I have also developed an understanding of the lingo: knit, purl, slip, yarn over and much, much more. It is its own language. “Oh, nice, what are you knitting?” “It’s a pattern from ____, and I had to figure out the gauge since I didn’t use exactly the same yarn; they suggested ______ brand, but I had some handspun that was the same wpi (wraps per inch) and I knew that…….

There are still plenty of techniques to try, let alone master such entrelac, stranded or Fair Isle knitting. Surprisingly, early on I mastered “bead knitting” which involves stringing tiny seed bead on thing cotton yarn, and knitting with size 0000 needles that are, well about the thickness of a thick sewing needle. Luckily, the projects are usually small and go quickly in spite of the small size of needles and yarn.

What brought up the “feather and fan”?  I keep the shawl, which continues to grow, at my office.  Plenty of clients have wrapped themselves in its comfort and warmth, playing with the edges and the lacy openings in the pattern. Sometimes a client who knows how to knit or has knitted at some time admires it, and wants to know more about the stitch or pattern or the yarn. Often these conversations renew her contact with knitting, the rhythmic clicking of needles and the creativity and sense of accomplishment as the project grows from “sticks and string” to something beautiful and useful.

Once you get used to the knitting action, it becomes very relaxing, almost meditative. Connecting with our creativity in this way can also open up the doors to healing on the emotional and sometimes the physical level.

Sometimes I am guilty of assuming that every knitter knows everything about knitting. Oops, my bad. I had knitted with knitters who only knew how to “knit” but not “purl” and enjoyed every stitch, as did the recipients of their labors. I have also worked with knitters who skill and creativity knock me off my chair, and they are excited to share their techniques and experience.

I have occasionally had a knitter tell me I was “doing it wrong”. Really? There are many ways to knit, and some may be easier or more comfortable, but it’s the process, then the outcome that matters to me. It the outcome is what I wanted, does it matter how I hold my needles or which direction I wrap the yarn, or which hand I throw (wrap) it with?  Not to me.

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