In which I do not knit a hat

This week I started thinking about winter hats. It’s getting nippy where we live — not cold enough for me to bring out my heavy coat yet, but cold enough that most mornings I get a block or two into our walk to school and think “hmm, maybe I should have put a hat on.” Last year or the year before I made myself a toque from some alpaca yarn, and while it generally fulfills the brief I don’t love it. The winter hat I love the most is actually my mother’s; she left it at my house after a Christmas visit one year, and I wore it for the next winter or two before finally resigning myself to giving it back. That hat is a four-hour drive away now and, yes, technically somebody else’s property. I miss it.

So then I thought, well, maybe I could just knit a hat like it. I’ve got some lovely yarn left over from my last baby blanket; I’ve got needles in the correct size; if I just knit a panel and then sew it up construction will be easy; what could go wrong? So I found my needles and got out my yarn, watched a video to remind myself how to do the long-tail cast-on, and began.

Those of you who have been reading for a while may have questions at this point. “But Christine,” you may ask, “I thought you hated knitting! Didn’t you have a whole post about how much you dislike it? Didn’t you write it less than a year ago?”

Well, yes. All of that is true. All I can say is that the memory of my knitting pain had faded and I was focused on the hat-to-be — perhaps in the same way that a woman will forget the pain of labour in her eagerness to have another child. And much like a woman in labour, there came a point where realization set in, as my text messages with my super-knitter friend Rebecca attest:

So that went well.

Anyway, here is my new hat. Which I crocheted.

Stay tuned for the next time I forget I hate knitting, ETA 8-12 months from now.

Simple knit scarf

I’m done knitting my second-ever project, and my first scarf! Incidentally, I figure I’m also done… knitting.

This is just a shortie. It started out as a generic scarf mostly for the purpose of building my knit-and-purl muscle memory (which, I have to say, it did). But Perpetua took a shine to it, so I stopped when it reached a good size for her.

The pattern is very simple. I cast on 30 stitches, and started with three rows of garter stitch. Then I moved to stockinette with a three-stitch garter border on each side. This meant that on odd rows I would just knit straight across, and on even rows I would knit 3, purl 24, and knit 3. Finally I did another three rows of garter stitch so the ends would match, and cast off. A quick wet and some improvised clothesline blocking, ends sewn in, and there you have it. It is a scarf.

Above: something going wrong near the end. It turns out I didn’t care enough to fix it. I fixed other mistakes, earlier — and got through large chunks without any mistakes at all, which was gratifying. But around the halfway point it became clear that while I had acquired a basic knitting competency, I was also having zero fun. It was stressful when it wasn’t incredibly boring. If it hadn’t been for Perpetua asking to have the scarf, I doubt I would have finished it at all.

Learning to knit was one of my goals for 2022. I did it, and now I’m going to put my needles away. It’s always nice to add another skill to your repertoire, and if there is ever some sort of… global… knitting… emergency… ? … I’ll be able to step up to the plate. Until then, though, this craft is just not for me.

All that being said, I’m still pretty satisfied with the finished product — though I may crochet a little flower or other embellishment to cover that hole.

The yarn is from the Ella Rae “Seasons” line in the colourway “carrot cake”. It was leftovers from my stash; I used it several years ago for a lap blanket and you can see how different it looks when worked up in crochet! As before the yarn was a pleasure to work with. I knit this piece on size 7 needles and it is safely tucked away until called for this winter.

I guess I knit things now

I made a thing. After twenty years of crocheting, my first knitting project is complete. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it… but I learned some things (including how to fix at least some of my mistakes) and ended up with an actual finished project, so that’s something.

Anyway, this is a pair of fingerless gloves, made with some leftover Mary Maxim Starlette Sparkle yarn from when I made our tree skirt. It was a pretty good yarn for a first project: not too splitty, not fuzzy, and a cheap acrylic to keep the stakes nice and low. The gold tinsel-y strands did give me occasional trouble when they didn’t want to stay with the rest of the yarn, but on the whole it was manageable.

The gloves were each knit as a panel, and then folded and seamed together. In the photo above, the first one I made is on the left and the second is on the right; I can definitely see some improvement between them even though I accidentally added a row or two to the second one. Counting is hard, guys. (It still ended up slightly smaller as my tension evened out a bit.)

This project taught me the long-tail cast-on, knitting and purling, garter stitch, stockinette stitch, ribbing, binding off, and three different techniques for seaming. Binding off, by the way, makes me feel like a wizard. It also taught me that 36 live stitches is a whole other thing compared to crochet’s one and it’s frustratingly easy to lose stitches off your needles. Errors on my part meant I also learned how to decrease after accidentally increasing, tink (knit backwards to go back in a row), pick up a dropped stitch from a few rows up, and get all of the stitches back on my needles after having to rip out several rows (nightmare). Phew.

Did I enjoy it? Yes and no. I hit a lot of the frustrating phases of learning a new skill, when you can follow instructions but don’t yet understand the “why” behind them, or when you know you’re making mistakes but don’t necessarily know how to fix or avoid them. Crochet is very relaxing to me; knitting definitely is not. I can see that it likely will be some day, if I’m willing to put in the work now. To be honest, I’m still deciding whether I want to do that, at least at this particular phase of my life. (But also to be honest, I daydreamed up an easy scarf pattern and got out some yarn to try it with, so clearly my brain is engaged with knitting even if my feelings aren’t.) I need to keep reminding myself that I’ve been crocheting for two decades and knitting for, like, six hours, so of course it’s going to be a very different experience. And that’s ok.

And if knitting doesn’t work out, well, I guess there’s always hand modeling.

Beginner again

When I was about nine or ten years old, I learned to knit. A lady from our church came over one afternoon, and while I don’t remember if it was the point of the visit or just sort of happened, she taught me the garter stitch with a pair of straight needles and some bright yellow yarn. I worked on my little swatch and got it an inch or two long. That week I took it to school to knit during recess, and even at a track meet, slowly but diligently working my needles.

At some point one of my friends pointed out that my knitting didn’t seem to be getting any bigger. She was right! What could have happened? As it turns out, I had forgotten the crucial “yarn over” part of the stitch, and so all I was doing was passing my little swatch back and forth, back and forth between the needles. Without noticing. For days. So I put the yarn and needles away, and that was that.

Some years later my mom taught me to crochet, which went much better, and I largely forgot about ever wanting or learning to knit. I’ve been crocheting for twenty years, and while I’ve made occasional half-hearted stabs at knitting over the years — just because it seems like something I should be able to do — it never really clicked. I’ve made some lumpy swatches, most of which rapidly increased in width for reasons that were unfathomable to me. Ugh, knitting. Whatever. One hook good, two sticks bad, moving on.

Except here’s the thing. I want to make socks. And crocheted socks? Crocheted socks are awful. If you want to make good socks, socks you’d actually want to wear… well, you have to learn how to knit and that’s all there is to it. And so here I am, starting over once more. Somewhat to my surprise, I’m really enjoying it. I’m definitely making mistakes! There’s a mini-row of garter stitch in my stockinette section from when I spaced out and started knitting instead of purling. And I dropped a stitch and didn’t notice for four rows, then had to figure out how to get it back up where it needed to be. But overall, it’s making sense. How fun is that?

^ This up here is how I’m learning. I signed up for a premium Craftsy membership (PSA: never pay full price; there is almost always a facebook ad running that will give you a year for like $2) and enrolled in Susan B. Anderson’s wee baby beginner course. Now, to be honest, Craftsy is a bit of a hot mess. You can’t save courses as favourites if you’re using the desktop site, you can’t download materials if you’re using the app, your accounts don’t sync across platforms, and their search function leaves a lot to be desired. But this course is fantastic. Susan’s explanations are so clear, and I love that we jump right in and learn the stitches by making projects: first a pair of fingerless mitts, then a chunky cowl, then a striped hat with colour changes.

Am I ready for socks? No, not by a long shot. But you know, I think I’m going to be ready. And if you’ll excuse me, I have some knitting to do.