Knitting (Photo - Johntex, Wikimedia Commons).

      Knitting (Photo – Johntex, Wikimedia Commons).

      When I teach someone to knit, the first time we meet I ask them what they know about knitting. Sometimes they know a lot, but haven’t picked up a set of needles. Sometimes they crochet, but don’t knit. Most times, they know nothing about knitting.

      By Robin Southworth

      It doesn’t matter where they are coming from, this is what I tell them before we start knitting.

      1- Variations

      Beaded panels (Photo - Ann Porteus).

      Beaded panels (Photo – Ann Porteus).

      You need to learn just a handful of things to knit. Everything else is a variation on one of them:

      • Casting on – putting the yarn on the needles.
      • Binding off – taking the yarn off the needles without unraveling the knitting.
      • Knit stitch – knitting.
      • Purl stitch – purling (or knitting backwards, as my friend Kurtis [who really *can* knit backwards] says.
      • Increasing – making the fabric larger.
      • Decreasing – making the fabric smaller.

      2- Making vs. Weaving

      Crochet hat (Photo - Virvoreanu-Laurentiu).

      Crochet hat (Photo – Virvoreanu-Laurentiu).

      Knitting is different from crocheting.

      Crocheting, at its most basic, is making a fabric with knots. Knitting is weaving that same fabric

      3- Be comfortable

      Knitting at the library (Photo - Robin Southworth).

      Knitting at the library (Photo – Robin Southworth).

      A lot of people will tell you that you must hold the yarn a certain way. I say pooh on that.

      Hold the yarn however you need for the yarn to feel comfortable in your hands AND to keep a proper tension. Proper tension is more important than how you are holding the yarn.

      4- Everything is optional

      Shopping Bag of Knitting (Photo Robin Southworth).

      Shopping Bag of Knitting (Photo Robin Southworth).

      There are lots of knitters out there who will insist that wool is the only fabric to knit with. I refer to them (lovingly) as yarn-nazis.

      I am not a yarn-nazi. I believe in the right yarn for the right pattern. If you are allergic to wool, don’t use wool! If you’re knitting a baby sweater, do you really want to hand-wash it every time that child pukes on it? Acrylic, nylon, or cotton yarns are your options. Live in a warmer climate where wool is too warm? Don’t use wool. I live in California and most of my hand-knit clothing is in acrylic. I have socks, hats, and fingerless gloves/mittens in wool, but everything else is in optional fibers. Optional fiber isn’t limited to acrylic or nylon. Optional fibers can include cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, silk, or any combination of these.

      5- Knit something useful

      Knitted bath mat (Photo by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, aka the ladies from Mason-Dixon Knitting).

      Knitted bath mat (Photo by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, aka the ladies from Mason-Dixon Knitting).

      If you are going to knit, knit something you will actually use.

      There is nothing sadder than knitting something and then watching it sit in a corner of your home, unused and unloved. Knit something useful, gift to family and friends, or give to a worthy cause (like hats for preemie babies or blankets for Syrian refugees).

      6- Good for the brain

      Warm enough? (Photo - Andrew Vargas).

      Warm enough? (Photo – Andrew Vargas).

      Knitting turns off that analytical part of your brain. The critical part that keeps us inside the box.

      Knitting allows our brain to float and fly. It lets the creative part of your brain out to invent, create, and discover. It also alleviates stress. There is a common saying in knitting, “I knit so I don’t kill people.” It is so true that I want a coffee mug with that saying on it. Did you know that after WWI, soldiers diagnosed with PTSD were given knitting therapy? True! It also seemed to help.

      7- It’s not for everyone.

      knitted cake (Photo - Tanya Hart, flickr).

      knitted cake (Photo – Tanya Hart, flickr).

      Knitting isn’t for everyone. Some find it boring…stodgy, even. They aren’t interested in things you can make from knitting. Crochet can be an alternative, as can cross-stitch, embroidery, or needlepoint. Sometimes knitting still isn’t for everyone. That’s O.K.

      My mother and grandmother tried to teach me all kinds of textile crafts when I was between seven and nine years old. Things they had learned at the same age, just before each of the World Wars, when knowing textile crafts was an important part of society. I didn’t have the patience to sit and perfect any of them. Heck! I lived in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of an almond orchard. Why knit when I could run outside and play in the creek; ride a bicycle (without a helmet) at impossible speeds for miles down a seldom-used country road; or climb a walnut tree in the middle of a quiet orchard, read a book, and disappear into another world?

      When I picked up knitting needles again at 42, I got it! Knitting quiets my brain, keeps my stress levels down, and helps me make creative connections I didn’t know were there.

      Now go out there and knit!

      Check out Robin’s other knitting and non-knitting articles here.

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      1. Nidandelsa says:

        TIL I’m a yarn nazi. I hate acrylic, though I use it when I knit for babies. It squeaks and I hate how it feels.

      2. eruonna says:

        I’m not really sure what 2 is supposed to mean. Knitting isn’t crochet, but it isn’t weaving, either.

      3. Romuald0 says:

        Such a cute picture!

      4. haileyarosis says:

        This is great! Every now and then I have someone ask me to teach them to knit, and this articulates a great starting point. Thank you!

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