The Most Important Lessons Learned from My First Knitting Project
When learning a new skill or hobby, you always have to start at the beginning – knowing nothing, and then slowly building your knowledge base. It can be scary to try something new – especially as an adult - and frustrating to learn the techniques and steps to master your new skill or activity. In 2010, I decided I wanted to learn how to knit. And trust me - it was not an easy or quick process.
I don’t have the stereotypical story about learning to knit as a young child from my mother or grandmother. My mother knew how to knit, but she wasn’t a great maker of things and rarely finished a knitting project.
Instead, I started knitting in my mid-thirties. I was living in the midlands of South Carolina and a knitting shop had just opened in our rural town. Knitting's popularity had risen again and I often saw images of beautiful handknit items all over the web. The interplay of color and texture in these knitted pieces immediately attracted me to them. I loved the idea of stitching and twisting the yarn together to create something unique, handmade, and magical.
So I went into the shop with great expectations and an old pair of my mother's size #8 needles, and the women in the store showed me the basic steps of knitting. These women were wonderful. They were patient. They offered me cocoa. After a few hours (literally), I left their shop with the desperate hope that I could still knit on my own without their help.
At home, I continued the steps I was shown. I knit for hours each day, afraid that if I stopped I would forget what I had learned. I dropped stitches but didn't know it. I added stitches that shouldn't have been there. But I continued to knit, excited to make something of my very own.
After several weeks of work, I had a knitted piece that was roughly 22 inches by 14 inches. But the stitch pattern was the same on both sides (I now know this is called "garter stitch"). It was kind of boring. One end was about 1 1/2 inches wider than the other and there were noticeable holes and bumps in my knitted material. This was NOT the glorious garment I had envisioned wearing with pride. But then I came upon an idea to make my first knitting project into something special.
I went back to my local shop to be shown how to bind off my knitting and join my two ends in a loop. Then at home, I went to work again. I found a silhouette of a bird on the internet and used it as a template. Using various scrap fabrics, I traced the outline of the bird and some leaves on to different fabrics, cut them out, and stitched them on to my cowl. Some knitters might call this cheating, but by embellishing my badly knit and basic loop I had created a wearable and unique handknit accessory. I was happy!
Today, almost four years later, I am truly addicted to knitting. I regularly write articles on knitting and have published a number of original knitting patterns on this website (see below). My advice to beginning knitters is to stick with your first project. Don't give up or give in when things aren't looking so great. If your finished project isn't what you had envisioned, think of a way to enhance it and make it into something you'll use. If you are just making swatches, think about adding embroidery, beads, or patches and turn them into coasters! If you have a bigger swatch, add buttons or velcro and use it as a cup cozy! Make your first project into something you'll use every day and show it off with pride! Then move on to your next project. With every project, you'll find yourself getting better and braver. Just keep knitting!
I learned a lot from my first project, and continue to learn new techniques and skills every day! For other lessons learned from beginning knitters, visit Interweave Knits’ collection of “My First Knitting Project” tips and advice.
Copyright © 2013 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.
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© 2013 Donna Herron