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Am I good candidate for knitting?
how much attention does it take?
Liz in Cville
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Liz in Cville  Friend of PR
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Member since 5/28/11
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Date: 12/20/11 2:07 PM

Hi knitters,

I learned the VERY basics of knitting, somehow, years ago, but haven't even tried in many years. Now I'm thinking of trying to learn to knit a sweater, both because I'd like a nice sweater, and because knitting sometimes seems like a relaxing activity. However, counting stitches and rows as you go along doesn't sound very relaxing to me. I get distracted very easily, so would lose track right away. Is it hard to correct mistakes, or count stitches after they're made? It sounds like a silly question, I guess, but maybe it's not.

Also, for those of you who sew and have to adapt patterns, do you find it harder or easier to customize fit with knitting?

Is it very important to have the EXACT correct size of needles, or can I be off by one or two? I somehow already have 2 to three pairs of needles, and don't want to accumulate more before I've decided whether or not I'm a knitter. OTOH, maybe none of them is long enough for a sweater (cardigan).

Finally, I would want to prewash my yarn, as I do with fabric. Would that help me avoid this mysterious process you folks call "blocking"?

I would love to take a class, but unfortunately, they tend to be given in yarn shops, and I don't do well with dust (achoo). But there seem to be many resources on the web and in book form, so I'm hoping to learn that way.

Thanks very much in advance for your thoughts :)

happytobehere
happytobehere
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Date: 12/20/11 2:31 PM

I'm not too sure you would like knitting. It's very precise if you're following a pattern.
I don't think you would be able to prewash your yarn as it would get all tangled up.
Yes, you need to use the right size needles or risk a wadder. Ideally you make a sample, like a muslin, and then measure to see if you're getting the same size as you're supposed to. If not your tension is the culprit. You need to adjust needle size at that point.
Not easy, and takes a looooooot longer to finish something that with a sewing machine.

AliceM
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AliceM
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Date: 12/20/11 3:04 PM

There are lots of ways to make keeping track easier. Stitch markers are great little rings that you can use to keep track of stitches in a pattern repeat and you can get row counters to keep track of rows. My favorite row counter right now is an iphone app that was free. Simply touch the screen at the end of each row to advance the counter. Lots of sweater patterns don't bother counting rows. Instead they will tell you to " work until piece measures x # of inches then begin" increase,decrease whatever is next. Sweaters can be knit in the round or flat. top down or bottom up. Lots of different ways with some being easier than others.

Blocking is for natural fiber yarns, cotton, wool, silk etc. It is done to form the final shape of the piece especially on lace pieces so the pattern is visible. Acrylic yarn will not resopnd to blocking at all and can just be tossed into the washer when you are done knitting.

I find knitting very relaxing. I usually have a small project in my purse for waiting rooms.

Sauvage
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Sauvage  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/20/11 3:20 PM

Easily distracted--oh, I know how that is! Have you considered other handcrafts that are portable, or allow you to use beautiful yarns, or otherwise fulfill what you're looking for from knitting (aside from sewing of course)? Ever thought about felting (which eliminates the middleman, so to speak, by going straight from fiber to cloth)?

Whether distractibility would keep you from knitting depends on whether you want to make garments with complicated stitches, increasing and decreasing, cables, yarn-over moves and such techniques. To some knitters that's what is fascinating about the craft. But there are others (granted, probably in the minority) who like the rhythmic motion of the needles and find it very relaxing to do a simple stitch that they can get into the groove of and still pay attention to a conversation, small children playing, or a TV show.

It'd be hard, though, to make yourself a sweater without serious focusing at some points in the process. And it does seem to take weeks (as an occasional leisure activity). If the product is what you have in mind, there are some very nice sweater knits waiting for you to make them into cardigans in a weekend....

(Personally I'm too distractible to do anything fancy, though as a sort of knitting fellow traveler I like to see what knitting friends can do with stitches, especially "sculptural" ones. I've found crocheting easier, but what made me into somewho who ogles yarn online and at local yarn shops was making coiled baskets out of them--a fairly simple and forgiving single-needle craft.)

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Jeanne
2014 yards in inventory: (to be counted)
Yards cut/sewn:58
Yards purchased: 46.3

"People....so much bigger on the inside." Doctor Who, "The Doctor's Wife," 6.04, by Neil Gaiman.

Liz in Cville
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Liz in Cville  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/20/11 6:38 PM

Thank you all for the input. Sounds as though this year I ought to buy a cardigan or spring for a sweater knit next time I see a nice wool one within my budget.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll go back to practicing on cheap yarn, and try to find a smallish project that will give me an idea of what's involved in shaping pieces. I know that sounds like the obvious first step anyway, but, since I'm really bad at throwing things away, I shy away from making things I don't intend to use. Whatever do you do with "wadders," btw?

Thanks again,
Liz

SunnyAlta
SunnyAlta
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Date: 12/20/11 6:51 PM

What about doing a knit dishcloth? Hard to mess up one of those! Quick to do & useful when done. An easy way to find out if you really like knitting.

dukaqwn

dukaqwn
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In reply to Liz in Cville


Date: 12/20/11 6:52 PM

I, too, am easily distracted. That being said, I DO find knitting extremely relaxing and do more of that than sewing. Part of the relaxation is in the portability and ease of "set up". I work long hours. To sew when I come home from work depends on extensive planning by having the project cut, marked and the machine ready with the proper thread, etc. Anyway, everything must be ready to go to get in a good 30 minutes, which is about all the time I can spare.

However, with knitting, just pick up where I left off, keep count and put down when I'm tired. I use a lot of stitch markers, and I also use the app on my android called "county" that helps me to remember what row I'm on.

I'm no expert at knitting (or sewing for that matter), and I find small projects like scarves and coffee/tea cup cozies to be very rewarding. And knitting is a great relaxation to the end of a long day plus great prep for bedtime.

I do hope you will pick it up and do some small things that can give you immediate gratification and help you to learn some new stitch patterns for later bigger plans.

------
http://sewtarot.blogspot.com/

stirwatersblue
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stirwatersblue
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Date: 12/20/11 8:12 PM

I've been a needlewoman all my life, and I used to stand in front of yarn stores and sigh wistfully, "Oh, I wish I could knit!" I love wool and yarn and lusted after the idea of making those glorious intarsia knit sweaters, or Fair Isle scarves, or....

I finally took an afternoon course in knitting basics, and was thrilled with how quickly I picked it up (not usually my strong point; no one has ever been able to teach me to crochet, for instance!). I worked on my swatches, and that year for Christmas, I got all sorts of new needles, yarns, and instruction books. I was set!

And then... I never knitted again. I don't know why; there was always another craft I was more interested in. Finally, I realized that if I really wanted to knit, I WOULD BE KNITTING. And so I gave all my yarn to my MIL... who knitted it all into hats and scarves and shawls and gave it back to me. :D

My knitting lessons were about ten years ago, and although I still love my MIL's work and my $$$ Dale of Norway sweaters, I no longer feel the urge to join in (particularly since it's become SUCH a huge fad, and so many people are perpetrating atrocities with yarn these days. Egad!).

Anyway, there is no shame in not being a knitter! If it turns out you don't enjoy it (or enjoy it but never do it), there will always be somebody willing to take your stash off your hands!

Have fun finding out whether you're a knitter or not!

------
~Gem in the prairie

Sonoma33
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Sonoma33  Friend of PR
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In reply to Liz in Cville


Date: 12/21/11 0:06 AM

I love to knit! I find it very relaxing. I need to have busy hands. I can't easily sit and watch a movie or tv, but with knitting I can and then enjoy both.

I would never start with a sweater. That would be too hard and discouraging. You do need to have the correct gauge, which you do by swatching--make a small sample square of knitting with the yarn and needles you plan to use on your project them measure it. You have to have the correct sized needles to get the correct measurements for your project. If you make a scarf, etc it won't matter so much, but a sweater should fit for all that effort...

I think starting with something small is a much better idea, but don't go for cheap yarn. If I had to knit with cheap ugly yarn (like acrylic from a craft store) I would never enjoy knitting. For me, what makes it enjoyable is using beautiful good yarn. If I am going to invest the time in a project, the yarn has to be delicious. So, soft pretty cotton for a dishcloth or beautiful merino wool for a scarf.


-- Edited on 12/21/11 0:07 AM --

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C_M
C_M  Friend of PR
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Date: 12/21/11 7:11 AM

The only way to find out if you like knitting is to try it, but give yourself a chance to get accustomed to it before making a judgement.

I don't find it relaxing so much as mesmerizing, as are a lot of other repetetive tasks. At first, it took total concentration (the learning curve), but after a while I could knit without looking or thinking.

If the pattern is not too complicated, you can knit while paying half-attention, and sort of pay attention to a TV show, for example. Two benefits (or disadvantages, depending on the situation): the knitting seems to do itself, while blunting the emotional impact of other influences. I make nearly an entire project while not really watching a scary movie that would otherwise have given me nightmares!

Depending on the fiber, handling the yarn can be soothing while you work. Your choice of tools makes a difference too, and everyone has different tastes.

I think that combination is why people say knitting is good for their mental health (I'm not sure I agree).

To address your specific questions:
Counting rows: I use a row counter. If more than one piece needs to be knitted to the same length, you need to count the rows to make sure they come out the same after blocking. Pause for a second at the end of each row to turn the dial. Easy peasy.

To count stitches - for large areas, use stitch markers (circles that you slip on to the needles in between stitches). Once again, easy peasy (once you get everything cast on). For very small areas, just count. This is part of "half paying attention." Many repeating patterns don't really require counting once you learn the pattern.

Fixing mistakes - depends on how bad it is. In plain knitting with smooth yarn (novelty yarn makes it much more difficult), fixing mistakes is not hard. It helps to stop and check every now and then so you don't find yourself knitting for another foot before finding the mistake!

Counting stitches after they are made - depends on the size of the stitches and how furry your yarn is, but in general once you understand the anatomy of a stitch it isn't hard at all.

Needle sizes - if the size/proportion of the garment pieces is important (as it is with a sweater), you need the correct size needles to achieve the desired gauge (stitch size) with your yarn. This might not be the same as the needle size on the yarn package or pattern instructions. It helps to have a bunch on hand to make swatches until you get the right match (probably the most boring part of knitting). You don't need the most expensive tools, but the cheapest might take away from the enjoyment if you or your yarn doesn't care for the feel of plastic.

Prewashing - Except in very specific cases, you don't prewash yarn. Blocking is like pressing. In making a garment, it makes the knitted pieces flat and ready for assembly, and gives finished pieces a finished look. To account for shrinkage (which is probably what you are getting at), prewash your swatches and figure out how much they shrink before knitting a large piece.

I also learned to knit without classes. Depending on your learning style, it's definitely possible.

Hope that helps!

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