Welcome to the knitting cult. Here’s your project bag.

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Soon after I started my first lumpy scarf, I realized that I had joined a cult. A benevolent cult, of course. But once I started casually mentioning my new hobby, some seemingly normal people have swept away the (hand knit) curtain and I have been shown the light.  

Early on in my knitting career, I went for an eye exam. I’ve been seeing my optometrist, Dr. W,  since I was a teenager. She’s a pleasant but quiet woman, not terribly chatty beyond “How far down the chart can you read the letters?”

Dr. W asked me if there was any change in my usual crappy vision, or in my daily tasks involving eyesight. I mentioned that I had started knitting, which requires looking closely at tiny stitches.

“Oh, you knit? So do I!”

Dr. W then spent the next half hour showing me the details on the hand-knit cardigan she was wearing, talking about the differences in British and Newfoundland knitting techniques, and recommending knitting websites for me to check out.

Who was this woman, and what had she done with Dr. W?

Not long after that, through work, I heard about a set of traditional Newfoundland mitten patterns, by Shirley Scott and Christine LeGrow, of Spindrift Handknits. I placed an order.

The patterns arrived in an envelope at my desk, with a nice note from Christine, and this card.
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I wasn’t sure whether to be excited or worried.

And then there’s my friend Rayna Curtis. We first met in junior high school, and like many old friends, we reconnected over Facebook. It was her photos of her knitted creations which got me thinking “hmmm, maybe I should try this knitting thing.”

Now, Rayna is at a completely different level of knitting – which she refers to as one of the “fibre arts.” Here she is spinning her own wool.

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That’s her extremely cute dog, Kayleigh, hanging out in the background.

Rayna also dyes her own wool, she’s a test knitter for some well known knitting pattern makers, and naturally, she has her own blog, First Light Handcrafts.  So I guess she’s my Obi-Wan Kenobi of the knitting.

I reached out to Obi-Wan Rayna early on for some advice, and asked her to go yarn shopping with me.

I picked Rayna up at her house and she came out with a project bag and yarn for me, and a question “Do you know what a project bag is? Well, you do now!”

She was such a force of nature in the knitting store that other random wool shoppers came up to her asking for advice on yarn and patterns.

I’m looking forward to my next eye exam so I can pick Dr. W’s brain on her favourite Brooklyn Tweed patterns.

I carry that card in my wallet. And I use Rayna’s project bag every day.

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Now, I’ve never thought of myself as the evangelical type, but here I am, with my own knitting blog.

Someday, I hope to pass on a project bag, skein of yarn, or wallet ID card to another newbie knitter.

But if I ever wind up working crowds in the mall trying to recruit new addicts to the (knitting) needles, please stage an intervention.

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Knit 1, Purl 1, Fail 1, Repeat.

From my first cast-on, I have been an enthusiastic knitter. That should not be confused with being a competent knitter. I have made many knit-pocalyptic projects. Which, oddly enough, have turned out to be quite helpful.

Exhibit #1: this simple beginner’s hat.

It requires knitting a stocking stitch in the round until it is done. Should be easy.

Not if you’re me.

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See that line of garter stitch?

That happened because I picked up my needles the wrong way, and reversed directions while knitting.

Actually, I did this for about 15 rounds before I noticed. I unraveled most of it, but I was afraid to keep unraveling any further. Hence the garter stitch, or as I call it, the design feature.

Of course, I learned my lesson, right? Wrong.

Exhibit #2: This fingerless glove.

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All kinds of wrong going on here. I was so excited about this silky purple yarn that I did the same thing with this fingerless glove, also knitted in the round.

I was afraid I would wreck the silk and wool blend by unraveling. So I persevered.

At least now I know, the working yarn ALWAYS comes from the right hand side.

Other random knitting truths I have discovered?

Always count your stitches. Otherwise, your row of 36 stitches will magically become a row of 39 stitches, or 34 stitches.

No matter how you feel about navy blue, it it a terrible colour to knit with.

And even if you don’t use it, buy extra yarn.

Back to my hat. As my ball of wool got smaller and smaller, I got worried that I would run out of yarn before I finished.

“Sure, that’s long enough,” I thought before starting my decreases for the crown and finish.  Yeah, good enough if your ears don’t get cold in winter. Or if your head is freakishly short and wide.

But I kept going.

I made pairs of socks with two socks of different sizes. Mittens with two left thumbs. A cute beret for myself that, because I never made a gauge swatch, became a cute beret for a five-year-old.

Each time, through trial and error, I learned something new. Now, when I make mistakes, I catch them quickly, and I’m able to backtrack and figure out where I went wrong. Once I relearn the correct method, I tend to remember it. I’m a better knitter because of my ability to commit to the disaster.

There’s also use for terrible knitted projects. I have a friend, Christine, who is into felting wool.

Exhibit #3: Christine’s project.

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MUCH better. And yes, I really like purple wool.

Sir Winston Churchill once said “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

So, knit big and fail big. Finish what you started, no matter how ridiculous it looks. You will then know – whatever you just did, don’t do it again. Your knitting will improve by leaps and bounds.

I keep and wear that really bad fingerless glove. It reminds me of how far I’ve come.

Also, I keep and wear that glove because I learned from my experience from the hat, and bought enough yarn to make THREE fingerless gloves.

But I lost one of the good ones.

How I got tangled up in knitting

As I said in my first post, I am completely shocked that I’ve become so hooked on knitting. If my preoccupation wasn’t so harmless, it would be weird.

I’m not a crafty person. At all. But a particular incident ensnarled me in this woolly, tangly web.

While browsing on my iPad one evening, I was intrigued by some beautiful photos of a Facebook friend’s knitting projects. At the same time I was checking two email accounts on my cell phone, and watching television. I clearly needed an analog distraction.

So, about this time last year, I enrolled in a four-session beginners’ knitting course at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s. I wound up missing one of the classes. But I learned enough to get hooked.

Basically, if you can cast on, knit, purl, and cast off, you can make a lot of stuff.

I started with a lumpy, wobbly scarf.

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Then I knit a basic toque in the round that was nearly wearable. The scarf and toque didn’t look the greatest, but making them felt – good.

Soon, I was picking up the needles every day. I found myself looking forward to evenings so I could sit down and let time disappear into skeins of wool.

My scarves got less wobbly. I made acceptable toques. Well, at least acceptable to my sweetie.

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I graduated to fingerless gloves.  I figured out basic mittens.

By July, I was attempting my first pair of socks.

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I knit in cars, on airplanes, on beaches, in waiting rooms, and of course, on the couch while watching television.

By November, I had signed up for a course on the Holy Grail of knitting: The Newfoundland trigger mitt.

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Over the Christmas holidays, I binged on what I now call Knitflix.

I watched the third season of Homeland while making a seed stitch hat.

I worked my way through Marvel’s Jessica Jones and a baccalieu patterned mitten with a picket fence top.

It wasn’t until recently that friends started sending me stories about how knitting is good for your brain, and how it can even create a sense of well being. Which may explain my addiction.

Then again, in the grand scheme of life, there are worse things to be hooked on.

How did you get tangled up in knitting?

 

Welcome to Yarn Cove!

Yarn Cove isn’t a place, it’s a woolly state of mind.

I started knitting a little over a year ago. No one is more surprised than me about how obsessed I’ve become.

I’ll tell you about my adventures in knitting. We’ll geek out over trigger mitt patterns, and share links, tips and info on who’s knitting what. Maybe we’ll settle once and for all, which is the better sweater animal: yak or llama?

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