Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Knitting and Technology-A Primer for New Knitters

      I like to reassure new knitters by telling them that knitting is just using two sticks and some yarn to create a knit stitch and a purl stitch, and after a little bit of time, repeating these actions will result in some sort of fabric.  But I can understand that to the uninitiated, the craft of knitting can appear rather intimidating. Lace patterns require manipulation of those two basic stitches by following charts or lines of written instructions.   Garment knitting often includes structure and shaping, not to mention the dreaded seaming.   When crafting items with colorwork, one must contemplate floats and color changes.   Yarns come in weights. Patterns have gauges.  Does one knit the item with circular needles, or double points? And what about felting? Often times, I see the terror in a new knitters eyes and wonder if they must want to run screaming from their knitting and take up a seemingly easier hobby, like jogging or archery.  What happens, they often anxiously ask , when I make a mistake and you guys aren’t open? What will I do without you?

                In the knitting wilderness known as “the time before the internet” one would fumble their way through a reference book or have to sit on their hands until the yarn shop opened or a knitting friend could be found.  But now, help is really just a device away.   For beginners, I always suggest visiting This website has free videos for knitters of all levels of expertise. With easy to understand instructions on how to do the basic stitches plus a variety of increases, decreases, bind offs, and other useful skills, is a perfect resource for beginning knitters.  

                I also urge new knitters to check out Ravelry, social media site dedicated to fiber arts.  One can find patterns, see other knitters’ and crocheters’ projects, post questions and comments on various forums, find information on yarn, keep track of yarn stashes, look up patterns...pretty much it’s a central warehouse for all things yarny.  I tell people it’s kind of like Facebook for knitters, but that’s a weak analogy.  Want to see projects made of yarn that’s tempting you from the yarn store shelf? Need a place to keep track of your ever widening cache of needles?  Looking for a hat pattern? How about ten thousand hat patterns? Curious about people’s theories as to the meaning of Don Draper’s childhood memories? It’s all on Ravelry.  My best advice is to get on there and search around.  Have fun.  

Often at our tables we’ll find knitters who use their tablets and smart phones to read patterns, take notes, and more.  Knitting apps have been around awhile and are constantly evolving in scope.  A recent search for “knitting” on my smart phone gave me hundreds of apps to choose from, and now Ravelry also has several apps that will work directly with their site. For the newbie knitter, I suggest Stitch Minder, which I use all the time to count rows and repeats.  I also like Knitting Daily’s app for its links to patterns, techniques, and various articles.   We’re just learning of revolutionary interactive applications like Knitcompanion that allows one to interact with the pattern right down to the stitch itself.  Less like an app and more like an electronic knitting teacher/mentor, Knitcompanion helps manage charts, mark row progress, and has a designer series with instructions directly from the designer.  I’ve yet to find one that knits for me, but can that be far away?
Of course, nothing can replace the tactile nature of knitting, the reason most of us tend to this basic and fulfilling of all crafts.  Remember, it’s just yarn, a knit stitch and a purl stitch, your imagination, and a willingness to learn.