I have finally taught myself to knit well enough, I think, that I will keep doing it for as long as I have time left to do it. Knitting can fulfill some of my needs to be challenged, creative, useful, relaxed, appreciated, and lots more. I sure wish I would have come to this point a lot sooner, rather than later. But, oh well. My children probably won't mind that I didn't knit them baby hats and sweaters, and are probably glad I didn't knit them leggings (remember those?) or sweaters while they were in high school. They do like the slippers I made them for Christmas last year, however, and continue to say I can knit for them whenever I like...as long as I knit what they like. This means I don't knit sweaters for anyone yet (more about that in a minute), but I do make slippers, scarves, hats, bags, and wash-cloths. I can make lots of wash-cloths in lots of different designs. I've also started my first pair of socks, but haven't actually turned the heel yet (that's the hard part, I hear, and I'm scared.)
I say I taught myself to knit, but what I really mean is there wasn't a person sitting next to me to show me how. I've used some pretty good books, though, to teach me and show me how a left-handed person can too learn to knit without any more trouble than a right-handed person would have. One of the books I used was Stitch 'N Bitch, by Debbie Stoller, which was a good book to start with and still provides me with great illustrated stitch-by-stitch instructions for things like picking up stitches or casting off. This book also let me know I could knit lots of things that are modern and up-to-date cool. There was even a knitted bikini in there along with the scarves, hats, bags and sweaters.
I also discovered a type of knitting early on through Knitting Rules! by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee which taught me I could make hats, scarves, shawls, and socks by following a knitting recipe. Rather than a to-be-followed-exactly pattern, the knitting recipe is a general guide-line which allows knitters to choose the types and colors of yarn they like, the stitch patterns they want to use, and the size to make based on the wearer's actual measurements. I even learned how to "measure" a person for a shawl the sneaky way: "Hey, how tall are you?" The answer to this question gives a measure of the person's wing-span (fingertip-to-fingertip, arms outstretched), which will ensure their shawl will stay on much better than a shorter shawl would. Imagine that! I was still a bit scared, though, to branch out on my own like this.
Well, guess what (and this happens a lot to the self-taught in any field, I think)? I found yet another book in our library, called Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, which made me realize the serendipitous nature of learning to knit by one's self. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee wrote the introduction to the commemorative edition of Elizabeth Zimmermann's book (which was the edition I found) and let readers know how much EZ (because Elizabeth Zimmermann is a mouthful, and every knitter sooner or later knows who EZ was) had influenced and inspired her own work. Well, I thought, if Stephanie thought so highly of EZ, I'm going to sit down with this book and read every word because I really want to like this kind of knitting. Okay, I haven't read every word yet, but that's because I'm stopping to order every other book EZ wrote about knitting. Here are links to the ones I found in the Stockton San Joaquin County Public Library:
And, here are some more I found through our Link+ service:
Now, you might remember I said earlier I don't yet knit sweaters for anyone. The reason for that is my first sweater was too big--way too big. It was so disappointing, I stopped knitting for a while. I finally ripped the thing out and really hope I don't need to be scared to try again. From reading EZ, though, I think I've learned why my sweater was too big, even though I got what I thought would be the proper gauge before I started. I was knitting the sweater in the round (in which I used all knit stitches) and I made my gauge swatch flat (in which I used both knit and purl stitches.) Evidently, I knit looser than I purl! Ugh! But, at least I know I can try again now, with a new swatch and a new way to knit. Once I make a sweater that fits me, I can make a sweater that fits anyone. I'll let you know how it goes.
Until next time, stay crafty!
Kaye and Malia