Thursday, March 1, 2012

Contractually obligated to at least pretend like this is a post about books

Hey! This totally is about a book! Here's a book right here:

I decided to take a knitting class. Yes, I know, how original, stop the presses, 26-year-old Female Decides to Learn to Knit. I'm sure Alice can dig up an Onion story. But hey, even though most of the things I like to do are solitary, it doesn't mean I don't want any social hobbies. And knitting is a good social hobby, with lots of groups built around it and plenty of chatter and helping and so on. I think of knitting as being something like running: a friend of mine moved to a new town to do a practicum, and in order to meet people straightaway, she joined a running group. Easy peasy. Similarly, if you were a knitter, it would be easy (I think) to find a knitting group anywhere you went. It's a handy thing to have in your personal toolkit, some sort of common interest like this, in addition to any sort of political, religious, or professional activities you could carry to a new place. (This might be me, as an army brat, thinking of social life in these terms; but I think it still works.)

So I counted up my pennies and invested in a big three-week class, with one two-hour session each week, hosted by a knitting store with a good reputation for a thriving social atmosphere. And rarely have I ever regarded money so well spent! Let's put it this way, in the immortal words of Bart Simpson, it is amazing how I managed to simultaneously suck and blow at knitting during the first class. I was laid low, my friends, I was laid mighty low. It was a lesson in humility that, although well-timed for the first week in Lent, was nevertheless pretty bitter.

By the end of the class, the (extremely patient, heroically positive) teacher had encouraged me under her breath to "get the book, my dear, get that book this week" in order to sort me out. She was referring to Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel -- pictured above, of course -- which the store had sold out of but she had recommended we find for ourselves if we wanted extra guidance. So, no longer under any delusions about my abilities, I went out that weekend and "got the book".

It's very accessible, and as the subtitle says, it's "for the absolute beginner". It also includes the following words of wisdom: "I'm sure that you are a bright, successful human being. But remember that you are now learning something completely new that might be totally outside of your previous experience. KNITTING DOES NOT COME NATURALLY!" -- ahhhh, yes indeed. Patel has written this book to be very clear and very basic, and has clearly drawn on a lot of experience teaching. As I fumbled through my practice, the pictures and instructions helped me remember what I had seen in class, and decode the bits that weren't making sense. I don't think I could actually teach myself to knit based solely on the book -- it's hard to figure out movements from 2D photos -- but it's a very useful companion to a live class.

Plus, the projects included are all very simple and very thoroughly explained. It's massively comforting, as something of a slow-learner beginner, to know that I can practice with these projects rather than having to cross my fingers and pick something "easy" from the wide world.

Here's the happy ending to this post: tonight was installment two of the knitting class trilogy, and it all just clicked! Weirdly enough, although I was a little rocky on the purl, the 1x1 rib was almost intuitive. It's starting to look good that when I finally crack, I'll be able to knit sweaters for my cat named Emily Dickinson.


  1. I LOVE knitting (I am secretly about 75) so this post makes me happy! To be honest, I'm way impressed that you're knitting rib already- I genuinely just knew knit stitch for about 12 years, made many many blankets, and I've literally, in the last like month or so learnt how to purl!

    I know you definitely didn't need to know all that, but I can't help blurting it out at any opportunity- sorry! Have all the fun knitting :D

  2. Yay! I am very glad to be joining the ranks of knitters!

    The class (at I Knit London, incidentally) is really good -- she started us off just doing knit stitch (plus casting on and off) for the first week, and now she's helping us through various other things to give us a nice rounded foundation. And as various issues come up (different types of needles, different types of projects) the teacher has her own projects or borrows examples from the knitting group meeting upstairs to demonstrate. I looked at a lot of different classes in Chicago in the fall, and here in London, and didn't really compare them on anything but time and money, but boy did I luck out on this one!

  3. Congratulations, and welcome to the ranks! Knitting makes me patient and keeps me from wanting to tell people EXACTLY what their problem is on a regular basis. Really, it's better for everyone this way! :)

    Here's the website that taught me to knit: I decided one day to really learn, and I must have watched the knit stitch video five hundred times trying to copy it! But it eventually sank in and I've since taught my mother and several other people.

    Here's another one: Be careful - it's a black hole of knitting (and crocheting) along the lines of the Cute Kitten videos on youtube. Or maybe worse! I'm Tikabelle over on Ravelry too.

  4. All I could find was this:,4061/

    Damn you and your knitting posts! I've been wanting to learn this skill for YEARS and I do not have time and I want to do eeeeet.

    This summer maybe...yeah....this summer.

    (p.s. I'm glad you're doing a social-if-old-lady activity and I'll bet English knitting ladies are hilarious)