by Tara Magdalinski
Newsflash, TM, if you had wool hanging out of your uniform, you weren’t semi-cool. Sorry. People probably let you think that because they felt threatened by that nasty little hook you carried around. CT (also not a cool kid)
I’ve always been a bit of a crafter – and whilst a semi-cool kid at school, I probably did look a bit nerdy wandering the playground with a crochet hook and ball of yarn in the pocket of my uniform.
I’m proud to say that my dad taught me how to crochet. Not because he was a dab hand at wielding the hook, but because I had a “how to” book and couldn’t make sense of the instructions. So, Dad being Dad was up to the challenge, worked out how to crochet and then taught me. Gotta love dads!
I abandoned crocheting – and most crafts – by the time I went to high school, and started cross-stitching in my early thirties. There’s something cathartic about a craft that has strict rules and no room for error. At the very least it appeals to my slight OCD tendencies. I went back to crocheting to create a “box o’ frogs” (pictured above) as giveaways for my son’s first birthday (competitive parenting, anyone?!) and started making amigurumi animals for fun.
And then the baby tsunami hit…
A friend was pregnant so a group of us decided to each donate two crocheted or knitted squares, to be joined together to create a baby blanket for her. And then another friend announced her happy news, so, joyfully, we decided to make a blanket for her. Since these two projects wrapped up, another five of the group have fallen pregnant – one with twins – so we are now looking for rental space in which to house our baby blanket sweatshop. Seriously.
Bored with crocheting granny squares, and impressed by the little knitted numbers my friends were making, I decided to try knitting. I was all set to take some lessons at a local shop when a friend offered to teach me one afternoon instead. I’d tried knitting as a child and had found it a slow, frustrating, horrible experience, so hadn’t bothered with it, particularly as my mother was an expert.
But I learned that the British method we’re taught in Australia is cumbersome, slow and requiring of too many hand movements to “wrap” the yarn compared with the “European” method favoured by those on the continent (this is often called the “combination method”, rather than “continental” or “Eastern”). Knitting was suddenly quick and easy, with hand and wrist movements that were very similar to crochet. I was away!
I started – as probably everyone does – with a scarf (pictured above) made with a luscious Malabrigo Rios yarn (lettuce) and created a checkerboard design with knits and purls. With my first project completed, what better for my next than tackling a child’s cardigan, complete with intarsia colour work?
Did I mention I like to run before I can, well, knit?
So, flinging caution to the gale-force wind, I embarked on a “Steggie” dinosaur hoodie for my toddler, a project that is coming together very well. I’ve finished the front and back panels and sleeves, and am in the process of blocking and seaming these before picking up the stitches to work on the hood. I’m amazed that I even understand what these terms all mean!
I’ve found knitting – like other crafts – incredibly relaxing and easy to pick up and put down as needed, though I do find myself hanging out for a bit of alone time so I can get back to it. It makes me feel less guilty about watching rubbish on TV because I’m multitasking and the end products are beautiful and functional. But, best of all, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.
Tips for beginners:
- Try to find someone to show you what to do. Failing that, there are heaps of YouTube videos and online tutorials. My friend showed me the basics, but I have used online sources to figure out more complicated stitches. I particularly like Vogue Knitting and Knitting for Dummies for straightforward descriptions, though they are geared towards the “Western” or “British” knitting style.
- Head to a specialist knitting/yarn shop for some advice on tools. Spotlight or similar may have staff who are experts, but not always. A specialist store is used to advising beginners, and their staff are usually very happy to talk you through your first steps. I am so lucky to have the fabulous, helpful and eminently patient This is Knit close to me (in Dublin) – they even encouraged me to bring in my scarf so they could see how I went with my first project!
- Start small. Or, if you’re like me, start with something you really want to create, because that will keep your interest. Knitting is basically only two main stitches – knit and purl – with variations on them. It’s amazing how quickly you’ll be able to create something that looks quite complicated with only these two stitches!
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