A little respect

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I have been knitting since I was 7 years old. Since I am almost 50, that means 43 years of experience. The thing I have always been most fascinated with is the structure of it all; I love how a single strand winds a path over about and through itself to create knitted fabric. Itʼs why I love Aran knitting more than Faire Isle. Color is glorious, to be sure, but fascinating structure is where itʼs at for me.

Until this week, I have thought awfully highly of myself. I have not completed any guild course that confers titles, but I consider myself a master knitter. I use the lower case “m” to distinguish myself from Master Knitters, and I mean no disrespect to those who have earned their credentials through some official channels. But I have street cred; I earned my stripes in the trenches. I can figure out just about anything, answer just about any questions, and teach folks just about all they want to learn (and in some cases more than they want to learn.) I make things up as I go along, sometimes with the help of stitch dictionaries (Barbara Walker and the Harmony Guides are my favorites.) and sometimes simply out of my own creative well spring. I wing it and almost always get what I want. Accomplished, thatʼs me. An expert.

But write it down? Cheese-Louise. I donʼt like to do the same thing twice so I donʼt usually pay attention to what I actually did in the first place. I just make it work. Write it down? Why? Well, so someone else can make it work, of course. How hard could that be?

I have been quick to be critical of designers who write imprecise patterns full of mistakes. I pride myself, snob that I am, on intuiting what they really meant to write…or I modify their original designs to suit myself anyway so what does it matter (she says with a superior air and a wink to the side.) Never again, I tell you.
The Pine Cone and Tassel cup warmer pattern (available free on our brand new Ravelry Designer page here) kicked my arse in a whole new way.

I wung it like I always do and thought I could just short-hand the patter something along these lines: “Do a 7 stitch 1×1 rib edging on each side and a standard tree-of-life Aran thingy in the middle. Put some button holes on one end and divide it up on the other end to go around the cup handle.”

But when I put it that way to a competent knitter I know she looked at me with a completely blank expression…waiting for the punchline, so to speak. And I realized I would have to me a little more clear. No…a lot more clear. So I had to go back and look at this tiny, simple little thing I had created and figure out how to write down precise, step-by-step instructions that could be easily followed by only moderately motivated novices. A whole new learning curve for me. Who would have thought? It took me a whole day to write down. A whole day to parse 16 rows of pattern. Oh, how are the mighty fallen.

I vow here and now that I will never speak or even think critically of designers again. I promise I will give nothing but respect for the brilliant knitters who are able to clearly express their process so I and everyone else can follow it. I am an accomplished knitter, and a passing fair writer, and I know I will master this skill of scribing patterns. But, oh, my lovelies, itʼs going to take me some time and patience.

How about Knitter’s Pride Interchangeable Needle Sets

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

When we went shopping for tools, we came with different expectations and opinions about what makes a good needle. When we considered an extensive needle collection, we like a low price point. But we didn’t want to compromise on quality that will last a life time. Mim likes low friction metal with sharp points for speed and extra control. Kristin likes smooth wood for a little bit of stickiness to keep stitches in place, and easy grip to lower hand fatigue. Hmm: what to carry?

We’ve both been knitting for a long, long time and at least one of us is also an expert crocheter (We’ll let you guess which one.) so we’ve sampled many different kinds of needles and hooks. We also understand that when you get three fiber artists in one place, you’ll get at least five opinions so we’ll be carrying. We’ll be carrying a wide range of needles and hooks from low price point starter tools, to high end treats in metal, acrylic, bamboo and hardwood, but we want you to know what we think of them all. So…

First up, we decided to carry Knitter’s Pride as our primary brand of knitting needled and crochet hooks.

Mim says: I like the Knitter’s Pride Nova metal interchangeable set. I’ve always liked Addi Turbo’s, but they are expensive. Nova have the same fast nickel coating which makes them ideal for skimming along at dangerous speeds, but the tips are a little bit pointier so they don’t snag splitty yarns as much. The cable in between is soft and flexible, even right out of the box, and the join is so smooth it won’t grab even your tiniest, most delicate lace weights. The interchangeable set means I can have every size (okay sizes 4-11) all together and switch between projects with ease. It also comes with cables in different lengths (a 24”, two 32” and a 40”) and cable end plug thingies so you can run long projects like blankets, shawls, or sideways scarfs without having to bunch them up. And at less than half the price, these needles are my dream come true. Knitter’s Pride also carries straights in the same finish with really pretty colored hardwood knobs on the end. So far, the best needles I’ve knit with in a long time, and a really good value.

I want Stephanie Pearl-McPhee To Come To My Birthday Party.

Monday, May 21st, 2012

When I was first learning to knit and crochet there was, of course, a social element to the process. I would sit with my mother and maybe one or two friends and chat while I worked. As time passed I tried out knitting circles in the occasional LYS, but in those days there were not a lot of specialty yarn shops and the options for connection to a wider fiber arts community were few and far between.

Finding patterns or technique instruction was largely a matter of combing the magazines or picking the brain of whatever knitter or crocheter happened to be nearby. I could, of course, make stuff up on my own, but that didn’t always go well and there was seldom anyone around to help me figure out where I went wrong. I didn’t live in a traditional fiber arts culture so there were no mulit-generational, pass it down for posterity, options either.

Then came the internet. Suddenly it became possible to connect with knitters and crocheters from all around the world. There were patterns floating through the ether and mentors as close as my keyboard and screen. I started following the Yarn Harlot’s blog and getting acquainted with designers and teachers and purveyors of spectacular yarns from all quarters of the globe. These folks and their fiber lives seemed like life lines to me. I have a deep and abiding love for all of them and what they have brought to my knitting and crocheting.

It’s funny. Though I am pretty sure that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee…whom I affectionately call Steph, of course…does not disclose everything that happens in her home and life, I check in with her every day and have a great fondness for her husband and children…almost like I actually know them. Though I’m pretty sure Ysolde Teague keeps her truly private life truly private, I make coffee dates with her every few days…almost like she would actually be there. Though I’m pretty sure Franklin Habit does not work or write specifically with me in mind, I’ve had some laughs with him that I cherish…almost like he is laughing right along with me. And I’m still discovering new cyber-fiber friends. I feel close to them all though I’m pretty sure they have no idea who I am. I follow as much of their lives as they let me see, and they make my life richer with their sharing. And the knitting…oh, the knitting!

So…here’s to the wide open, plugged in world of fiber arts and all it’s citizens. You’re all invited to my birthday party. (It’s June 14th and I’ll be turning 50, if you must know) I’m pretty sure we could all be great friends. Oh, but wait…we already are. Mim xo