Creative Knitting Newsletter
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- The Standards
- What's the Difference?
- A Case in Point
- Sheer Determination
- Build Your Skills
- Bind Them As You Find Them!
- To the Rescue
The balancing act of selecting projects for Creative Knitting magazine is somewhat like walking a tightrope. One faction requests that we include more small projects while others are interested only in fashionable garments. Even more compelling are those who want designs for beginning knitters, as they are recent converts to the fiber fun we knitters so enjoy. As a knitter who has grown in the craft over a period of many years, it is a challenge for me to recall what it's like to be a novice! So I appreciate the reminders from those who answer our surveys or write to tell us what they'd like to see in future issues.
Perhaps the discussion should start with a review of just what "skill levels" really mean. These are the designations specified by the Craft Yarn Council of America, which set the standards for yarn manufacturers, needle and hook producers, and publishers and designers who are members of the Council. It is imperative to have standards so consumers know that a designation of a size of yarn, needle or hook will not vary greatly from one source to another, and sizes will have continuity. The four basic skill levels are listed below.
Beginner: Projects for first-time knitters use basic knit and purl stitches, and minimal shaping.
Easy: Projects use basic stitches, repetitive stitch patterns, simple color changes, and simple shaping and finishing.
Intermediate: Projects include a variety of stitches, such as basic cables and lace, simple intarsia, double-point needles and knitting-in-the-round needle techniques, and mid-level shaping and finishing.
Experienced: Projects use advanced techniques and stitches, such as short rows, Fair Isle, more intricate intarsia, cables, lace patterns and numerous color changes.
What's The Difference?
Frequently, the difference in skill designations is a very minor detail, one which is addressed in the body of the pattern with sufficient information to guide the knitter seamlessly through the process of acquiring the new skill. Using the guidelines given, even the most basic dishcloth pattern can become complicated. For example, if done on a circular needle, a dishcloth that starts with four stitches and uses yarn overs as increases on each row and then ends with decreases would be designated by some as an intermediate project! Those who have used circular needles exclusively for many years know that the type of needles used does not change the skill level, yet a novice knitter may not see the logic there.
A Case in Point
Soon after I began teaching knit classes several years ago, it became clear to me that the skill level of the knitter was not a significant factor in the knitter's choice of what to knit. One very new knitter, Dana, declared that she was going to knit as her first sweater a pattern rated as Experienced. Wanting her to have a positive experience, I suggested she select a different, simpler project. She insisted that the multicolored, intricately textured and challengingly shaped sweater was exactly what she wanted. As I recall, eight colors were used, and stranded color work and charts were all included in this one design.
Dana was not to be deterred. She said she would learn what she needed to know to knit this sweater, and in a matter of a few weeks, she wore it! It was a work of art, and her first attempt at a garment! Dana's determination to make what she loved made me re-evaluate the suggestions I made to other knitters for their choices of projects. If a knitter wants to make a particular item, she/he will learn to do what it takes to complete it. That is, the knitter will have the drive to learn new skills, and a knitting mentor or instructor can answer questions as they arise. With the wealth of information available to anyone who has access to a computer, virtually anything can be found by a determined seeker. The most important factor is that the knitter fall in love with the product and be able to see her or his way toward achieving it.
Build Your Skills
If you are a knitter who yearns to learn new tricks and techniques, stick around! We're committed to providing more information to those who want to improve their skills. Our Web site, CreativeKnittingMagazine.com, is loaded with information to help you achieve your goals. Take a look at the Stitch Guide in the left-hand column under 'Knitting on the Web.' There are written descriptions, illustrations and even videos available to help answer your questions. We want you to become informed knitters at the pace you desire.
To increase your knowledge of new terms and skills, you might enjoy attempting a pattern with a skill level one step above your comfort zone. You can try mirrored decreases, where a k2tog decrease at the end of a row is reflected with an ssk at the beginning, which make the decreases tilt harmoniously toward each other.
Bind Them As You Find Them!
Another simple skill builder is to learn to bind off in a pattern. The easiest example is when you end with a row of ribbing. Instead of binding off, with all knit stitches, you can easily learn to work the stitches being bound off as you would in the pattern. For instance, in a k2, p2 rib, you would knit the first two stitches and then slip the first stitch over the second. Purl the next stitch and continue to slip the stitches over as in a regular bind off. Purl the following stitch and bind off and then back to knitting. Alternate the purls and the knits as you continue the bind off. This one little refinement makes the bound-off edge far more elastic. In addition, it keeps the little chainlike edge of the bind off on the actual edge of the ribbing, not lying on either the public or the private side of the work. This refinement will make you look like you know what you're doing!
To The Rescue
A knitter with questions has many options. If you want to increase your skills and enjoy knitting more interesting patterns, find a local yarn shop that sponsors classes, a knit guild, an independent teacher, an informal knitting group, or a talented mentor to guide you. A resident at a nursing home, a prayer-shawl ministry group member, or a person you see knitting in public (KIP) are all approachable and would probably be very pleased to answer your questions.
There is a compelling argument for supporting your local yarn shop (LYS). Do be cautious when asking LYS owners to assist you with multiple questions about your craft-store projects, however. One cannot fault the owners or employees of a yarn shop for being disinclined to answer lengthy queries from knitters who have purchased yarn elsewhere. It's a matter of courtesy to refrain from seeking free advice when the yarn in your project was purchased at another store. As appealing as the prices are at the craft chain stores, there is seldom a person on-site who has the knowledge, time or teaching experience to provide answers to knitters with questions.