Monday, February 25, 2013

Teaching AND Learning. . .

I have had THE BEST TIME teaching classes this past month. Ask my knitting girls and you would find out that ruffle yarn is NOT my favorite. . .but you know what? I've even had fun teaching THAT class and I will be teaching another one on Saturday. I love teaching people how to knit. I love watching them figure out what works for them. And I love being able to share my love of the fiber arts with them. It's tons of fun. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to use my teaching degree AND my love of knitting . . .all packed in to a class on the weekend.

The coolest part, too, is LEARNING while I knit. Whether it's a new way to present an idea, or a way to do something that makes sense to someone else. If you are a knitter yourself, I'm CERTAIN, that you've been told at times that you were doing something wrong. But here's where I tell you to give yourself permission to figure out what works for YOU. Figuring out your knitting preferences goes a long way in helping you pick projects that you will not only love knitting, but that you will use once they are complete. I know for me, I'm not happy with knots in my knitting. I also want the back side to look as nice as the front side. And I know that I have never seen a sweater that's seamed that looks as nice and finished as a sweater that is unseamed and knit instead in one piece. I prefer shorter tips on circular needles, and when paying for tools, while I don't buy the cheapest, I also cannot justify spending $40 on a pair of needles when there are other things out there I love just as much. I know that when knitting, blocking takes care of a ton of issues that arise when I knit, but I ALSO know that my stitches are really even. I have no qualms ever about gifting something that has not been blocked, and even my knitting friends with trained eyes can't usually tell.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because knitting is about me. Well, MY knitting is about ME. If you've ever asked me my opinion on something, you KNOW I will give it to you fifteen different ways. But in the end, YOU are the one that has to be happy with it. And as long as your stitches come off of the needles the right way and you end up with a project you love, you are doing what you should be!

So here are my tips (okay, my opinions).

1) When choosing needles, pick the ones that work for you. Straight needles, double pointed needles, wooden needles, circular needles, metal, pointy, blunt. There are so many choices out there. I, personally, see absolutely no reason to spend $40 on a single pair of needles. For me. I have really even stitches and my Hiya Hiya Sharps interchangeable needles give me perfect stitches and cost a mere fraction of that price. When it comes to money and how much you spend on your tools, as long as you can justify it for YOU and you end up with the tool that does a good job for YOU, then YEAH! Don't let anyone tell you that it is or is not a good choice without hearing their reasons why and then deciding if those reasons mesh with your knowledge of your preferences. Here are why I love my Hiya Hiyas: They have pointy tips, a flexible cable, a smooth join (that also swivels), and they are metal, so my stitches can just fly off of them. But maybe you don't like pointy needles. Or you don't like metal needles. Find ones that work for YOU. I know you can't really see the needle points, but these are one of my fixed sets of Hiya Hiyas (I purchased these from The Loopy Ewe and they JUST stocked more today! Link is over there ---->). The cables are perfect for magic loop and look at the join up there in the upper left. Smooth as can be. (and since we all love to know where the yarn came from, this yarn is the Oh Happy Day colorways from Lollipop Yarns)

2) When choosing yarn, don't let price decide what you buy. Instead, do your homework. I don't mean go into debt to buy really expensive yarn every time. . .but also, it's okay to buy less yarn that costs more than stocking up on really cheap acrylic. I'm not telling you here that acrylic is the devil (even though I don't really like knitting with it myself). But when it comes to yarn, you often get what you pay for. Find a dyer you like on Etsy. Go to your local yarn store and touch and feel what they have available. Check out Ravelry and see what other people have to say about the yarn you are looking at. Don't be afraid to do your homework. If you don't have a good yarn store close to you, check out a place online like The Loopy Ewe (link over there on the right) or Paradise Fibers (who IS my local yarn store!!). While I know that Joann's and Michael's and Hobby Lobby might have yarn, this is NOT what I'm referring to when I say "good yarn store". Ask around. Talk to friends who knit. Read through reviews on Ravelry and search the comments to see what people are saying and what they are making. And know your project well enough to know how much abuse it will take each time it is worn. If I'm knitting socks, I know that I like nylon in there. It helps the wool hold up with wear. I buy a ton of sock yarn from Three Irish Girls. Her Adorn Sock base  (wool/nylon blend) is amazing AND she will dye it to order with any of her available colors.

When I'm knitting a sweater or an object whose purpose is to keep the cold away, I want something warm and squishy. I love Madelinetosh Vintage Yarn. LOVE it. I just finished a hat out of it and I had to get the same yarn to make a sweater.

And I knit the sweater below out of Malabrigo Rios. This is an AWESOME machine washable wool, as well.

3) Know your knitting. What does that mean, you might ask? Are you a loose knitter? A tight knitter? Do your stitches look the same in the round as they do flat? How about your purl stitches? Are your stitches all about the same size, or does it take some blocking to make them match? I tend to be pretty much right in the middle with my gauge. None of the objects in this post have been blocked, and to be honest, I rarely block before wear unless there is something that really needs help. You are seeing my knitting AS IS. My stitches are pretty even, and my knit stitches match my purl stitches pretty well. But even designers have to pick the gauge that they get when they test knit an object, and sometimes that gauge is quite different than I would get if I used those same yarn and needles. . .and you know what? That's okay. Right now, I'm working on a sweater for a mystery Knit Along (KAL) and the pattern called for size 8 needles. I'm knitting it on size 6 needles to get gauge. And I like the fabric and the sweater is turning out lovely on that size for me.  By the way, it's the Hoaloha Sweater, which will be available to the general public mid-March. It's still a work in progress, but it's awesome! (and yes, those are my beloved Hiya Hiya Sharp needles). I will have to block this sweater because the neckline wants to roll.

And no, the color is not that color, REALLY. It's just a bad indoor picture. Sorry.

4) Choose colors you love. Together with yarn you love, colors you love make the finished project that much more enjoyable. . .but they also make the PROCESS that much better too. I chased my winter blues away recently with this project. It's the Whippoorwill that I got to knit with a few friends. While I tend to be drawn to teals and turquoises and grey and brown, this was the perfect color combo for this pattern and I love it. Color has as much to do with the finished outcome as the type of yarn, I think, so choose carefully!

So go and figure out your tools, your yarn, your knitting and your colors. Get those things figured out and I bet you'll be happier with the process AND your finished objects. But like I said in the beginning, don't let ME tell you how to do it. Figure out what works for YOU! And figure that out by asking and looking and learning.

As a reminder, you can see all of these projects and their details on under my username: KnittingAmyK .

No comments: