Bitches and Stiches: Prudence in Knitting

One thing that I find amusing sometimes is the back and forth on lists dealing with techniques and the “rules of the road” as it were, in knitting. You’ll see everything from “Hey, it is your knitting do what feels good to you” to ” You should always do it this way”.

I think the reason for that is that there are so many different personalities in knitters themselves. Some of us like rules and some of us don’t. You can always tell who plainly doesn’t like to be told anything, who is open to being told things, and who needs to be told everything, right down to what color to make their sweater.

You know, that is okay though. The knitting universe is big enough for us all.

While we are all settling into our embrace the love though, it doesn’t hurt to stop and analyze. I am going to use the analogy of music, since I grew up with that it is familiar to me so I know how to describe with it.

Piano scales are a good thing to use. They are boring, boring, boring though for the person learning to play. Who wants to play piano scales? Who wants to practice them? Good grief, who wants to spend time learning them? I want to play something fun!!!!

Don’t tell your old piano teacher I said that, although I have a sneaking suspicion she already knows.

Short change yourself on those stupid old boring scales though, and you are left with weak hands. Those scales build up the hands so that you can master more challenging pieces confidently and fluidly. They build up your artistic ability. They increase your musicianship. If that doesn’t matter to you though, that is okay. As long as you understand your decision you own it. Where we short change ourselves is when we are impatient and want to rush into what we expect to be fun without preparing ourselves for it, without regard to how that will actually impact on the fun we expect to have.

This is like saying “Oh, canoeing is fun, I am going to go canoeing (without knowing how and having no preparation)”. Or, “Hiking is going to be fun, I am going to go on a three day hike. These trails up and down wooded ravines look like fun. I’ve never been hiking before, I am so excited I cannot wait…(just for kicks lets say our hiker doesn’t have hiking shoes, doesn’t have mosquito repellent and doesn’t have a walking stick either for the up and down terrain).

I am not really sure why we short change our art in this way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that it is rocket science, but still there is a body of knowledge here. Knitting is something that has been around for a very long time, and while there is a certain amount of “it is your knitting do what you like” that is going to trump all else, there are certain basic skills and techniques that will make your knitting life so much easier.

What I think of in terms of our “scales” are cast-ons and bind-offs. Ways to work buttonholes. Ways to work selvedge stitches. Seaming. Grafting. Picking up stitches.Really, just about any technique, new or old, that I can get my fingers on.

Other basics are reading a pattern, and reading charts. And the most basic of all? Reading your knitting itself. What does your knitting look like? Plain knitting. Stockinette will give you knit on one side of the fabric and purl on the other.

This means if you are purling on the right side of the fabric, it’s gonna look like a knit stitch on the wrong side of the fabric. The backside (private side) of a knit stitch is a purl stitch. The backside (private side) of a purl stitch is a knit stitch. This is why ribbing looks the same on both sides of the fabric.

Yes, you are doing the same two stitches on both sides of the fabric, but think about it. When you are on the wrong side of the fabric (the private side, the backside) and you come to a purl stitch, what have you come to? A stitch where you were knitting on the right side of the fabric. That is why it looks like a purl stitch there, and why you must also purl there.

To work in pattern when ribbing, you must purl where there is a purl stitch so that it looks like a purl stitch on the “wrong” (private, backside) of the fabric and looks like a knit stitch on the right side of the fabric.

I know for a good many of you reading my blog this is something that is not confusing, but for many it is. When reading charts, the chart is a picture of how the knitting looks on the right side of the fabric. So remember that tip about the knit and purl stitch and what they look like on the public or private sides that are showing. They are two-faced in nature.

And remember your knitting “scales”. Anything that increases your knowledge and skills as a knitter makes you more confident. This means you are able to make decisions about what really works best for you and gives you more choices. They also make your knitting look better.

Peace and Knitting,

JoLene Treace

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One Response to “Bitches and Stiches: Prudence in Knitting”

  1. Ginger aka Beethoven Says:

    Mum said this is a very helpful article. Being a musician, she can totally relates to the point. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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