Friday, May 2, 2014

Thoughts on knitting (and spinning).

Warning: lots of random, rambling fibery thoughts in this post. :)

Ever since I went to the fiber festival, it seems like I've been even more obsessed with knitting and spinning than usual. I'm generally a one project person, as far as knitting goes. I like to work on something and have it finished in a reasonable amount of time, and then move on to something else. Tons of unfinished projects (knitting or otherwise) sitting around make me feel guilty and overwhelmed. Every once in a while I might have two projects going, if one of them is too complicated to take along with me in the if I do happen to be knitting on two things at once, it's probably a pair of socks and something else.

But all of a sudden, I just want to cast on everything. There are dozens of patterns that I need to knit now that I never realized I needed to knit before. :) Sweaters and gloves (and mittens and wrist-warmers) and socks and such. Never mind that I won't be able to wear any of these things for months, and that it's not exactly comfortable to be knitting heavy wool in your lap all summer long. I've never been good at the whole seasonal crafting thing...I seem to always knit sweaters and gloves when it's 90 degrees outside, and I sew t-shirts during the winter.

So far I've been able to resist pretty well. I'm only knitting on my Hitchhiker at the moment, though I'm getting ready to cast on for my next pair of socks as soon as I figure out how to adjust the size for my feet. My yarn is running low for the Hitchhiker, so I hope I'll finish it by the weekend. {Edit: I finished it last night!} I'm trying to use as much of the yarn as possible, without running out while I'm binding off. :)

I've been thinking about my knitting a lot lately, probably because I read one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's books for the first time, and it was awesome and full of knitting stories and observations. So I've been thinking about how and why I knit and other knitterly things.

As much as I want to be a process crafter, I'm honestly a product-oriented one. Of course I like knitting, sewing, etc...I wouldn't do them if I didn't. But I generally make things because of the end result. If I have a really difficult time making something, I usually forget about how hard it was if I love the item when it's finished. Knitting my first sweater was hard. I couldn't get gauge and I had to start over or frog back so much, and it was incredibly frustrating. But in the end, even though the sweater is still too big, I'm so proud of it that I've practically forgotten how much I struggled with it. On the flip side, it doesn't matter how much I enjoyed making something: if the end result isn't at all what I wanted or expected, then I'm always a little devastated. To work so many hours on something and have it turn out wrong? Ugh.

Having said all of that, I think that after two and a half years, I finally enjoy the process of knitting. It took me long enough, huh? :) From the very beginning, there have been lots of things about knitting that I love: picking out pretty yarn, how the needles feel in my hands, browsing patterns on Ravelry and finding the perfect one, and of course, wearing the finished item. But the knitting itself stressed me out for a long time. I used to keep a death grip on my needles and sit hunched over my work, hardly daring to glance away from my stitches. I was such a tight knitter that I automatically went up a needles size on every project. I was awful at spotting mistakes, and even if I did see one, there was no way I could figure out how to fix it.

I'm still not the most intuitive knitter, but I'm a lot more relaxed. :) I think I've fallen into a rhythm with my knitting, and now it's soothing instead of stressful. It doesn't even bother me anymore that I'm a slow knitter. I knit English style, so I "throw" the yarn, but I don't use my index finger...I still do an exaggerated version by taking my hand off the right needle and wrapping the yarn around. I guess I do that because I basically learned to knit through YouTube videos, and that's how they show you to do stitches in slow motion when you're just beginning. I've tried to reteach myself to wrap the yarn around my index finger and use that, but I just can't seem to do it. The yarn slips off my finger. I know I could probably do it with practice, but I'm too impatient for that right now. It used to bother me that I knit so slowly, but now I actually appreciate it. I don't want to race through my projects without enjoying it. When I watch videos of speed knitters, it stresses me out because they work so fast! :)

By the way, I've also been obsessed with spinning lately, though I haven't actually been doing any of it since my last yarn. One of my goals this year was to take Felicia Lo's Craftsy class: Spinning Dyed Fibers. I've only spun one fiber before that was multi-colored, because I've always been nervous and unsure of how to spin colorful fiber without ruining it. After I bought some dyed fiber at the festival, I finally signed up and spent the last couple of weeks watching the videos.

I absolutely loved the class! It was very inspiring and informative. I learned so much...there are different ways of spinning colorful fiber that I never would have thought of! I feel like now I can choose what I want my yarn to look like instead of just blindly spinning it and hoping that it'll turn out okay. I loved seeing all of the samples made from different techniques: what the yarn looks like on the bobbin, in the skein, and knit into a swatch. I know I'll be watching through all of the videos at least once more, and there are a couple of lessons in particular that I'm sure I'll refer to over and over.

The Craftsy platform was really nice, too. This was the first full class I've ever taken on there (I did a free mini-class once), and I was pleasantly surprised. Even though we technically have high speed internet, we live in a rural area so it isn't super fast. But all of the videos were easy to watch...I occasionally would have to pause it and let it load a bit, like I do on YouTube, but there was a lot less pausing that I expected. I love that you can take notes and then refer back to the spot in the video where you took them, so you don't have to search through the videos looking for something specific. And it's neat that you can ask the instructor questions and talk with other students and post projects. Overall, I was really impressed and I highly recommend the class. (By the way, I used a discount link that I found here and got the class for $20 instead of $30. Also, sometimes Craftsy has flash sales where all of the classes are half price.)

Since I finished the class, I'm hoping to start spinning my new fiber soon. (I also just cleaned up my spinning wheel really well and oiled it for the first time. I know- I'm a terrible wheel owner!) And all of this fibery obsession inspired me to finally finish washing my raw fleece. Yes, the one that I bought last spring...

What are you knitting or spinning?


  1. I started out knitting the English way, but after a Russian lady at our church tried to show me and explain how much faster the Continental way I eventually taught myself that way although I doubt it is absolutely correct, all I know is that the left hand holds the yarn. I think it did allow me to be faster, and it also probably made me tighter, but my mood affects my tension. I have to have more than one project because I am more likely to finish things if I don't feel pressure, but at the moment I have several projects and several planned projects, so I probably should go on a yarn buying freeze.

    1. The Continental way is a lot faster...anytime you see real speed knitters (who have broken records and stuff), they always knit that way. My left hand just feels so incredibly clumsy that I don't think I'd ever be able to knit Continental style! :)

  2. I like these musings on knitting, especially knitting slowly. I'm a fairly slow knitter and sometimes I feel frustrated by it. It's an odd relationship because I really do love the process of knitting, but sometimes I start thinking about all the patterns and yarns I want to get into and feel impatient that I'm not quicker.

    Good luck with the spinning!

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who knits somewhat slowly! :) It is easy to feel impatient because there are so many gorgeous yarns and patterns out there.

      Thanks! I'm nearly finished spinning a new yarn...I'm hoping to ply it tonight, so I should be sharing it here soon. I'm excited to see how it turns out!


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