I was just working on a pair of leg warmers which I actually hope to wear tomorrow evening, so I really should be working on them, but I felt inspired to write and since knitting is what I do when I don’t feel up to writing stuff, I decided to put down the knitting and pass on some wisdom from, perhaps an advanced knitter, you can decide that for yourselves while you check out the awesome leg warmers I designed and am currently working on:
The leg warmers are part of a set, which I don’t have a picture of since it isn’t finished yet. I wore part of it, but I was still mulling over ideas for the rest of my wool, and I came across this Wickerbox Hat Pattern perhaps below I can tell you how I did it, but it’s a bit advanced, and this advice I’m about to give is for a new knitter who is maybe still on simple garter washcloths, scarves, and blankets.
My first piece of advice is to always fix your mistakes.
I didn’t want to fix my mistakes at first. Knitting was so therapeutic and fixing mistakes was frustrating because I was just starting out and didn’t understand the construct of a stitch or even what I’d done wrong.
Which leads me to my next piece of advice: try to understand the construct of each stitch.
But back to my first piece of advice, fixing mistakes needs a bit of attention, all you need is a little crochet hook, Knitpicks sells one Here, I use this exact one with any yarn and it does the job and should be an essential part of your knitting toolkit. Also a nail file because having a nail snagging on your wool is hella annoying and so is having to get up to go find a nail file. Keep one in the kit.
The reason why you should always fix your mistakes is because it will not only make your work look better, it will also teach you the construct of a stitch. Every mistake you make and fix, gives you a better understanding of how each stitch works, and how each stitch should look. Back to my second point regarding both the facing and construct of both stitches, knit and purl, the first thing I made after I got tired of blankets and scarves was a pair of socks. (Knitting the heel was interesting and a challenge and there are so many ways to do it!) Unfortunately for me, I still didn’t fully understand stitches and the socks are technically perfect all except for one thing: every single stitch is twisted. I still have those socks, and I still stubbornly wear them, my son outgrew his. I was still a very slow knitter back then and those socks took me a very long time to make. Plus they are comfy. Perfect fit also. So I’m giving that advice to help you avoid the frustration of spending a lot of time on something, only to find out it’s all wrong. As bad as you want to hurry up and have something you made yourself, it’s best to slow down, and fall in love with understanding exactly how the yarn should look, and where your needle should go in order to pull out the perfect stitch every time.
My third piece of advice is to get to know your wools. If you actually plan to become good at knitting, you should get to know your wools long before you get to know any fancy stitch patterns. If you are a beginner who doesn’t yet know how they feel about knitting, you should go, in person, to a yarn shop, and either bring your pattern or tell them what you intend to make and what type of stitch you intend to use, and then try to match the colour you want, with the yarns they recommend. If it’s a choice between the perfect colour or the proper yarn, always go for the yarn. For me, I never used a pattern at first. I found patterns a bit daunting and didn’t really understand the language of them, and the other thing about patterns was that I had my own ideas in my head about what I wanted to make and I didn’t want to waste that much of my time constructing someone else’s ideas. Especially when everyone goes so crazy over mine. I’ve already gotten mad compliments on a lot of the stuff I’ve made myself, The hoodie I made is innovative and somewhat unique. Here is a pic of it:
Yup, that was the second sweater I ever made, the first was for my son, and it nagged at my mind to make it like that. I designed it and knitted it myself, using some books and the internet to learn how. It was in my head and I just had to make it. I also made my son a beautiful sweater which is very warm, and which he has worn exactly twice. Luckily it is huge so there is still plenty of time for it to grow on him and it really is very warm and cozy. Nobody has a hoodie like this. The winter hats with a hole for a bun came out not long after I knitted this. I was also the first to rock hot pink extensions years ago when I was on Electric Circus in Toronto, anybody remember that show? Yeah, I was on it for a bit, LOL! Good times! It just sucks having your bun hold your hoodie away from snuggling your ears and making your head look weird when you try to wear it when you’re freezing. And then you have to choose between freezing, having a weird bun-hoodie head, or taking your bun out and having messy hair. I love this sweater. Very cozy and great colour!
I’ve known the very basics of knitting for a very long time. I figured it was like riding a bike when I decided I wanted to make myself a scarf and see how much I remember. That was how knitting started up again for me. Like most novice knitters in their first yarn shop, I was fascinated and carried away by all the vibrant and beautiful colour everywhere. And that’s how I chose my first yarn. I paired that yarn with the wrong stitch and wound up felting a beautiful and intricate stitch into a messy holey-looking scarf, which I still have, but never really wear. It’s wearable, but I also washed it wrong, and that is what really felted it and ruined it, but now that I understand wools and kinda know what I’m doing, I realize that scarf was doomed to fail from the start. It’s still technically a scarf, but it is also a lesson and that’s, I guess, the real reason why I keep it around. Plus it is very warm all felted like that and nobody else would want it.
My next little piece of advice is that when you spend that much time and effort on something, you will want to follow the wash instructions. Keep wool out of the dryer, and be careful with superwash because not all of it does well in the dryer either. Best way to dry your handmade items is to lay them flat on a towel. I put my stuff in the wash, but I put it in a laundry bag and wash it on delicate, then lay it flat to dry. I just can’t squeeze out a heavy sopping wet wool sweater or blanket. I don’t have the upper body strength and I hate hand washing stuff if I don’t really have to. I also like to throw it in a hot dryer for just five to ten minutes after it’s all finished drying flat (DO NOT FORGET IT IN THERE), because this fluffs up the fibres without damaging them and makes it extra pretty and toasty!
My next piece of advice is to believe in yourself enough to buy good wool. The socks I made are acrylic and I hate that about them even more than I hate the twisted stitches. I could have had a nice pair of wool socks, they are still technically socks, and they would have been even warmer socks if I’d only splurged on the wool. Lots of people like knitting with acrylic and I’m not knocking it. But I’m a wool knitter. I don’t mind if it’s mixed with other things, such as linen, nylon, cotton, silk, or whatever, but acrylic is a cheap chemical and wool is a natural product which keeps sheep thriving and in demand.
As a side note: I think mulseing is really gross and they should spend the money to anesthetize the animals if they are going to do that to them, even if they have to pass that on to the consumer, it needs to be a law or something because it’s really unfair to the animals who are providing the wool, but there’s not too much I can do about that and I really like merino wool. I would definitely try to buy it more often if I knew the animals were having a decent go of things, and I do buy less of it because I feel bad about how the sheep may have suffered every time I do. It is very soft and warm, though. When you understand what mulseing is, you may decide to be a vegan knitter, and I know a vegan knitter because of course, hehehe, she told me, but whatever textile you decide to use, understand how it will work for your project, whether it will be soft and flowing, thick or stiff, whether the stitches will remain crisp, or felt together slightly. These are all things you are going to want to know about your wool when you are deciding what to do with it. The right wool; the right project; the right gauge.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice. If you are following a pattern, understand how important it is to swatch and gauge. I know it seems like a waste of time, but it totally isn’t. This advice is everywhere and I can’t stress the importance of it enough. If a pattern calls for five stitches per inch and you try to make it with a lower or higher gauge the size is going to be way off, with only a hail-Mary shot of working out for you. More likely than not you will end up with a hot mess that you can’t wear out in public, if you can even wear it at all. If you’re a beginner and you’re going with a pattern, you should stick to the pattern exactly and not mess around with it unless you’re certain it’s going to work out for you. You would have to recalculate the gauge, which is tricky, and remember to do that for each piece. I honestly wouldn’t even try that with a complex pattern. I actually have a few complex Celtic patterns for some stuff that I want to to do exactly, but I don’t have the right wool for them yet and I have some other ideas in the pipes first. One day.
My last piece of advice is a bit of a cliche and that is to stick with it. Unless you really hate it and you’re having a bad time, in which case crochet might be for you, but if you love making handmade garments and you’re just frustrated with the time it takes, the errors you make, and the way your work looks, just chill, keep going, and keep in mind that each new piece is going to look better than the last, and that each time you pick up your needles, you are going to be faster than you were the last time (I now can knit stockinette close to 100 stitches per minute!) it’s going to come easier, and it won’t take long before you can take the beautiful ideas in your head, and draw them out in real life using soft beautiful wool and confident steady gliding needles. Happy knitting!
Here is how I used the Wickerbox Hat Pattern: I started off by making my own little version of the hat, my wool guage was 4 sts per inch, but the pattern calls for 5 so I had to recalculate that. I wanted the hat open at the top so I’d be free to keep my hair tied up, so I only repeated the pattern twice, then ended it with 10 rows of ribbing, just like I started with so it can be worn either way. I was going to do maybe the first three rows of decreases, but I tried on the hat as I was going and decided that it was unnecessary and may not work out the way I was envisioning. Here is the ear warmer that I made with the hat pattern:
The pattern repeats over 8 stitches, so I knew I had to have a multiple of 8 to make the leg warmers, and that they aren’t going to have any shaping since that’s too complicated for me, so after I made the ear warmers I got the idea to use this pattern for the leg warmers and all I did was pull this up over my calf and then count the number of pattern repeats it took to make a proper fit for my leg. The number was seven, so 56 stitches cast on, then I just repeat the pattern till I run out of wool. I purposely made these last so I could use up all my wool since everything else that I made (fingerless mitts, ear warmer pictured above, and bum snugly) has a specific size, but the leg warmers can be as long or as short as I can go with my remainder. I’m hoping for two more 12 row repeats, plus ribbing. Wish me luck!