Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writing for Knitters and Non-Knitters, and Learning to Knit

I know enough of my readers (assuming I have any at all) will be non-knitters (or "civilians"). I am going to provide a glossary that I hope will help civilians make sense of future posts. My knitter friends won't need this, so I'm going to add it to the row of separate page links at the top of the blog.

I have to admit that there is another reason for creating a glossary. Obviously, I do want to make my writing accessible to all potential readers. It is also a lure, an enticement to look further, something to pique your curiosity, I hope. You see, we knitters are also missionaries. If I can't teach you to knit myself, I will find someone (quickly) who can. In fact, I know a whole club full of ladies and gentlemen (the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild), right here in town, that will be happy to introduce you to the wonderful world of needles and string.

Of course, you don't need to be sitting with a physical person to take up the historical path of creating hand-crafted things (they don't have to be garments, you, book covers, pillows, wall hangings, funny imitations of life-like naughty bits). I decided to teach myself to knit over the 2001 Christmas vacation while in graduate school. I can't remember why. Maybe I thought knitting would be the perfect thing for a professional librarian (that's what I was studying to become) to be able to do. I was also waiting for my hair to grow back out long enough for a proper bun. I'd be needing some hand-knit cardigans for my visions of wandering the drafty stacks of libraries that doubled as architectural wonders.

Librarianship didn't turn out to be anything like that, unfortunately. After a rocky start, though, knitting and I got along right as rain. I had purchased a Learn to Knit kit from Wal-Mart and just kept working at it, one night for hours in one sitting. My first finished object* consisted of rows with any number of wandering stitches (width), knit and purl stitches created with no care as to how the yarn was held or where the loop legs laid on the needles, dropped stitches, knots, bizarre combos of garter and stockinette bits...for the first five or so inches. Then, as I learned more, I kept working on the same piece, and it finally began to shape up. I eventually finished with the final several inches in squared, relatively neat, fabric. 

I kept knitting. I found more how-to books. I began to churn out simple scarves. There were inspiring, but intimidating, designs in magazines like Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits (yummy!). Perhaps best of all, because I was financially challenged, there was the brand new online magazine with free patterns, Knitty. Then I discovered online tutorials. The patterns themselves were beginning to make sense to my eyes. 

To this day, I am still proud I taught myself how to knit. I don't know how to sew, crochet, spin yarn, paint, draw, or really do much else, so this was something special for me. Especially since my mother is a wonderfully talented role model and a positive force when it comes to exploring your own artistic interests. Here's a (selected) list of what she does (and does darn well): makes reed and grapevine baskets (blue ribbon winner!); grapevine wreathes; braided rugs (room size); garment sewing; refinishing antique furniture; crocheting with and without patterns and creating her own patterns; life and nature drawing and painting; metal jewelry making; not to mention gardening like a champ.

I knit. I read. I take photographs, and I'm slowly educating myself further about photography. I am not going to try to do all of those great things my mother can do. (I will need help some days to remind myself that being just me is perfectly OK. Will you help me?) I am blessed that my mother never expected me to do all those things. She does tease me when I slip up and let her hear me whine that I knit slow. She crochets like a speed demon! One Christmas season, if she disappears, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that Santa has kidnapped her to keep the elves on their crochet toy deadlines!

So that's how I came to knit. Over the years, my interest has waxed and waned, but it is very healthy right now. I have the time to dedicate more energy and attention to it. I am fascinated by its history, by other knitters' experiences, by the processes that bring yarn to the knitters, by new techniques, by creating garments beyond accessories and vests. In the past I haven't had the honor or opportunity to give special gifts to my loved ones, for various reasons. I'd like to make them hand knits that they will appreciate and wear, so I plan on collaborating with them to find or create patterns that meet their needs and wants.

Basically, I'm becoming braver, my confident, and I now identify myself as a knitter, a fiber artist (if you will). That means I have people out there! Other knitters who are bound to share some things in common with me. That just tickles me happy. Already Mom and I have joined the local guild I mentioned above, the Smoky Mountain Knitting Guild. Although I haven't gotten over my social anxiety completely to join the regular weekly knit-alongs, we do attend the monthly meetings and I help on the board.

Last fall, we attended the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair, an annual event held at the WNC Agricultural Center, Fletcher, NC. My little blog and glossary is no temptation into the world of fiber arts compared to attending such an event. It was packed with everything that is needed, plus the fleece itself, to take the fiber from the actual animal (llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, angora rabbits, all over the place) to beautifully hand-dyed skeins of yarn that begged to be touched.

The first Saturday in April, we're driving down to visit my aunt in Sanford, NC, and will attend the Carolina Fiber Fest. I'm so excited! It will be smaller, but that is just fine. I'll definitely report on our adventures there.

For me, knitting has now become a means of connecting to a larger community. It is still my secret joy. No one can take that away from me. I think it can become a joy for many others, too. Why? Because in a world where "touch" is advertised constantly as something you do with buttons and screens, hands-off technology is increasingly pushed, there is still a precious and important place in our society for hand-crafted objects. It is still critical for humans to create with their own hands, to design with their own minds, sketch on paper, day dream out of windows and pick colors based on what they find in flower beds. Don't get me wrong. I love some technology. But even part of the joy of this blog is designing it, tweaking some of the stock options to make it that much more mine.

*Finished Object or FO (see Glossary)


  1. Ah, the community of knitters ... it's a wonderful thing isn't it :)

    1. Annie, I'm so glad you read my post! I love your blog so very much. I only just discovered it earlier this year, but I was an instant fan. I am sincerely honored to say that you made the first official comment on my new blog!


Thank you for reading my blog and providing feedback! I love to read your comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can!