Obey the Pattern

I’ve been knitting since a random impulse shop of a couple of sets of needles and some yarn from a clearance sale in a long-defunct craft shop I used to pass through, in the summer of 2001. The oddity of starting to knit of all times during the Israeli summer is curious in itself, but beside the point.

I got home, googled “learn how to knit” and taught myself the basics from www.knitting-and.com. When I got bored with making rectangular pieces of garter stitch (mostly scarves but also a very hoochie cotton halter top for my sister), came the first books. The Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crochet, and Knitting for Dummies. I must say that both books were very complementary, what one lacked the other made up for, and after practicing a series of different stitches and making several tons of 7″ squares for swaps, I decided I was ready to go into more advanced stuff. I knit a rather shapeless but comfy sleeveless sweater for myself, a baby sweater, and started buying pattern books and magazines. I very quickly evolved into the knitter I was to be for quite some time. Under the lame excuse of having an iffy yarn selection in Israel, forcing me often to sub yarns with different weights and behaviors, I would look at the many patterns in my possession for inspiration, but improvise the project. I thus became a very fearless knitter on one hand, who was not afraid to try to make anything, but on the other hand I was basically using a handful of techniques from the arsenal I had acquired from those first few months of stitch practice, and not growing much in my skills. For example, up until a matter of weeks ago, I only knew one way of casting on, and I would bend the patterns to work around that.

I would buy yarn obsessively and then adapt something I thought I could make with it to suit my abilities. Occasionally I would see a picture of something I wanted to make and buy yarn for it, and wing it. Not a bad way to go all in all.

Enter Craftster in the past year or so of my life, and I was being taunted by really amazing work that people were doing. Beautiful, artistic, inspiring. My entry into the world of cybercrafters was instigated by a trip to the US that had me inspired to craft. A visit to Wonderful Things in Great Barrington, MA (which to this day has Tal in shock over how much I can spend on yarn) marked a change. Other than the Denise needle kit, which has just completely changed my technique, and some random balls acquired for fun in the store’s orphanage, I bought two things with a distinct purpose. I bought some sock yarn to make a baby blanket for the then unborn Yiftah, according to a specific pattern, and a sock kit, which I was planning to use to brave my first pair of socks. (Just for the record, to soften the blow of the price tag on this visit, I ended up making the socks for Tal.)

Combined with a difficult pregnancy that had me physically incapable to do much of anything other than sitting on the couch all day, I was really getting crafty. Sewing, knitting, fiddling around with all sorts of random stuff, making ATC’s, etc.

Fast forward a bit. I had a baby. Summer vacation was over. I was at home all day with the little whippersnapper looking for ways to feel useful and productive.

I think the one moment that really started changing me was knitXcore’s Baby Surprise Jacket. I wanted it. I needed it. I ordered Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop and waited patiently for it to arrive. In the interim, I received some lovely hand-dyed yarn in a swap, and decided I can do it too. I did. I made the sweater, using both the received yarn and some more I had dyed by myself. I followed the pattern completely, which was a first.

Handdyed BSJ

But I also took a peek into other parts of the book. And then I started to read it. I read the whole thing, cover to cover. Never before had I done that with a knitting book. And I was AMAZED. So many things I didn’t know how to do yet, all explained in EZ’s non-threatening tongue, all taught in the process of actually making stuff.

Then it hit me. Patterns. Dude. They’re more than just patterns. They are lessons. Make a pattern from start to end without changing a single thing, and you’re bound to learn something new on the way.

I got my invite to Ravelry in November ’07. That also went a long way to change my methods. I now became able to match up yarns from my monstrosity of a stash with patterns from my impressive library, and kill like 17 birds with one stone by making things that serve an actual purpose (gifts, stuff for myself, stuff for the family, etc.) while learning new techniques on the way from the patterns at my disposal, and finally making a dent in the stash, which is good because the last thing I should be spending our money (which is sadly still subsidized by our parents from time to time) on is yarn when I have enough to be knitting for quite some time. It’s been a matter of weeks, but I am a changed knitter. I’m very close to finishing a pair of Fetching for myself with the most awesome handspun ever, and my sister sez she wants a pair for her birthday. How do I deal with this? I resist the urge to go on a yarn crawl, find a skein of lovely oatmeal colored aran weight from my stash, proceed to offer my sister a choice of colorways for me to dye it, and voila. Assuming I get over my fairisle cap binge in time, they will be ready for her birthday party in two and a half weeks. Yay me.


I’m reading back on this post, and it’s a bit messier than I hoped it would be. I didn’t get around to mentioning all sorts of things like my gratitude to Cat Bordhi for Moebii and knitting on two circular needles, and to Tara Jon Manning for mindful knitting. I had a point. I think it comes through somewhere in the garbles up there, and I hope you find it. Focus during writing has not been easy – Yiftah is sick and even needier than usual these days, so I wrote most of the above in half-sentence increments.

Back to the actual knitting, folks. So much yarn, so little time.


1 Comment

Filed under Crafting Under Fire

One response to “Obey the Pattern

  1. mmmmmm patterns. I like patterns. And you’re correct, that is how you learn. I hadn’t knit a thing in almost a year and I was like “I wanna knit something…socks, I want to do socks, dammit.” So I started socks, screwed them up….ripped them out and started socks for The Dude. I figured someone else could get the first pair of subpar socks, then I’d know what I was doing and could knit myself a beautiful pair. His pair was actually kinda rockin’ if I do say so myself…mmmm socks.

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