On the Needles : Basics Basics Basics Lesson 2

In my last post I implied that the real fun started with my TKGA experience with Lesson 2 of the Basics Basics Basics correspondence course. 

Partly, this is because I am a huge nerd. No, actually, this is entirely because I am a huge nerd and both of these lessons allowed me a "peak behind the curtain" of the "why" and "how" behind different knitting techniques. It allowed me to see why some directions list one thing while another set lists another. It allowed me a chance to demystify some techniques I had always wondered about  {"How DOES one knit a v-neck sweater that has two divergent directions?" "Why DO handmade and machine made garments look different?" "What is all this talk about GAUGE?"}. 

The best part of the learning was the de-mystification didn't take the joy out of it. Instead, it increased the magic. It showed me that things can be greater than the sum of their parts.

Read on to see the specifics.

Lesson Two was about decreases, but it also taught me how one makes v-neck sweaters {swatch 5, 6, and 7} and why certain decreases are used in lace instead of others {check out the last swatch and you will see that the middle stitches below the yarnover holes are all arranged differently}.

It also taught me to not be a cheapy and to buy proper finishing pins. {Swatch 5 and 6 have tiny punkers around their edges because I used sewing pins to block them and they don't distribute their weight as well as the "good pins".} 

But the brightest light bulb moment of Lesson Two is that I finally started keeping a legitimate knitting "diary". For Lesson One, I made-do by writing my how-to's on the margins of the course notes. But this time, I would start a new section of my notebook and write down exactly what I did on each swatch. 

  • Stockinette: 6 rows.
  • k2, ssk, k14, k2tog, k2.
  • p20.
  • k2, ssk, k12, k2tog, k2.

Writing this down, it sounds utterly inane.
I wasn't actually using these swatches for anything. It's not as if my instructor would be too terribly concerned if her directions weren't followed perfectly.

But the ambiguity of the instructions, "Knit one inch of stockinette before starting decreases. Decrease until you have 14 stitches on your needles then knit one more inch in stockinette." were ambiguous to a woman who likes knitting for the rules it allows me to follow. Tell me to knit one inch and all the sudden I need to know exactly how many rows one inch is. And I also need to knit that same number of rows on the opposite side. 

In two thousand years, if humanity has managed to keep itself going that long, a future archaeologist will find my magically petrified notebooks and be convinced that she has come across an unknown language.

And that makes me smile. 

Lesson 3 coming soon.

On the Needles : Basics Basics Basics - Lesson One

"Why did I do this? Why am I using my coveted making time to go toward lessons and instructions and courses rather than just doing the making?!" These were the things my brain was yelling at me as I waited for my results to come back from the instructor for the TKGA "Basics Basics Basics" Course, Lesson 1.

I had told myself before that it was because I loved learning. And that's true. I do.

But another truth that this first lesson brought to my attention is that I have a massive inferiority / imposter complex. I haven't been knitting since I was 5 do surely I'm not a "real" knitter. I don't live in a particularly cold climate {the Rockies / Canada} and my home doesn't have a particularly strong knitting culture {New England / Sweden}. Surely this also means I'm not a real knitter.

Yes, I'm able to read patterns and make things that... mostly... fit. But that's just basic comprehension. That doesn't make me "real" does it?

Yes, I've had an idea and then made it happen with skeins of yarn and two needles. But that's just problem solving and working through mistakes. That doesn't make me "real" does it?

The thing that this first lesson taught me, first and foremost, is that I'm not a "fake" knitter. I'm as real {ie. individually strange} as they come- I know how to make the basic two stitches and, with some written instructions and the occasional youtube video, I can make lots of things happen. Sometimes they happen less than perfectly, but they happen, and "things happening" is the essential part of me that needs to come out. That's the stuff that makes me a maker.

I learned that I need to get over my silly complexes so that I can truly focus on the learning. And I learned I'm ready for Lesson 2.

Below are the five swatches I knit for the first lesson.
Scroll past the images to see the instructors comments and my results.

The first thing that Arenda helped me realized was that this class and it's next step {TKGA's Master Hand Knitter certification} doesn't initially help foster creativity. The first steps are about following directions and knowing how to exactly make another's pattern. This is, she says, a stepping stone to knowing best how to get your ideas onto paper and into someone else's hands.

She then went on to address specific questions I had while working through these swatches.

Tension: I had mentioned that my last purl stitch always seemed loose. She explained that this was a common issue and directed me toward these two articles {ridges + enlarged bind-off} by Suzanne Bryan {whose website I find to be a treasure trove of nerdy knitting information}.
She also mentioned that the yarn I choose had "high twist", and that this generally contributes to wonky tension but that by tension was "quite nice" in the center of the swatches. {my reasoning: more twist equals more energy which equates to yarn pushing out and wanting to do its own thing}.

Weaving in ends: This was one of the things I MOST enjoyed about the entirety of this course... though I didn't realize it in this lesson. Anything related to finishing was foreign to me. As a mostly self-taught knitter I never had a problem with knots or random unwoven ends... I just figured that was a quirk of a self-made garment. But something that came up over and over in Arenda's course was the difference in "handmade" versus "homemade".
She explained that a garment that is finished with the same acuity as the "proper" knitting makes a much more beautiful and elegant finished piece. 

I really appreciated this from an artist perspective. If an artist obsesses over an oil painting for hours only to realize that it has been painted on a refrigerator box and mounted it on toilet paper, its value is suddenly in question. Something that I learned from a wise artist is to let one's work be intentional. Proper finishing is intention and, in that, an art. One that, I confess, I still have to work on, but am light years ahead of where I was before this class.

Blocking: Again, a finishing issue that I had never made myself learn. I viewed the resource she shared approximately one thousand times. If you are new to blocking you should too: White Horse Designs "Blocking for TKGA".

Increases: As this was the main part of lesson one, she went into lots of detail about this. One of those details was about how I had done the right side of swatch 04 incorrectly. Scroll up and it's pretty easy to catch: I made an open M1 stitch instead of right leaning M1 stitch. As such she requested that I make it again and re-send it to her with my lesson two stuff. ie. I failed!! 
Well maybe not failed, but I didn't do it perfectly. Scrolling up again you can see that it is a bit wonky and would probably catch the eye of someone admiring the sweater you've spent literally days of your life toiling over. Might as well figure out how to make it correctly, right? 

This was a great start to my TKGA experience: mostly "known" concepts presented to me in a super structured format, with enough "new" to make it interesting. What I didn't realize was that I would enjoy the next lessons even more.

More on those soon.

In Praise of : Learning

I am a nerd.

Ever since the teacher suggested that I ski the first grade after getting through kindergarten I have always been a nerd.

I have been on the front page of my tiny hometown newspaper holding up ribbons and certificates and quiz bowl...thingamajigs {I'm pretty sure no one refers to them as "trophies}.

I was voted "Biggest Bookworm" my senior year {as well as "most likely to to Ag Class four periods a day" but THAT is a different post} and because it was literally the ONLY chance I had to dress cute and act like I was a cool kid it was a superlative I held onto with pride.

And now I'm 33. 

I would say a good 33 A young 33. A 33 year old who started to come of age during the great recession so I have more post- bachelor's degree college credits {and corresponding student loans} than should be allowed.

All that being the case I still love learning. Nothing satisfies me more than diving into a new book or an old project and figure out the puzzle that it presents

It's with all of this and {this past post} in mind that I'm jumping into a correspondence courses for The Knitter's Guild Association.

knitters guild association correspondence classes

I've started with a course called "Basics Basics Basics".  In the first lessons of three lessons it covers:

  • increases
  • decreases 
  • tension
  • gauge + swatching

As a person who considers herself a "confident beginner" level knitter, I should be familiar with most of these... but I'm not. I am a notoriously tight knitter {that falls under "tension"}. This can make garments tighter and potentially too small.  The "too smaller thing" falls under gauge and the way one is suppose to test gauge is through making a swatch, a small test sample of whatever it is that one is knitting. But.... I've never been that patient. {Because who has time to swatch when there's a new project in the near future?!?}

So I'm generally anti-swatch but I'm taking a class who has assignments that ask me to make 20+ swatches... and I am pumped.

The reason is simple: I am learning the "why".
I'm the person who will follow directions with a project all day, but knowing the "why" of the directions allows me to alter and change and even, eventually, design my own projects. Knowing the "why" blurs the lines between it being a craft and an art. Knowing the rules allows one to break them... and make art

Last night I was sitting at a wonderful fundraising event in a beautiful dress with enjoyable company for a great cause... and all I could think was, "I wish I were at home so I could read over that first lesson one more time."

As I sit here typing this I just finished hole punching and page protecting and labelling and writing the start of margin notes in the quiet of my house on a dreary cold November day. I am not a dreary cold November day girl, but I could not be any happier.

I am learning.