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Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Top Five Knit-Quick Tips

The roomies knitting madly on their scarves before the snow strikes!
It's the perfect time of year to pick up those pointy needles and stick them in a skein of wooly, nubbly, cozy yarn. In the past week I've helped teach two new knitters the magical ways of weaving, bringing the total of knitters in my house to four. From youth to wizened ages, knitting is a pastime that appeals to, and warms, our hearts, necks and heads. So if you are a newbie to this historic method of cloth-making, then here are my top five tips to get started quick and get warm faster.

1. It's All About Tension
As a first-timer one of the hardest things to grasp is to relieve the tension. Tendencies towards super-tight knits make it difficult to insert your needle in the correct spot, and too-loose knits make it impossible to bring the loop through as it will just fall off midway. So watch the tension by practicing and keeping it consistent to be a better knitter.

2. Keep Your Fingers in Place
There are a couple of ways to knit - continental style (where you hold the yarn in your left hand) and English style (where you hold the yarn in your right). Either way you play it's important to keep an eye on your fingers. To help keep the tension consistent when I'm English knitting I wrap the yarn end around my pinky. That way the yarn slides through your hand while maintaining tension with a quick squeeze of the pinky and ring fingers.

3. Bigger is Better
When it comes to yarn, sizes (or weight) range from ultrafine to very bulky. When it comes to warmth and ease of knitting "very bulky" is right up my alley. For fresh knitters I suggest a bulky to very bulky yarn, which has no fancy furbies or nobbles. The plain Jane large yarns work best with suitable sized needles. Of course knitting needles have both U.S. and European sizes to confuse us altogether, so look for needles from size 11 to 18 U.S. or 8mm to 14mm European. Those will work best.

4. Do the Bump and V
The first stitch you'll learn, the knit stitch, makes a telltale mark like a tiny little V. Flip over your knitted garment of Vs and you'll find tons of tiny bumps, or purls. These horizontal purl bumps are the foil to the vertical V knits on your creation. These Vs (knits) and bumps (purls) are important to recognize so you know which stitch is next (in case you lose count, which I always do!). So learn to recognize these and you'll be sailing through your scarves and hats, even if you have to set them down for dinner.

5. Tap Your Zen
First time knitters are never perfect. In fact, longtime knitters aren't perfect either. So, as you wind your way through the knitting world of purls and knits, cables and ribs, remember that no one is ever perfect the first time. If you have to rip it all out and start again, just tap your Zen, because every fail is one step closer to success.

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