18 February 2006

A 'good enough' knitter (no more!)

I learned to knit over a decade ago, but for most of that time I was a 'good enough' knitter. I followed patterns blindly, rarely bothered to fix mistakes, and used the quickest, easiest finishing technique I could find. Five years ago, I took a class with Beth Brown-Reinsel on knitting traditional ganseys. The class was beyond my skills, and I barely managed to keep up, but Beth was a wonderfully supportive instructor and by the end of the class I had an authentically constructed miniature gansey, informative notes and charts, a signed book, and a new sense that the scope for excellence and creativity in knitting was far greater than I'd realized. I wish I could say that this was the beginning of a new era for me, but Robin came along shortly after the class and between 9 months of colic and several years of financial distress, I lost interest in knitting altogether. Happily for me, a new yarn shop opened nearby, rekindling that interest. I ended up taking Beth's class again, and learned even more the second time around. A chance comment from another patron that my knitting motion was 'very economical' (I knit English-style, but move my needles rather than throwing my yarn) alerted me that there was such a thing as individual style and technique. I began paying more attention to how I knit, the motions I made, the path of the yarn, and the appearance of the finished stitch. I read Mary Thomas' Knitting book and browsed through Principles of Knitting. I discovered Elizabeth Zimmeran (and have never looked back). I learned how to repair mistakes, how and why to choose particular cast on and bind off methods, and how to alter patterns for better fit, easier construction, and more professional results. More than anything, I learned that there is a wide world of knitting techniques out there for me to explore, and unlimited scope for improving my skills. Recently, I've knitted a lot of nearly seamless sweaters in the round, both top-down and bottom-up, altering them with cables and other stitch patterns, but keeping them very simple. These sweaters have allowed me to concentrate on perfecting the basics, and I'll always use them when I want a quick and relatively easy sweater for the children. I'm ready to go further though, and have been thinking of new techniques I'd like to try. Among them are socks (I've knit one pair already as a blind follower), fair-isle (I've got to learn to purl European-style), and lace. I'd also like to revisit Beth's Gansey book, and design my own Gansey sweater, using traditional yarn and techniques.


dinner tonight: broiled salmon with teriyaki glaze, gingered basmati rice, sugar snap peas

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