Knitbusters: knitting myths unraveled

The life of a 20-something knitter is a funny thing. Admitting your yarn habit to the world can be a tentative process, as it’s often followed up with, Oh, that’s…nice? or Huh..my grandma used to knit.

I can hear how boring I must sound to others when I’m chatting excitedly about a new project or a pattern I have my eye on. But I can’t stop myself, it’s my passion!

Even in 2013 when knitting seems to be trendier and more widespread than ever, common misconceptions are still flowing around. I thought I would bust a few of my favorite knitting myths for your enjoyment. *Please note that this is not a rant, I find these myths rather cute and funny.*

1) Knitting is for Nanas

This one is fair enough, let’s be honest. Knitting traditionally seems like a dated pastime, and the worlds of knitters and non-knitters hardly seem to collide, so the myth lives on. It’s true that many of the knitter groups in the local communities are decidedly 60+ (retirees have room in their schedules to meet on a Wednesday morning at 10am), but with cool classes, conventions, knitwear designers, and the magical land that is ravelry, there are people of all ages getting into knitting and crochet these days. There’s a great little yarn store/café near us in Wembley, and just the other day I made the acquaintance of two girls in their 20s (like me) who had met up to chat, knit and compare their projects. I was working on the arms for my knitted toy quietly in the corner, and they approached me to ask what I was working on. Seek out a local yarn store if you’re curious. You’ll see it’s a whole new world out there. And don’t be shy to ask knitters what they’re working on. Most of us are dying to talk about it with anyone who will actually listen!

2) People save money by knitting handmade gifts

Mate, you’re dreamin’! Most people who take the time to make a gift for someone have carefully picked out (and paid around $4-10 for) a pattern, selected beautiful soft yarn made from quality (read: expensive) fibers, and spent hours of their free time knitting it up. Even if it’s “just” a hat or a pair of socks. These are labors of love, and they take time. Luckily we knitters get genuine pleasure, or flow from knitting, so we’re happy to make these gifts. I myself am leery of making gifts for others as I never want someone to feel like they HAVE to like it for my benefit. (This hasn’t stopped me from planning myriad Christmas gifts this year. Family: You’re getting knits. You’ve been warned.)

3) Knitting is all scarves, socks and sweaters

I think busting this myth would get a lot more people interested in knitting. It’s so much more than just scarves and stockinette. There are unlimited techniques to learn and projects to take on. There are shawls, hats, headbands, toys, boot cuffs, handbags, kindle and phone cases, not to mention twists on the old standbys. I’m still working on my giant beekeeper’s quilt a little at a time. And have you seen all the cool crazy tea cozies out there? This craft is not just Nan’s moldy old afghan anymore.

4) Knitting is hereditary

These days, with knitting reaching “cool” status, everyone and their sister can get into it. I learned in one afternoon how to cast on, knit, purl and bind off from a friend when I was 16. I followed up on it myself, getting a couple of books, some needles and plenty of scratchy acrylic yarn that would eventually become hoards of ugly scarves to bestow upon my innocent friends and family. I didn’t know about quality fibers back then. But if you have the drive, in today’s online age you can learn anything. I cannot believe how my skills and yarn knowledge have grown in just a few short months since I picked up the needles again. I did not learn from my mother or grandmother. There was no one at home to help me. I don’t even have any friends who knit. If I desperately need help, I consult the internet. I am jealous of knitters who learned at age 6 and never looked back, but that just wasn’t the case for me, nor was it for many others out there. Even designers these days are often self-taught. If you have a keen interest, you can do it. And lastly…

5) All yarn is the same

I touched on this a little already, but I want to reiterate this point as I believe it’s important. I make my knits by emma headbands from beautiful machine-washable 100% Australian merino. Considering the quality and size, I think the price per skein is actually really reasonable, but I’m sure a regular person’s jaw would drop. When deciding how to price my items, I’ve asked advice of non-knitters, and I’ve learned that I probably shouldn’t do that. I think most people think more about the look of the product and how long it took you to make. But a lot of it is just making back the cost of materials. I knit for fun and, for now, I don’t plan on making it a huge source of income. But a 100g skein of acrylic sock yarn is not the same as a Worsted weight gorgeous merino cashmere hand-dyed blend. I’m sure most people would be shocked at the worth of any given knitter’s yarn stash. But we knitters like our yarn to be beautifully dyed, made from quality fiber and to feel like butter against the skin.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed this little segment on knitbusting. I’ve added this last little one as an added bonus:

5.5) Knitting is for chicks

See brilliant Brooklyn Tweed designer Jared Flood.

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What to do when crafting gets you down

Picture this: You’re home after a long day, compounded with the fact that it’s been a long week and it’s not even Friday yet. You can’t wait to get in PJs and settle into some warm and fuzzy crafty goodness. Before long, nothing is working out the way you planned. You become frustrated, tired, and just plain over it. What do you do? You don’t want to waste this prime opportunity to be creative, but nothing is going right.

This was me last night my friends. I wanted to knit. In fact, I’d been longing to knit all day. I still need to pump out a few headband samples so I can get them on models and take photos. There is one design that I started the other day, but ended up ripping out when it proved a bit thin. Last night I started over using the same pattern, but on slightly larger needles. This left gaping holes where the cabling occurred, so I produced a heavy sigh and ripped out to start over.

Next I decided to take a break from that design and make something new. I have a few headbands floating around in my mind, but I have yet to actually sit down and work out a stitch count. I must have tried to work out about three different patterns to no avail. I was much too frustrated to take the time and work it out properly.

My fiancé could hear me getting frustrated with every dramatic ripping out of my projects. He prodded, asking what was wrong and if there was anything he could do. He was kind enough to spare me the logical suggestion of just setting down my work and taking a breather.

It was getting late, so eventually I had to rip out yet again and go bring the laundry in off the clothesline and cook dinner. I was feeling depressed, so I let him keep playing video games, rather than asking for help in the kitchen. Normally I love cooking together. It gives us a great chance to catch up on our days and it makes the process go faster when we’re really not in the mood to be stuck in the kitchen. But at that point, I just needed some time to myself to regroup.

After the quiches were safely in the oven, I came back into the living room to try one more option. This was the original design from the other day, with an extra cable. I thought these extra stitches on the original smaller needles would make it wide enough without creating gaps when stretched over a person’s head. So I did one (almost) final cast on and got to work.

Amazingly, the short pause was enough to keep me sane. Even when I had done a few rows of only 22 stitches when I needed 23, I had peace of mind, and dutifully ripped out and cast on again. This time it was project success!

I think that is what gets me down sometimes during frustrating knitting sessions. I don’t mind the ripping out and starting over, it’s the cast on that makes me insane. Especially a provisional cast on. I ended up needing to get out new provisional yarn after overworking my original crochet chain in the myriad other cast ons throughout the evening. (A provisional cast on knits into a crochet chain to create “live” stitches making it cleaner to graft the two ends together when a project is finished. It works great with headbands and infinity scarves or cowls.)

Now the headband is looking even better than I could have imagined. I still wish I could have finished it last night, but I’m glad that I took a break and got perspective rather than giving up completely.

So I say when crafting, writing or general creating has you banging your head against the wall, don’t give up. Just take a short break and come back with a clear mind. Last night I considered just giving up and watching TV or working on hexipuffs instead, but I knew I wanted to make progress on my headbands.

As a writer, I know I should be applying this same strategy. Lately I haven’t been in the mood to devote the necessary energy to my fiction writing. But I really just need to sit down and get to it, taking pause when I really need it, and coming back revitalized.

For all you creators out there, I would love to hear your stories of when you got stuck and how you dealt with it. With so little precious time for being creative amidst life’s many challenges and demands, how do you find peace and time for your activity of choice? How do you find your flow?

My strange addiction: Knitting podcasts

Before I dive into the meat of this post, I just wanted to announce that I did eventually get around to knitting the left fingerless mitten in the set I posted about last week. The second one looks a bit better than the first, but they are both so lovely and warm and I love the deep brown color. I’m excited to experiment with other designs in the future, but for now it’s on to other projects!

Brownie fingerless mittens

Brownie fingerless mittens

Over the past week or so, I have developed a strange new addiction: podcasts about knitting. I’m currently reading a book by craft business guru, Kari Chapin, which was recently gifted to me by my lovely and supportive friend Maria. She saw it while out and about and immediately thought of me. In the book (which I will review properly when I’m finished reading it) Kari suggests that podcasts are a great way to reach other crafters and promote your blog or business.

For those of you who haven’t listened to podcasts before, I HIGHLY recommend them. I first looked up a Kari-recommended podcast by Sister Diane of Craftypod. After listening to a few great episodes, I decided to search for knitting-specific podcasts. My favorite at the moment is by Alana of Never Not Knitting.

I cannot stop listening to podcasts. I’m listening on the bus, before I go to sleep, and even on my lunch break at work. Best of all, I’m listening while crafting. It puts me in such an inspired mindset, not to mention gives me dozens of new project ideas.

One thing Alana is working on has lit a fire under me, and I have since taken on my most exciting project yet: The beekeeper’s quilt. A monster project, which will easily take me a year to complete. I bought the pattern for about $5.50 on Ravelry from Tiny Owl Knits. Anyone wanting to take this on should proceed with caution, because as Alana warns: You WILL get addicted.

Pre-stuffed hexipuff

Pre-stuffed hexipuff

The quilt is made up of hundreds of little “hexipuffs” each knit in the round then stuffed. I have made seven squishy little guys so far. The first one I made had to be taken out and restarted three times. There were a few new skills to learn in the process, and I wasn’t used to working with needles this small. But I’m happy to report that I’m getting faster now, and I’m loving my cute little puffs.

Hexipuff awesome blossom

Hexipuff awesome blossom

I’ll keep you abreast of my progress on this massive undertaking. In the meantime I’m still sorting out which products to include on my Etsy shop, as well as figuring out which yarn to knit my headbands with since the yarn I’ve been loving is (to my devastation) not consistently stocked at my local craft store.

Death by knitting

Hello world and welcome to knits by emma!

To learn what this site’s all about, visit the About page. For now I’d like to paint a picture of just how all of this came to be.

Since getting engaged to my marvelous Aussie beau, I’ve become a bit of an Etsy and Pinterest troll. I wouldn’t exactly say I have an eye for design, but I do know what I like. One can certainly get lost jumping from blog to blog and shop to shop looking at all the beautiful handmade DIY ideas perfect for the big day.

Somehow in this process, I ignited the dormant crafter in me. As a knitting beginner back in high school, I went through a very short lived phase where I made ugly scarves for everyone I knew.

This time, I was ready to learn more and perfect my meager skills. I started out by stocking up on materials and proceeded to play around with patterns and techniques for the next few weeks.

Kiss my cowl

Kiss my cowl

It wasn’t long before my little projects were taking over our living room, and now my yarn, needles and other tools have two drawers of their own. Even so, we were being buried alive by my finished and unfinished projects.

Controlled chaos

Controlled chaos

Rather than bombard my loved ones with “gifts” they may not actually want, I came up with the idea to sell my knit crafts online both for fun and to fund my yarn habit.

So far my friends have shown interest, and I hope to start out with a small loyal following of customers. But mostly I feel motivated to keep learning and getting my DIY on.

Headbands on parade

Headbands on parade

I recently read a book that described the concept of Flow. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘During flow, people typically experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life.’ Knitting is an activity that I enjoy simply for the sake of it. Being creative helps me achieve flow, what works for you?