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January 28, 2011 / Gillian

Getting Loose…

If there’s one thing that slows down new knitters more than anything, I think that thing would be tight knitting.  For me, knitting is the art of getting zen.  Sit back, and let the knitting flow through you like a breeze through the trees.  Among new knitters there are probably two varieties – okay three, but let’s forget about the occasional knitting prodigy – loose knitters and tight knitters.  My personal experience is that more often than not, new knitters are way too tight.  Either they’re really tense, or they’re trying too hard to be fast.  One way or another those stitches are so small they might as well be glued to the needle.  It makes their task seem impossible.

Over the course of teaching people to knit I’ve developed to important rules for knitting…

1. Just do it.  (I know it seems weird and maybe your hands don’t feel like they work that way, but trust me and do it.)

2. Breathe.

Number one is pretty explicable in just the one extra sentence, but for non-veteran knitters I’ll expound.  I have made more mistakes by not trusting the directions than any other variety of mistake.  Certainly we’ve all been there.  You’re really starting to get this knitting thing down and you’re feeling pretty confident.  Suddenly you fall madly in love with a pattern and it’s got some directions that you find mildly disconcerting.  The real problem is that you can visualize what the pattern is telling you to do and so you rationalize and think, “I could do this better.”  Guess what, nine times out of ten – you can’t.  Or, more appropriately, think of it as the Paula Deen method of cooking.  No matter how good a cook you are, you should always follow a new recipe to the letter the first time you make it.  If you don’t follow it exactly the first time, you never really know how it’s supposed to turn out.  The way this all boils down for me is: just do it.

The second one, I think, is probably more important.  This is something that I’ll tell my new knitters over and over again.  If you feel your body getting tense – even just a little bit – stop and breathe.  Really…



Take a deep breath…


And then start again.  Really let that breath just slide out of you too.  Inhale as deeply as you can and just let the exhale take its time.  If you’re into visualization, imagine the tension leaving your body.  Give your brain a second to relax and then move on.  I can’t count the number of times that I’m watching a newbie knit her (or his) first rows and they are literally not breathing.  They’re holding their breath as if the act of breathing will somehow disturb their knitting.  Newsflash: You aren’t disabling a bomb; you are knitting.

Now let’s go over some of the things that our brains make our fingers do that make extremely tight knitting.  I’ll attempt to add some pictures later, but for now I’ll just talk us through it.

This is really important and noteworthy: Get the stitch the whole way on the needle before you move on to the next one.  Doesn’t that seem so elementary?  It does, but this actually happens.  You shouldn’t be afraid to get all up in the stitches.  Touch them, they won’t disintegrate under your fingers, but that doesn’t mean that you need to work using only the tippy tips of your needles.  The tips of your needles are smaller than the rest of the needle, if you make a stitch there, it makes the smallest stitch you could possibly have.  When you are new don’t worry about speed.  Speed happens.  Learning how to knit is all about creating muscle memory.  Occasionally when I’m showing someone something I find myself having to stop and show myself how to do it.  There are seriously things that I do that my fingers just do for me.  No thinking is involved.  This does not happen immediately though.  Muscle memory takes time and repetition to create, so teach your muscles the right way to do it.  Get that stitch the whole way on the needle, get it a solid inch and a half or two inches down the right needle before you slide off the left.  Now move on.

I suppose that’s really all for now.  It’s getting dangerously close to time for me to exercise, so I’d better get going.

Have a knitty day!

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