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September 30, 2011 / Gillian

Day 1: You Can’t Make an Omelet Without Eggs

I’ve been away again.  What can I say, forming good habits is harder than forming bad ones.  My mom always tells me that it takes about twenty-one days to form a habit.  Twenty-one days held true for learning to exercise regularly, so let’s make this the first day of a good habit.  This will be twenty-one days of knitting talk.  Hopefully I won’t run out of knitting opinions.

So here we go, day one…

You Can’t Make an Omelet Without Eggs

Having the right ingredients is key to any recipe.  Would you try to make an omelet if you were out of eggs?  You wouldn’t.  I would be crazy.  The same rule can be applied to a pattern.  I cannot count how often I get a new knitter at my local group who wants to make a pattern but wonders if I can make it work with the materials they have rather than the ones required.  Whether or not it can be done is one thing.  The important thing is, as a beginner, should it be done?  Let me answer that by relating my own tale of epic failure.

High on the success of my first cable project, the Irish Hiking Scarf, I decided that I desperately wanted to make a beret.  I had never made a hat before and I searched days for a pattern that I felt I could make.  At the time I was a near total beginner.  I didn’t understand gauge and I was still under the impression that needle size didn’t matter that much, right?  My needle stash at the time was one hundred percent pre-owned, which is to say that it belonged to my grandmother.  Funds were tight and even if I did want to set aside the money, all I had at my disposal were chain craft stores and I just couldn’t find the needles I needed.  Basically, I had some size 8 circs and size 8 dpns.  The hat I settled upon asked for size 6 and 8 needles.  If you are familiar with the usual construction of a beret, you’ll guess that the sixes were for the ribbed brim and the eights were for the rest of the hat.  I was new, I did not guess.  I though, I’ll just knit the ribbing extra tight.

Here’s my advice for new knitters.  Don’t do that.  Here’s the thing, as a new knitter, you are quite likely simply incapable of adjusting your gauge that much.  Even as a more accomplished knitter, I knit how I knit.  Just think how many patterns give you a needle size with the addendum “or size needed to obtain gauge”.  So now you’re asking, how did that hat turn out?  Well, to say that it was  horrible is an understatement.  It was too big.  My inexperience at casting on and the incorrect needle size led the brim to be a strangely ruffled mess.  My first thought when I excitedly put the hat on was that it looked like I had knitted the sort of hat you always see Betsy Ross wearing in stylized pictures.  Yes, it was that bad.  I really needed to have gotten the correct needles or found a pattern to fit my materials.

Making mistakes is certainly okay.  There will always be mistakes, and if you pay attention you can always learn something from them.  Every mistake I’ve made has in some small way made me a better knitter.  At times though, it’s just as prudent to learn from someone else’s mistakes as your own.  So please, by all means, learn from my misstep.  Think of every pattern as a recipe, and until you’re a more experience cook I highly recommend using the ingredients given or moving on to a different recipe.


Look forward to Day Two: The Fix or Frog Response


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