Knit 101: Slow Progress and a Little Help from My Friends

Do you ever feel completely incompetent? You’re an adult (I assume) and you’re good at a lot of things, but then you try learning something new and you can’t quite get it and you just feel SO STUPID? That’s me and knitting the Killarney Tunic. As sweaters go, this tunic is pretty basic for a beginner knitter like me—it’s not like I’m doing advanced colorwork with steeking and buttons and zippers and whatnot. So why can’t I knit it?

The Frustration of a Beginner Knitter

As you can probably tell from that rant, I haven’t really made much progress on my sweater project. After deciding to slow down and enjoy the process of knitting, I finally finished the ribbing at the hem a while ago and started on the body, which I figured was going to be so much easier—it’s mostly just stockinette stitch with a bit of the ribbing pattern repeated on either end. But when I started, I confused the right and wrong sides of the ribbing and started working on the wrong side instead of the right side. Fortunately, I realized my mistake two rows in and stopped to ask for help. Project editor and knitting hero Laura Hulslander confirmed that, yes, I was in fact working the sweater from the wrong side. So out came the two rows.

Once Laura got me back on track (and showed me an easy way to mark the right side of the project so I wouldn’t get confused again—just put a stitch marker on the right side!), I started feeling confident again. I really felt like I could do it, that I could work a couple of rows of the body every day so that maybe I could finish the front of the sweater by the end of the year. But after a few rows, I evaluated my work and realized that it still looked wrong. SIGH. (And swear words.)

beginner knitter

Self-Inflicted Wounds

I was super frustrated, but I only had myself to blame—I knew the source of the problem was my own laziness. The pattern says to “work 10 sts in patt as established, place marker, knit to last 10 sts, pm, work in patt to end.” I worked the right-side row in knit stitch, but when I moved to a wrong-side row, I also worked it in knit stitch.

I know what you’re thinking; I was thinking it, too. I knew it was wrong. I knew there was no way I could work basically an entire sweater in just knit stitch—that it’s implied that you knit RS rows and purl WS rows—and yet I just kept knitting.

And so my project and all the progress I’d made were foiled by my own laziness. I don’t like purling (it makes me feel clumsy and slow), so I just decided not to do it. I kept knitting the sweater incorrectly, knowing the consequence would be ripping out my work and redoing rows I was already knitting for the second time.

Back on Track

When I finally admitted that I was going to have to do some (okay, a lot) of purling on this project, I asked Interweave Knits editor and expert knitter Meghan Babin to help me fix my mess. Meghan made this sweater last year, so she knows the pattern well. She graciously offered to rip out the offending rows and get me back on track, which I appreciated because I really didn’t want to knit backward for 4 rows! She also helped me understand how to work the pattern repeat, which I’d been doing incorrectly. And perhaps most importantly, she said that although we labeled this as a beginner pattern in the magazine, it’s not as easy as it looks and it assumes a lot of knowledge that, as a new knitter, I just don’t have.

beginner knitter

Thanks to Meghan and Laura, I’m back on track with this sweater. And I’ve found that, now that I know how to knit it correctly, it’s actually going pretty quickly. I mean, I won’t have it done any time soon, but I might actually finish it before this winter is over. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Happy knitting!

Want to make your own Killarney Tunic? (You should—it’s a great pattern!)
Buy the individual pattern for $6.50, or get the whole issue for $7.99. And don’t forget your notions!


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