Knitting Lessons: What Teaching Someone Else to Knit Teaches You
Have you ever tried to offer knitting lessons to someone?
I did recently! It’s been a really interesting experience over the last few months, watching her fall in love with fiber and discover all this community has to offer. Teaching her also shined a spotlight on how I’ve changed as a knitter over the last 10+ years. Not for the better or for the worse—there is no such thing as a bad knitter—just changed. Despite having learned to knit in 2007, I still consider myself a newbie, but when supporting a true beginner I uncovered that I’m not as green as I used to be.
Here are a few of the key things I noticed that separate beginners from their teachers.
Being Wooed by Fiber
Fledgling knitters are often drawn to the amazing array of colors found in variegated skeins of yarn. Who isn’t, right? Sometimes variegated fiber can pool in unexpected and uncontrollable ways though. Having a project that basically looks like clown-barf (even though as a hank it was all their favorite colors) can be frustrating and discouraging.
As experienced knitters, we know you need to match the right project to the skein. I find that heavily variegated yarns work best in simpler projects. A simple garter stitch shawlette with uncomplicated edging, or basic stockinette socks are going to highlight that crazy-colored yarn beautifully.
Mistakes Aren’t the End of the World, Nor Your Project
I was sent quite a few text messages as my friend worked through her first project that basically read, “I messed it up again,” (only, replace “messed” with some rather colorful expletives.) New knitters don’t know how to read their knitting the way an experienced knitter can. They don’t realize that mistakes can be fixed. Dropped stitches can be picked up, missed increases can be added on another row, and a lifeline can save you when ripping out lace.
I think it’s our duty as fellow knitters to show our younger selves that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. The first few times mishaps are encountered, fix them for your friend! Show him or her step-by-step what you’re doing and how their project doesn’t need to be frogged and restarted. When another mistake happens, let them fix it themselves and be there to guide them through it, and when they are still at their wit’s end, counter with your own strong language. Remind them, “That [expletive] will block out.”
Things Take Time
Until you have a few projects under your belt, it’s hard to gauge just how long projects take to knit. Novices to knitting might not realize they’re not going to be able to finish a scarf over night. They cast on for a poncho and wonder a week later what they’re doing wrong when they haven’t passed the first 2″ of ribbing.
We all know, knitting isn’t about being fast, and that’s something an experienced knitter can instill on their charges. Invite your student over for coffee and knitting. Let them see you linger over your stitches while sipping rather than racing to the end of the row. Lead by example, and calm their overly ambitious nerves.
Where do you fall on the knitting level spectrum? Do you buy yarn that you aren’t sure what to do with? Do you still make mistakes that cause you to curse? Or, have you reached a place of experience that has you loving every minute of knitting? I’d love to hear the answers to these questions and your own takeaways from teaching others to knit. Share in the comments below.
Editorial Director, Books