On a knitting retreat back in May, I was sitting through an introduction-to-brioche class and noticed the woman to my left struggling with the stitches. With two colors of wool spiraling tightly around her needles at odd angles, she couldn’t even get her needle tip into a stitch to work it. She sighed heavily and said, “I’m a terrible knitter.”
But the truth was, she was actually a super-sharp knitter. She was brand new to knitting and was tackling an advanced technique; one that requires a comfort with yarn and needles and an ability to read the stitches on your needle.
She was also new to reading knitting patterns, so she was struggling with her hands and her brain as she sat there trying to interpret the shorthand on the printout in front of her. I pulled my chair closer and quietly helped her over the next 30 minutes, including rewriting the instructions in longhand for her. By the end of the class, she had inches of clear brioche fabric. She was not a terrible knitter by a long shot.
What would it mean to be a TERRIBLE KNITTER, anyway? I like to think it refers to the secondary definition of terrible: formidable in nature; exciting extreme alarm or intense fear. Like a monster in an ancient Greek myth.
Like Medusa with yarn balls in her snake-hair.
What are some other disparaging remarks knitters make about their work? Let’s run down the list of insecurities all knitters feel at some point…and turn them up upside down!
1. MY KNITTING IS TOO TIGHT.
You’re a newer knitter and you’re pulling the yarn really taut as you make each stitch. It hurts your hands and it’s hard to get the needle into the stitches. It makes you slow and clumsy and you get frustrated.
REFRAME IT: Tell yourself, I’m taking on a totally new skill and it’ll take a while before I’m comfortable and adept with it. But eventually, I will adept with it. GO ME FOR TRYING SOMETHING NEW.
2. THIS SWEATER DOESN’T LOOK GOOD ON ME.
That’s a sad feeling and I’m sorry! We’ve all been there.
REFRAME IT: It’s not that YOU don’t look good, it’s that there’s some element of sweater-making and tailoring that you haven’t mastered yet. Put it away for now, and when you’re ready, take it out, put it on, and study what isn’t working. Learn from that—what can you do next time to prevent the problem? Can this sweater be undone and salvaged if you address that part?
WELCOME TO THE JOURNEY OF MASTERING YOUR CRAFT.
3. I CHOSE THE WRONG COLORS.
I did all that work and I don’t like it! Ugh! I have bad taste.
REFRAME IT: Colors do weird things once you knit them together, especially in Fair Isle patterns. You took a color risk and SCIENCE happened. Because there is a science to combining colors, and swatching is really key to success. Check out this course on colorwork, which includes a lesson on color theory.
4. I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO FOLLOW THIS PATTERN.
That lace shawl looks amazing and you want to knit it. But it looks HARD. And you haven’t knit anything that complex yet. You feel intimidated and inadequate.
REFRAME IT: What does the pattern entail? Buy the pattern. Read through it. Study the charts. Do you understand all the terms and symbols? The steps being described? Are the techniques beyond your skill level? Does the combination of all the techniques and the scope of the project make it hard, but technically within your abilities? Break down the things that make a project “hard” and determine if you’re up for the challenge or need to learn more skills first. It’s not about your inherent ability; it’s about where you are on the skill-level spectrum and how crazy/brave you are about trying something that pushes your limits. BE A LITTLE CRAZY. It’s just knitting.
5. I HOLD MY YARN FUNNY.
You’re at knit night and someone comments on your knitting style. Looking around at everyone else, you suddenly feel like a weirdo.
REFRAME IT: There is seriously NO WRONG WAY TO KNIT. End of story.
6. WHY CAN’T I KNIT FASTER?
Susie from church group KNITS SO FAST and it makes you feel inadequate.
REFRAME IT: Unless you’re competing in a speed-knitting competition or working to a deadline, knitting fast is for sad people who don’t leave the house much. FAST KNITTING IS NOT FUN.
7. I NEVER FINISH ANYTHING.
This is my knitting insecurity. I’ve managed two sweaters in 4 years, and maybe a hat. The rest are UFO’s languishing in bags around the house.
REFRAME IT: Knitting for me is about process. FO’s are not markers of my love of knitting or the joy it brings me. It’s okay to graze on projects. It’s a hobby, not a job. (most of the time).
What other insecurities have you felt about your knitting? Are your purls wonky? Your cables sloppy along one edge? Your gauge always off?
JUST KNIT MORE.
Try more tricks. Read more technique books. Take more classes. Keep learning. Keep trying. But don’t forget….keep enjoying the journey.
We’re all bad at things before we’re good at them. It’s how the universe works.
Try a New Technique or Pattern!