Cast On, Knit Up, Drop Out: Understanding Knitting Patterns

HEY!

PEOPLE OF THE WORLD!

KNIT UP!

KNIT UP!

In doing some research on Timothy Leary, I came across some rather groovy experimental videos. He said that the natural state of the brain was chaos. It is when we are overloaded by information and stimuli that we are able to be reprogramed. Basically, out of chaos comes a kind of order.

Lights and colours kept flashing before me and my mind suddenly snapped to that pattern I had been agonising over. The feeling of gaining some kind of clarity comes at the darnedest times. I stopped doing the work I was doing and went to my knitting basket, pulled out the pattern and just took the time to read it. Now at this point, many of you might be saying to your self, “No duh! Who doesn’t read the pattern before you start?” The answer, my friend, is LOTS OF PEOPLE. But it’s not about just reading the pattern. It’s about becoming one with it.

At the last knitting circle I attended at Bugman’s Bar with the Knitting Kninjas, I mentioned how I was still studying the pattern I was currently working on. One of the ladies was nonplussed. “You study it? I just start it!” she said. One of the beginners looked at my pattern and mearly shook her head. “I’ll never get there,” she sighed.

Knitting patterns can be very confusing. The abbreviations and symbols can look as if it is some ancient language. Throw in some runes and you have something you would see on an alien’s information display in its helmet. (he he) But seriously, it looks daunting. Once you become familar with the chaos, the order appears. You just need to chunck it down. Take it line by line and take your time.

The first thing to do is become familiar with the knitting abbreviations. I bought a book when I first learned to knit. I carried it around with me in my knitting bag. 20170127_100027.jpg

I first got used to the basic ones which are:

K or k = knit stitch
P or p = purl stitch

CO= cast on

BO= Bind off

Inc= increase

Dec= decrease

Rep= repeat

sl= slip stitch or slip a number of stitches

YO= yarn over as in taking the yarn over the needle

Tog= together as in knit two stitches together

Work Even= continue to what you have been doing without increasing or decreasing

Maintain Pattern= this means continue to do what you have been doing whilst dcreasing or increasing on the rows given.

Another helpful bit of advice was to print out a list of abbreiviations, laminate them and keep them in your knitting bag. I found a list on the Craft Yarn Council’s Yarn standards page.

It is a feeling of absolute joy when I all of a sudden “Get” the pattern. The soundtrack in my mind suddenly snaps into Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” and the cinematography becomes all golden. A very nice lady and self proclaimed Old Hippie told me once, “You just can’t rush things, sugar. Take your time. Breathe in…out and it all becomes clear.” (Thanks Mom)

You can find detailed help on how to understand knitting patterns on Wikihow.

We call this process “turning on.” And secondly, we seek to express the revelation, the glory, and the confusion and the paradox which comes to us from turning on in acts of glorification, of communication, of expressing the wonder and the meaning. It’s this process of acting it out that is called “tuning in.” But in order to turn on and tune in, you must of course “drop out.” — Timothy Leary

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X-treme Knit (& Crochet )

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I had been juggling four projects: Two for duty, one for necessity and the last for love.

It was the proverbial eleventh hour and the “one for love”, a crocheted blanket, was slowing me down. All four were promised for Monday morning and I feared the worst. I started them all a month before but now I would need to work through the weekend to finish them all. To be fair, it had started out with two projects. That had been achievable. However, my time had been hijacked by the “two for duty” (knitted blankets).  They had not been planned. They had been “requested” by a family member so I found it difficult to say no. The ”one for necessity”, a set of washcloths and dishtowels,  were knitted up without flourish, unfortunately. I always like to add a wee bit of whimsy to even my most utilitarian projects. The time-crunch meant that the one for necessity was condemned to a purely functional design. I moved from project to project with focus and determination. The clock mocked me with its neutral rigidity. I had spent the weekend hopped up on black coffee, Rage Against The Machine and the determination of a caged fighter in the last round.

All four of the projects got done.

[Queue inspirational Rocky Balboa music and listen to the crowd inside my head cheer— I stand victorious with my arms up in the air and…..] OUCH!!!

A shard of pain shot down through my middle finger and exploded into my palm.Please pass me the muscle pain relief cream. It seems I have sprained my middle finger metacarpal

Sprained fingers like this happen to basketball players, rugby players, kung fu masters and boxers! I sat in my GP’s surgery looking sheepish as my doctor cocked his head and smiled at me like a parent who wants to reprimand a toddler who just fell into a mud puddle. He gently informed me I had sprained finger due to repetitive strain associated with overuse. Basically, I knitted and crocheted too long without proper breaks.

 

Other knitters and hookers I know all said they had known my pain in one form or another. Crick in the neck, back pains, eye strain, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and weight gain ( aka Yo Yarn Tuffet!!!)  are the crosses we bear for our pastime. It is a common feeling that knitters and hookers feel they cannot stop because either they want to meet a deadline or just want to get as much done before the baby/husband/kids need us. One lady told me that she feels industrious when she is knitting. If she is binge watching Netflix, “knitting helps take away the guilt of being a lazy git”. Sometimes we just want to be in on something really cool and want to hurry up and get it done to be included in on the fun! Here’s an example from our very own fearless leader:

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So with this in mind, I have collated some of the advice given to me by some of our more expert and sensible colleagues:

  • Take frequent breaks! Ten to 15 minutes is all it takes.
  • Rotate your wrists after every row.
  • Mind your posture. Keep your shoulders down and your back straight. Get a backrest pillow.
  • Avoid knitting with arms on a surface. This puts pressure on the nerves of your arms.
  • Wear a wrist brace
  • Keep a small tension ball in your knitting bag. Squeeze it ease the tension in my hands and fingers.
  • Don’t have too many projects going at once.
  • Have a timer go off after 30 minutes. Get up and move around. Stretch arms, legs and back. Rotate your neck and wrists. Wiggle your fingers. Go make a cup of tea!
  • Use a heating pad around your neck and shoulders.
  • Use fingerless craft gloves with a good supporting wrist. Keep it in your knitting bag.
  • Keep pain relief cream in your Knitting Bag. Apply it when necessary to wrists and fingers.
  • Use a quilter’s thimble on index finger
  • Use ergonomic hooks!!! Wooden needles, especially KnitPro Cubics are easier on the hands.
  • Make sure you have good lighting and a comfortable chair.
  • Do hand and wrist warm-ups before you start!!!! Make a fist (or use a tension ball) and squeeze for 3 seconds and release. 10-15 reps. Then do Finger touches. Thumb to index, thumb to middle finger, thumb to ring finger, thumb to pinky and then back again.

    Ultimately, we all love our skill, our hobby, our obsession. We want to be able to do it indefinitely. We need to be smart and protect our future by making sure we don’t hurt ourselves now. Too much of anything is not a good thing. As all the wise folk say, “Everything in moderation.”

  • My favourite quote that can apply to this (as well as to other things):

 

Knits Are Us

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Have you been in this situation?

There you are, happily knitting away in public– in the break room, down the pub, on the train at a music festival or (fill in the blank because it could have been anywhere!). You have shut out the world and are in some content contemplation counting stitches when all of a sudden someone gasps and alerts you to attention.

You look up, startled because you think they are about to tell you to get back to work, tell you you had better order another drink to stay in the pub, find out that you missed your stop, be told that your tent is floating away in the deluge or (insert catastophy here because it could have been anything!)They look at you with over the top surprise. You look at them in quiet askance. Then they say,“I didn’t think anyone did THAT anymore!”

Recently, I was at a Starbucks in Nottingham near Trent University. There was a young lady in her very young 20s knitting while her friend was helping her ball up some yarn. Behind me I heard a lady say to her companion “It’s so nice to see young people knitting.”  The companion wistfully answered, “You don’t see much of that anymore.”

addams-knitHowever, there has been a renaissance in knitting. The boom in knitting and crocheting memes is quite prominent in social media. It is even in the background of some pop culture television and film. Hawkeye in the television show knits. Miss Marple knits. There was a scene in Poirot with knitting. Marge knits on The Simpsons! Monica in Friends knitted— Can this pasttime BE anymore resurrected?

My favourite knitting scenes are an episode of Gilmore Girls. In that episode, a whole town came together to knit to raise money for a cause. The glamourous Lorelai Gilmore was very passionate about it and sported just the best t-shirt I have ever seen.

I got into knitting quite by accident. I was gifted a Kindle. As I was learning how to work it, I downloaded a free book called The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. The story was beautiful and the fact that knitting bonded a group of diverse ladies made me want to take up the needles. Each lady had her own background story and none of them were run-of-the-mill women. If you search this book on Amazon, you will see a whole slew of novels out there that feature this obsession.

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One day last year, I was knitting in the park with my friend. She was wearing a Sisters Of Mercy concert t-shirt and leather trousers. I was clad in a black sun dress with my battered New Rock boots.  A jogger was running past us and actually broke his run just to gawk and exclaim “Wow! You two don’t look the type!”

What IS the “Type” anyway?

Once on the tram, I was sitting next to a lady who was old enough to be my gran. I almost lost my ball of yarn but it landed in her shopping bag. She laughed and fetched it out for me. I thanked her and she smiled as she watched me knit.

“They tried to show me how to knit when I was a young lass,” she said. “But I didn’t have the time for that. I was too busy having a good time!”

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She Comes In Colours

It is the first week of 2017. The festive frenzy of December is all over except for the shouting and the tell-tale signs of overindulgence around the waistline. The cold and frosty weather makes me want to cuddle in with a cup of coffee, my knitting and enjoy these last few days of comfort before I hit the office grind. However, I am mindful that perhaps I need to move around a bit.17-01-05-19-57-43-970_deco.jpg Luckily, the weather has been rather dry so everyday this week I have bundled up and ventured out for a walk in the dead of winter.

Who said dead? The colours have been absolutely inspiring! The beauty of drawing inspiration for the next project is out there! I admit, the idea of studying the Colour Wheel  and creating mood boards can feel a bit overwhelming and time consuming. I already have an all consuming hobby. Creating mood boards just seems like it would take me away from all my proposed knitting and crochet projects!

Our fearless leader, Sara at Yankee Yarns, let me in on a great little secret. All the hard work has already been done for us on Pintrest. You just need to do a search, print it off and dance right on over to the shop and pick out the yarn. Or you can do what I do. I store a bunch of pallets on my phone. Check out Sara’s collection on the Yankee Yarns board. You can see the ones the I have picked for my board. I am basically planning cushions and throws for each room in my house!


A simple search for colour schemes or pallets brings up a plethora of ideas. Sara puts together project kits for her customers regularly. wp-1483645572625.jpgThe last one offered at Yankee Yarns included a pattern for a Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Cozy Nights Ripple Afghan, the six balls of yarn and a crochet hook. Since I am more of a knitter than a “hooker”, it was great to be able to go into Yankee Yarns and get a bit of schooling in crochet. The classes are 1.5 hour blocks on Mondays 12-2:30, 7:30pm-9pm Wednesdays 10-2:30, Thursdays 10-2:30, Fridays 10-2:30, and Saturdays 11-2. Just give Sara a ring.

 

At this rate, I am actually praying for a big snow day so I can get going on my next project. Aren’t we all???dr-who-knitting-meme