Twelve years ago, I picked up my first pair of knitting needles and a skein of blue yarn and set out to make a scarf. No swatch. No pattern. Already a craft-lover, I knew I would love knitting and I wanted to make things, and make them well… instantly.
I did finish that stockinette scarf and gave it to my little sister. That scarf was my gateway-drug into a world of handmade hats, afghans, sweaters, bags, and more. I would try any pattern I found, completely ignoring the difficulty level or required skills. “I can do this. It’s just a matter of following directions,” I told myself. I studied and scrutinized every stitch pattern and technique, but always figuring it out along the way. Did I know how to pick up and knit stitches for an armhole? No. But I did it anyway. Had I ever used a provisional cast-on? No. But I started that shrug anyway. Avoiding a beautiful project seamed ridiculous – whatever I needed to know, I would learn. No problem.
As it turns out, most of my first projects didn’t turn out. Some were completed, and the ones intended as gifts were always a success. But the pile of unfinished sweaters is a testament to the careless way I went about learning to knit. Fearlessly diving in to any project wasn’t my downfall. In fact, I think my fearless knitting has been a great strength, especially coming from someone who is often plagued with anxiety about not being able to do anything right. Now as a more “mature” knitter, In can see that my problem was that I would rarely make swatches and put in a little practice first. I was far too impatient and too eager to crank out that fabulous cowl-neck top. A few hours spent learning a new technique with some scrap yarn would have saved me countless wasted hours and probably hundreds of dollars worth of unused yarn.
I still tackle any pattern and any stitch without hesitation. I can and will make anything I set my mind to. Yesterday, while nursing an endless cold, I picked up my needles, some leftover cotton yarn, and laptop and learned a stitch pattern that I long considered to be “too advanced” for me – entrelac. To my surprise, it was much easier than I ever imagined! I kept thinking, “why didn’t I try this years ago, it’s so beautiful!” And that’s when it dawned on me. It was beautiful because I was practicing before taking on a giant entrelac afghan with intricate cables and multiple colors. I identified the tricky parts and problem-solved first. I kept going until I got it right. ThenI started a design for a cowl with $40 worth of yarn. When did I grow up?
Here is the tutorial I used to learn entrelac. I love that if focuses on how it works – the engineering, if you will – and not just a specific pattern. Not all of the links work properly, but all of the parts are there!