Monday, August 17, 2009

Why should I knit?

Occasionally, one of my students will ask this question, usually pointing out that it is faster, easier, and probably cheaper to go to the store and buy a knitted item.

I have to agree with these students.

After all, with most garments being manufactured in low-labour-cost countries, the cost is quite reasonable. And, especially for knitted garments, the existence and use of knitting machines really help to minimize the costs.

So, if I'm not saving money or time, what is in it for me?

Here is how I usually answer this question:

  • By making it myself, I can make it fit my unique and non-standard body shape.
  • I can express my own creativity.
  • I get a sense of accomplishment - I created something out of my own two hands.
  • I have something to do in time periods that are otherwise wasted - I can do productive knitting while watching tv, waiting for an appointment, while hubby or the transit driver is driving me somewhere, and so on.

For me, of course, the real pleasure is in the "doing", seeing something develop right before my eyes.

How do you respond to this type of question?



Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Monday, August 10, 2009

How long should the classes be?

I have been reading several comments in the forums at about class length.

I teach two different 2-hours workshops:
  • 1 for Knit, Purl, Cast off, and Cast on
  • 1 for Inc/Dec/Seaming/Pattern Reading

I have landed on 2 hours because I think that 2 hours is starting to push the limits of maintaining a student's attention. (Although some students seem to be really caught up in the subject by that time, and are surprised that the time has gone by so quickly!)

Some teachers only teach for an hour. I think that this is too short a time for adults. Also, the students could conceivably spend more time driving to/from my home than for the actual lesson.

I feel that 3 hours is probably too long, but I have never tried it.

I landed on 2 hours primarily because that was what was done at the local Michael's store, where I was doing the volunteer teaching part of getting the Craft Yarn Council of America knitting teacher certification.

Anyway, 2 hour classes work for me. What do you do? Please comment.


Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The last stitch is too big and loopy

Many students get concerned, and possibly confused, after they have knitted the last stitch in a row.

Often, in an attempt to make things look "right", they transfer the ball end of the yarn over the needle. This generously gives them a whole nuther stitch! Oops!

Anyway, this photo of some knitting with multicolour yarn shows this wrong move clearly:

Of course, the ideal situation is as follows:

I tell my students that as soon as they have finished a row, pull down hard on the fabric. If they have put the yarn on the wrong side, the action of pulling down will inspire the yarn to go to the correct side.

I also tell them that it is perfectly normal for the end stitches to be a big large, and that as they get used to knitting they will tighten it automatically.

What do you tell your students in this situation? Please comment.


Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Visual Aids and Handouts

Some people are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are tactile learners. And knitting is a tactile activity, with a lot of visual activity thrown in for good measure.

For the new knitter in the first session, I hand out the following.

1. A sheet from a package of the handouts that the Michael's stores use for their knitting classes. (When I was doing the volunteer teaching as part of the Craft Yarn Council of America certification program, the knitting teacher at Michael's was so grateful for the assistance I provided that she gave me a full package of these handouts.)
2. A sheet listing all of the differences between knit and purl stitches - I empasize that the purl is the reverse of the knit in every aspect.
3. The preworked sample of knitting that I described in the blog entry at

For the slightly more experienced knitter, at the "pattern reading and more" session, I hand out the following:

1. A sheet describing a couple of different increases and decreases.
2. The Bernat pattern sheets used for reading patterns - see the related blog entry at
3. A sample schematic for a sweater.

I also do a lot of drawing on either a whiteboard or a piece of paper, especially when discussing the baby afghan pattern - both for the shape and for the stitch pattern.

I am thinking of converting the pattern reading course into a PowerPoint slide show - I think that will work out really well.

What do you use for visual aids and handouts? Please comment.


Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Pattern Reading resources

When I teach students how to read patterns, I borrow extensively from the library of free patterns at the Bernat website. I print these, and give them to the students. As we are talking about reading the patterns, they can make notes for themselves.

One of the first things that I point out is that most yarn manufacturers publish patterns, and they want the knitters to succeed, no matter what their experience. Because then the manufacturers can sell more yarn. And that's a good thing!

The first pattern I give them is the Preemie Hat, at (It also contains a crocheted version.) The nice thing about this pattern is that it is a simple stocking stitch rectangle - nothing complicated at all, but it really is cute!

I first talk about the picture, the skill level, the size information, the materials, and the gauge. At this point, I also give them the second pattern that I will discuss later, just to show that this header information is similar.

Then we work line by line through the instructions portion of the pattern. When we are done, the students really do have the confidence that they could make the hat. I have a partially completed hat, which I use to demonstrate the seaming. Some day I'll make another one and complete it!

The second pattern is for a Classic Turtleneck at This is also a simple pattern the only stitches are 2x2 rib and stocking stitch. But there is some shaping with increases and decreases. And there is an interesting method for creating the turtleneck. But by the time we go through it line by line, the confidence level increases.

The third pattern is for a baby afghan, at This is a rectangle, no shaping, but it does have an interesting pattern stitch (popcorn stitch or an equivalent). When we are talking about the pattern stitch, I use a pencil and paper to diagram what is happening with the stitches - it seems to help the comprehension. Also, it may inspire them to try to draw their patterns later on.

I also give them a fourth pattern, for a baby layette, from I only touch on it briefly - I point out that it has both shaping AND and interesting pattern stitch, and it is labelled as being for a more experienced knitter. But I tell them that it really is just more of the same of what we have been talking about.

The students leave the class with an obvious air of confidence that they didn't have at the beginning of the class.

My goal is to make each of the above projects, taking a lot of photos of the work in progress, so that the students can relate the words to the knitting better.

What do you do for helping students learn to read patterns? Your comments are appreciated.


Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

What kind of yarn?

As I have already noted, I present the brand new knitter with an already-started piece of knitted fabric, so that they can bypass the cast-on and the first few rows.

My philosophy is that the first yarn that a beginner uses should be a plain worsted type of yarn. Skinnier yarns are too hard to see. Fatter yarns can be difficult to work with, even for an experienced knitter.

Generally, I am using up my stash of worsted partial-skeins for new knitters.

But I am finding that there is some variation even within the plain worsted family.

Some yarns are slippery, some have a lot of friction, and some are just right!

I've been experimenting with giving beginners yarn that has some friction. Because the yarn doesn't pull through the left-hand needle stitch easily, the students have to apply some extra force to make the new stitch look like a nice upside-down raindrop. The students have to be conscious of the stitch formation, and I think that it will make subsequent projects have the right tension, instead of being too tight.

The downside of using frictitious (ok, I invented that word) yarn is that it is really really easy to knit too tightly in the class.

I'll keep monitoring the results with various kinds of worsted yarns.

What have been your experiences? Thanks in advance for your comments.

Judy Obee
My Knitting Website

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to hold the yarn

When I am knitting outside the classroom environment, I use the continental method, wrapping the yarn on my left index finger, just like I crochet.

But when I am teaching beginner knitting, I use the "right hand throw" method.

I find that there are a couple of possibilities when students are starting to knit with this method.

In the first (and most common) case, they hold it quite tightly for the part where they are bringing the new loop through the stitch on the left hand needle. But they keep holding it tightly, which makes the new stitch very very small, and difficult to work in the following row. My solution is to tell them to release the yarn just a bit, and pull that new stitch strongly away from the left hand needle, so that the new stitch clearly forms an upside-down teardrop.

In the second (and much rarer) case, they hold the yarn so loosely that it is difficult to form the stitch, to bring the new loop through the stitch on the lh needle without losing it. Then, typically, they have been listing to me work with the student with the too-tight problem, so they really overcompensate, and then make the newly created stitch huge! My solution for them is to show them a more appropriately-sized upside-down teardrop, and tell them to tighten their stitches a bit after they are formed.

How do you solve these problems?