Fall Decorations

I wanted to be crafty and decorate our apartment for fall.  It all started when I wanted to carve a pumpkin.  When I realized that I would have to pay more than a dollar for a pumpkin, I decided I wanted to knit one instead.  I went on Ravelry and found patterns for pumpkins, leaves, and acorns.  I didn't start until halfway through October, so I was finishing my pumpkin on halloween.  I made leaves in four different colors and two acorns.  I crocheted a chain to hang them from and put it up in a doorway.  The bright fall colors make me happy.  Sometimes it's nice to take a break from big projects and knit something small.

Resizing My Slanting Gretel Tee

In April I started knitting the Slanting Gretel Tee from the Fall 2009 edition of Interweave Knits Magazine.  I love the design of this sweater and have enjoyed working on it.  However, due to some sizing problems, it has taken a lot longer than I planned.

There had recently been a KAL (knit-a-long) on knittingdaily.com for the Slanting Gretel Tee, so I read some of the posts.  Some people were saying that the pattern ran big, so since I usually make a size 32", I figured the size 30 1/4" would be perfect.

I cast on and knit blissfully for two months until I finished the lower body and then tried it on for the first time.  That's when I discovered it was way too big.  I had made the smallest size in the pattern, and my gauge had been correct, but it was a few inches bigger around the waste than I wanted it to be.  Naturally, I was reluctant to undo two months of work and start over.  I thought about just making it for someone else.  After a few days I decided that I was not willing to let my work go to waste by creating a finished product I was not satisfied with.  I unraveled the whole thing.

The pattern said to cast on 196 stitches.  I decided to make my smaller version with 172 stitches.  I also ended up changing the shape of the sweater.  I realized that the pattern produced an A-line shape that started out wide at the bottom and gradually got smaller, so that it was closer-fitting at the bust line.  Since I am a small person who doesn't like to wear loose clothing, I wanted to make it wider at the hips, smaller at the waist, and wider again at the bust, resulting in a close fit that would complement my shape.

I tried my sweater on more frequently this time.  In the pattern, the chart for the lower body includes five decreasing rows.  I only did the first two decreasing rows.  (Since I was starting out with fewer stitches, I did not want to decrease too much.)  My next resizing move was to increase eight stitches for the bust line.

I am now past the bust line and working on the sleeves.  It is fitting really well, and I am hoping to finish it in a few weeks.  I am really glad I decided to start over.  I will have a sweater I feel more confident about wearing, and I learned a little about altering a pattern to fit my shape better.  Even though I knitted for two months before realizing I needed to start over, I don't feel like it was time wasted.  For me, knitting isn't just about the finished product.  I enjoy the process, and practice is never a waste.

My First Blanket

My first knitting project was a blanket.  When a friend told me I wouldn't be able to make a whole blanket on a pair of straight needles (because it would be too much fabric to fit on the needles), I decided to make squares and then sew them together.  

I didn't really have a design plan when I started.  All I knew was garter stitch, so that was how I did the first four squares.  I then learned how to do stockinette stitch, so I did a few squares of that.  I got a book for Christmas that taught me seed stitch, moss stitch, and basketweave stitch.  By this time I had expanded my color palette and had squares in eight different colors.
I had started my first square in April 2007.  I worked on squares for several months, but then wanted to try some other things.  I worked on my blanket off and on for the next year and a half.  In June of 2008 I got engaged and decided to finish the blanket as a wedding surprise for my fiance, who had seen me working on it the whole time we had been dating.  (He probably thought I would never finish it.)  The wedding was planned for June 2009, and I wanted to finish making squares by mid-May so I would have time to sew them together. 
I found a book at the library that had stitch patterns from several different countries.  I used designs that were Scottish, Irish, Swedish, French, and Arabic.  I also added a few more colors, for a total of 11 different yarns.  I decided I needed to complete a square every two weeks in order to finish on time.  However, as my knitting improved and I got faster, I was knitting a square every week.  I learned how to use a cable needle and did cable designs for the last two squares.  My last square I knit in two days.  It used cableing and two different yarn colors.
 I finished my squares on schedule and spent a week sewing them together.  It had 36 squares and fit a queen size bed perfectly.  I also wanted to knit a trim around the edge, but I decided that would have to wait until after the wedding because I also wanted to knit my wedding garter.  My fiance was surprised to see the finished blanket, and my first fall of marriage was spent knitting the trim.
I love my blanket because it reminds me of my journey as a new knitter.  I learned so much in those first two years of knitting, and it is all reflected in my blanket.

Encouragement for New Knitters

I learned how to knit in college, when a friend taught me the basics: loop cast-on, knit stitch, purl stitch, and binding off.  For the next several weeks I worked on a practice square.  I tried to do a row or two every day.  My square was only fifteen stitches across, but during those first weeks one row took me about ten minutes.  I realized that I was improving when I saw that my rows were gradually getting tighter, especially on the ends.  When my knitting looked smooth enough, I unraveled my practice square and began my first project.  I continued to learn more skills by reading books, trying patterns, and watching technique videos online.

I feel for new knitters that I meet.  It seems that most of them are beginning their knitting career by making a scarf in garter stitch.  They have been working on it for what seems like forever.  They are discouraged, they don't see how they will ever improve, and they want to give up.  If this is you, I have several ideas that I hope will encourage you:

1) Learning how to knit takes time.  When you're just beginning to learn, don't expect to be presenting hand-knit gifts to your admiring friends and family a week later.  Have realistic expectations for yourself so you won't get discouraged by what might feel like a lack of progress.  Just enjoy the process of learning as knitted fabric slowly develops between your hands.

2) Persistence is the key to mastering knitting techniques.  There have been so many times that I would spend days agonizing over a new skill I was trying to learn.  I just kept trying, and eventually I got it figured out.  If the directions you are using are confusing you, try looking up that technique somewhere else.  The internet is full of pattern and video resources.

3) For your first project, pick something small.  I do not recommend starting with a scarf in garter stitch.  Garter stitch makes a bulkier fabric that is very warm, but it also takes longer to reach your desired length.  I think a dishcloth would make an excellent first project.  You can finish it sooner and put it to use.  Succeeding at projects will give you the boost you need to keep learning and growing as a knitter.

4) Enjoy the process.  There have been a few projects where I have had to undo large portions and start over.  If your only focus is the finished product, you will be discouraged when a project takes longer than you thought.  Instead, see mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve.  Enjoy the beauty of what your hands are creating.