Knitting Is Not A Women Only Club

Knitting Is Not A Women Only Club
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Knitting Is Not A Women Only Club

This day and age knitting has a definite gender bent. We tend to think of it as a “granny” hobby done only by little old ladies rocking in wooden chairs. Maybe we think of young pregnant women waiting for the little bundle of joy to arrive. We never even consider a man to be a likely candidate to pick up knitting needles. Yet, this is by its very nature a sexist attitude. Could it be that as a society we’ve decided what a grown man can or cannot to just because we think it’s too feminine?

1.) Men deserve to relax too!

The truth is knitting is not just a pastime you engage in to simply throw together a pair of mittens. Let’s face it: buying them is quicker, easier, and cheaper! Knitting is not as much about the final product as it is about the process. It is almost meditative, a soothing, repetitive motion that has a similar effect on a person as the gentle rocking motion of a swing has on a small infant. The “click, click” sound the needles make are reminiscent of rain pattering on the roof at night. The whole experience makes a person feel cozy and relaxed.

2.) Creativity is NOT limited to women.

Men typically have a very good spatial sense. That stands them in good stead with this type of hobby. Like chess, certain knitting patterns require thinking rows ahead. Obviously, women can do this and have been for generations. Men can do it, too. It’s possible that because men often think in a logical and linear fashion, some of these knitting patterns may actually make more sense to them than to women. Now, don’t misunderstand, that doesn’t mean men are necessarily better than women at this, just that they may have an advantage that makes knitting just as likely a hobby for men as it is for women.

3.) Men actually started this whole knitting thing to begin with.

It’s really true! In the 1500’s it was men who handled the knitting and the passing on of the tradition. There were rigorous tests and requirements for young men hoping to knit for a living. They had to be able to make several different types of articles at a high rate of speed with a certain level of quality before they were allowed to be considered knitting masters. The only reason that knitting ceased to be a tradition taught and apprenticed in such a manner was because a man invented the knitting machine in the late 1500’s. It took a while, but once the machines caught on and clothes were made more easily, faster, and cheaper, hand-knitting became more of a tradition or hobby than a necessity. It then was passed to the women who began to use knitting as a way to train for manual dexterity and industry, a classic way to not be idle.

4.) Constructive idleness can be a great alternative to simply “vegging out”.

A person can be knitting and still be resting. If you are watching a movie or television you can still be working on a project and take advantage of that otherwise idle time. When one stops to consider the tremendous amount of time our society spends doing nothing more than watching television it’s actually quite staggering. You could convert that time into something useful like a garment, rug, dishcloth or some other item. There are organizations that like to have hand-knit items for the people they are helping. One good example is the cancer support groups that help provide hats for chemotherapy patients. If you could master a simple hat pattern, you could learn to practically do it in your sleep and provide something useful and beautiful for someone in need. (See “Handcrafting to Support Charities“)

5.) Delayed gratification and patience are stretched and strengthened with knitting.

Chances are it will take several days working consistently to produce a project, and “several days” would actually only apply to a small project. A larger project, say a sweater for example, may actually take weeks or months. Knitting is not something you do to get quick results. It’s something done with the idea of creating something beautiful to keep for a long time, a treasure. Some people like gifts, some people like quality time, some people like someone to do things for them. Knitting does all three.

The fact is, these are all good reasons to knit for both men and women. It’s a nice idea that a man can put off that normal societal pressure and take up such a useful, relaxing hobby as knitting. Women never abandoned the craft even though it really is so much easier to buy garments already made. Maybe there is simply a part of us that needs to keep that tradition, that love of something personally made. Knitting can certainly help fulfill a need in us to keep connected and do things that are special and unique for one another. Embracing the fine art of knitting is to embrace a classic piece of our heritage, and one that is worthy of our attention and dedication. Maybe it is time for women AND men to begin to knit.

JJ Vazquez is a primary contributor and editor for the blog located at the Begin to Knit website. She is also CEO of the Vazquez Group, a business dedicated to education and cultural advancement. Visit Begin to Knit to receive “Purls of Wisdom”, the site newsletter.

Two Jumpers and an Octopus

Two Jumpers and an Octopus

Two Jumpers and an OctopusI have managed to get a few projects finished off over the last week or so. I have completed two jumpers and an octopus, as well as conducting a small experiment with pattern grids (see “A Comparison of Pattern Grids”).

The two jumpers, more specifically a jumper and a cardigan, were for the same little girl I did the “pink knitting” for (see “Baby Knitting”). She is growing fast, as babies tend to do, and I thought her Mum might appreciate some more jumpers as the winter closes in on us.

Two Jumpers and an Octopus Two Jumpers and an OctopusThe pink jumper (yes, pink again!) was made using a pattern that is a bit of a favourite of mine. I have used it several times before and have always been pleased with the finished garment. In contrast, the pattern I used for the white cardigan was a new one for me. It was a free pattern off the “LoveKnitting” site. Some of the terminology was a little unfamiliar to start off with but I quickly got the hang of it and was very satisfied with the outcome.

Two Jumpers and an OctopusThe octopus was a sample I decided to do to try out one of the patterns I found when writing my “Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies” post.  I discovered that the crochet patterns I had found on two different websites were actually pretty much the same. I chose to use the one that was written using terms I was the most familiar with and really enjoyed the project.

Two Jumpers and an OctopusI used some left over wool for this octopus as it was only a practice sample. I have noticed that all the patterns I have are very specific about using 100% cotton yarn to make them for babies. They also need to be stuffed with fibre filling which is washable at 60⁰C. I was very pleased with my little practice octopus though, and will go looking for some suitable cotton yarn to make some “real” ones.

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A Comparison of Pattern Grids

A Comparison of Pattern Grids

A Comparison of Pattern Grids

Last month a friend of mine gave me a special book on knitting. It is called “Knitologie” by Lucy Main Tweet, and contains some pattern grids which I found really exciting. I have quite a variety of cross stitch alphabet patterns, but this book has two different sized knitted alphabets, one being 14 rows high and the other 28 rows high. This seemed to provide the perfect opportunity to do a comparison of pattern grids for knitting and cross stitch.

Knitting patterns are often published on square grids, but knitting stitches are not actually square. Tension guides indicate that the width of three stitches is equivalent to the height of approximately four rows. This means that a pattern represented on a square grid will appear shorter and wider in the knitted work.

I decided to use the 14 row knitting grid, then chose a fairly plain 14 row cross stitch grid to use as a comparison. The cross stitch was worked in red on some scraps of white 14 count Aida that I had, and I found some balls of acrylic yarn in red and white to create a similar effect.

A Comparison of Pattern Grids
The Knitted Samples
A Comparison of Pattern Grids
The Cross Stitch Samples

The letter “O” seemed to be a good one to demonstrate the differences in shape, so I worked the capital version of that letter from both alphabets and in both mediums. This meant I ended up with four red “O’s” on white backgrounds. I have taken a number of photos to illustrate the different results created by knitting and cross stitch. It was great to be able to create such a clear illustration of something I had known the theory of for some time, but had not had a good mental picture of.

A Comparison of Pattern Grids
Comparison for Knitting Grid
A Comparison of Pattern Grids
Comparison for Cross Stitch Grid

So what does this mean in practical terms? Is it possible to transpose knitting and cross stitch patterns to create your own unique projects? The short answer is “yes” but you do have to be aware of the distortion factor. You may be happy to accept the result of the pattern without any alterations, or you may want to try to compensate a little.

To modify a cross stitch pattern for knitting you will need to either insert a few rows evenly up the design (roughly one for every three rows of pattern), or decrease the number of stitches evenly across it (taking out approximately every fourth stitch). Obviously you will need to make these changes in a way that doesn’t change the overall look of the design.

To modify a knitting pattern for cross stitch you will need to use the opposite of the suggestions above. In other words, you will need either fewer rows or more stitches across.

Good luck and I hope you have fun experimenting with your patterns!

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Knitting Baby Clothes Through The Years

Knitting Baby Clothes Through The Years
Image courtesy of Pixabay

Knitting Baby Clothes Through The Years

If you’ve never looked into the history of baby clothes and knitting it’s really terribly interesting. For example, many women took up knitting after the Stock Market crash in the 1930s. It made sense at the time. A few ounces of wool could keep somebody knitting for weeks at a time when most folks could not afford much in the way of entertainment. Knitting your family’s clothes, including baby clothes, was a wonderful way to save money. Throughout the thirties, as interest in knitting grew, so did the number of patterns. Manufacturers created patterns for every skill level with more diversity in style and technique than ever before.

During the 1940s knitting baby clothes became even more popular. When the war broke out in England, millions of women started knitting for the soldiers and for refugees. They also did even more knitting for themselves and their children. This was the era when, because of wool rationing and chemical shortages, women sometimes chose to unravel old sweaters and reuse the yarn. Because of the shortage of rubber, rubber diaper covers for babies became hard to come by therefore women started knitting wool soakers to help keep things dry.

By the late forties countless ladies had learned to knit and now that the war was over they turned their energies to knitting for their families. Rationing was at an end and supplies were readily available. Now that the men were home there was a “baby boom” and baby knitting was very popular.

Near the end of the 1950s, though, the popularity of knitting started to take a downturn, blamed largely on television. Ladies were more interested in watching their TV shows and could not stay focused on the knitting task at hand. This is when bulkier yarns and larger needles were introduced in an attempt to make knitting quick and easy but, sadly, knitting was being left behind.

Over the years ladies continued to knit as a pastime or hobby, not because they needed to to save money. Patterns became even easier and yarns became more fanciful and knitting for babies still remained a popular pastime. Women began knitting baby hats and blankets to donate to hospitals, and mittens and scarves to donate to orphanages. (See also, “Handcrafting to Support Charities” and “Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies“.) Little neighborhood knitting guilds started popping up here and there.

There have always been enough women interested in knitting to keep it alive and countless individuals are once more adopting this well-liked activity. This time men have joined in too, and  children are taking up knitting and creating their own distinctive works of art.

Now, knitting clubs can be found everywhere – your neighborhood, your church, even online, and the patterns that you can find at no cost are unbelievable. There are so many free patterns online that you’d never be able to knit them all. “Ravelry” has been mentioned before on this site. Another site you could look at is “Baby Knitting Patterns

To purchase knitting supplies you can check out “Annies“, “Knit Picks“,”LoveKnitting“, “Craftsy“, or “Leisure Arts“.
**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

What Are The Best Needles To Use?

What Are The Best Needles To Use?
Image courtesy of Google

What Are The Best Needles To Use?

The very short answer to this question is probably that it is a matter of personal preference. There is a bit more to deciding which needles are the best to use, so I am going to do a small comparison here. The decision can also be influenced to some extent by the type of garment or project you are making.

A number of years ago I worked in a shop which sold yarn, fabric, sewing machines and haberdashery. Amongst the many things I learned from my work colleagues was a lot of information about yarns and knitting needles. At that time the ranges of straight single pointed needles available included metal, plastic, steel lined plastic, and bamboo. There were also some circular needles and sets of four short double pointed needles.

I have never been a fan of metal needles. I find them hard on my hands and rather noisy to use. They are, however, very durable and resistant to damage. Plastic needles are light weight, cheap, and a good choice for beginners, especially children. They do have a tendency to break though, so I would not recommend them for large, heavy pieces of work, or for complicated patterns which may put a bit of stress on the tips of your needles.

What Are The Best Needles To Use?
Image courtesy of Google

Steel lined plastic needles combine the strength of metal and the more user friendly plastic surface. They are often colour coded for different sizes which can be very convenient when you are trying to sort out needles. I have also seen some of these needles with very decorative patterns on them. Obviously this is unlikely to affect their performance, but they are very attractive and a bit quirky.

Lastly we come to my favourite, bamboo needles. The higher quality polished ones can be a bit more expensive, but there are some cheaper ones available too. I find bamboo to be light and easy to use, and they are also very strong. They have good points on them which are quite resistant to wear. The polished ones are very good at allowing your yarn to run smoothly, and even the cheaper, less polished ones are still very smooth.

As I said at the beginning, deciding which needles are the best to use is eventually a matter of personal preference. I definitely recommend, though, that if you do a lot of knitting on a regular basis you give serious consideration to using bamboo needles. I find them a lot more comfortable to use, and am much less likely to have problems with my wrists when using bamboo.

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Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies

Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies
Image courtesy of Google

Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies

I have recently become aware of a new strategy that is spreading throughout neonatal units in a number of countries. People have been crocheting and knitting octopuses (octopi?) for premature babies in these units. (See the “Octopus for a Preemie” Facebook page.)

According to a press release from Poole Hospital, Dorset, in the UK, the idea originates from a hospital in Denmark. Research has found that cuddling an octopus comforts and calms the babies. Babies often grab hold of their umbilical cords in the womb and it is thought the octopus tentacles remind them of this feeling. The babies have better breathing, more regular heart beats, and higher oxygen levels in their blood. They are also less likely to try to pull out their monitors and tubes.

The Poole Hospital press release contains this quote:

Daniel Lockyer, neonatal services matron, said: “When we heard about the difference a cuddly octopus can make to our tiny babies we were impressed and, after research, eager to introduce them to our little patients. It’s incredible that something so simple can comfort a baby and help them feel better. We’re very grateful for all donations of crochet octopi and we’re sure the families who use our service will be too.”

Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies
Image courtesy of mynomadhome.com

I first came across this amazing work when I visited a site called “My Nomad Home: Octopus for a Preemie”. This lady wrote about a Danish group called Spruttegruppen which encourages people to crochet octopuses for premature babies. She has a pattern available on her site in both a US version and a UK version.

Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies
Image courtesy of prawelewe.pl

 

I didn’t want knitters to feel left out of this wonderful cause so I have also found another site, Prawelewe Art Studio, which has downloadable patterns for knitted octopi as well as crocheted ones. These patterns are available in both English and Polish.

 

This is a really worthwhile initiative which seems to be gaining momentum worldwide. Let’s all get on board and do what we can to help these precious tiny babies to find comfort and thrive.

Learn Why Knitting Patterns Depend On Gauge

Learn Why Knitting Patterns Depend On Gauge

Even though you may want to jump right in there and start using knitting patterns it is definitely a good idea to make a knitting gauge swatch. You don’t want skip this step, it’s not worth it. (See “I Should Know Better By Now!“) A single stitch in one inch can end up really making a big difference to the eventual size of an item from all knitting patterns. It seems like a chore but you need to just learn that you will be thankful in the end. Always knit the swatch in the stitch that you will use.

Obviously different knitting patterns end up with different sizes so this matters. I always try to make my swatch big enough to make it a good test. I usually go for at least 4″ x 4”. Surround the swatch with a few rows of seed stitch knitting (knit or purl the opposite stitch of what you see facing you on odd number rows). Begin and end each row with four seed stitches as well. This stitch lies very flat and will help you measure accurately.

Feel The Tension!

It may surprise you to know that the needle size is much less important than your particular tension with knitting patterns. Some people are loose with their knitting while others are tight. This can also vary from day to day with some people. You can deliberately adapt your tension to create different looks from the same knitting patterns. Loose knitting for a light open feel and tighter knitting for a warmer feel. Remember also that you will get a softer feel from a loose knit and a stiffer feel from a tight knit.

When you have finished the swatch let it sit for awhile. The yarn needs to relax and even out any tight spots. Now count the stitches and measure the rows per inch of knitting. Remember to try a measurement in a few different places. Another way is to just calculate how big the total knitting pattern swatch should be. If 16 stitches were cast on and the gauge in the knitting pattern is 4st=1″ then the swatch should measure 4″ The part you measure should not include the seed stitches. Think about the size and adjust the needle size. For instance, if you are too small, try larger needles and vice versa. Now you have finished you can start using your knitting patterns with confidence knowing that the product of your labors will actually fit you!

Louise Nova loves knitting and teaching people how to knit. She also loves to blog. Knitting for 30 years, she has taught many young family members how knitting is fun and easy.

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