Silver Threads

a knitting blog with occasional side trips


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Improving your skillset

Today was Yarnover, the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild’s annual knitting event, and coincidentally, here we are, talking about developing our knitting (and crocheting) skills. How appropriate.

Day Six: 28 April. Improving Your Skillset

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.

Looking over that first question, I knew that my answer would be that I consider myself to be both an experienced knitter and crocheter. It was when I tried to define exactly why I think I fit that description that I realized how slippery the whole experience thing is. I could say that I’ve been knitting and crocheting for years (true), but I could have done so and never pushed myself to make anything more complicated than a dishcloth. Indeed, I’m basing this estimation of my skills on just one criterion: as long as a pattern is accurate, I assume I can successfully make something from it, no matter how complex. And that still leaves me plenty to learn, because even if I can reproduce any knitted or crocheted item under the sun, that still leaves me all the skills related to designing original patterns to develop. Should I master those, I may think of some other set of skills I could pick up. The world of knitting and crocheting skills may not be infinitely large, but I haven’t reached the limits yet.

Maybe it’s just my librarian background, but I believe it’s not so much what you’ve committed to memory as what you know how to look up. Taking the suggestions from today’s prompt as examples, I haven’t the foggiest idea how to start anything with a magic circle, much less an amigurumi piece, I don’t remember ever tackling double knitting, and my intarsia is decent but not stupendous. But I’ve got books on hand and the Internet out there ready to teach me these things if I ever need to know them. [As an experiment, I paused writing this post and timed how long it would take me to find instructions on how to do a magic circle. It took me about 45 seconds to find tutorials on YouTube. And now I know that that’s a crochet technique and I know how to do one.]

I’m always interested in learning new skills, but the more you learn, the harder it is to find more to learn. That’s becoming clear in both my personal life and in the general state of knitting here in Minnesota. I took two classes at Yarnover this year: one on understanding neckline construction and the other on figuring out what styles of sweaters do and do not look good on you before you go to the time and expense of knitting them. I learned useful tips in both classes and expect to put what I learned into practice sometime. But it turned out that I already knew a fair amount about each of these topics, and I believe that I could have figured out quite a lot of the rest on my own if I’d had to. On a larger scale, I’ve heard that STITCHES Midwest is held in the Chicago area exclusively rather than Minneapolis-St. Paul because when they tried holding it up here, there wasn’t enough interest in the classes: many of the knitters up here knew that stuff already. Maybe that story isn’t actually true, but it sounds like it could be. So learning new skills has become partly a matter of chance for me, rather than planning. For instance, I learned a new way of doing an SSK (slip-slip-knit) decrease from the woman sitting next to me in the neckline class. That wasn’t what I came there to learn, but I’m happy to have added it to my repertoire. I’ll continue to look over the Yarnover schedule when it comes out, investigate promising books in both knitting and crochet, and hope to be in the right place at the right time to pick up tips and tricks from other knitters and crocheters. But maybe it’s time for me to see if I can wean myself off other people’s patterns and learn how to come up with stuff on my own.