Posted by: jinniver | February 28, 2009

Keep it simple

I recognized the look on the face of the woman who walked into my LYS, clutching a bag and with husband in tow–it was the hopeful yet apprehensive expression of someone with a knitting problem who hopes she’s found the help she needs.

She explained to the 2 of us there–the LYS assistant and me–that she was a new knitter–she’d crocheted and quilted a long time ago, but recently decided she really wanted to try knitting.  Her sister had accompanied her to an LYS in her hometown, where she’d picked out some yarn, got a quick lesson, and was started on a scarf.  She had several rows knit but thought she’d made a mistake.  She didn’t know how to correct it if she had, and she was afraid to go forward.

As soon as she pulled the scarf-in-progress out of her bag, I could see why she was confused.  I was confused.  When we asked her if she had a pattern, she said no, but she didn’t appear to be knitting a straight garter stitch scarf.  She had mentioned both knitting and purling, and it appeared she was doing both…but it also wasn’t a stockinette stitch scarf.  Instead, there were 2 rows of stockinette followed by a row of purl bumps.  In other words:  knit, purl, purl, purl, knit, knit, knit, purl, purl, purl…

Trying to keep track of where you are and which side was the right side was going to be difficult–unnecessarily so, in my opinion.  It also seemed that she wasn’t entirely sure what the difference was between purl and knit, as she kept referring to working the opposite side as purling, regardles of whether that was the stitch appearance she wanted.

Oh…and did I mention she was working with three yarns held together, one of which was an eyelash yarn?

Yeah…not so much a beginner project, in my opinion.

Now, the new knitter did point out that she’d really wanted to use the yarns, because she liked them.  I still think the LYS person who let her out of the shop with such a sketchy understanding and difficult project should get 30 lashes with Red Heart Super Saver.

First, the LYS assistant and I taught her about stockinette stitch and garter stitch.  Fortunately, I had the pieces of Jeffrey’s Christmas Spices Cardigan I’ve been working on with me, which made the perfect demonstration tool with the alternating stockinette and garter stitch sections:

Christmas Spices Cardigan (2)

We agreed that she would continue her scarf in garter stitch, and it would look enough like what she already done that the change wouldn’t make a difference. But that didn’t solve the problem of it being difficult for her to see what she was doing, especially if she did make a mistake.

The LYS assistant convinced her to get a skein of inexpensive cotton, a smaller pair of needles, and knit a practice dishcloth.  I helped her find a skein she liked, and then she and I sat down to get started.  Her other project had been cast on for her, so I taught her the long tail cast on.  She picked it up after only watching 2 repetitions and having me talk her through it twice more, and before long she had 24 stitches on her needle.  Then she started knitting.  I’d moved next to her so I could keep an eye on her as I worked on my own project.

About halfway through her first row, she announced, “Uh oh,” and held up the needles.  “I messed up here.”

I saw the problem immediately.  “You split the yarn when you put the needle through the old stitch,” I told her, showing her what she needed to look at.  The yarn was a bit splitty, so the mistake wasn’t surprising…and it was actually a good thing, because now I could show her how to “tink” (although I didn’t introduce her to the new word; I felt we’d stretched her vocabulary enough already).  After I demonstrated, I had her reknit and tink the stitch a few times to make sure she had it; she picked it up as quickly as she had the cast on.

By the time she finished her first row, her husband (who’d left her to run a few errands) was back and they had a family function to head off to.  She seemed pretty confident when she left, but I gave her a card with the link to The Knit Witch’s site with its great knitting videos.  Hopefully, she’ll get that washcloth done quickly…and with a simple project where she can see what she’s doing, she’ll learn what she needs to get back to her scarf.



  1. Bless you, Sister! You did a good deed.

  2. Bravo! 🙂

  3. Isn’t it the coolest feeling when you realize you can actually help someone else??? I love being able to actually help someone now!


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