|A simple garter-stitch square might not seem like a big deal to you or me, but to a new knitter it's quite an accomplishment!
I had a bar-b-que this weekend, and some of my knitting friends brought their projects. It was a great mix of people; and it was fun to see all of the people in my life mingling and laughing together.
There's a recurring issue that comes up whenever my knitter and non-knitter friends meet: a non-knitter wants to learn how to knit
! What a happy "problem" to have, right?
I've taught a lot of people to knit, both through organized classes and the ad hoc coffee-house Saturday afternoon when a stranger gathers her courage and comes over to ask about knitting. There's something so wonderful about sharing my love of the craft with others.
It's not easy, though, this teaching of knitting. Remember when you first learned to knit—how you felt all thumbs trying to manipulate loose loops of yarn? It can be a frustrating experience to learn, and to teach!
Knitting expert Vicki Square wrote a wonderful piece in the Summer 2009 issue of Interweave Knits
, all about how to teach someone to knit without creating frustration for the student or the teacher.
Teach a Friend to Knit
You are sitting in a richly colored velveteen chair at your favorite coffee shop, enjoying a bit of knitting time. The friend you are waiting for appears, and you ask, "Do you mind if I knit while we visit?" Of course she doesn't mind, and you are delighted to knit on. Could you be more content? Only if she were knitting, too.
Interest is in her eyes, and the words just pop out: "I could teach you how!" You want her to know the sense of adventure you experience every time you pick up your needles. And then: You realize you've never taught someone how to knit before, and a mini jolt of panic hits.
It's easy! You don't have to be a walking encyclopedia of knitting knowledge in order to share what you know. If you can make a slipknot, cast on, knit, and bind off, you can show a friend how to make something fun. Guarantee success with felted first projects: Felting covers up a multitude of sins, such as uneven stitches, inadvertent increases, and holes that seem to come out of nowhere. Your friend will be more lighthearted about any mistakes, knowing that they will all be obscured in the felting process.
I like to choose a worsted-weight yarn and midsize needles for a beginner to work with. With too-small needles, the results are too slow in coming. Too-large needles make it awkward to achieve even tension right away. A size 8 needle with a nice worsted-weight wool will make for a pleasurable first experience. It doesn't matter whether the needles are straight or circular, but I find that beginners tend to like the stability of short, straight bamboo needles. I like to have new knitters start with small squares of about five inches—just like gauge swatches. With small pieces, the sequence of making a slipknot, casting on, knitting, and binding off is easily repeated several times, cementing the process in the new knitter's mind.
Have your own yarn and needles to work with when you teach a friend to knit. To begin, demonstrate each of the four basic techniques: making a slipknot, casting on (use the long‑tail method), knitting, and binding off. Have her repeat the motions a few times to get the hang of them. If you can't quite find the right words to describe each action, simply read the text out of your favorite knitting technique book. You will be showing your friend how to find necessary information, and you will refresh your own knowledge at the same time. Now make some little squares. Cast on twenty to twenty-five stitches and knit every row until the square's length is equal to its width. This won't take long, even for absolute beginners. Bind off and show your friend how to weave in the ends. Make several squares.
What do you do with four, six, or eight little woolly squares? You felt them into coasters! Make them to match or in a nice palette. Show your friend how to felt them in a sink or in the washing machine. Stack the felted squares and tie with ribbon for a boxed set! The practice squares become the real deal-instant accomplishment.
The next step in the fun is to make something larger. A felted tote bag is just the thing: a few rectangles, a few seams, a spin in the machine, and voilà (see box)! A container for your friend's sure-to-grow knitting universe. You've just shown someone down the knitting path, and it may be that you enjoyed the giving as much as she appreciated the receiving. Time together meant sharing more than simply knitting-what a great path to a deeper friendship.
Easy Felted Tote Bag
Use larger yarn and needles: a bulky wool with size 10 or 10-1⁄2 needles. Cast on about 50 stitches, knit for about 30 inches, and bind off. Make two handles 8 stitches wide and 26 inches long to attach to the sides of the bag. To finish, fold the bag rectangle in half and sew side seams with mattress stitch for garter stitch, working from the cast-on/bind-off edge toward the fold.
Turn the bag wrong side out to box the corners of the bottom for volume: Fold so the side seam lies parallel to the center fold of the bottom; sew a running stitch seam perpendicular to the side seam 2 inches from the point. The seam should be 3-4 inches. Attach the handles to the sides with an overlap of 3 inches. Felt in the washing machine.
Now you know how to share your love of knitting, so go forth and spread the craft! And if you need more inspiration, get yourself one of our back issues or digital downloads, such as the Summer 2009 issue of Interweave Knits that Vicki's article originally appeared in.