Friday, February 02, 2007

Prose: Teaching Knitting

I began my boyfriend's hat yesterday, the one that's been looming before me as the penultimate goal of my knitting career. Penultimate because obviously there will be another knitting project that is more important and watched for with greater anticipation than his hat (I just don't know what it is yet).

So I begin the hat. It's my first project "knitting on the round" or rather, using circular needles. I already goofed the joining, but the rest looks good, so I suppose I got the knack of it. I may pull it all out, or use it to make sure I'm even making it close to the right size--the danger of using circular needles being the size is a secret until you've knit for quite some time. This hat has been bothering me in the form of my boyfriend for over a year now, when we bought some yarn and he jumped up and down with glee in the aisle of Hobby Lobby when I said I would make him a hat. Every time I'd start a new project, I'd hear about how his head was cold, how he wished he had a great wool hat to keep his curls warm...

But this is not a tale of the perpetually unknit knit hat: this is a story of how I taught my boyfriend to knit. It all began with my roommate holding a set of my needles curiously and looking through my handy-dandy knitting guide (I have a small spiral bound one that I whip out to learn all sorts of interesting things, like cable cast-on or how to do an increase or decrease). She wanted to learn, so I asked, "Do you want me to teach you how to knit?" "Yes!" she exclaimed, as she was looking for a way to escape her history texts and enjoy her snow day. Lance looked at me tellingly, so I asked him to, which made him say, "Yes, me too!"

Thus commenced the knitting lesson. I made them cast-on (over and over again) until they got it down. I had to get Sarah to reverse her hands (she apparently will knit "backwards" or left-handed), and Lance quickly progressed to purling. I swear, he is the best first-time knitter I've ever seen--his practice swatch was only a little crooked on his cast-on row. He's a mechanical engineer with an amazing ability for spatial orientation--and what is knitting but a spatial skill?--and he was able to capture the big picture of what knitting does in addition to being able to creatively add to what I taught him. The knitting circle has increased by two.

Lance started planning all his projects, and asking me questions about how things are done. I had the challenge of a bright student, and as a bright student, he of course tried to overstep what he knows by asserting he could knit a circle (not a tube like his hat, but an actual circle). Ah, haha, he will learn soon enough what he can and cannot do. I felt the slight tremor that a teacher can feel when faced with a particularly promising pupil that perhaps he'll soon overtake my skill--and I'll have nothing left to teach because he will be become better than me!--but I realized that for now, I have the advantage of several years of experience and knowing how to read the charts. So I have time to reconcile myself to the prospect of his surpassing my knowledge, and time to come around to the idea that it's okay if he does because I can then just learn from him.

I look forward to more cold afternoons and evenings with my knitting pupils and watching them grow in skill and confidence as they knit toward their first projects. I'm a teacher by nature, and I love being able to pass my passions along to those around me, whether it be literature and writing, or knitting.


Donna said...

Hooray for you! I bet that was fun. Hopefully not frustrating. If you master circular needles, let me know your secret. The directions always say "be careful not to twist the join," but never having tried it I can't visualize what they're talking about. If you come up with a handy way to avoid problems with the join, let me know. I'm eager to knit a hat. Very, very eager. Like Lance I am currently hatless and quite cold.

Jenn said...

Well, when you cast on, you have to be careful not to let the stitches get twisted around--it's not too bad if you're paying attention when you join the round. But if you're not, and you join when it's all twisted, it can be icky, I think. I just always pause every few stitches and adjust it on the circular needles to make sure they are all the right direction. I think that's the only trick to it--take your time and be aware what's going on. It doesn't seem to be too hard, though, and I think you can use circular needles for non-round things (it helps keep it huge projects on the needles because you can buy loooong cable needles).

I think, however, that I might prefer the double pointed needle way of doing things. Perhaps I'm just weird...

the secret knitter said...

Very cool.

It's leading up to what I'm going to blog about tonight, but I have a hat pattern that can be knitted on straight needles. I've yet to try circs.

You can use circular needles for non-round things. Kristin considered having me do my first striped scarf with them. I've seen her work on a sweater with them, so they're not just for tubes.