Learn a Little
Unexpected moments and encounters are such treasures. Stepping outside our routine usually gives us the opportunity to see or hear something new. I love my classes, but we get in the zone on projects and knitting trends. So this weekend when I was at W&G for some special events (I’m not there on the weekend often anymore!) I met Martha and she made a simple comment that she likes small projects. It is so refreshing to hear something so simple and clear. Especially for this blog, it’s really nice to get some feedback about what you want to hear about.
As you may know, I’m a big believer in learning new knitting techniques in small projects. We get to dabble in something without feeling burdened by the enormity of it. At the end of it, you’ve created something small and relatively quick, but you can confidently say “Yes, I’ve cabled/done brioche stitch/done stranded knitting.” Also, if you’re like me, and you aren’t entirely successful the first time around, you haven’t invested an enormous amount of time or money in a project with less-than-perfect results.
So, here are just a few projects that are small and allow you to learn something new. Martha, this might not be what you had in mind, but thank you for helping me shift my perspective a little!
I’m a huge fan of Brooklyn Tweed patterns – I think I’ve done over 30. They are VERY detailed and technically well-written. For anyone wanting to learn something with a lot of applications like a tubular cast-on/bind-off – or something obscure like a Latvian Braid, you can find what you want in a Brooklyn Tweed pattern. Rosebud is pretty simple though. This hat can be knit up as a little tam or a slouchy hat, and features a big, dramatic cable amongst a squishy sea of garter stitch. This is the PERFECT project to learn cables, given that there is just one big column of cables that you work a handful of times. I’m a little partial to this project, because it was my first Brooklyn Tweed project. I still have this hat and it still keeps my head warm and cozy! Of course, Shelter is the yarn of choice for this project, but also consider Falkland, Iris, Shepherd’s Wool, Woolstok, Rios or any of our other favorite worsted weight yarns.
This brand new pattern from Elizabeth Smith yields a generously wide scarf with a relatively small amount of yardage (400 yards). This open, airy fabric is the simplest of lace. Lots and lots of yarn-overs create a light & airy fabric with modern and clean lines. Plus, Smith uses a sewn bind-off, which is a great technique to have in your knitting tool box. Smith calls for an aran weight yarn. Her sample was made in a wool with a lot of loft and body, and I totally suggest something similar. Queensland’s Kathmandu will stand up beautifully and have a lot of body to show off that simple lace pattern. Given Shelter’s ability to plump up beautifully, that yarn would also hold up nicely with this stitch pattern.
Fisherman rib and brioche stitch are notoriously tricky stitches. They are also two different approaches to getting the same product: a super thick and three dimensional rib. It can be tricky to read your stitches and correct mistakes. I totally recommend taking a big thick yarn that’s a little sticky and trying this stitch out, so your project goes more quickly. Choosing a yarn that isn’t too slippery means that if you drop a stitch off the needle, it won’t slip down the work, and it’ll be easier to retrieve. The other night I knit up the fisherman rib cowl using Loopy Mango’s Merino No. 5 – and it was a one-night wonderful that will be incredibly warm for someone’s cold walk to school or work! Also try this project in Odin or Rasta for big color and lots of warmth. The beauty of the Churchmouse pattern is that it’s written for multiple weights of yarn, so they make it super easy for you to work with the yarn of your choice.
Color-work is a lot of fun, but start on a small project while you play with this new technique. You’ll fine that your gauge may vary between one-color stockinette stitch and the color work. Don’t be dismayed if your first go at color-work isn’t perfection – most people don’t ace something the first time they try it. That said, try Blue Sky Fibers’ Sport Mitts pattern. Not only will this project keep you agile on DPNs, but you’ll work a small portion of the project in stranded color-work, getting a little practice, but be able to complete the bulk of the project in standard stockinette stitch. Another great starter project for stranded color-work is Jennifer Beaumont’s Pixelated Hat.
The mother of all learning projects is most definitely Building Blocks, and this wonderful project breaks down a large project into lots of small learning pieces. Whether you choose the original version, Building in Color or Building in Lace, this is a great way to learn lots of techniques that can be compiled into a gorgeous project that reflects all your hard work and everything you’ve learned!
So, take the time to step outside your routine and learn some new knitting skills! Start small, allow yourself to have little successes (or failures) and decide whether you actually like that new skill before you go big!