Learning New Tricks

I have been very vocal about my identity as a crocheter. I love the feel of yarn in my hands as I wind it around the hook, creating a fabric from a single strand. Crochet makes sense to me. One hook, a strand of yarn (or two if the project calls for it) and I can amuse myself for hours at a time.

I admire other crafters, particularly knitters. I am not a knitter. I am a crocheter who understands the basics of knitting, but I cannot create anything beautiful with a pair of knitting needles.

I think it is partly due to the tools of the trade. One crochet hook is a tool I can manage. But two knitting needles? How am I supposed to managed two needles and maintain tension on my yarn and keep a uniform gauge? It’s not possible.

You can do it Denise. You just need to practice.

One “perk” of being stuck at home for five weeks is I have had plenty of time on my hands. Even though March is National Crochet Month, I decided it was time to make myself learn to knit. Plus, I’m trying to get rid of my yarn stash before it takes over more than one corner of my living room. And I am not allowed to start another new crochet project until I finish the works in progress already on my hooks.

Armed with an instructional book (I used I Can’t Believe I’m Knitting – Updated Edition by Leisure Arts), YouTube videos, and new knitting needles, I cast on 20 stitches. Casting on in knitting is easier than working into a chain to start crochet. Whenever I teach someone how to crochet I always warn them the start is the most difficult part. If you can work into your chain to make the first row, working into your subsequent rows is a breeze.

Since I am accustomed to holding my yarn in my left hand for crochet, I taught myself to knit using the Continental method. This felt more natural and efficient. I don’t say that as a dig against those of you who have successfully mastered the English method, where the yarn is held in the right hand. However, trying to adapt to new equipment was difficult enough without changing how I hold my yarn.

After a few calls to my sister Caroline, my knitting life line, I was satisfied with my attempts at the knit stitch and decided to purl. When you complete a knit stitch, you keep your yarn behind your work. When you purl, your yarn is held in front of your work. I managed to figure this out and switch appropriately. Then came the tricky part of maintaining proper gauge.

Gauge is the number of stitches and rows in an inch of knitting or crochet. Many factors can influence gauge, such as yarn weight, needle or hook size, and the amount of tension on the yarn. I know when I crochet during stressful times, my gauge is much tighter than when I am not stressed. My niece Erin received a lap blanket from me that perfectly illustrates what happens when life stress hits in the middle of a crochet project. The top of the blanket is loose but gradually the rows and stitches became closer and tighter together. Guess which part of the blanket was crocheted after I fell in 2007 and was out of work for weeks with an injury? I gave it to her anyway, telling her it was a good lesson for not letting stress get to you. Her son’s baby blanket is evenly spaced so far, even though it’s safe to say I am currently in a period of high life stress.

I practiced knitting and purling using scrap yarn until I was able to maintain consistent gauge over several rows. Once I was satisfied, I decided it was time to make something. Many new knitters try a scarf as the first project. Spring is coming, so instead of a scarf I decided to make a dishcloth. I dug out my cotton yarn, found a pattern which looked relatively easy, and started casting on. I counted my stitches every row, nervous I would somehow drop one even though I never mess up stitch count in crochet. I didn’t drop a stitch, but I did make a mistake following the pattern of rows. I tried to correct it by adding a stitch in a later row. I only needed to call Caroline twice for help. Her reassurance made me feel like I almost knew what I was doing.

The final product is not perfect, but looks good enough from a distance. I’m sure Caroline will be able to find all my errors when she examines it. I think it looks more like a rhombus than a square and my gauge is not as consistent as I would like. I have to keep practicing before I tackle something more challenging.

Crochet is still my preferred activity and feels more intuitive to me. I am far from the point where I would call myself a knitter. But I have moved up and feel confident saying I am a crocheter who now knows how to knit.

Photo of a purple knit dishcloth hanging on a hook.
The finished product.
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13 thoughts on “Learning New Tricks

  1. It looks pretty good to me! I admire your fortitude in continuing with this quest. Knitting and crocheting are not peaceful activities for me. After reading this, I realize the gauge is the issue. Though I am capable of starting both projects well, it is impossible for me to get either hook or needles to penetrate the armour I’ve created by, say, the fourth row. There is nothing more stress-inducing than that!

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    • I find crochet to be relaxing, but knitting requires too much concentration. I don’t think I will ever get to the point when it feels natural and I can just “do it” without extreme focus. Gauge is crucial, although if you know you have a tight gauge you can just increase your hook or needle size. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  2. You are very brave to post pictures of your work. It looks pretty good for a first attempt.Following through and finishing a project makes you feel so good, doesn’t it? Now I am polar opposite of you-I need to teach myself how to crochet, and you can be my lifeline. Have fun creating, whatever you are doing be it writing, knitting, or crocheting. I can’t wait to add gardening to my list soon.

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  3. Doing things with my hands is the way I de-stress too. Cooking is always a favorite activity and I’ve been thinking I need a new piece of furniture to refinish. Grandma DiNoto taught me how to knit but if you recall, there wasn’t much patience on her part and my projects could never measure up to her or Caroline. I’ll just stick with my cooking, sewing and maybe reincarnate the cross stitch projects. And, of course, color!

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    • I remember Grandma DiNoto crocheting, but she didn’t have time to answer my questions about it. You have many abilities though, and I think sticking with cooking is always a great option. 😉

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        • I completely understand plans changing! I’m still not driving, so my travels are curtailed for now too. We’ll make it work. Are you staying in NY for the summer? I’ll be in Dryden in July I think.

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          • Yes, I’m staying for the summer!! We can definitely figure something out. Let me know if you solidify those Dryden plans, otherwise I may be able to come to you too.

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  4. I learned to crochet as a child. As an adult, I decided to learn to knit. It was torture at first and seemed so unnatural and difficult. I practiced making dishcloths, too, and then graduated to scarves, and now I can honestly say I enjoy knitting just as much or more than crocheting. I definitely like the way knitted items look more, which was my original motivation for learning to knit anyway. Congratulations on learning something new! The dishcloth looks great, by the way!

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    • I like crochet for certain projects, but I also like knitted items too. I am currently trying my new skills on a scarf. It doesn’t look too bad, if I do say so myself. Thank you for the encouragement!

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