Move over Miss Marple, the new generation of knitters has arrived! Knitting has been re-invented and taken up by people from all walks of life. This traditional hobby now has a new string to its bow and the results are exciting and innovative. Maybe you learnt how to knit as a child, but only saw it as the domain of old ladies making boring sweaters, well now is the time to look again. There are many lush new yarns to work with that produce unusual effects, along with the crop of new patterns and designs for all skill levels, and with the additional scope that the internet gives for collaboration and inspiration, you will want to dig out your knitting needles and get back into it.
Knitting is one of the ways in which yarns can be transformed into fabric. It is a simple repetitive process where loops of yarn are pulled through loops on a knitting needle, working with many loops on the needle. In this way it is different to crochet, where only one loop is worked with at a time (lots of you may be just as into crochet as knitting, so don't forget to take a look at our section on crochet too).
Casting on to begin hand knitting is done by twisting a succession of loops of yarn onto a needle. The knitting is continued by using a second needle to poke through those loops on the needle and pull new loops back through to form a new horizontal row. Sounds confusing? If you have never done it before, maybe for a few minutes, but once you have done it a few times, you'll never look back. It is one of those once learned, never forgotten skills.
Weft knitting is the type described above, where a single yarn is used to make horizontal rows, and is what we usually mean when we refer to knitting. It can be machine or hand done.
Warp knitting is machine made and a different yarn is used for each stitch, forming vertical rows. Its resistance to runs makes it useful in the tricot fabric used for underwear.
There are, of course, myriad ways to knit. There are cultural differences and traditional styles. Pursuing some of the fine older techniques can be exacting and satisfying, and you have the knowledge that you are continuing the time-honoured patterns of our ancestors, harking back to days when the needle skills were a must if you wished to keep your family decently clothed. There are plenty of older generation people (yes, mostly women, it was, after all, women's work) who would be happy to pass on their knowledge.
That brings us to how, and of course, the best way to learn is first-hand. Find yourself a teacher, and I defy anyone to NOT know someone who can knit, and get them to show you how. Then go away and practice, make mistakes, and go back for help. Same way knitting has been learned since the time the first woman (I am guessing) wound a bit of fleece round a stick and pulled a loop through. I love to imagine the learning process taking shape with the most basic of materials, and imagine the evolution of the art over the millennia.
Of course there is the internet chock-full of resources, your local craft or sewing supplies shop, books, magazines, classes and groups. One of the best things about knitting is that it can be done whilst doing something else, appealing particularly to us women's multi-tasking skill capacity. It is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and a chat. It is easy to carry round with you, to fill in those empty moments waiting for something or someone, and it's a great stress reliever. It doesn't really matter what you're making, the simple act of clicking those needles is soothing and comforting. I know I am not alone when I say that my favourite time to knit is whilst watching TV. That's nothing; my mum habitually knitted and watched TV whilst reading a book balanced on her lap.
If I've offended any of the many male knitters out there, I do apologise, this is just as much your website as anyone's, and in fact we want to hear from you all out there, clicking those needles. Give us your thoughts and ideas, and keep looking for more coming soon on this site.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am off to finish the scarf I've been knitting whilst simultaneously writing this website?..Happy knitting!