On Being a Good Knitter

Watch out, I’m about to get a bit philosophical.
Last year at a work related conference-type event a woman
noticed me wearing my XXL Daybreak Shawl and started commenting on it. She
oohed and awed, and was obviously a knitter who was interested, so I took it
off to open it up and show it to her. It’s so big that it really is quite
impressive when it’s all open and spread.
As we chatted about what the pattern
was, what kind of yarn I used, you know, the basics, she commented, “You must
be a really good knitter!” This phrase caught me off guard, but I replied, “No,
no, I’m just very prolific.” And I meant it. Anyone could have done the shawl I
did – it just took a really long time and a lot of going back to the same
project over and over.
I happened to grab that shawl to wear today and as I did I
thought of that phrase – “good knitter.” I have no idea what that would mean. I
know a lot of knitters. New knitters, experienced knitters, knitters who I’ve
watched make a stranded colorwork sweater with 12 different colors, but to me,
knitting just isn’t an activity that can be quantified in terms of “good” or “bad.”
What I love about knitting is its accessibility to everyone.
You don’t have to knit with Tosh Merino Light all the time. For less than ten,
maybe even five dollars if you play your 40% off coupons right, you can get supplies
enough for hours of enjoyment at the local craft store. The yarn doesn’t know
if you’re rich or poor, and it doesn’t care if you have a fancy degree or if
you’re a nice person or a jerk (or maybe both – aren’t we all a little of both
at different times?)
Yes, there are master knitters honing their craft down to
the utmost of perfection, and state fair enterers who create works of
incredible art. I commend them for their ability to work their craft down to
the barest details – there’s something beautiful in that and it brings
something very important to our world. But are they “better” knitters than
those who churn out mounds of warm woolen products for charities that may have
imperfect rows? What about those who have the ability to design complex lace
patterns? Where does it end?
If knitting were a class, I don’t think it would be graded
A-F. To me, it’s pass/fail. Either you knit, or you don’t. And both are fine.
Just because I’ve had more time knitting and maybe I’ve picked up some skills
along the way – to me that doesn’t mean you couldn’t easily knit a tough
pattern if you put your mind to it. And conversely, I know a LOT of people who’ve
been knitting far longer than I have, and many times I have uttered the phrase,
“They could knit circles around me.” But this constantly comparing ourselves to
each other (in knitting and in so many aspects of life) seems like, well,
frankly, a waste of time.
My mom is a newer knitter, and she’s always saying things
like, “I could never do what you’re doing there.” Or “I can’t believe you’re
knitting a sock; that looks so hard!” I get it – it does look hard. But when
you’re a new knitter everything seems so lofty. The more you knit you start to
realize that complicated techniques are usually just a matter of following the
pattern.
I don’t want to be the person who’s been knitting for 15
years saying, “Oh, it’s easy, anyone can do it.” It’s not easy. It’s tough, and
requires patience and persistence. And while I do think anyone could do it, I
don’t think everyone should do it. If you don’t enjoy it, or you’d rather be
doing anything else, or you just don’t want to have the patience, by all means,
don’t waste your time. In a world where you can buy pre-knitted things, if you’re
not enjoying knitting, please don’t torture yourself.

 

Knitters are diverse: sock and charity, masters and basics,
modern and heirloom, project and product, and this diversity only serves to
reinforce the idea that because knitting is part art, part utility, it can be
whatever you need it to be today. And that’s pretty good.
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