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The Skills You Don’t Know

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 My 75-year-old neighbor called me one day and said, “Do you still do that knitting thing?”

I admitted that I did, and she asked if she could come over for some help. The sweater she had knit for her grandson wouldn’t fit over his head. I expected that it would be any easy fix: I would just show her how to do a more flexible bind-off for the neckband, and she’d be all set.

She arrived with a beautifully knit pullover. Unfortunately, the solution to her problem was not so simple. The cast-on edge at the bottom of the sweater was too tight to stretch over the child’s shoulders as it was being put on.

Me: What cast-on did you use, Helen?
Helen: The cast-on, like I’ve done for over 60 years.
Me: Which one is that?
Helen (spoken slowly and with a look of incredulity that a “professional knitter” would ask such a thing): You know, The Cast-On. The one where you don’t have any stitches on the needle and you put stitches on the needle so you can knit them.



Long Tail Cast On
Long Tail Cast On

It was at that moment I realized that not only did Helen know only one way to cast on, she didn’t realize that there were other ways of putting stitches on the needle. I explained to her that there are many different cast-ons, one of which might have resulted in a stretchier lower edge. She was both amazed and chagrined to find out that there were alternatives to a technique that she had been doing her entire knitting career.


M1-R and M1-L
Make 1-Right and Make 1-Left

Learning What to Learn

We’re all a bit like Helen, I think. Whether it’s knitting or crochet, there’s always something new to learn, but sometimes we don’t know what that something is.

Just last week, I watched an online class** taught by Sally Melville and learned a tweak that will help me remember, without experimentation (my previous method), which increase is M1-R and which is M1-L. I’m always trying to continue my education and figure out what I don’t know. To that end, I’m compiling a list of knit and crochet techniques that I want to be sure I’ve mastered. Check out my page Knit: Basics & Beyond and Crochet: Basics & Beyond as resources.

What’s on your list? Where do you go to learn new techniques and how do you determine what you don’t know? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below or via Facebook.


Cast On Resources











7 thoughts on “The Skills You Don’t Know”

  1. my favorite cast on so I just don’t waste yarn anymore is crocheted cast on I was truly getting sick of wasted yarn from the tail or ripping out many times because I had miscalculated the amount of yarn for the cast on now it’s all I use and the best thing no waste, now admittedly it’s a bit fiddly but I would rather have fiddly than waste of yarn I can barely afford. Knitting and crocheting is my only vice, I don’t go out to movies or to eat and I don’t drink or gamble and since money doesn’t grow on trees I have to make the most of my money and make it stretch with my yarn with a lack of waste, not just in cast on’s but in other ways as well, I make my own variegateds, I use to be one of those people that when my yarn ended in a ball the size you used with jacks I threw it out then out of frugality one day I decided to combine those little balls with russian joining and made my own variegated used it to make a blanket everyone that saw the yarn cake wanted to know where I bought it, truth is anyone can do what I did be original make your own version of “caron cake” make that one of a kind blanket it may use the same stitch pattern a million other knitter/crocheters are using but it will be unique because you were frugal and made your own yarn cake variegated.

  2. Well, I too tend to just do things the way I’ve always done them (50 yrs!) even though I know there are newer and better methods. I usually wait until I get stuck and then search google, Ravelry to get myself unstuck. Problem is now that I’m 80 I don’t remember things as readily as when I was in my 20s, so I limit myself to the techniques I’m sure of when picking a project. Or I keep searching for the same answers every time I begin a project. The old techniques are the most pleasurable to me (if I don’t get bored) and result in less frustration. I often wish there was some place (on the Internet for instance) where lots of different versions of several techniques were listed — or maybe pattern makers actually said in a pattern where to find the Instrux. I guess part of the problem is that I use a desktop computer so if I need info that means I have to get up out of my chair and go on an Internet search which kinda destroys my momentum. Oh well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride (as my mother used to tell me). I’m eager to see your forthcoming lists of techniques. And I usually find your instructions very easy to follow and I thank you for that.
    And I’m going to do what Tonya suggested and make yarn “cakes” from leftovers. Great idea for making something original.

  3. I love knitting, but I have some physical problems with my hands now. Anything I can learn to make the knitting (and crochet) easier I will try. I learn from my knit group, the local libraries and Utube.

  4. There are crochet hooks that have larger handles, or specially shaped handles, that some people with hand problems like. For knitting, have you tried the square needles? They are pretty awesome. You may find some materials easier on the hands–wood or bamboo instead of metal, for instance. Good luck!

  5. I have been converting over to bamboo. I only have a couple of hooks with the large handles. I might have to find some square needles. Are they easier to hang on to?

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