Hunters, Gatherers, Stabbers, Grabbers

Thoughts on Crocheters & Knitters
Guest Post by Tory Light

I live in the country of Yarn Nation, in the province of Knitting. My primary language is Knit.

Recently I left Knitting Town (my village) and flew across Yarn Nation to Crochet Land for a conference. Not a knitting conference with crochet on the side. No. Knitting. None. Everywhere I looked, crocheters were wielding blunt hooks, not pointy sticks.

And every crocheter was amazingly friendly to me, which was weird, because many knitters I’ve encountered are only superficially sociable to strangers, if they acknowledge them at all. By contrast, I made several genuine friends during that weekend of crochet, thanks in part to the event’s tradition of providing both a mentor and a buddy to newbies like me.

It got me wondering: Here I was, still inside the borders of Yarn Nation, but clearly this other tribe was not like mine back home. We all live in Yarn Nation, and we all make pretty things.

Are Crocheters all that different from Knitters?

anthropological dig
Are they going to find knitting needles or crochet hooks in that pit?

I felt like an Anthropologist leaving a culture of Hunters and entering a culture of Gatherers. Now in the guise of a participant observer doing fieldwork, I perceived at least two distinctly different “ethnic groups” within the overall culture of Yarn Nation. A whole dissertation could grow out of this topic, but I’ll focus just on tool use, a classic way to study civilizations. I’ll also point out some linguistic implications based on the names of our main tools, the knitting needles and the crochet hooks.

Let us leave aside historical differences and differences in the technical characteristics that distinguish crocheted textiles from knitted. Let us also leave aside demographic evidence that participation in crochet (versus knitting) skews more toward crafters with less disposable income, sculptors/artists, African-Americans, males, crafters in rural areas, prison inmates, crafters who can’t or don’t use 100% wool; and so on. (Google Trends search 1/3/19)

Tools That Stab and Tools That Grab

Let’s analyze only one thing—the use of one tool vs. another—to illustrate possible differences in each tribe’s social values. These differences might be as obvious as the contrast between tools that stab and tools that grab.

Consider the main tools that we yarn crafters use, and the words and images that we associate with them:

Needles.​ Or “knitting pins”, as some people still say. They have the same shape as sewing needles and pins, so it takes little imagination to see why they have the same name. If you sew, you know that sewing needles and pins are very sharp.

At least knitting needles won’t draw blood, so in that way they are closer to crochet hooks, but still, they are not allowed in prisons. (Martha Stewart’s famous poncho was crocheted.) Remember when TSA forbade them in your airplane carry-on? On second thought, knitting needles would make great weapons. More than one murder-mystery author has chosen this ploy. And there’s practically a whole arsenal in the hands of someone working with five double-points. Just imagine the potential of a circular needle as a garrote! ​

Knitting needles are for Hunters.

Auckland Museum [CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)]

Hooks.​ A hook is used to pull something toward you. A shepherd’s crook, the catchy part of a tune, advertising—all are hooks of one kind or another. Hooks—as in hook and eye—connect two parts of a garment. Hooks—as in coat hooks—are a handy support, keeping your belongings clean and off the ground. I’ll bet you yourself use a crochet hook if for no other reason than to catch a dropped stitch and help it back up.

Crochet hooks are for Gatherers.

There’s visual symbolism going on, too: Hooks are curved. A curve is soft. From our species’ earliest days, humans have associated curves with comfort and safety. Starting with our mothers’ bodies when we were babies, to environmental features such as rolling hills and rivers, curves signify security. Conversely, humans associate pointed objects with danger and fear. Claws, thorns, jagged mountains—you get the idea.

Make a Friend; There’s Room for All

So, fellow Knitters, I know that when you attend events with your friends and do not want to socialize with strangers, you do not intend to appear cliquish. When you snub those who do not work with pure wool, you do not intend to appear superior. But sometimes you come across in negative ways. Your tool of choice literally is the more aggressive one. Maybe it plays a role in the way you interact with other people.

And that’s OK: The world needs both Hunters and Gatherers.

But here’s the thing: we are not servants to our tools. We can rise above the primitive sticks in our hands. The next time you see a Crocheter or even another Knitter, take time to get acquainted. Make a new friend. As some of Yarn Nation’s wise “bistitchual” Elders like Edie Eckman, Rick Mondragon, and Myra Wood have shown us, it is possible to thrive in both cultures.

Heading home to Knitting Town after my inspiring visit to Crochet Land, I realized that there is another Yarn Nation village I must explore sometime. It’s in the “flyover” region between Knitting and Crochet. I’m curious about that tribe of crafters. You know who I mean: Tunisian, anyone?

About Tory

The opinions expressed above are those of guest blogger Tory Light.

I started knitting as a child; I post on Ravelry; I’ve been published in a few pattern magazines. I also have my Craft Yarn Council certification as a knitting teacher, so if you were once a beginner (and who wasn’t?), maybe you’ve had a class with me. I go to at least one big knitting event per year, soaking up as much education as I can. Basically, I am very familiar with those two pointy sticks—my street creds, if you will.

You can find Tory on Ravelry, Facebook, and Instagram.

A Note from Edie

Tory’s Crochet Land conference is more commonly known as Chain Link, the Crochet Guild of America’s annual conference. Although that conference is crochet-centric, you can find crochet and other Yarn Nation crafts at other conferences around the country.

As this post is published, I’m winging my way to California for Stitches West, a conference where all types of fiber arts are welcome. Check out my Workshop Schedule for upcoming venues where I’ll be teaching both crocheting and knitting.

Yarn Nation is a nation united!

Book Review & Giveaway: Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles by Melissa Leapman cover

Storey Publishing provided a copy of Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles for my review. The opinions expressed here are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Melissa Leapman’s Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating. For one thing, it has stitch patterns (whoo hooo!). For another, it explains how to design stuff. Both of those make it a Big Win in my opinion.

The Concept

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles by Melissa Leapman shawl image

Imagine being able to knit an infinite variety of beautiful shawls with just some basic knowledge. You would start with just a few stitches, then increase on right-side rows to create a triangle. The placement of the increases would change the arrangement of the triangles and thus the shape of the shawl.

You could change up stitch patterns and choose from a variety of borders. You could choose your favorite yarn in any weight, and know that you’d be creating a lovely wrap.

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles by Melissa Leapman shawl image

The book serves as a sort of recipe book for shawls. Melissa explains the logic behind the construction of various shapes shapes, and provides a stitch dictionary full of stitch patterns to be used in their creation. Each stitch pattern includes both written and charted instructions.

The Designs

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles by Melissa Leapman shawl image

If you don’t feel like working that hard (although really it’s not that hard at all), you can just knit one of the lovely designs from the patterns Melissa designed.

There are big ones and little ones and lacy ones and solid ones and triangular ones and … You get the idea.

Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps and Stoles by Melissa Leapman shawl image

So let’s see: We have shawls that everyone in every size can wear, and you can knit them with whatever yarn you want in whatever size you want, and you can choose the stitch pattern and make it entirely your own. Really, what’s not to love?

The Giveaway

The Giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Barbara R, the lucky winner!

All images excerpted from Knitting Modular Shawls, Wraps, and Stoles© by Melissa Leapman. Photography © by Melinda DiMauro. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.

Crafting A New Family Holiday Tradition

crochet lesson on the sofa

This year the Eckman family started a new family holiday tradition: crafting together. Over Christmas week, both my 20-something children were home for a visit at the same time.

This post contains affiliate links.

Daughter Meg had brought a variety of left-over yarns to crochet flowers for a Spring Wreath.  Charles, visiting from far-away California, had in mind that he wanted to crochet a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) dice bag. He asked if I’d teach him to crochet.  How could I possibly refuse?

A Crochet Lesson

Crochet hook in jeans pocket

I grabbed a ball of Meg’s green yarn (conveniently sitting on the coffee table in front of us), a 5 mm crochet hook (conveniently within reach on my rolling cart), and demonstrated holding the hook and yarn.

A bag is a great first project. We covered the skills of slip knot, chain, slip stitch, chain-1 build-up chains, working into a ring, and single crochet in the first five minutes. Charles was a quick study, understanding the concepts right away. It was just a matter of his becoming comfortable manipulating the yarn and hook.

Wreath with crocheted flowers
Meg’s wreath with crocheted flowers

With the basic skills in place, we went back to our respective projects. I worked on my Crochet Skill-Builder Afghan (Crochet Along coming very soon!), Meg grew an entire garden of blooming flowers, and Charles worked out his own way of holding yarn and hook. And husband Bill? He joined in by helping untangle and re-wind a mess of yarn. It really was a family affair!

After a while, I demonstrated double crochet, so the bag-in-progress got a round of taller stitches here and there. When the bag was the right size, he added a drawstring chain in a contrasting color. By the end of the day, the bag was complete, and it was a rousing success!

Outfitting the Newbie

Crocheted Drawstring Bag with Teal accent

Of course, our next step was to go shopping in the Yarn Room (AKA “the attic”) for yarn for the next bag. Mountain Colors Weaver’s Wool Quarters in color Glacier Teal was the winner, with a bit of odd-ball teal of unknown origin for accent. This bag is a bit larger. It’s designated as a project bag, to hold not only a WIP (Work in Progress), but also the small collection of stitch markers, scissors, and other necessities that every crocheter needs.

Over several days, we worked on various projects. Instead of staring at our individual device screens, we worked with nice yarn, created beautiful things and (gasp!) talked to one another.

He’s Hooked

Charles crocheting

We now have a Crochet Convert. Between stitching sessions, Charles polled members of his D&D campaign to ask what two colors would best represent their characters. He headed back to California with enough yarn to make custom dice bags for all the players in the campaign, along with hooks in varying sizes, and a copy of The Crochet Answer Book. (I’m assuming that none of them read this blog, so a spoiler alert wasn’t necessary there.)

Planning for Next Year

Crocheting together was a lovely way to spend time together as a family. I think we’ve crafted a new holiday tradition! This year it was crochet. I wonder what we’ll do next year?

Next week, I’ll share the pattern for the Crochet Bag for Beginners (AKA D&D Dice Bag).

For a bit of perspective, check out Teach a Young Child to Knit. These same two “children” appear with yarn there, too.


Knit Socks For Those You Love - 11 Original Designs By Edie Eckman

Don’t Panic If You Haven’t Finished Those Handmade Christmas Gifts (UFOs)

If you are a crafter, about now you may be facing the reality that it might not be feasible to get those handmade Christmas gifts finished by Christmas morning. 

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Don’t barricade yourself behind a closed door, risking carpel tunnel syndrome in attempt to eke out those last few thousand stitches! Wouldn’t you rather be spending your time with friends and family, eating too many sweets, engaging in snowball fights, exclaiming over growing children, chastising grown children, or whatever your family holiday traditions include? 

Here’s the solution: Just download and print as many of these free cards as you need. Grab the gift-in-progress, even if it’s still in the ball-of-yarn-and-good-intentions stage. Toss the whole thing into a gift bag, add the card or gift tag and you’re good to go. 

Six options to choose from: 5″ x 7″ cards or 8.5 cm x 5 cm gift tags for knitting, crocheting, and crafting. Click on the image to download the pdf.

Card-Knitting UFO
UFO Gift Card-Crochet
UFO Card-Crafting
UFO Gift Tag-Crochet
UFO Gift Tab-Crafting

Now relax and enjoy the holidays!

Norwegian Dream Hat Knitting Pattern

Norwegian Dream Hat by Edie EckmanThe traditional knitting patterns of Norway inspired this classic Norwegian Dream hat. The unisex design is timeless. Use any fingering weight yarn you love (suggestions follow).

This post contains affiliate links.

The Inspiration

Last summer, my husband and I spent ten days in Norway. The first day, we visited the Dale of Norway factory, where they make beautiful machine-knit sweaters which can be found all over Norway. My husband fell in love with the designs and wanted to buy an expensive hat like this one. Although I was willing to pay big bucks for a sweater (and did), I just wasn’t willing to pay that much for a hat.

Selbuvotter coverInstead, I came up with A Plan. There was a yarn shop in every village we visited*.  I bought three balls of yarn on sale. I bought the stunningly inspirational Selbuvotter by Anne Bardsgard** to use as a reference. I knit a hat.

*I swear I wasn’t looking for them. I just kept tripping over them!

**Yes, it’s all in Norwegian, and I don’t care. I can read charts.

 

Actually, I knit two hats. I had enough yarn to switch out the main color with one of the contrasting colors to create matching hats that aren’t all matchy-matchy.

About the Yarn

The Dale of Norway Daletta I bought on sale is discontinued (sad face), which I why I got it cheap. You can’t beat US $8 for two hats!

However, this is a classic yarn, so you can use any classic fingering weight yarn you like. Wool will work best, although a wool blend should also work. If you don’t have any in your stash, you might try Cascade 220 Fingering, Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, Cloudborn Highland Fingering Yarn, or King Cole Merino Blend 4-ply..

Each 50 g ball of Daletta has 154 yards [141 m]. It took me about 100 yards of the main color and a total of about 85 yards of the contrasting colors for one hat.

About the Construction

Knit it in the round on circulars and double-points, or use the magic loop method.

You’ll be using a chart for the colorwork, but there are only two colors per round. Practice holding one color in each hand for extra-speedy knitting.  Watch How to Work Stranded or Fair Isle Knitting for tips on this technique.

About the Pattern

You’ll be using a chart for the colorwork. The interactive pdf includes links to tutorials for the magic loop  and for stranded/Fair Isle knitting techniques.

An independent tech editor has checked the pattern for errors, and an enthusiastic team of knitters has already tested the pattern.

Be sure to share photos of your completed #NorwegianDreamHat on your favorite social media channels! We want to see what you’ve made!

Avoiding Bumps on the Cast-On Edge

cast on with purl bumpsWhen it comes to those ugly bumps at the cast-on edge, my skin crawls. Those bumps are a common knitting problem — dare I call them an “error”? However, it’s easy to avoid them once you understand that your cast-on has a right side and a wrong side.

The following explanations and video apply to right-handed knitters. Left-handed knitters, you may be casting on and knitting differently, but you should read and watch the video to understand the concept. Adapt it as necessary to fit your knitting technique.

Long-Tail Cast On

closeup of long tail cast on
Right side of long-tail cast on

When you cast on stitches using the long-tail method, the stitches are on the right needle at the completion of the cast on. You are looking at what is generally considered the “right side” of the cast on.

closeup of wrong side of long tail cast on
Wrong side of long-tail cast on

When you turn needle to put it in your left hand in preparation to work the first row, the purl side of the cast on is facing you. It’s usually considered the “wrong side” of the cast on.

If you knit that first row, you are knitting a wrong side row. This is perfectly fine if you are working garter stitch or reverse stockinette stitch, but stockinette stitch is “knit right side rows, purl wrong side rows”.

If you knit the first row after a long-tail cast-on, you’ll get a series of purl bumps on the right side (the knit side).

Instead of knitting the first row, simply purl the first row (a wrong side row), and continue with stockinette stitch.

Cable Cast On

close-up of cable cast on
Right side of cable cast on

When you cast on stitches with the cable cast on method, the stitches are on the left needle at the completion of the cast on. The right side of the cast on is facing you, and you don’t have to turn the needle around to start the first row. Therefore, knit the first row to avoid the bumps.

Knitted Cast On

Right side of knitted cast on
Right side of knitted cast on

The knitted cast on works the same way as the cable cast on. The cast on stitches are on the left needle, so just knit the first row and there won’t be any bumps.

The Solution

stockinette stitch with smooth cast onNo matter which cast on you use — and there are many more than these to choose from — pay attention to whether it has a smooth side and a bumpy side. In most cases, choose the smooth side as your right side and work the first row accordingly. You’ll avoid those bumps on your cast-on edge, and the State Fair knitter in you can be proud.

For more knitting tips, visit Knit: Basics & Beyond.