How & Why

I’m making slow, but steady, progress on my Summer Sweater. The days here have been an odd mix of super busy (as we’ve been working on some exciting CustomFit features that you’ll be seeing over the next few months) and peacefully quiet (as long summer days out in the sticks tend to be).

I’m particularly pleased with how this one is turning out so far:

2014-08-01 08.58.59

What is it going to be, you ask? It’s a sleeveless version of an as-yet-unreleased Amy design, worked in Mrs. Crosby Hat Box. The yarn is a joy to knit with, and is creating a fantastic fabric for this top. I’m really happy with it so far.

But it’s not just the yarn that is making me happy (though it is, to be sure). This is the first sweater I’ve knit after taking Patty Lyons’ Improve Your Knitting Craftsy class. As some of you may remember, I’ve been on a quest for some time now to improve my own knitting — not only do I want to create even stitches, without rowing out, and a good fabric that doesn’t grow mysteriously, and for my gauge to stay consistent from piece to piece, and from sweater to sweater…

…I want to know why that happens, and how to control it. Even with CustomFit, I would be nervous knitting my sweaters because I wasn’t sure if my gauge was changing as I knit. Or I’d start rowing out halfway through and I didn’t know why. I didn’t have a good reason for most of my knitting technique – it was just the way I figured it out from reading Stitch N Bitch, with adjustments made here or there based on isolated tips and tricks from different classes and people.


Patty is pretty fantastic.

Patty’s class turned out to be just what I was looking for, that I didn’t even know existed. It was revelational. (And clearly, it’s one of the reasons we asked her to teach at our retreat this year, and are so excited to share it with you all as well.) In it, Patty covers many different types of knitting techniques, and by that, I mean how you hold and move your yarn around, as well as the pros and cons of each. But perhaps even more importantly, Patty discusses the proper way to size your stitch using your needles, without distorting it or the stitches around it — regardless of which technique you use. She thoughtfully breaks down the most basic motions of knitting technique, explains what is happening, and why it’s important.

My knitting technique didn’t change drastically, but it changed fundamentally, in a way that now makes me completely confident and consistent in the formation of my stitches. And my fabric reflects that.

I strongly believe that knitting is best taught and learned in-person. While I learned a lot from the Craftsy videos, but I’m really looking forward to being in Patty’s class this September and benefitting from her being able to *look* at my technique and make individualized suggestions. That being said, I think every single knitter would benefit from what Patty teaches in this class, and if you don’t have the ability to take it with Patty in person, the Craftsy class is (significantly) better than not taking it at all.

I learned to knit from a book. Amy learned to knit from her Gram, who clearly knew what she was about, because Amy’s fabric looks machine made in the best possible way. But even Amy didn’t know why her knit fabric was so good until we really started delving into this subject over the past year. I wonder how many of us really think about our knitting in this way?

So, how did you learn to knit? Were you taught the “why” as well as the “how”? We’re really curious — please do share your knitting story with us!

15 thoughts on “How & Why

  1. I squeaked by as an 11 year old and made house slippers for my grandma (she had the smallest feet in the family) for the youth group assignment.

    Then in my early 50’s, I decided knitting couldn’t be that hard. I got my needles and yarn and sat in front of the computer and watched the videos on I love to knit now. I would say having the computer has been the biggest help to my knitting. I would love to take some actual classes in person. I think it would really accelerate my learning. There are some things I’ve read about and tried to do, but just can’t quite get there yet. Most things I try work out great though. I really don’t know very many people who knit and many of the ones I know, are people I have taught.

  2. I took my first official knitting class this year and I chose it more so to meet the celebrity teacher than to learn something. Otherwise, I’m entirely self-taught from books, internet articles, and old-fashioned trial and error. While I’m sure I could have saved some time by having a more experienced knitter nearby for help (for instance, I only learned recently when picking up stitches one is not supposed to pick up the leg of a stitch. oops) all of my habits, quirks, and ‘rules’ (always do this! never do that!) are entirely my own. I’m very proud to be a fast, skilled, self taught knitter.

    Because something compelled me to learn I think of knitting as more of a calling rather than a hobby. I knit not because someone I admire did or wanted me to learn but because I can’t not knit. I am pulled to learn more about knitting so the “why” of my techniques has come from hours of research and years of practice.

  3. What does “rowing out” mean?

  4. I started this Craftsy class a coulple of weeks ago. I wanted to learn different methods of knitting to prevent strain and repetitive motion problems. I’m a continental knitter who doesn’t row out, and after Patty’s first lesson, I know why( no longer just dumb luck), and I figured out how to tweek my style which helped eliminate strain. Worth the money right there.

  5. This might become my first Craftsy class… I knit English-style, fairly tightly, and while my stockinette in the round looks awesome, I always row out in flat knitting. Thanks for the link!

  6. I’ll be back to see the finished result!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing – I had bought the 5 class craftsy deal a month or two ago and while I had one class decided, was looking to find more and this sounds absolutely perfect for me. (I got hooked on Craftsy thanks to Fit to Flatter – living on the other side of the world, I’m sadly not likely to get to take the class in person so this was the next best thing)

    I’m a self taught knitter thanks to the internet – i had learned crochet as a child but stopped doing any of that 20+ years ago and still don’t remember much of it. So like many others, much of what I do is trial and error or whatever video I have found.

    And thanks to google i think i sort of understand what rowing out means though I’m still not sure

  8. My mom taught me to knit oh so many years ago but I didn’t pick up needles again until about 8 years ago and even then it was hit and miss. I was blessed with a new grandbaby 4 years ago and made a blanket for her (she got it when she was a year old 🙂 ) But finishing that blanket really flipped a switch for me and I’ve been knitting pretty steadily since then. I love Craftsy classes and have purchased Improve your Knitting, now I need to watch it!

  9. I don’t think the AHD crew realizes this, so I thought maybe I should point out – when these blog posts come through in email, they all have Amy’s handwritten signature at the bottom. Several times lately, I’ve read down to the bottom of the email, and then been taken aback to see the “XOXO Amy” signature – wondering why I thought Jackie or ______ was writing the post… Finally scrolling back up to see that their name *was* at the top.
    Just a little thing, but I thought you might want to know about it.
    I’m enjoying the posts. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip, Andrea! Haha, I can definitely see how that would be confusing! I’ll look into changing it!

    2. Ok, I thought it was just me. I kept wondering why Amy was referring to herself in the third person, royalty perhaps?

      Anyway, I may echo the call for a byline at the beginning of a post, if only to get the credit where it’s due. Thanks for the good post and info.

  10. Love, love, LOVE your sweater designs–accessible, classic styles which are perfect for everyone. One small request–would you consider designing just one with pockets? I have made two Morning Coffees and one Vignette and am now working on three others(!) but would love a longer silhouette with pockets, please.

  11. I learned to knit in the 2nd grade from a small pamphlet that talked about knitting, crochet, embroidery and tatting. I didn’t have anyone to ask why or how — my mom was a crocheter, and my grandmother sewed. I didn’t know why my edges were growing, why I was making trapezoids, etc. So I quit knitting until about — oh, 8 or so years ago. A friend’s daughter was having a baby and I thought I’d crochet her a blanket (I’m not very good, so I don’t know why I thought that I should do that). The person I gave it to thought that it was knitted, and I thought “I used to knit…” so I bought a how-to book for 8 to 12 year olds, and then graduated to Stitch & Bitch by Debbie Stoller, and then The Knitting Experience series by Sally Melville. So I still don’t know the how or the why, but I fake it pretty well. 🙂 I think I’ll look into the craftsy class with Patty!

  12. I learned to knit from my mom when I was four or five. She learned from our neighbor in Ipswich, England when my dad was stationed there.

    For years and years, well make that decades, I was a fairly indifferent knitter. I was grand at starting a project but very rarely actually finished something.

    Part of the deal, was my mom was such a crazy good knitter, it was intimidating. I don’t know if my mom ever read EZ, but she certainly embodied EZ’s fearless approach to knitting. I, on the other hand, was way more timid.

    Fast forward. My mom passed away at 42. I quit smoking. Got a divorce. And was now a single, working mom. Knitting turned into my salvation.

    I started a SNB group that met every Sunday at my apartment complex rec room when I lived in Austin, TX. Then, when it closed at 6pm, we adjourned to my apartment for more knitting and Sunday dinner. These fabulous women introduced me to local yarn stores. Say hello to Hill Country Weavers, Bluebonnet Yarne Shoppe (sadly closed) & Gauge.

    All of that was over 10 years ago. My only regret is that my mom wasn’t around to join me at the Dallas Fiber Festival or the Hill Country Yarn Crawl or take classes at MadTosh.

  13. Jackie, I have this craftsy class and started it but…. you know how it is. Thanks for the push to finish it.

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