In March 2011, I was invited to a beginners workshop for fiber arts focusing on knitting. I was able to have one-on-one lessons with my instructor, Caroline Wise. We set out some roving on the dyeing table (wooden bench covered with plastic), got out the jars of colors (food coloring, tea, kool-aid) in water, and a one inch foam brush for painting. I made sure my brush wasn’t too wet so the colors wouldn’t run. I was able to create three designs – two light multi-colored and one focusing on dark blue.
After the paint process, I wrapped each design in plastic, rolled it up, and microwaved it to set the colors. After cooling, the fiber is rinsed to remove excess dye. Then I was able to watch my colors dry on a rack – don’t need dripping water for the next step which is either using the spinning wheel or the spindle. I tried both. The wheel was fast and left my fiber in pieces. The spindle is a slower method, but the one that I prefer. You slowly pull the fiber to thin it and then spin it to strengthen it.
The next step is knit. There are many fibers, some bigger or softer than others. There are a multitude of needles to choose from – metal, wood, plastic that all come in varying sizes from US 0-11, most common, and even up to size 50. These sizes will determine the length of the project – adult shawl or an infant beanie in which case you would need circular and double-pointed needles to complete. I attempted to learn with size 10 metal needles and had fun working with size 15 wooden needles. The bigger the needle, the bigger the stitch, and the easier it is to learn with.
I was able to take my new yarn and size 10 needles home where I would attempt the knitted paw print cloth by Rhonda White at knittingknonsense.com. I would attempt multiple times, but about the fourth row in I would notice a missing stitch or some other mistake. I would try frogging and end up undoing the whole project. Back I would go to YouTube to relearn how to cast on stitches. I had such a hard time remembering which side the needle went in or where the yarn went; I struggled.
A year would pass and I was back in the home of my teacher. This time I was able to bring my husband who learned some of these crafts as a child. He was able to knit ten rows in minutes. I was impressed and suggested he do the paw print. It took him two nights to complete and then it was my turn. It took me six hours to knit and purl 36 stitches, 57 rows. Then I had to bind off. I thought this would be a cute-like-tying-a-bow-process. It’s supposed to be the opposite of casting on. It turned out to be a stressful, grueling process.
Luckily, Caleb had already made the pattern and was able to help me through my struggles the whole way. This time I didn’t stop for mistakes. I didn’t want to pause again this time and wonder how long it would take me to pick up these needles again. I forgot to eat and was getting cranky, but I finished and felt so proud and accomplished. Turns out that my paw print came out looking more like the picture than his did. Afterwards, we bought cookies at the local Relay for Life and walked some laps with our neighbor.
After a day’s rest for my tired hand I would use the yarn I dyed and spun. I wasn’t aware yet of how many yards it takes to make certain things. I had a scarf in mind. What I got was a saddle blanket for my rat terrier – 40sts, 80 rows. With this project I learned how to add yarn. Now I was ready to make a hat, or so I thought. I’m waiting for double-ended needles in the mail. This will be the next step, and it will try my patience, but this time – I’m ready. Not wanting to listen to A Tale of Two Cities doing nothing I grabbed some yarn and began another scarf. I’m about halfway done with 38sts, 160 rows equaling two feet. My gauge with the US 10, 14” needles is: 4sts (stitches) and 6 rows = 1 inch (roughly).
This has been a great learning process. There are a few people, so far, that have offered me motivation to make them something. I look forward to learning new stitch techniques and embroidery. Then I can relearn cross stitch and learn how to crochet. Caleb and I have a quilt in the making as well and I will try to post pictures, possibly videos, of the process and the end success. It is so much fun to learn new things and to make things with your own hands. Thank you to Caroline and Caleb for their patience that I know I can lack when wanting new skills to look like I have been doing them for years.