HOUSEKEEPING AND STARTING BEGINNERS

Some questions recently posed:

What happened to the list of recent referrers that used to be on the right?

It’s gone.  I had been using a free service to report the places that people had been coming from.  That service is no longer available.  What’s there now is the native referral reporting feature offered by Blog City.  Not very informative.

Of minor interest and on sort of a tangent to the where folk come from data point, the single largest thing people visit String to see is the pattern/report/working method for my Waterspun poncho.  That page is the most viewed on the whole site, by an overwhelmingly huge margin.   After that comes Stupid Stitch Marker Tricks.  Lots of other posts from the general reference and pattern headers follow.  All are understandable, as they contain how-tos or other info that  I thought people would find useful.  The only anomaly is the post I did about the name frequency web toy.  For some reason, that post was picked up far and wide, and is in the top ten visited list.

Am I going to change the referrer reporting tool?  Probably not.  We’re plotting big things here for both String and wiseNeedle, so there are not a lot of spare moments to spend on redecorating what’s in each spot right now.  I will continue to post here though – sporadic as it has become.

So?  How were the fingerless mitts received? 

Tickled!  The recipient was absolutely tickled.  It’s always fun to give a gift that’s appreciated. 

What’s the next gift?

I’m now working on one of those standard issue fancy yarn garter stitch scarves.  While I’m not fond of making them, this new deserving recipient saw one worn by another person and went googly over it.  I was lurking nearby and took notice. 

I’m using US #13s and plain old Eros and ColorLash – an oft-mixed pair to be sure.  While the result is striking looking and no doubt tempting for beginners to knit, I despair at the number of people who have probalby given up knitting because of this stuff.  Others have noted how unruly both yarns are, how they slither off the needle and off the ball; how easy it is to drop or inadvertently increase a stitch; and how annoying it can be when a needle tip snags in the interstices of the railroad ribbon.  I know in my hanging out at the LYS days, I must have rescued a half-dozen of these scarves for distraught beginners, reseating the stitches on the needles after their inevitable escape.  Which brings me to a discussion thread that doesn’t have an externally posed question to cue it.  So I supply one just for fun:

What’s makes a good beginners’ project?

I’m of two minds on this one.  First, the best thing for a beginner to knit is something that a beginner wants to knit. Telling someone that something is beyond them is a "one size fits all" defeatist strategy.  Some people learn better when faced with a challenge.  Others get discouraged if they’re told something is hard before they even try it. 

At the same time, not every knitter can leap in and make a complex bit of lace, a fitted Fair Isle or an elaborate Aran sweater as their first-ever piece.  There’s a balance here to strike among well-behaved materials in comfortable sizes, project scale that provides the best mix of achievablity and challenge, and skill requirements that stretch the knitter without frustration.  If I have to recommend something as a first project, I tend to look for these factors:

  • Smooth, classic finish yarn rather than texture
  • Worsted or Aran weight (20 or 19 stitches = 10 cm or 4 inches)
  • Size US #6 to #8 needles (depending on yarn weight used)
  • Light color to make stitch identification easier

What size project and whether it’s knit flat or in the round depends on the knitter.  I’ve started people out on everything from small swatch sized mug rug squares, to scarves, hats, even socks.  Full sweaters (unless they are ultra simple dropped sleeve ones in little kid sizes) I tend to recommend for a second or subsequent project.  But again, desire to knit is the strongest motivator of all.  If someone REALLY wants to use an unruly yarn for a first project, or begin with an adult size cardigan,  hot desire can trump cooler considerations. 

My own first project was a Dr. Who length scarf that started out in garter stitch and quickly took off on a tangent as I tried out all the stitch texture patterns in my book on it.  My second was a Penny Straker trinity stitch baseball jacket. 

Are you someone who started out on the classic track, or are you someone who did the knitting equivalent of jumping off the end of a pier to learn how to swim?  Would you encourage a beginner to embark on what you know will be a challenge, hoping that perseverence will see the newbie through the difficulties ahead?  Or would you try to gently redirect that person to something that’s easier, more in line with the classic progression from first swatch through scarf, flat knit drop shoulder pullover, and so on?  Inquiring knitters want to know…

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