Sunday, 23 October 2011

Starting from Scratch

I don't actually remember when I learnt how to knit, or who taught me. I know, though, that the first thing I learnt to make were padded hangers - I thought they were pretty daggy, but Steph loved them so I kept making them for her as presents. I love them now too and I have quite a few in my wardrobe. They're ridiculously simple to knit, you just make a rectangle out of plain knit stitches, and the rest is in the sewing.

One of the hangers from my wardrobe
After knitting a lot of hangers, I remember that when my Mum first taught me how to purl it was a revelation. I noticed fairly early on that there was a difference between knitted and purled material, but no one ever sat me down and properly taught me the difference between garter and stockinette stitch. There's a scarf in my drawer from early high school (when I was 12 or so) that's made up in basketweave stitch, and I remember being so proud of myself because I figured out the pattern on my own.

My basketweave scarf
Since then I haven't really come up with anything on my own. I've taught myself (with lots of help from the internet!) how to do various increases and decreases, and I can alter a pattern, but I haven't ever just taken a ball of wool and some needles and winged it on anything more complicated than a rectangle. Part of the problem is that I absolutely hate ripping things out - it seems like such a waste of time and effort - so I knew if I ever wanted to start getting creative it would have to be something small.

When Zara opened in Sydney the lines were so ridiculous that Steph and I didn't venture in until a couple of weeks after it opened. All the good stock was pretty much gone (apparently on opening day 80% of the stock was gone in about 3 minutes!), but I picked up a nice top that was fairly plain except for the knitted bow that was sitting on it. It didn't occur to me straight away, but I realised the other day that it was nice and small and pretty simple to knit, so would make for an excellent first experimental project.

The knitted bow off my Zara top
Digging into my bag of scrap wool ended up being rather profitable - I found some merino from a hat I'd made for a cousin. There was a lot left over because she's eleven and her head is small, but being for an eleven year old girl, the wool was bright pink. It was lovely and soft though, so I went with it. The bow looked pretty easy to make - it just involved a main cylindrical part, and a smaller knitted loop to gather it in the centre. The main bit was going to be easy, but I (like most knitters, I think) hate sewing up seams, so I knitted it in the round. In retrospect it was so small that it probably would've been easier to just sew the side seam up!

Knitting in the round
The finished main tube

Once that part was done, it was just the little middle bit to do. Strangely enough, that was the part that caused the most trouble. Initially I made it way too big and it didn't gather the middle up well at all. It just sort of sat there loosely. I ended up finally biting the bullet and just ripping the whole middle out and starting again. It was actually somewhat liberating, although it still felt like a bit of a waste. I made it smaller, and it was still too big. It turns out that knitted material is much stretchier than I thought. I ended up making it comically small and just shoving the main part through it, and it came up nicely!

I stuck it on a bobby pin and I've worn it to work a couple of times. The pinkness of it makes me feel like I'm about 5, so I might try it again in a different colour. I'm really liking the pattern, especially since there's so many different things I can probably do with it - headbands, pins, decoration on clothing - so I might experiment with it a bit more and make them in different sizes to see what I can come up with :)


  1. Great idea with the padded hangers. A friend and I want to learn how to knit, and those seem like an excellent first project.

    Your post reminds me of this news story about the penguins in New Zealand:

    Cute bow!

  2. Wow, that's the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. I wonder if they still need some? I really want to make one now!

    Ooh also I was going to put up some links to the websites that I've found helpful for knitting stuff, so I'll let you know when I get around to it. I've found that videos are the best way of learning, if you do a YouTube search there's heaps of learn to knit videos :)