Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not Too Cool to Knit

A couple of years ago, I took up knitting because it was something constructive to do with my hands. The idea was that, while I knitted, I wouldn’t smoke, which would help me stop, you know, slowly poisoning myself.

Yeah, well. I still puff away, but at least I have a useful, new skill – one that’s basic at this point, but slowly expanding.

Knitting is easy to learn. The next time you’re near a thrift store or charity shop, pop in and see if you can find any knitting supplies. You want straight needles and some yarn for learning. That’s all you really need to get started. However, if you happen to find a bag full of a bunch of other knitting stuff for a great price (cloth/plastic tape measure; point protectors; stitch markers, that sort of stuff), go ahead and pick it up. At worst, you’ll trade it to somebody who wants it.

The Internet is full of diagrams, videos, and pictures that teach you how to knit. YouTube is a good place for knitting videos, by the way.

If you prefer learning from books, stop at your local Walmart, Target or craft store and pick up one of their little instructional knitting guides from the crafts section. Mine’s called something like “I Taught Myself Knitting!” or “I Taught Myself to Knit!” or maybe “I Can’t Believe This is So Freaking Easy – Now I Feel Stupid for Giving That Upscale Store Eighty Bucks for a Scarf That Took an Hour to Knit.”

This thin, inexpensive book – more like a booklet, really – taught me all the most basic concepts. Learning those occupied several weeks of my time, and fully prepared me to move on to the more complicated stitches and projects.

Anyway. The first few stitches that you learn are good for basic projects. You’ll probably start by making simple things, like scarves or pot holders. Don’t knock ‘em. Pot holders are insanely useful, you know. And scarves are too, unless you live in Central Texas like I do.

As you continue knitting, you’ll want to start learning how to do more complicated stuff. You can knit your own sweater, for example, or make an afghan that covers your bed and keeps you nice and toasty. Knit a blanket for your faithful homestead dog, or give your kid a cool beanie for Christmas. Whatever. Really, there are tons of useful things that you can make with a skein or two of yarn and a pair of needles. I didn’t want to buy curtains for my bedroom, so I knitted them. Kind of heavy, but that’s not a problem as long as I avoid buying the 99-cent curtain hangers from Walmart.

And just for you, here’s a tip: don’t go to Walmart, JoAnn’s, et cetera for yarn. You don’t need to do that. You’re a resourceful kind of person, so look around for people who attempted to learn knitting or crocheting, but gave up. You’ll find evidence of their premature surrender at the local thrift shops and garage or yard sales.

You can also take apart sweaters and salvage the yarn to make other things. This is particularly useful if everyone in the house has outgrown that ugly old sweater, but the yarn in it is still good.

No matter what happens in this economy, you now have another useful skill. If the U.S. sits pretty for the next fifty years, you have something constructive to do when the weather sucks, the kids are in bed and you want to occupy your hands while you listen to the radio or yak with the spouse. When times are good, people will give you cash for what you’ve created. Go find a pack of teenagers. They really, really like wool beanies, even in summertime. Why? I have no idea. They’ll give you ten, fifteen, twenty bucks for your knitted cap, which will take you a couple of hours at most to make once you get the hang of it. Oh – and caps don’t require much yarn, so many of us knit them from leftover stuff. Oh, look. Those leftover bits of yarn gain you enough cash to go buy obscene amounts of yarn to knit other stuff. Good deal, right?

If society goes right into the toilet, you can barter. You can certainly work out some sort of trade, right? A knitted scarf could be worth a few packets of seeds if that’s your thing, or a share of the meat that a neighbor’s butchering. What about wash cloths? Baby blankets? Adult blankets? If you search the Internet, you will find all sorts of free patterns that will make many useful things. Even when people no longer have cash to fork over for your goods, they just might have something that you want for trade.

All of the above also applies to crocheting, so don’t hesitate to check that out if you’re interested. Either one is useful no matter what happens in the next few weeks, months or years, so why not add one, the other, or both to your skill set?

Useful Links:
Knitting Help

Island of Misfit Patterns

Pattern: The London Beanie


  1. You sound so much wiser than your actual years! What all have you made with your knitting talent? I have never learned to knit because I could never figure out the two needle thing. I do remember learning to crochet when I was about 7 years old. I learned to sew, can food and a bunch of stuff about that same time. Who knew that those basic skills could likely come in hand here soon in the future.

    prepared warrior

  2. Thank you, Preparedwarrior. Let's see...mostly, I've knitted blankets for the two- and four-legged family members, because they're very useful here in my part of Texas. I've done some knitted caps, though they aren't quite as useful in this climate. And scarves, though fun to knit, aren't on my list of must-do projects.

    Pot holders, too, are good. I'm currently keeping my eye out for some natural yarn that would be suitable for wash cloths, because the synthetic stuff just isn't going to cut it.

    All the basic skills that we've learned over the years could very well be handy soon, if we aren't already using them. I think that we're all able to learn at least one of these types of things, and do it well. Knitting might not be your thing, but sewing is extremely valuable. (Mom sews. I can do basic things, like reattach buttons. But I'd like to get her to show me how to use her machine. That would be a good skill to have, I think.)


“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm