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Authors: Stephanie Pearl–McPhee

Knitting Rules!

BOOK: Knitting Rules!
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The mission of Storey Publishing is to serve our customers
by publishing practical information that encourages personal
independence in harmony with the environment.

Edited by Deborah Balmuth
Art direction and text design by Mary Velgos
Cover design by Mary Velgos and Kimberly Glyder
Text production by Mary Velgos and Jennifer Jepson Smith
Cover photographs by Adam Mastoon
Illustrations by © Diana Marye Huff
Illustration coordination by Ilona Sherratt
Indexed by Diane Brenner

Copyright © 2006 by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages or reproduce illustrations in a review with appropriate credits; nor may any part of this book be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means — electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or other — without written permission from the publisher.

The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of the author or Storey Publishing. The author and publisher disclaim any liability in connection with the use of this information. For additional information please contact Storey Publishing, 210 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247.

Storey books are available for special premium and promotional uses and for customized editions.
For further information, please call 1-800-793-9396.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Pearl-McPhee, Stephanie.
   Knitting rules! / Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.
       p. cm.
   Includes index.
   ISBN-10: 1-58017-834-0; eISBN-13: 978-1-6034-2098-3
   1. Knitting. I. Title.
TT820.P3745 2006


For Janine
whose constant ability to find bright joy
in the mundane is deeply missed

With thanks to:

My mate, Joe, for putting up with … well. He knows what he puts up with.

My beautiful and clever daughters, Amanda, Megan, and Samantha, for not turning into delinquents while I wrote this book.

My mum, Bonnie, for not letting me turn into a delinquent while I wrote this book.

My siblings, Ian, Ali, and Erin … for making out like all the knitting is cool.

My nephew, Hank, for being five years old and wanting to learn how to knit. (I forgive you for breaking the ball winder.)

My long suffering friends, Lene, Ken, Cassandra, Emma, and Denny. I owe them all hand-knit socks.

My friend and agent, Linda Roghaar, for always picking up the phone and not sighing (too loudly) when I tell her my troubles.

Deborah Balmuth, crack editor; Pam Art, visionary; and everyone else at Storey Publishing who totally understands that no matter what the rest of the world thinks, you really can have a knitting-book emergency.

Finally, special thanks to every knitter I ever met, e-mailed, or ran into in a yarn shop. I'd know nothing without them.


What is Knitting and How Does it Get Like This?

Yarn and How Not to Feel Guilty About It

Know Your Stuff

Gauge, Swatches, and Learning to Accept Them



Scarves and Shawls


A Knitters Glossary


What is
and How Does it Get Like This?

, I probably don't need to convince you that knitting is great. It's more than possible, however, that you could use a little help explaining to people why you do it, or why you do it so much, or why you can't stop doing it.

The bare bones of knitting sound simple, and they are; sadly, this is probably the beginning of the confusion between those regular people known as
and the enlightened, the extraordinary people we call

Here's the whole idea of knitting. One stick holds loops of yarn and a second stick pulls a continuous piece of string through the loops, one by one. Row upon row is accomplished until you have a piece of knitted fabric.

Non-knitters can't quite get it. You explain the basics of knitting to them, then tell them that you spend all of your money and all of your spare time on this pursuit, and inform them that you bitterly resent any time taken from it by ordinary activities like laundry and employment, and they'll look at you as if there's crazy all over you, like plaid on a Scotsman. You can show them all of your yarn (although I don't recommend this; revealing the size of the stash while you're trying to convince someone you're not nuts is counterproductive). You can even make them touch and hold it, and they're still going to wonder if you're a few sheep short of a flock.

Admittedly, if you think about it from the non-knitter's point of view, the statement “I play with string for several hours a day and never tire of it” does sound as if you're touched, but that's because the bare bones of knitting is not all there is. These non-knitters haven't lived the considerable charms of knitting or, even better than that, gotten themselves a Knitting Lifestyle.


Non-knitters don't understand that it all starts with the simplicity of pulling one loop through another (and that at first it ain't so simple). They don't understand that there's the detail of getting the loop to sit on the needle just right, or that you can knit two together, or wrap the yarn and get one more, or, horror of horrors, drop one and sit stunned, afraid that if you so much as breathe the stitch will run all the way down to the start and you'll never, ever get it picked up again. They don't know that all of this holds the key to a tiny little world of genius intrigue.

If you find a non-knitter who thinks what you do is clever, beautiful, and artistic; who never asks for knitted stuff but wears it with pride when you give it to him or her; and will help you carry home a whole fleece or a stack of stitch dictionaries without once implying that you might want to get a grip — marry that person.

Non-knitters don't know what we do, that when we first learn to knit, this sort of thing is exceedingly high drama, that the thrill of getting it right is like skydiving (except, you know, safer), and that the defeat of messing up is as nasty as losing the Boston Marathon by 10 seconds to a guy who didn't even train. How about trying to tell them about the surprise of discovering that you aren't knitting what you thought you were? That due to some bizarre and repeated error on your part, you're making a tube top instead of socks and despite the really big difference between those two items, you cannot, for the life of you, explain why. They don't understand that knitting is surprising, perplexing, and gripping, as you loop stitch after stitch through each other and make Something.

Pointing out to non-knitters that as far as dorky habits go, running marathons and keeping a stamp collection are at least as pointless as knitting and don't even keep you warm in winter won't endear you to them. Furthermore, it doesn't make them think your knitting habit makes any more sense. Stick to your knitting and say nothing about rock collections or racing plastic boats. (You can think it, though. I would.)


Once you get the hang of the act of knitting, you get to discover its variations — knitting, purling, decreasing, increasing, cabling, yarn overs, intarsia, Fair Isle, entrelac, Estonian, Latvian … How about twined knitting or … my, the mind reels, and it's only the beginning. Do you do it left-handed or right? Pick or throw? Use stranding or bobbins? Wool or cotton? Circulars or straights? Use four or five double-pointed needles, or never touch them?

The techniques available to you can take a lifetime to learn and the different ways to make these loops with sticks is engaging, clever, and not at all monotonous. Non-knitters don't understand that there's always something left to learn, and trying to tell them that there are so many extremely interesting ways to do something with string is folly. They weren't interested in the first way to do it, never mind all the ways you've read about. Non-knitters usually stop you at this point and tell you that you're out of your tree. Ignore them. Knitters have it figured out. It is non-knitters (even though they out-number us) who haven't grasped the magic.


I used to show yarn to non-knitters to help them understand. The materials we knit with are temptation itself. There's cotton, silk, and wool, for example, and fiber has come a long way in terms of sophistication. There's organic hand-dyed cotton, Italian crepe cotton, and Egyptian cotton spun fine for tiny lace caps. The silk could be softly spun, rustic, and slubby, or a floss that's almost as fine as the silkworm spun it and painted in colors that can break your heart.

If you never leave the house without your knitting, and only a house fire would make you think twice, your knitting “hobby” may have become a lifestyle.

That longtime standby, our fine friend wool, is no longer a sad itchy wallflower at the fiber ball; she has come into her glory. You can find hand-spun wool that's reminiscent of the sheep it left, cushy and bouncy, waiting to be warm mittens or a hat. There's thick bulky wool for cardigans as warm as coats, and merino spun so fine for lace knitting that the name
is really appropriate. Hand-painted, soft spun, cabled, bouclé, self-patterning for socks. The list goes on and on, and we haven't even touched the world of man-made fibers. Railroad yarn that looks like it sounds, eyelash yarns that flutter fetchingly, hard-wearing acrylics so durable that you could use them to knit tires for trucks. I swear, no matter how your tastes run, your hour is now.

Turn me loose in a yarn shop and I can be at the cash register in four minutes with Shetland for the most traditional of sweaters or sequined rayon fun fur for a thong that a Vegas showgirl would think was over the top. It's enough to make knitters want to take off their clothes and roll around in their stash, but you can't tell that to non-knitters either. (Trust me. They don't understand
the urge … not even if you show them cashmere.)

As stunning as it may seem to us, the non-knitters are immune. Completely immune. They can't understand where we get the time; they can't understand the compelling and fascinating difference between a 50/50 merino/silk blend and a 10/90 merino/silk blend. They can't understand yarn as souvenir, yarn as comfort, or knitting as intriguing. They think of knitting as both too simple and too complex. They believe they don't have time and that we're wasting our time — that knitting is both so boring they couldn't be bothered and too complex and difficult for them (but they still want the hand-knit socks).

Knitting and yarn appeal to the senses. A project in the works smells good, feels good, looks good. Never feel bad about wanting it hanging around. Knitting is too beautiful to be clutter. A half-finished shawl left on the coffee table isn't a mess: It's an objet d'art.

What non-knitters are missing is the personality-enhancing qualities of knitting. Knitting is a miracle worker. With knitting, people can suddenly do things they couldn't do before. They can wait in line without becoming impatient. They can sit through a grade-school concert with a smile. They can handle long meetings and lectures, all without bothering other people or pacing around like lunatics. I can think of several times in my own life when knitting kept me from slapping some fool upside the head.

BOOK: Knitting Rules!
10.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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