Monday, August 25, 2008

Spatially Challenged

So, I know I've been silent for a few days, here, so I just thought I'd pop in and let you know what I've been up to. I have a new passion...knitting. Not socks and mittens and booties kind of knitting, but elegant cobwebby lacy shawls kind of knitting.

You know, the sort of knitting that takes years of practice and oodles of talent.

You know, the sort of thing I don't have.

In spades.

So the other day, armed with
1. an extensive set of knitting needles (given to me by my husband's mother, who prefers crochet),
2. a pile of worsted-weight yarn in rainbow colors left over from various abandoned crochet projects (I can crochet, which makes this whole thing doubly frustrating),
3. several books promising me that I would be knitting scarves, jumpers and various undergarments in no time, and
4. a burning desire to knit,
I opened my book to the page for absolute beginners and prepared to cast on (where you get your first row of stitches onto the knitting needle).

And here is where my inability to translate two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensional movements of yarn and needles trips me up. I cannot follow the damn pictures. All those squiggles of yarn going every which way...I tried three different methods and couldn't figure out any of them.

In desperation, I called my mother. "I'm a complete moron!" I wailed.

"No, you're not," she said. "Let me get my needles and yarn and I'll talk you through it."

Five minutes later, I had my first thirty stitches cast on.

It feels dreadfully awkward, though, so I'm sure I must be doing something wrong. Of course, what my mom told me is the "right handed" method, which is the way she knits and the way all my books demonstrate. And me being left handed, I wonder if I'd be better off doing it left handed...but although the books show how to knit left handed, they don't show you how to cast on left handed, and I'm so spatially challenged that I can't translate right handed instructions to left handed...

So at the moment, I am feeling extremely useless, awkward, stupid, and slow, and I'm starting to wonder if I ought to just give up my dreams of delicate, fussy lace and go back to crocheting pot holders.

Oh, well, at least I've managed not to stab myself with a knitting needle.


Writing Prompt: Mastery of anything takes time, and too often we are unwilling to put in the time and practice it takes to master something. Is there anything you would like to master but have not tried because you feel it would take you too long to learn? What's really stopping you?


tiltatwindmills said...

Ah! Knitting! A topic near and dear to my heart! Most folks do best starting with someone in person to help them. If you live in an even vaguely populated area there will be knitters willing to help you. Try asking at your local yarn shop for a group (though they might look askance at your rainbow yarn...especially if it is acrylic...just to warn you...but I promise, most knitters are nice).

I've done a lot of the lacy knitting you describe, and if you can get the basics down, you can easily make the jump to very fancy lace pretty fast. But you might do well to start with a simple project, like a ribbed or stockinette hat. Whatever you do DON'T start with a scarf. Scarves are deadly dull if you don't know how to do designs yet, and you inevitably get a lot better by the end of the scarf and hate what you did at the beginning.

Good luck!

Jazz said...

Thanks for the encouragement!
Er...yes, the yarn is acrylic...I wasn't planning to knit lace with it, though I thought it would be good for practice, but after working with it a bit, I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't go get some wool or something.

I'll be seeing my mom next weekend, so I'm going to have her show me in person! She's an excellent knitter--she used to knit all my sweaters when I was a kid, and hats and mittens and everything.

It's funny you should mention how boring scarves mom knitted my husband and I eight-foot long scarves one xmas years ago, and when she asked us what colors, I said, "All the colors of the rainbow", and hubby said, "Black." Guess who's scarf she still tells horror stories about knitting?

deepblue said...

Hey, I'm left-handed, too! And I'm impressed you learned how to crochet. My grandma tried to teach me and got so frustrated with trying to teach a lefty that she gave up. I haven't tried anything like it ever again! All my sisters are into knitting now, too, but it intimidates me. Good luck!! :)

tiltatwindmills said...

You really might be happiest working with some 3-4 ply worsted weight wool to begin with. It can be nice to use multicolored since it is easier to see how the stitches fit together. You don't want anything lumpy or bumpy, and 1-ply yarn can fray a bit easily for a beginner, which gets frustrating. In general, acrylic isn't as pleasant to work with (not always, but in general, there are some nice synthetics out there, but you didn't hear it from me...).

Jazz said...

It intimidates me terribly, to be honest. All I can think of is the knitting lessons at my mother's knee when I was about 8, always ending up in tears and torn-out stitches.

But I have seen these gorgeous lace shawls with beautiful sparkly beads, and I want so much to be able to create things like that. I just need to take it slow and not expect to be able to do it perfectly the first time! I guess it will be a good lesson in mindfulness for me!

As far as crochet goes, I crochet right it seems really odd to me that I can't manage to knit right handed. I golf right-handed and play tennis (when I used to do such things) left handed.

Guess I haven't made my mind up which handed I am!

Jazz said...

I just got back from the hobby shop with a lovely skein of a multicolored blue-purple sort of wool. It feels so much nicer than that acrylic stuff...I don't have time to have a go with it right now, but I'm going to try again tonight. Wish me luck!

Stephany said...

I crocheted a pot holder and it looks like a collar for a pilgrim outfit! I'm envious of anyone who has the patience for knitting or crochet!

Jazz said...

I know the feeling! That's how my previous attempts at knitting have been. I tried to get into it about twenty years ago and gave up in disgust. I think I have a bit more patience now, though, so I'm hoping that this time I'll be able to stick through the learning part until I'm able to do the stuff I really want to do!

Aqua said...

Hi Jazz,
I had this great idea when I first readyour post yesterday (well it "might" be an grea idea. My sister is left handed, and I get how hard the translation from "right handed" techniques and tools to "left-handededness" can be.

I had this idea: When I scan something on my scanner it has a choice to do a "vertical flip"...what this does is produces a mirror image of whatever is scanned...not sure, but that might translate your knitting pictures into left-hand pictures??

I could be way of base, but it seemed like an good idea when I was thinking about yur difficulty with translating the stitches.

I am sure you will do well once you get more practice, especially if you know how to crochet. What a talent to have.

Jazz said...

Thanks for the idea, Aqua, hubby already suggested that, but when I looked more closely at what I was supposed to be doing (I picked up a new book yesterday which shows very clearly how to do it!) I realized that the handedness in knitting has only to do with which hand you use to control the yarn, and has nothing to do with how the stitches work, or which way the pictures go. Yesterday I picked up some bamboo knitting needles (not nearly as slippery as my metal ones) and some wool (rather than the acrylic stuff I was trying to use), and with the new instruction book, I actually got started and it feels like it's something I can do with a bit of practice. What a difference the right tools make!

And talk about talent, Aqua, I am very envious of your ability to paint. Can't remember if I commented on it on your blog, but I thought your zebra series was awesome!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
As another left-handed person I know what you're talking about. When I decided to learn to knit, I got a few DVDs from the library on knitting. I still couldn't do it, but it seemed like it might be perfectly clear for someone who has any capability in this area!

I bought another musical instrument instead!


Mary said...

I never thought that anyone could teach me to knit. When I was a child my grandmothers both tried to teach me but to no avail. then a friend of mine taught me to knit on round needles. The first thing I ever knitted was a sweater for winter time, the ones with the designs on them. So don't give up, you will get the hang of it. If I could do it so can you..take care Mary

Jazz said...

The world should be kinder to us lefties, methinks! A new musical instrument would be nice...unfortunately, the guitar I've got my eye on costs a whole lot more than a few skeins of thread and some knitting needles!

Jazz said...

Thank you so much for the encouragement! I didn't realize until the last few days how much those childhood failures had intimidated me. I come to knitting thinking it's this dreadfully difficult thing, but once I found the right set of instructions, I'm finding that it's not so hard after all. And all my years of crochet have taught me how to keep an even tension in the the yarn, so even my first swatch of a few rows of knit and a few rows of purl didn't look too bad! Nothing like the tangled messes I remember from childhood!

superlagirl said..., yo! Videos!

Jazz said...

Thanks, Superlagirl! This looks really helpful!

Now I am in even more trouble--my (right-handed, of course) daughter wants me to teach her to knit...I will probably end up sending her to my mother...