Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Knitting is a survival skill

I was lucky to go to school while the importance of teaching kids such life-skills as cooking, sewing and constructing things from wood and metal was still recognised. We spent several weeks in each class, several hours per week. I believe that many schools no longer teach these skills, which is a real shame, and the subject of another post entirely. My point here is that I learnt to sew when I was 11 and I got a bit of practice making different things. The school had the same sewing machines as my mother’s Bernina, so I was able to practice at home as well. My parents gave me a new Brother for my 21st birthday. I am not a brilliant sewer, but I am comfortable with cutting out and sewing fabric, especially simple projects like curtains, which can be pretty handy for making what we need and saving money.


While I learnt to knit around the same age, I never practiced much had never learnt to follow a pattern or any fancy stitches. I did not (and still do not) feel as comfortable with knitting, but I am forcing myself to learn.

Why bother to learn to knit when I can sew what I need? To some extent knitting and sewing cover different applications, but where there is overlap, I see several advantages to knitting:
  • Knitting is portable – you can take it with you nearly anywhere.
  • Knitting is quiet – I can knit in front of the TV or listen to the radio without drowning it out, as the sewing machine does.
  • Knitting is potentially more self-sufficient – with the right tools you can spin wool from fleece and knit the wool to make nearly any shape. If you can’t buy fabric, you can’t sew anything, and making fabric at home is not as simple as spinning fleece (not that I can do that yet!).
  • There are certain things that are suited to knitting rather than sewing, such as socks, that are high use items I would like to be able to make.
While there are certain large items that I would never attempt to knit, lately when I have “needed” something, like a cover for our tablet computer, or one of those fluffy seat-belt shoulder pad thingies, that I could easily sew up in minutes, I have decided to knit instead. Even though it takes longer to knit, it is an opportunity to practice, and I am seeing the results. I am getting faster and more confident.

If you are new to knitting, my advice is to look for simple projects that you might normally buy or make another way, and knit them instead. The simple things that I have made include a warm wooly headband, button-up snood (just a short scarf really), the cover for our tablet and a seat-belt shoulder pad. I then tried out more technical patterns such a snood “in-the-round” on circular needles, fingerless mittens, socks and a vest. Now I’m working on an alpaca shawl in a lacy stitch that uses slip stitches, and knitting two together, something I never thought I would be able to do when I first started.

My next step is to learn to crochet with wool (rather than just finger-crocheting rag rugs!).

What do you think? Do you choose between sewing and knitting?


7 comments:

  1. I only knit squares for blankets with wool I find in charity shops, I'm a sewer

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  2. I knit and sew and crochet for fun and for practical purposes too. I think all three are great skills to have.

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  3. I've been learning to knit along with you Liz but I still haven't attempted fancy stitches! Well done! It looks really good. I've made heaps of wash cloths, the socks, a dress for Belle and now I'm trying to make a jumper for Buddy Boy. The dress and jumper are both projects that took/take ages!! They are all just easy patterns though. Strongly agree that knitting is portable and a skill worth having.

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  4. I like to knit and sew. Knitting is great because it is so portable and I usually have a few things on the go at one time. Something simple that doesn't require much thought like dishcloths, which I can tuck into my bag when I go out, something a little more complex but still simple enough not to use too much thinking, and something a little more complex for when I have a little more time to put into it. So knitting for me, although I make useful things, is also for relaxation. Whereas sewing is more technical in that I have to sit at a machine. I love sewing for the creativity in selecting the fabrics and putting them together. Either one I love them.

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  5. I agree with you that, sadly, sewing and knitting and many of the old crafts are not taught in schools any more, at least not in primary. I have taught my 8 year old daughter to knit and now she is learning crochet from a book we borrowed at the library. She loves the sense of achievement she gets from something she has made herself from scratch, and I love watching her learn as I did at her age.

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  6. I am a knitter although I dabble in sewing and crochet sometimes too. I spin my own wool and make knit and felted bags (which I sell). I also make all my own socks and gloves. I love the tactile sensation of spinning and knitting, and I love that I can take a fleece from my sheep and turn it into useful things for me and my family.
    I am in the middle of a blog post series about the journey from fleece to felted bag at the moment; check it out.

    http://gardengoddess246.blogspot.com.au/

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  7. Great comments everyone! I've just got to learn crochet now...

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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