Learning to Knit and Keeping in Touch

The news is bleak right now and a lot of people are self-isolating to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those things combined can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and if you are feeling them, trust me, you are not alone. I’ve had to turn off the news almost entirely and have been talking more with my friends around the country than I have in years. I’ve also been knitting more to keep my brain and hands busy.

I’m clearly not alone. Ravelry reported they had 420,000 pattern downloads on Wednesday March 18th (175,000 is typical).

I normally socialize with my fellow knitters during knit nights and our twice monthly knitting and gaming group. We are still doing those things, but using technology to get together from our own homes. Our Friday night Knit Night will be held using Google Hangouts, which is a free way for people to hang out together and chat. For knitting and gaming we will be using Discord, also free, to video chat and Roll20 to play the game. Roll20 has paid and free versions depending on how you want to use it.

How to Stay Connected

Need to connect with someone but your local yarn store isn’t virtual? Ravelry has listed all of  the online knitting events associated with its groups. Some are make-alongs, some are virtual knit nights, virtual happy hours, and some have trivia and prizes.

I know dropping into a virtual event where you might not know anyone can feel intimidating, especially if you’re already low. I’ve done it many times and can attest to the fact that fiber people tend to be incredibly warm and welcoming (crafters in general, actually). Plus we’re all going through the same thing and looking for community right now. Ravelry also recently changed their guidelines making their community even more inclusive and welcoming to marginalized groups.

If you already have a group that wants to get together, Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts all offer free videochat.

I did a virtual knit night tonight via Google Hangouts and it went great except that my kitten, Chips, kept jumping in front of the camera like, “Hey guys do you want to see my butthole? Look at my butthole, guys!”

a grey tabby with big eyes upside down having his chest rubbed while looking at the camera
Chips the butthole bandit

How to Learn to Knit (and Crochet!)

Maybe you’ve never tried knitting or crochet before, but have a lot of time on your hands. There are plenty of online resources as well as books to walk you through the process.

First of all, many local yarn stores are offering curbside takeaway or delivery. If you’re thinking of picking up tools for beginners, give them a call and check it out. If that’s not an option, Knit Picks has beginners kits.

This learn to knit scarf kit is priced at $21.99 and contains everything you’ll need for your first project.

Knitting needles, four skeins of yarn and a book against a wooden backdrop

They also have dishcloth kits which are a great first project. Dishcloths don’t have to be perfect and (in my experience) tend to warp a little over time anyway. Plus they make a super cute gift when rolled up and tied with ribbon.

If crochet is more your style, you can get this learn to crochet kit to make dishcloths.

A book, crochet hook and three skeins of yarn against a wooden background

If you have materials, but need instruction, there are plenty of online resources, both free and for pay.

Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) is offering is a free 14 day trial for it’s classes. You can learn all kinds of crafts including fiber arts here. They are also offering 50% off single classes for March.

Emily Woodhouse’s  class on Udemy comes highly recommended and it’s free!

Skillshare offers a variety of classes for making specific projects as well as learning to knit generally. You’ll want to sign up for a free trial to make sure it’s worth it for you.

YouTube also offers lots of classes on specific techniques and learning to knit. I haven’t taken a learn to knit course that way but I often use free videos if I need to learn a stitch or technique I haven’t used before.

And of course there are books. I used Teach Yourself Visually Crochet to teach myself crochet years ago. I’m a fan of the Teach Yourself Visually books in general.

And let’s say you have about $650 burning a hole in your pocket? You could buy this gem which, based on the cover, is about using crochet to lure men into your boudoir. Seriously, WTH 1972?

A book from 1972. A woman in a mustard yellow sweater is crocheting and smiling at us while some dude in another sweater is looking at her neck like he wants to engage in sweet sweet lovin. Its extraordinary

I have never met a dude who got a boner from crochet before, but there’s a first time for everything. Maybe she’s knitting him a dick cosey?

How to Help the Fiber Community

A lot of indie dyers, pattern designers and yarn stores depend on foot traffic, cons and festivals for their income. This crisis will hurt some of them.

If you have the extra income, check out your local yarn store. Mine is still selling online and offering curbside takeaway and delivery. Many are also assembling project kits for people waiting out isolation. Some will help you shop virtually through Facetime.

If you planned on going to a con or festival and it canceled, check out the websites of the dyers and designers who were going to attend. Buying something from them will help as well.

Cocoknits is offering a free pattern to anyone who submits a receipt from the local yarn store, as well. Email a PDF of your LYS receipt to knit@cocoknits.com. Their website also offers some great tutorials and a glossary.

And money isn’t the only thing. Many small businesses are happy if you let them know you’re thinking of them right now and haven’t forgotten about them. Signal boosting their social media will also help.

What are you making?

We will weather this together, stitch by stitch.

I decided to cast on a Petit Picots (currently free) to work on during my self isolation despite knowing picking up the edges will drive me bonkers. I’m imagining myself swanning back into work when this over, feeling extremely chic. Not as chic as the woman in 1972 attracting men with her crochet, but still.

A a symmetrical shawl in an oatmeal color with a black picot border

Tell me what you’re making right now. I really want to know! If you’re on Ravelry check out our group, Smart Knitters Trashy Books, where we talk about crafts and projects.

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Elyse's Knitting

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  1. 1
    TamB. says:
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    I’m soon to post socks I made for friends I was to be seeing in April. They’re the 2nd and 3rd pair I made so… a few gaps at the heel join but good for keeping toes warm whilst reading. I’m currently knitting a neck cowl/head scarf in fisherman’s rib to go with the socks.

    We’re not on individual lock down yet so I may visit my local yarn store whilst I can.

  2. 2
    Lynn says:
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    I’m currently crocheting two peas in a pod dressed as bride and groom for a wedding I was supposed to attend in April. The wedding has been postponed but I might still finish the project and keep it until the new wedding date. My go to projects in stressful times are cute amigurumis (crochet figurines) bc they’re easy to make and you get results really fast (compared to making a whole blanket).

  3. 3
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    I’m STILL knitting my Trelawney shawl. Not because the knit is taking forever, but I haven’t been knitting much lately. Plus the rows are something like 220 stitches per row.

    Project info and pictures here: https://ravel.me/FishWithSticks/339fxb

    And I’m FishWithSticks over on Ravelry, too. Feel free to friend me!

  4. 4
    Laurel says:
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    I am knitting socks. I did a pair of top down socks for myself (which I have actually worn a few times!) and am now working on a pair of toe up ones for my husband. I have found the videos at verypink.com incredibly helpful. Sheis very calm & she even has some where she has slowed down the video so you can really see what is happening.

  5. 5
    Qualisign says:
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    In a Wednesday’s SBTB post in January of this year, I learned about temperature blankets. Well, as someone who found Madame Defarge absolutely fascinating when I read “A Tale of Two Cities” when I was 13 and who continues to find codes totally engrossing, the idea of knitting (in my case, crocheting) messages into projects sounded fabulous. I particularly liked the shawl that timed who held the floor at a town meeting. I used to do that in faculty meetings, but on paper. I’d prefer having a scarf at the end of it and not just a page that documented man-splaining. Long story short, I started my own temperature blanket on Jan 15 and am totally up to date. The increase of downloads on Ravelry was probably me… And I hadn’t known about Ravelry’s guidelines — LOVED them! Now off to join the SBTB group there.

    The yearly Bluprint subscription comes with free shipping (US, boo) so my stash is getting ridiculous. [When projects are 60% off and come with 17 skeins of yarn, it comes out at about $1.25 as skein.] And it has yoga, dance, and other workouts that are great.

  6. 6
    Zuzus says:
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    I have several knitting projects going, my favorite being the Fiddly Bits scarf (Ravelry, of course). Since I didn’t have enough color diversity in my sock yarn stash, I put out a call to my yarn loving friends and now it has become a “stone soup” project. Friends in Finland, Fargo, and Nebraska have sent me yarn so far. Even unfinished it has provided warmth to me already.

  7. 7
    Nagarajas says:
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    I am so close to finishing my Kala top by Pip and Pin. But have been been avoiding the ribbing, I need to just do it.

    I have swatched for Elfmail by Dani Miga. I have a deep jewel toned teal for the main color and for contrast I have Dragon Hoard Yarns “Using our Powers of Anxiety for Good” which is pretty much the best colorway name to be knitting right now.

  8. 8
    Magenta says:
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    After a hiatus of about 30 years I recently considered to take up knitting again. Reading this was the impetus I needed. So thank you, Elyse, and much love for sweet Chip!

  9. 9
    JPeK says:
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    Just ordered the “learn to crochet” kit (the seller, KnitPicks, is offering a 15% off code, too: SPRING15)! Thanks for the recommendations – this post has motivated me to try learning a skill I’ve always been interested in, but never acted on. What better time than this?

  10. 10
    Alliecat says:
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    I started a hat with double needles over 3 years ago as my first project (due to Elyse’s Outlander knitting posts, btw!) It was going great until I miscounted stitches somewhere and has been sitting, unfinished, in a bag in my closet. Ha! I guess it’s time to try it again. Maybe I’ll try something smaller, like a coffee cup cozy first :-). Great inspiration!! Thanks for the post.

  11. 11
    Susan says:
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    I’m working my way through What to Knit When You’re Expecting. The Hannah Jacket is done except the finishing (where it will probably stay for a while haha) and the Summer Sky Blanket is on the needles. Dining room table is covered with yarn orders. When this baby arrives in July they’re going to have so many cozy winter items.

  12. 12
    LG says:
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    I am currently knitting Wibbly Wobbly Mittley Wittley (Dr Who-themed mittens), Fractured Helix Shawl from Barbara Benson and a test knit for a Six of Crows-themed double knit scarf.

  13. 13
    Amanda says:
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    I’m crocheting a Kingman shawl (free pattern from Lion Brand yarn), but plan to drop in on some online knitting classes. One of my goals for the year has been to learn to knit, so these resources are super helpful!

  14. 14
    Karen Lauterwasser says:
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    Hi! I have lots of half finished things to choose from. I usually knit places other than home so the cats can’t participate. Clearly that has to change. It also means that I usually choose things I can knit correctly while distracted. Hence the half finished sweater that is languishing in a bag somewhere. Having confessed all that, I’m poised to join Andrea’s “Sheltering in Place” knitalong:

    https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sheltering-in-place-sampler

    I’m pretty sure I have some likely yarn around here somewhere…

  15. 15
    Melanie says:
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    The first weekend in March I started a Windschief hat, but I’ve put that aside in favor of dishcloths. The first real pattern I ever knit was the ballband dishcloth featured in Mason-Dixon Knitting; before that it was all garter stitch scarves. In early March one of the authors of the Mason-Dixon blog posted about knitting a slightly smaller version of the traditional ballband dishcloth pattern. I cast one on and am now working on my third, using leftover odds and ends of all the dishcloth cotton I’ve accumulated over the years. Because the pattern is so familiar and simple, it’s a very soothing knit, and as you noted, the dishcloths make cute little gifts.

  16. 16
    Katy L says:
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    I’m a beginning crocheter (I usually do cross stitch and other needlework). I’ve found Crocheting for Dummies to be a very good book to figure things out. I started the Harlequin shawl (a free pattern from Caron https://www.yarnspirations.com/caron-harlequin-shawl/CAC0126-007310M.html) in January. I’m almost ready to add the edging. I’m using a variegated alpaca yarn called Stained Glass that I bought at a local yarn shop. Like most crafters, I have a huge stash, so I expect I’ll be able to keep occupied for the foreseeable future.

    Take care of yourselves however you need to and stay well!

  17. 17
    Penny says:
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    I picked cross stitching back up. It’s been forever and I’m so glad I kept all my floss instead of donating it (which I almost did a half a dozen times but just never quite could…). There are so many fun patterns out there right now! Subversive cross stitch is my jam…

  18. 18
    EC Spurlock says:
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    @Karen Lauterwasser, if the kitties are giving you trouble, try keeping your yarn in a bag while you work. A medium-sized paper bag with the top screwed shut just enough to allow the strand to exit works (unless they attack the bag). Or you can make an impromptu yarn bowl by cutting a milk jug or soda bottle in half and putting a hole on one side of the bottom half for the strand to exit.

    My best friend is still going through chemo so I’ve been crocheting her a hat a month. Started with a soft chunky berry stitch beanie made with Bernat Baby Blanket which she absolutely loved. Also made https://www.yarnspirations.com/red-heart-flower-cloche/RHC0116-018069M.html in a plain vanilla Red Heart yarn and https://www.yarnspirations.com/red-heart-crochet-sparkle-hat/RHC0116-027627M.html in an Isaac Mizrahi Craft yarn in Palace, a brown with mylar sparkles. (I call that one the Vanellope Von Schweetz hat because it looks like chocolate with sprinkles!) Currently designing a dressy drop-point cloche using Tammacril Diamante in black with pearls worked in, figuring out the pattern as I go.

    Any cross stitchers out there looking for stuff to do, I have a bunch of fandom-oriented designs in my shop https://www.etsy.com/shop/SavingGraces Many of them are beginner-level, they are all PDF downloads so they are as COVID=free as your printer,and use coupon code THANKU for 15% off your order.

  19. 19
    Carol S. says:
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    Suddenly I’m surrounded by coworkers having baby girls! Finishing up one baby jacket in deep pink and about to start another in a paler pink cotton for a baby in California. I’ve also been knitting a lot of hats lately. Easy, uses up random skeins of yarn, and easy to donate to places that can use them.

  20. 20
    Jazzlet says:
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    I’ve finished a mini poncho in superchunky, just the right size to pop on over anything I’m wearing to keep my shoulders and back warm – it’s longer at the back than the front. Pondering what to start next.

    I have difficulty believing Chips is a butthole bandit … except that our black German Shepherd interupted a work video conference to kiss Mr J to his teams amusement, cue a lot of “awwwwwww”‘s.

  21. 21
    Kathy says:
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    Thank you for the thoughtful post and the reminders of the benefits of crafting and knitting, especially now. I’m working on the “Spring To It Cowl” (pattern on ravelry) and trying to use up my considerable stash on new projects. I did purchase a couple of kits from my LYSs and am learning sashiko embroidery. Stay safe everyone!

  22. 22
    Big K says:
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    Made three simple hats this past week – the stress was high, and the conference calls were long. I like the Purl SOHO books, LAST MINUTE KNITTED GIFTS and MORE LAST MINUTE KNITTED GIFTS. The patterns are beautiful, but simple enough to get done quickly. I need to feel like I am making progress and everyone could use a present right now. I also have a sweater in a bag i should finish while we’re all stuck at home – maybe next week I’ll sign in to one of the virtual groups and give it a shot. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  23. 23
    Deborah Hern says:
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    In the past couple of months, I knit three news pairs of socks. Because even in sock yarn on 1s, they’re pretty fast. I’ve been using yarn and patterns from my stash. With the leftovers, I’ve been continuing my sock yarn leftovers blanket!! I love this thing so much! And I was pointed to it by a lovely reader right here on Bitches. It was a free pattern from ravelry.com and my sister says (from pics sent by phone) that it looks like the Amazing Technicolor DreamCoat. And I an good with that.

  24. 24
    kkw says:
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    I will hopefully finish any of the 20 projects I have started. First up is a purse, which then needs to be felted, lined, have the pockets attached, and then the hardware for the handles, which I haven’t actually purchased. All for a bag I don’t actually want! You can see how things don’t get finished around here.

  25. 25
    denise says:
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    When I was in 5th grade, my neighbor taught me to knit when I had chicken pox. Unfortunately, She never gave me a second project. I’m envious of y’all knitting.

  26. 26
    LJBG says:
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    I am crocheting mats for the cat cages at the Humane Society.

  27. 27
    Kathryn says:
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    I, like Magenta, took a long break from knitting (about 20 years in my case),but this winter I dug out my needles and decided to start again. Back in day I mainly knitted sweaters, but those seemed to be too large projects to tackle right now.

    So To get back into knitting I took a basic sock class at my LYS and am now working on my 3rd sock using 9” circulars. It’s been great learning to do socks (something I’d never done before). After the socks are completed, I’ve got a cabled headband project lined up.

    Thanks for all this information Elyse! I love Ravelry, maybe I’ll have to stop by the SmartBitches group.

  28. 28
    Alison Ustun says:
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    I’m working again on a blanket of sampler squares of different stitches. I started it and then lost interest as realised it was going to take way more work and time than I’d realised (only completed 11 of 99 squares!). My knitting bag had been hidden away for a few years. I’m enjoying knitting and listening to audiobooks now.

  29. 29
    Kelly says:
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    I’ve just finished knitting a pullover designed by Mary Annarella, much of it knit while self-isolating (you can see it here: https://knitigatingcircumstances.com/2020/03/21/colour-me-happy/). Unfortunately I don’t have any WIPs to turn to, but hope to get two or three on the needles this week. One of them will likely be Koko by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. I have yet to try a virtual knitting group, but I like the idea. Thanks for this helpful post! Keep safe!

  30. 30
    Kim says:
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    I’m working on two half-finished WIPs – one (Like a Feather by Veera Valimaki) is on size 10 needles and the other (Get the Groove by Hinterm Stern) is on smaller needles, so I switch back and forth. I’m spending more time knitting in the evenings because I’m so tired of being on my computer that I’m not as tempted to “just check in one more time” to social media.

  31. 31
    Kate says:
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    Dishcloths FTW! I learned ages ago that smaller projects = instant gratification and these can be as simple or as complicated as you like. This is one of my favorite patterns because it’s super easy but looks cool when you’re done.

    Currently doing a Harry Potter x-stitch from Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/listing/476884805/wizard-cross-stitch-pattern-fantasy?ref=yr_purchases) for my nephew who has just discovered the books.

  32. 32
    Mina Kelly says:
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    I’m knitting baby stuff at the moment, with an imminent arrival due during all this. Originally I was planning to knit some cute cardis and booties, but with things increasingly shutting down I’m looking at patterns for nappy wraps and babygrows, things I’d planned to buy.

  33. 33
    Sherry Dennis says:
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    I’m crocheting Easter eggs and I found a bunny ear basket pattern on the web. YouTube has some videos that teach you how to embroider cherry blossoms and other tiny flowers on them. Really cute and fun. I haven’t embroidered anything since I stopped doing cross-stitch yrs ago.

  34. 34
    ReadKnitSnark says:
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    New knitters, are you aware of the wonderful thing known as knitting podcasts? They come in both audio and video form, and are wonderful to knit by. Also educational. Here’s some to get you started…

    Audio:
    Knitmore Girls
    Yarniacs
    Twisted Stitches
    Down Cellar Studio

    Youtube:
    The Knitgirllls Podcast
    Skeindeer Knits
    The Crimson Stitchery
    Knitting Expat
    The Drunk Knitter

    (Actually, I listen to knitting podcasts when I’m out and about (and can’t knit), and watch knitting podcasts when I’m home knitting.)

  35. 35
    Kate says:
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    @ReadKnitSnark yes, podcasts! I’ve been going back to listen to Knit One Geek Two podcasts at night to help fall asleep.

    Other regular listens are F*** This Knit, Very Serious Crafts and Imagined Landscapes.

  36. 36
    ReadKnitSnark says:
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    @Kate, thanks for the new-to-me podcast recs! (I really appreciate that they all have their whole backlist available.) I usually dive in to one new podcast at a time, sample a few episodes to see if I like it—and then dive into the backlist. When I get current, I do the same with another one.

    Also, new knitters, many of the podcasts have Ravelry groups for chitchat. (For those times when the Smart Knitters, Trashy Books group is quiet. Like, you’d think these people had lives or something!)

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