New(er) Knitters: For Use

When I first learned to knit, I was taught the basics by my mother but it was because of my grandmother that I developed a love of fiber arts. My mother told me what I did wrong as she ripped out rows before handing back to me to correct. In contrast, my grandmother always said, “Good job!” (Well, she said the equivalent in Norwegian.) No matter what I made, my grandmother found a use for it. A cotton garter square became a potholder or a washcloth (after she added a border and/or a loop for hanging), and, once, a short wide scarf with lots of “holes” became a decorative mat under a fruit bowl.

You get the idea. 🙂

My first sewing project (back in the days when 6th grade girls were required to take sewing while 6th grade boys were sent to a shop class), was an apron. I remember my mother chose a hideous green patterned material, and I trimmed it with bright orange rickrack (also chosen by my mother). Once finished, I sent it to my grandmother. My grandmother used that apron until she died. In fact, I found it hanging on a hook behind her bedroom door – old, worn out and well stained. Looking at it like that reminded me how much my grandmother loved me and encouraged me in the fiber arts by using everything I made!

I keep my grandmother’s example in mind when I teach knitting. I don’t put new knitters on large, rambling samplers; I discourage them from knitting long scarves or large baby blankets. It is, simply, overwhelming. Most knitters who start in the middle of the bell curve of interest in fiber arts give up – usually without finishing the project!

This has worked well for the new knitters I have worked with … a pair of socks are usually their third project. And there are lots of FUN yarns for socks. And nothing says useful like socks! We all know what a joy it is to create, receive, gift or wear handmade socks.


About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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8 Responses to New(er) Knitters: For Use

  1. Very nice..lots of great memories to keep…


  2. I agree … I feel lucky my daughter knew my grandmother too. My grandmother was with us for the first 18 years of my daughter’s life!


  3. What a wonderful story ….I can relate to this one, as I too have a Grandmother now 98 Years old that always was busy creating things with her hands. Just like my Mother is doing now…I find myself very lucky to have this gift passed on to me from generation to generation…perhaps one day my daughter will understand this too…to much is computerized now for the young once…there focusing so much on that now and seem to have no interest in the old handcrafted art


  4. Yes, she was pretty amazing. She died when I was 40, and I still miss her. She taught me a lot of traditional Norwegian hand work. Once it got me a date! I was on a ferry somewhere between Norway and Denmark and busily stitching away, and I heard a voice say in a nearly incomprehensible Danish dialect, “Wow, I haven’t seen anyone younger than my grandmother do that!” I looked up and there was a really cute man smiling at me. What a conversation starter! (And it turned out he was from the Faoere Island, so his Danish wasn’t exactly Danish, and the Norwegian I spoke was a very old dialect from Southern Norway, so the conversation was difficult until, 30 minutes later, we discovered we both spoke English. 🙂 I discovered fiber arts were a great way to meet men – well, at least in Scandinavia AND when I was young and pretty!


  5. Your grandmother was a great teacher! I have teachers that are a little more critical, and you are right. I learn much more with positive reinforcement.


  6. I never thought about sewing sample squares into a baby blanket or a throw! What a great idea!


  7. handstitch says:

    I am totally with you on what not to start out as first project. Small dishcloth size is perfect. Once you get 12 of them done, stitch them together and you’ll have a charity blanket, ready to go 😀 Thanks for visiting my pad today, Karen. I am so glad to meet you here on cyber world.


  8. Alex Walper says:

    That’s a great philosophy! I like the idea of encouraging useful projects… God knows I’ve started a billion scarves and huge projects I never use nor finish, but it’s the little quickies that I love and use the most. Brilliant :).


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