I’ve sewn since I was a kid. I’m not entirely sure exactly when I first learned to sew, in the same way that I can’t remember I time when I couldn’t read. But I started to knit only a few years ago. I came to realise that I wanted to make all my clothes; it was a natural progression in creating my me-made wardrobe.
But knitting is not sewing and sewing is not knitting. They are different skills, of course, but it is more than that – the language of knitting is different, the tools are different, and even the online communities are different.
I suppose it is stupid to say, but sometimes I just wish knitting was more like sewing. That’s the equivalent of saying I wish the French language was more like the English language. It might make it easier to understand, but much of the charm of French would be lost.
1) Knitting is slow
You would think that sewing my own wardrobe would make me more patient. It isn’t as if I can go shopping and in an hour have a new outfit. It takes days, even weeks to accomplish this. But with knitting it takes so much longer. A sweater can even take a year. That needs a lot of patience! It’s possible that with time I could knit faster, but I suspect I need to embrace the long wait for a finished garment.
2) Knitting requires fitting too
Sometimes you want an oversized jumper, sometimes you want something fitted, but there is little guidance (beyond getting the gauge right) in knitting patterns. Yes, like fitting knit fabrics, fit isn’t so crucial, but it’s still something that needs to be considered. Perhaps, because I am more into sewing, fit is something that I obsess over. Should I stop obsessing? Embrace patterns knitted in the round? Or should I keep to those “worked flat” patterns? Patterns worked flat at least give you an idea that you are on the right track. I can measure the first piece (the back) against myself, before I carry on with the front and sleeves.
3) Knitting patterns may not help with choosing a yarn
As a beginner I find it really difficult to gauge what to buy for a project. There are loads of great patterns out there, but do I really want to buy the exact wool that the person used for the pattern? Why can’t a knitting pattern just give general guidance. Here’s typical guidance from a sewing pattern envelope:
“Cotton and cotton blends, gingham, laundered cottons, chambray, poplin, shantung, taffeta, linen and linen blends, embroidered fabrics. Allow extra fabric for matching plaids and stripes.”
It’s general, but there is still plenty of guidance.
Meanwhile from a knitting pattern:
“18 (19) (20) balls Robin bri-nylon, tricel-nylon, vogue, crepe or specklespun double-knitting”
Admittedly this guidance is from a vintage knitting pattern (1970s), but even with patterns a few years old the yarn no longer exists. Although it mentions double-knitting, which helps, but how on earth do I know how much 18 balls of yarn is, when there is no weight mentioned? What useless information!
I’ve often seen that people buy kits, pattern and yarn combined. That seems like an ideal way to start. But it seems expensive. My first sweater was partially made with wool from a charity shop, but I admit that it felt risky because I needed to find a yarn that coordinated with it to complete my make.
Why can’t knitting patterns just advise on the yarn used, what properties should it have? It’s fine to also show the exact yarn a sample was made with. And for goodness sake show the length of yarn used so it is possible to calculate how much wool to buy? (Ravelry can sometimes help here_ After all, should be the reasonably accurate if you use the same gauge? Of course, I’m sure much of this problem is exarcerbated by my beginner status, but who wants to buy expensive wool and probably too much wool for a project that makes them nervous?
4) Knitting is full of mysteries that I am yet to fully understand
English vs Continental knitting, knitted flat vs knitted in-the-round, cables, intarsia and lace. Knitting is as big a discipline as sewing, and from my vantage point it’s difficult to work out what I want to try. I want to knit adult garments, but all the beginner’s projects tend to focus on accessories. I could make a lovely scarf, but how many of those do I actually need?
Sure, some of the techniques are about aesthetics or where you wish to direct your energies. I couldn’t see myself making baby clothes, as all of the children in my family are too old. It’s hard picking up a new skill from scratch, I can’t stop comparing my inferior knowledge of knitting with my much vaster expertise at sewing.
5) Knitting needs an online community too
One of the things that is so great about the sewing community is how much they share online. The number one reason is for inspiration. I love a good Instagram scroll for throwing up a queue-jumping make. And then, before I buy a pattern I do online research to find out what other sewists think about it, how easy it was to make, any interesting hacks.
On not such a positive note, good research can help me avoid a real dog, the patterns where a seam doesn’t line up, there aren’t any notches or the instructions are incomprehensible.
Of course, for knitting there is Ravelry, which is invaluable. However, correct me if I’ve missed something here, but I haven’t found the same number and quality of knitting blogs and resources online. My first sweater ended up as a marathon mostly because there were mistakes in the pattern. Could I have avoided this if there had been more information out there? Only one other person mentioned the problem on Ravelry.
Another thing I find invaluable is viewing a Youtube video for help with a tricky technique. Sadly, there aren’t so many resources for knitters. I found only a couple of videos that helped with my v-neck neckline in English.
6) Knitting is relaxing????
Is it? Truly? I haven’t actually noticed! As Master Steely has frequently told me, it seems more “strong language and adult themes” when I pick up a pair of knitting needles! How do people manage to watch television whilst knitting? I need silence and concentration! With practice will I find knitting relaxing or am I destined to knit only in anger?