Why learn to Hand Knit?
To learn to hand knit is not easy. It takes time and patience. So, why bother? It is an immensely satisfying pastime. With knitting needles and yarn you can create fashion items for you and your family or furnishings for your home. Once you have mastered the basic techniques, it is an easy skill to develop and before you know it you will be an expert knitter.
Knitting needles are made in a range of sizes. All British manufacturers conform to this method of sizing, known as the International Size Range and sometimes shown as ISR in the instructions.
To make the reading of knitting patterns more straightforward, the names of knitting stitches and instructions are often abbreviated. Instead of repeating ‘stockinette stitch’ for instance, the abbreviation ‘st.st.’ is used. This is helpful and makes patterns easier to follow. Most knitting patterns and books contain a glossary of terms used including any special or unusual abbreviations.
Some hand knitted items benefit from being blocked. Blocking a finished piece of knitting entails gently wetting the item and then pulling it to shape on a flat surface. The item may need to be pinned to stop it from springing out of shape. A hand knitting pattern will give any special instructions required for blocking
Flat or in-the-round
Hand knitting is either worked flat or in the round. Knitting that is worked flat is worked in rows with the work turned at the end of each row. Knitting that is worked in the round is worked in a constant round without turning the work. Both types of knitting have their own benefits. Knitting that is worked flat is ideal for traditional garment construction. Knitting that is worked in the round starts at a central point and is worked outwards, making it ideal for large items.
Hand Knitting Symbols
Some knitting patterns are presented using knitting symbols. Each stitch has a unique symbol and this is used to show how a design is created. Many patterns that feature symbols also have a written version. Symbol knitting is useful as it transcends language making a project open to knitters the world over.
Hand Knitting Terms
Hand knitting has a language all of it’s own. When you learn to knit the first thing you will have to do is become familiar with knitting terms such as garter stitch and cable.
Tension or Gauge
Hand Knitting tension or gauge is very important. This measures the number of stitches and rows to 10 cm. Checking knitting gauge is necessary when making an item that needs to be a set size. If there are too many stitches and rows then the item will be too small and a larger needle should be used. Most hand knitting patterns will give a stated gauge and before starting the pattern, a test square should be worked to check gauge.7
Yarn and wools are grouped together according to thickness. This means that all yarns that are double knitting weight will be the same thickness regardless of brand or manufacturer. This standardisation of yarns is a useful way to ensure that yarns can be substituted in crochet patterns without altering the finished dimensions of a project.
Hand Knitting Looms allow you to knit without needles. Knitting looms come in a variety of shapes and sizes with pins mounted in rows on a firm base. Yarn is wound around the pins; various patterns of winding produce different textured knitting. A needle or special tool is then used to transfer the loops of yarn from around the pins, either off the pins or to other pins, to produce the knitting.
Machine or Hand Knitting
Machine knitting proceeds more quickly than in hand knitting, where (usually two) straight needles are held in the hand and each stitch is manipulated individually across the row. Knitting machines work an entire row of loops in a single movement.
The fabric produced using a knitting machine is of a more even texture than hand-knitted fabric, which is particularly noticeable on large areas of plain stockinette stitch, and can be an advantage. Some stitch patterns (e.g., tuck stitches) are much easier to produce with a knitting machine. Others (e.g. garter stitch) can also be produced with machine knitting but can take a little longer but still much faster than hand knitting. The standard gauge 200-needle machine can knit the finest yarns up to a good sport-weight, while the heavier yarns knit better on a mid-gauge or bulky knitting machine.
Machine knitting saves a considerable amount of time but does require learning to operate the machines correctly. Often, with machine knitting there is more finishing to do. It is more likely that a machine knitted project will require to be blocked and steamed than a hand knitted project. Most if not all hand knitting patterns can be worked up on a machine, either identically or in a similar design.
However, hand knitting is more portable and sociable than machine knitting. Hand knitting can be very relaxing and some people find it has a meditative quality. It is more expensive to start machine knitting because you have to buy an expensive machine. With hand knitting you can start with a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn.