Learning to knit without the garter-stitch scarf

Four years ago I made my first design contribution to ravelry – a free hat pattern called Kami. Almost 600 of them have been knit!

Someone commented that she used the pattern to teach a friend to knit:Screen shot 2015-10-17 at 9.18.33 AM

Hats aren’t often used to teach people to knit, but I think they should be. That’s because a hat is – most importantly – not a scarf. Ugh. It is unclear to me how garter-stitch scarves earned their spot as the ubiquitous learn-to-knit project. In my experience, here’s what’s wrong with them:

1. They completely ignoring purling, inevitably leading to another generation of knitters who claim that “knitting is way easier than purling.” It is, if knitting is all a beginner practices for an entire scarf.

2. They are usually knit on straight needles. I prefer teaching on circular needles, which are easier to hold and maneuver. The weight of the piece is evenly distributed on the needle, which puts less of a strain on the wrists.

3. They take forever. I warn beginners that knitting has a pretty long improvement curve. That means that you have to suffer through it feeling awkward and slow for quite a while. I know people who have been “working on their first scarf” for multiple years, or who just never finish. It’s too much work for too long without having a finished object to show for it.

i plan to half knit quite a bit this winter

4. They announce, “I knit this.” Which is alright, but most people get into knitting to make things that look handmade, not homemade.

5. They don’t require a pattern or a gauge swatch. This seems like a plus, since it takes some of the fussiness out of the process. But if someone’s goal is to eventually move out of scarf-land (i.e. sweaters, mittens, hats), they’ll need to learn gauge and pattern-reading eventually, and I’ve found that beginners are okay with both as long as it’s not complicated. Plus, knitting a gauge swatch is the perfect practice run before launching into the project.

Wow. I just hated on garter-stitch scarves a LOT. I owe them something of a thank-you, to be fair, since that’s exactly what my first project was. But I also clearly remember the first FO that I was proud of, and it was not a scarf. It was a pair of fingerless mitts that used short rows, which I spent days attempting and ripping out. In the end my pride was misplaced, since I hadn’t realized that 100% cotton would lack the sort of stretch you’d want in fingerless mitts.

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSIkVrjIY-qBOpXY9QZYSMG_YiJHb1NAo1nI-SmcMpOO1ivBgxprw

Am I the only one with a strong hatred for garter-stitch scarves? What pattern did you learn to knit with? What pattern(s) do you use to teach others?

Here are a few patterns that I’ve used when teaching:

Wurm Hat (photo (c) verabee)

Drop-Stitch Cowl – © Abi Gregorio

Calorimetry ear-warmer – © Kathryn Schoendorf

Advertisements

One comment

  1. Elena · October 20, 2015

    Wow, a lot of feelings there, Katie. My first project was a knit-purl scarf and I loved seeing it grow row by row. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s