Social Knitting…

Packing for our Thanksgiving trip to Phoenix this year was a bit of a challenge. Knitting time was sure to happen at the same time as visiting so I needed a very simple project or two, but currently only had projects in progress that required thinking every now and then. I had to come up with a couple of new projects.

I decided to bring some handspun yarn to make another simple garter stitch hat and I pulled out a linen/mohair yarn that I had gotten for a shawl project. The hat was done within a couple of days and I then started on the shawl.

It seemed simple enough. Cast on 85 stitches. No shaping. A simple eyelet pattern. It was mostly stockinette stitch with two evenly spaced lace pattern rows. It’s interesting how long it can take to get even a simple pattern like this memorized to the point where I can talk and knit, without looking like I’m paying more attention to my knitting than the person I’m talking to.

Even with a simple pattern, it can be challenging to count the stitches on the lace pattern rows and still pay full attention to your conversation. Once the pattern becomes second nature, that tends to no longer be an issue. There were a few times where I had to choose between focusing on a good conversation and counting stitches on my lace pattern row. I typically chose the conversation and let my needles rest for a bit.

The best social knitting for me is something in garter stitch or stockinette stitch, or a pattern that repeats every few rows that doesn’t require counting. Cable stitch patterns can be good projects for conversation, because you can visually see where you are in the pattern without having to count. I generally avoid patterns with shaping for social situations, unless it’s socks. Making a basic pair of socks is pretty easy to do without a hiccup, because I’ve made so many of them.

Some people might wonder why I need to knit at all while I’m visiting with people. Well, it’s a knitter-thing. Writer’s write. Knitter’s knit. That’s just the way it is. I’m going to start looking at my projects-in-progress a bit differently now and make sure that I always have a social knitting project on hand for just these situations.

When I was in Wisconsin visiting my daughter a couple of months ago, we saw a finished Reading Shawl that would be a perfect social knitting project. It was a straight-forward rectangle with a fold-over edge to create a warmer neckline and hand pockets, and was a simple block stitch – an 8 stitch repeat over four rows. I think it’s time to get that project on my needles.

-Jenne Hiigel

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Walking & Knitting…

My walk to work is 1-1/2 miles each way. At a pace of 3 mph that’s an hour of walking each day, 5 hours per week, 21.65 hours per month, and 260 hours per year. That’s a lot of potential knitting time!

I have to subtract rainy days and days where it’s too cold for my fingers to be out of my pockets. It’s a bit hard to knit under these conditions. Fortunately that doesn’t cut out too much time, since we live on the Central Coast of California and the weather tends to be pretty mild. Then there are vacation days and sick days, where I don’t go to work. Based on my estimation, that still leaves me with roughly 200 hours of knitting time per year… which is nothing to sneeze at! (except in May)

I have completed several hats, scarves, and socks during the course of my walks, that I most likely would not have been able to complete otherwise. I have found that people tend to be more friendly to you when you’re knitting. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that people generally do not feel threatened by knitters. Also, a walking knitter is a relatively unusual sight, so it tends to make people curious. Knitting and walking does wonders to help promote the craft.

I have a few safety and sanity tips for those of you who want to take up knitting and walking. Small projects work best. It’s hard to carry an afghan while you’re walking. Stick with hats, scarves, socks, baby things, iPod covers, etc. Pick something where you can memorize the pattern easily. It’s hard to refer to a printed pattern when you’re walking, unless you want to use an around-the-neck music holder for your pattern like they use in a marching band.

Walking causes your body and hands to bounce slightly, so intricate lace patterns or tricky decreases (such as P3tog tbl) might best be avoided as a walking project. If you have a 9-5 work schedule, the end of daylight savings time causes it to be dark on the walk home. That doesn’t mean you have to stop knitting! My daughter Kathleen can shape the toe of a sock in a dark movie theater. Not me. I know my limitations. On a nighttime walk I stick to garter stitch or stockinette stitch and check my knitting at each street light.

Don’t look so intently at your knitting that you trip on cracks in the sidewalk or walk into a utility pole. It’s important to have a project where you can look up every now and then. Don’t try to pick up a dropped stitch while crossing the street. Pedestrians have to walk defensively in order to avoid getting run over by a car, so just pause your knitting until you get safely across the street. Then you can stop and track down that errant stitch.

It works best to have something to hold your supply yarn, such as a fanny pouch, a backpack, a baggy sleeve, or a big pocket. I’ve had some success with holding my supply yarn under my arm, but if I forget it’s there and raise my arm it can be several yards before I notice I dropped the ball. I have also been known to put my knitting needles under my arm while I did something else, only to have to backtrack a block or two to recover my dropped needles.

For advanced walking knitters, you can add an iPod. Be careful about doing that too soon, though! If you’re concentrating on your knitting while listening to music, all your key tools (vision, hearing, and brain function) for not getting run over or crashing into things are distracted with other activities. Ease into the iPod gradually. Start by just getting comfortable walking and knitting. Then add the iPod with the volume at a low level. Once you get on a roll, the volume can slowly be turned up.

With enough practice, you’ll soon be walking, knitting, singing along with your iPod, allowing cars to turn left in front of you, greeting your fellow walkers, and waving at the bicyclers and drivers that you see regularly! It’s a pretty fun way to get to work.

-Jenne Hiigel