Luminary panel musings


There were some interesting questions put to the Luminary Panel at Sock Summit. One that I found particularly intriguing was, “Why are there no knitters of color here?” I found it interesting on a couple levels. One is that I *am* a person of color, just not the color that the questioner meant. (I’m Asian-American, and I saw many other Asian-American knitters at Sock Summit.)

The discussion by the panel first delved into socio-economic issues; if food and housing is insecure, knitting is not going to be high on your priority list. Race is often tied to socio-economic status. Knitting in the US is primarily a recreational activity, and it can be quite spendy if you let it be! But I ran into an acquaintance right after the panel discussion, and she commented that she doesn’t have a ton of money, and that you don’t have to have a ton of money to knit. Another idea explored by the panel was that knitting isn’t a part of all cultures around the world. One could extrapolate that we should evangelize knitting and spread the word, but I don’t think all people should be forced to consider knitting for their leisure activity. It’s supposed to be fun. I think we should just say, “Here’s something I like. If you want to knit, I’d be glad to teach you.”

Who taught you to knit? Did you ask to be taught, or did someone offer to teach you? Or did you just find it intriguing on your own? As a child, I wanted to learn to knit because I was heavily into the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Deep in my heart, I wanted to be a pioneer girl. (Pretty funny for a Chinese girl.) In fact, part of the reason I still love my cuff-down socks on dpns is the whole pioneer sticks and string schtick; pioneer girls didn’t have two circulars or magic loop! (This reminds me of the “You can’t use the pedal when you play Bach because he didn’t” argument, although in that case I’d say, “He would have if it had existed!”)

I’m still knitting along on my ruffle tank, and swatching my colorful stealth project. And I think I’m going to start one of Cat Bordhi’s toe-up socks, just for review. And I’ve fallen in love with Lorelei from Twist Collective, but I don’t think I’ll start that right now! Just dreaming. I’ve noticed a good bit of start-itis in other bloggers that were at Sock Summit. Too many creative ideas all at once?

Besides start-itis, Sock Summit has had another effect on me. I had to buy another box to store my increased stash. Although the stash is growing, I’m still not a stasher at heart, so I’d like to share a skein from my Sock Summit goodies. This is from Deb Accuardi’s pre-summit lunch. The colorway is Cherry Mallow by CraftsMeow. It’s 100% superwash merino wool fingering weight yarn, 400 yards.

cherry mallow

If you’d like to play, leave me a comment telling me who taught you to knit. I’ll do the random number thing and pick a winner after August 23. Good luck; I’m looking forward to some wonderful stories!

49 responses to “Luminary panel musings

  1. Very nice extended discussion about knitting, socio-economics and evangelism of knitting.

    So, I have to try to win that yarn as it’s so yummy!

    I’ll be brief: I learned to knit while up at Friday Harbor, WA 18 years ago this month. Soon to be hubby and I were walking around town and I came across a store with lovely sweaters in the window. Being a sweater lover, we (I!!) dashed in. Dang…a knitting store. I had to learn to knit if I was to get that sweater. Our romantic weekend at the island turned into a hat knitting marathon as I was determined to finish it and show Julie (the proprietress of said shop and who is STILL there!) my finished hat prior to leaving on the ferry. My only knitting breaks were to buy more yarn for handknit hats to give as gifts that holiday season. I did it all, and I haven’t stopped knitting since then. My hubby still has that hat and wears it with pride! 🙂

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    • The most successful learning to knit episode began a year ago after I joined a knitting group as a crocheter. Once they found out I wanted to learn to knit they were eager to teach. THIS time it took!

  2. My great-grandmother, Delilah, taught me to knit. She said she learned to knit socks “for the war”. I was born at the end of WW II, and wasn’t naive enough to think she meant that. Surely she was referring to WWI. Nope, Delilah learned to knit socks for the Spanish American War, when she was a young woman! (She was born in 1868.)

  3. I had more thoughts on that socio-economic thought. I think it also depends on the area. For example, in the SF Bay Area, you will likely see more African-American knitters. At least I have seen them in the south bay area.

    My grandma initially taught me when she came to visit for several weeks one summer. I must have been around 12 or 13. She never got me started on a project though, so I put it down until about 2002 or 2003 and retaught myself.

  4. A neighbor, who I called my Great Aunt Jean (since she was honorary family), tried to teach me to knit. She had already sucessfully taught me to crochet, tat, needlepoint and sew. She did teach me knitting, but gave up when I could not grasp the purl concept. I was 7 or 8. When I was 21, I got a “instruction booklet” and self-taught myself the rest.

    Aunt Jean taught me so much more than handicrafts. In teaching me handicrafts she taught me how to manage projects, problem solving, and to enjoy creativity, color and accomplishment. She was the most influential person to me, outside immediate family. I loved her dearly. She was from the generation (and from an “upper class” but no longer affluent old-money family) that actually used her skills to add textiles to her hope chest. She grew up feeling her “value” was based mainly on her domestic skills. She was from such a different era and perspective.

    What I think is interesting is the newest generation could be Internet taught. I was approached by a 6-8 year old in a restaurant where I was knitting. She was having trouble with some step and told me all about it. I asked if she new how to google it. She brighted up and said yes. I told her she would be able to find all her answers and videos, etc. She was so excited. I know she followed up and is probably doing all types of cool projects now.

  5. I taught myself to knit. I have loved yarn since I was a little kid but couldn’t do much with it other than make pom-poms, yarn dolls, and finger knit. In college I decided I was going to learn to do something with yarn.

    I have always loved the Little House books, so I do love the idea of knitting on DPNs for that reason too.

  6. Those are interesting points. I had to leave just as the line was forming for the Luminary Panel, so I enjoyed hearing some of the discussion.

    My mother first taught me to knit, or at least tried. I was a very small child when my mother took knitting lessons in a backroom at Sears. I sat on the floor and was fascinated by the clicking of the metal knitting needles. I remember getting frustrated while learning, and so I didn’t knit much until I truly started knitting as a young adult when I took a class on knitting Icelandic sweaters.

  7. I taught myself to knit from a book when I was a kid. I managed to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off, but that’s all – I never actually made anything until more than 20 years later!

  8. This is easy – I taught myself to knit! I can’t remember now what inspired me to do it, but I bought a book on knitting for left-handers (I long since switched to knitting right handed, although I use the continental method) and dove right in! It wasn’t long before I was attempting a tank top. It was a disaster, but I learned a lot!

  9. I taught myself to knit, from a book in the school library, when I was 10. It wasn’t until 15 years later that a parent of a student reignited the desire & passion. I’m hoping to pass it on…

  10. My mom’s friend, Shirley, taught me to knit. We were at here beach house and she was knitting a dress with 4 strands of worsted weight and these huge needles.

    I wanted to be “just like her” so I asked her to teach me.

    Don’t know if she ever finished the dress, but it was the beginning of many, MANY projects for me.

  11. 14 years ago, faced with 3 weeks in an RV with my soon to be hubby I headed to the craft store to find a sanity aid. I ended up with a cart full of acrylic, a booklet titled “Learn to Knit” and a pattern for a fisherman’s afghan. I made it 2/3 of the way through the blanket before coming home from work to find that the dogs had completely shredded it. I’m still knitting so it must be true love.

    PS – I love that shop in Friday Harbor! I found it while there celebrating my 10th anniversay. I spent the weekend on the deck puzzling out Cat’s mobius. Understanding hubbys are a wonderful thing.

  12. My grandmother, who I never saw knitting but she must have learned at Sunday school because my mother has a little book of all my grandmother’s samples, gave me a ball of wool and some needles and taught me to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off. I was 5 or 6 and I have no idea why she did that. But I spent hours and hours knitting, frogging and re-knitting the same wool and I loved it. Then when I was in college, I picked it up again and found my hands just remembered what to do. I’ve been knitting ever since, even when no one else was and acrylic was all you could buy.

  13. My Filipina aunt taught me how to knit when I was 12, but I didn’t pick up the needles again until almost 20 years later. Hooray for knitters of color (and that includes us Asian-Americans!)!

  14. My mom taught me how to knit when I was so little that I don’t even remember it now. I think it was probably to keep me busy one day when I was talking her ear off (as I was prone to do when I was little). As for my mom, she taught herself how to knit, sew, and do all kinds of crafty things.

  15. My sister’s grandmother tried to teach me when I was 12 or so. There was tension problems and the stitches on the needles got tighter and tighter and the yarn between the stitches got longer and longer – you would have had to see it to understand. I got frustrated and learned how to crochet.

    My husband kept encouraging me to learn how to knit because he knew that there would be more creative opportunities for me. So he helped me find a book that had patterns and instructions and I followed them. That was three years ago.

    A year later I took a continental knitting class and haven’t looked back. Socks, lace, sweaters, afghans, I’ll try anything once. 😉

  16. I learned to knit in my 1st or 2nd grade class. The older kids at school had clubs, but not the lower grades. My teacher decided we needed our own club and taught us all to knit. I was horrible. I can’t remember my teacher’s name, though. One of the boys was really good and I think I put the needles down after a playdate when he showed me how far he’d gotten and that he could change colors.

    Years later I picked it back up, re-teaching myself.

  17. Wow! Interesting topic about knitters of color. I still marvel at the gender divide too — so few male knitters! Anyway, my story about who taught me to knit is on the back page of the Summer 2009 issue of Interweave Knits! 🙂

  18. When I was studying costuming at Ryerson Theatre School, the costuming teacher was a wonderful older Scottish woman named Mrs. Black. She was an avid knitter, and I was amazed at the gorgeous creations she whipped up. I wasn’t the only one – the other three students in our fourth year costuming class were similarly intrigued. We asked Mrs. Black if she would teach us how to knit.

    We spent the next couple of months in the wardrobe department whenever we had the chance. Everyone progressed quickly – and at least two of those students are now fairly accomplished knitters.

    I, however, was rubbish at it. I would get a few rows into a practice square, drop some stitches, appeal to Mrs. Black for help, and more often than not had made such a mess of things that we’d end up ripping it out back to the first row.

    It was frustrating – I had made corsets, hats, and period gowns. I could draft a pattern for a doublet or a mutton sleeve. I was accomplished at dying fabric. I could crochet, and my great grandmother even taught me how to tat when I was a child. But I just didn’t seem to catch on to knitting.

    At the end of the term, Mrs. Black finally said, “Some people are just not meant to knit, dear. You may be one of them.”

    My mother is the knitter. I’ll stick to dying yarn for her to use in her projects, and admire the gorgeous work of those who do have this talent.

  19. rustyfingers

    I first learned to knit in Girl Scouts when I was in 6th grade. One of our neighbors had the troop over. I remember my first project of bulky dirty pink yarn on these huge metal needles. I nursed that project for a long time, although I doubt I ever finished it.

    I REALLY learned to knit this year from my pianoworld buddy BeeLady. In a funny twist of fate, she volunteered to teach MY Girl Scout troop to knit so they could send scarves to the Special Olympics. The six girls managed to send almost 40 scarves (some from friends and family) and several of them have joined their middle school knitting club.

    And I am totally obsessed and knit every night now.

    I have a really cute picture of BeeLady showing my daughter to knit at a piano party. How cool is that.

    Thanks Michele for all your encouragement as I figure out what I’m doing.

  20. Actually, I taught myself how to knit. My friend Caitlin made a scarf (It was just garter stitch) and I was intrigued. A couple of months later I picked up a “Knitting for Dummies” book at Half Price Books, some 100% wool and a pair of size 8 bamboo needles and I was on my way.

    Been knitting non stop ever since. =)

  21. I learned as an elementary schooler in an afterschool rec program – slippers were my favorite and what brought me back to knitting a few years ago. My 2 aunts knit very well (one is Paula’s mom) but my mom was not an avid one. I’m a “thrower” not a “picker” – proof I was not taught by my Danish family!

  22. i always felt i knew how to knit, but couldn’t remember how to start. then i chatted with a customer (who became a dear friend) about it and she offered to teach me. i haven’t looked back.

  23. I had a babysitter when I was young who taught me how to crochet. She made ponchos that I thought were really pretty, so I asked her to teach me.

    After that, I wanted to learn to knit, but she didn’t know how and no one in my family was interested, so I went to the 5&Dime (it really was called that in my little town) and bought a booklet — probably from Red Heart. I learned the basics and made a few things, mostly slippers, but never felt comfortable with it, so I stuck with crochet.

    I never got over my desire to knit, though. I had a knitting machine in the ’80s and made some things on that, but the lack of portability and the noise it made were untenable. When Knifty Knitters came out, I got those and made all kinds of things, purchasing better quality, multi-gauge looms along the way.

    But I wanted to knit lace. And though I did do some on the looms (rakes, really), the fixed pegs limited what could be done easily. So I went to OFFF and bought a DVD from Nenah Galati on knitting Continental style. Went home and swatched until it didn’t look wonky and never looked back! 🙂

  24. My Mom and I took lessons from Mrs. Russell at her cute little yarn shop. We both knit a raglan sleeve cardigan….I actually finished my and wore it!!!! I think I was about 13 …What a treat for me to spend time with my Mom away from the rest of the family creating something lovely. When I think about it…it must have cost her a chunk of change…private lessons, and yarn for two sweaters..I’m sorry I didn’t hang onto it.

  25. I thought the Luminary Panel discussion went off the rails early and never recovered sadly.
    No one taught me to knit. My mother handed me the book she taught herself from as a child. I was on my own.

  26. Halfway Crafter

    My mum taught me to knit. However, she didn’t enjoy it much, and only had one thing she could knit… a tea cozy. I think she used to start of knitting for us to work on during school holidays etc to keep us occupied. When I started knitting again recently as an adult, I knew how to knit and purl and that’s it. Everything else I learnt by googling, and looking at youtube tutorials!

  27. Nancy Drummond

    I am a self taught knitter – back when I was in brownies, they taught everyone to knit, but when they found out I was left handed, they just told me to sit off to the side and read a book because no one could teach me (I quit brownies shortly after)
    As an adult, I decided to learn to knit, so bought a how to book and started. I learned left handed, but found it difficult to get patterns to turn out properly, so, I relearned right handed. Now I can knit fairly well, and things turn out lovely, but I am slow. Since I loved making socks (and wearing them) I knew I would never be able to keep up with sock knitting by hand, so I bought an antique sock knitting machine so I can make as many socks as my family and I need. I still knit on needles for other items, but I love making socks best!!

  28. My very patient mother taught me how to knit. Of course, it took her 20 some years because I apparently didn’t have the patience for it when I was younger. It took a former co-worker getting pregnant with her first child to urge me to try knitting again. My mom is also who I go to when I need help with something knitting related.
    When I teach now I try to show my students the same level of patience that my mom showed me.

  29. The neighbor across the street where I grew up taught me when I was about 5. Of course I didn’t keep it up. So, I really learned to knit at Stitch DC. I don’t even remember the instructors name of my beginning knitting class, but that was about 4 years ago and I’ve been knitting ever since!

  30. As many others in the comments have said, my grandmother taught me to knit. This was reinforced by my mother and child-minder. My amusing story about this is when I was beginning knitting I would knit squares for Oxfam, which were then sewn together to make blankets. What would happen is that my mum would knit on the blanket square in the evening just to help me along and then the next day the childminder would frog Mum’s knitting, saying that I hadn’t done it very evenly, and re-do it. I don’t think I did more than a row or two on the first blanket square because of their “help”. I never told Mum that the childminder said her knitting was uneven.

    I was about 5 or 6 when that happened. In my teens, I decided that I wanted to knit a sweater. So visited my LYS, which was in walking distance, and was gently and cleverly helped in choosing an easy chunky sweater in basket weave with my own yarn choice. It only took a few weeks to knit and was easy and fun, so I have knitted on and off since.

  31. New reader here– I’ve been reading your blog since Sock Summit and have enjoyed all your SS09 posts!!

    I taught myself to knit, from a book, when I was around 29 yrs old. I’ve been knitting for 5 yrs now. I have always enjoyed crafty things, especially cross-stitch, and when I started getting bored with cross-stitching, knitting moved to the top of my list. Not knowing anyone else who knit, though, it was pretty much a crap-shoot as to which beginning knitting book to buy, what kind of yarn & needles, etc. Apparently I chose well because I finished my first project and haven’t looked back! 😀

  32. My grandmother tried to teach me in middle school, but it didn’t take. She knit all of the time and didn’t go anywhere without her knitting bag. When I graduated from high school, she and my grandfather stopped in Grants Pass (they were driving up from the Bay area) she accidently left her knitting bag in the hotel. They picked it up on their way home. Good thing since it had the sweater she was knitting for me as a graduation gift! I still have it and wear it over 20 years later.

    Seven years ago, my youngest sister wanted to learn to knit so we started knitting together. She left knitting to try photography but I’ve been knitting ever since.

    I have Gramma’s knitting needles diplayed in a crock in the den where my stash resides.

  33. My mother taught me to knit in high school but it didn’t sink in very well – my tension would get so tight I couldn’t get the needle in to make a stitch. I gave it up after that until my first child was born almost 23 years ago. I picked up a baby sweater booklet with instructions and made her what passed for a sweater. I knit off and on – sweaters for babies and small children for years after that, definately more off than on, and would sometimes go years without knitting a thing. I didn’t know anyone else that knit besides my mother and grandmother who both lived over 6 hours away so knitting had always been a solitary thing for me. It wasn’t until I started reading blogs that I really started knitting ‘a lot’. These days it’s rare that I don’t have something on the needles – it’s hard not to get inspired by the abundance of beautiful yarns and projects easily found on the web…

  34. I never saw anyone in my family doing any sort of craft. I taught myself to knit in college, using a magazine and some yarn bought in a department store – Remember when department stores had yarn departments? I then started doing cross stitch and needlepoint. About a year ago, I took a sock knitting class at a LYS and now I am cheerfully knitting socks and lace.

  35. When I was about 8, my aunt from Boston tried to teach me, but I couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. I became a crocheter about 2 years later and then, at the ripe old age of 25, I taught myself from books. That was about 20 years ago and I’m knitting still.

  36. autumnbriars

    The short answer is that my grandmother taught me to knit. The long answer is over on my blog. =)

  37. I learned to knit from Nana Keating one March Break. I was miserable with chicken pox and she wanted to keep my hands busy. She, of course, didn’t realize that she’d also given me access to the best scratchers ever. 25ish years later, I “visit” with her every time I pick up my needles.

  38. Janice in Camas

    For the life of me, I cannot remember when or how I learned to knit (or crochet or sew or embroider, etc. ) I must have been quite young because I don’t remember ever not knowing how to do these things, but I have no memory of the learning of any of it — had to have been mom or grandma but I can’t ask now. When I started knitting again (about 4 years ago) I remembered the basics and picked up the rest from books and the internet. I finally took my first knitting class at Sock Summit (which is kind of ridiculous when you consider I live just outside of Portland and there are so many great shops with classes here!) Hmmm, maybe I’ll learn to spin . . .

  39. I actually taught myself to knit. One day back in high school, I was rather bored and had been admiring pictures of beautiful hand-knitted garments on the internet. I decided to go to Joann’s, buy the needed supplies (pink Susan Bates size 9 metal needles and some colorful Red Heart, easy on my near-empty pockets), and then learn how to knit. Well, it didn’t quite happen that easily. Although I found casting-on quite easy, I could not manage to actually knit a stitch. I kept on viewing videos, reading instructions, on and on, but simply became more frustrated. Eventually, I went upstairs to my room to cry in anger, because I had spent so many hours trying so hard. My mother later told me that she called my father because she’d never seen me quite that aggravated and frustrated.

    I don’t know precisely how it happened, but, some hour in the night, I picked up the needles and acrylic again and managed to knit a stitch. And another. And another. I hardly even remember that moment, but I knew then that I was hooked.

  40. Oh, I want the pretty!

    I learned to knit about 4 years ago, though I really didn’t get into it until 2 years ago. I was feeling all crafty being a brand new stay at home mom. Problem was, the only crafty thing I could do was cross stitch. That was fine at home, but I couldn’t take it with me and I always needed a generous block of time to work on it.

    A senior lady at my church was offering a class for $5 and I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. She taught me the very basics, I made a scarf and a hat, and then promptly put it all away. When I got pregnant again about a year and a half later, I again felt the desire to get crafty. I pulled out my yarn and needles and went to my LYS for a refresher course.

    That’s when I “discovered” the world of knittng. I found out what real yarn feels like and how many fabulous things you can make, especially socks!!! As I said, it’s been about two years now and I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t knit at least a row.

  41. I learned from my self-adopted grandmother who knitted socks, sweaters, etc. I still have the baby sweaters she knitted for me when I was a baby.

    I was an off/on knitter through the years. I didn’t really get serious about knitting until several years ago when I decided it was time to do another sweater. It’s lead to socks and more sweaters. My next project is a fair isle baby sweater!

  42. A Catholic nun taught me how to knit. She was my grade 4 teacher and a close family friend. We all had to knit a square. I remember that I ran out of wool a few inches into the square and asked my mom what to do. She showed me how to join in another ball and left the ends hanging, to be sewn in lataer, much to my chagrin. Being the perfectionist that I am, I would have preferred to get the ends out of sight immediately. Later that week, the principal came into the class to see how our knitting was going, and Sister Kathleen chose my work to show to him. Unfortunately, she referred to the untidy, knot-tied ends (midway through a row!), as a “small mistake.” I can still to this day, 35 years later, remember the utter embarrassment and desire to shout out “no, it’s not a mistake, my mom just hasn’t shown me how to sew those in yet!” Of course, being the well behaved child that I was, I didn’t utter a sound – it was the principal, you know. Funny, the things we remember. I didn’t knit again until my 20s, but I’ve been at it on and off ever since.

  43. What great stories to read in these comments! Who taught me to knit lends to the people of color topic too. My sister and I took a class at our local Michaels store (we knew nothing about knitting….she wanted a Harry Potter scarf). We were taught by an African-American male 🙂 Stereotypes right out the window there. I will say here in the SF Bay Area, I do see many more people of color knitting.

  44. I taught myself. It was one of those things I “decided” I needed to know, in about 4th grade. My mom didn’t knit so she sent me to a community college class where I acquired several volunteer grandmas that helped me to knit my first project, a cabled sweater! My mom still has that sweater and no, I won’t tell just how old it is.

  45. I taught myself. I’d made several attempts over 20 odd years …but could never get past the cast-on. I was a crocheter and I just couldn’t make the 2 stick thing work. In November 2006 I had foot surgery and was going to be fairly bed-ridden for about 6 weeks. I planned a number of crafty things to do. Through circumstances beyond my control, post-surgery time didn’t go as planned. I was feeling sorry for myself and all that I had planned didn’t appeal. I did have a laptop and a wireless internet connection (oh, and a credit card). I had old knitting needles and lots of yarn from old crochet projects and my toes were cold. Knowing that knitting was very popular I decided to try again. I found, figured out the basics and knitted a toe-cozy (a very small hat). I ordered more needles, yarn and books (and more books…and more books….) . I was off and running. After I could walk again I found a local shop and took a class. I haven’t stopped since.

  46. My mother taught me to knit – she has knit since she was a young girl. She tried to teach me when I was little, but I just wasn’t interested. A few years ago, she was visiting me and brought yarn and needles to teach my daughter. My daughter wasn’t too interested, and I felt bad so I asked her to teach me. And that was it – I fell in love. She can’t knit know because of her eye sight, but is thrilled that I do – and I think she’s happy that I’m carrying it on.

  47. great post! I am intrigued by the idea that Asian-American isn’t deemed to be ‘of colour’ and am pondering if that same view exists in Australia about our heavy Asian-Australian population?

    I don’t like to evangelise about knitting. As an ex-evangelical Christian, I find any kind of evangelising really distasteful. I have no need for anyone else (who doesn’t already knit) to take it up. I’m happy to do it for myself and have a nice community of knitters around me. If someone else takes it up, I’ll encourage them but I won’t suggest that they should if they don’t want to!

  48. My Aunt Lorna knits all the time. Donates her works of shawls/lap robes to the local nursing home and baby bonnets and booties to the neo-natal unit at the local hospital. My mother also taught me how to knit. She knitted gorgeous fisherman knit sweaters. If I win, since my mother is gone this past year the prize will go to my Aunt and it will be put to good use. I know, I got her the rosewood needles but I’ve yet to take it up again. The guitar got in the way. Cheers! Dee