Going in Circles; How I conquered my fear of knitting in the round

Knitting has always been an effort of trial and error for me, fueled by a fierce desire to teach myself. However, as with many skills sometimes guidance is needed to at least grasp the basics. Take for instance, the purl stitch.

The Purl Problem

Easy right? Can you remember the first time you tried it though? I just couldn’t get the concept of moving both the yarn and the needle to the front, so instead I was accidentally adding a stitch every time. My swatch looked like a bad triangle shape after a few rows.

I had a solid handle on the knit stitch, my grey garter stitch scarf was coming out fine. But I needed to know how to make the elusive purl stitch. So I did what anyone would do – asked a stranger on the bus!

The Girl on the Train Bus

I carried my knitting in a little bag, and scanned the bus after I boarded. I spotted a woman with fiery red curly hair knitting a hat. I sat next to her and pulled out my  scarf and started knitting, stealing sidelong glances at her advanced project. It was a gorgeous hat, brown with a pattern of owls – and she was knitting with five needles.

Immediately intimidated I asked, “Is that hard, knitting with more than two needles?”

“Not at all.” She replied nonchalantly.

I didn’t believe her obviously.

“Can I ask another question? How do you do a purl stitch?”

She demonstrated the second most basic stitch in all of knitting on her own hat.

Next to her I silently agonized about two things: 1.) The trouble it must be to do a stitch that isn’t part of the pattern and then have to undo that stitch. Un-knitting, as I like to call it, was very difficult for me, and here was a stranger willingly messing with their pattern! 2.) I needed the put BOTH the yarn and the needle in front?

From Scarves to Squirrels

A few months later, purl and knit stitches successfully understood, I came across a hat pattern that required ears knitted in the round. It was a challenge I accepted, in a small scale. My needles were all over the place and I had to restart at least eight times, but eventually I had two small ears. Then I graduated to the squirrel pattern in Knitting MochiMochi by Anna Hrachovec.

Knitting amigurami actually helped me get a better handle on knitting in the round. Unlike knitting socks or mittens, which need to be symmetrical and ultimately require accurate gauging, amigurami don’t need any of those requirements. You can use any size needle, any weight yarn; it’s like a knitted free-for-all. With the common pressures removed, I could focus on the technique of knitting in the round and really become comfortable with it.

Now, knitting in the round with five needles has become one of my favorite ways to knit. I even become confident enough to bring this type of knitting on the bus, which really challenges my coordination. Next up is learning this so-called “magic loop method”.

Until next time, happy knitting!

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