Q for You: What’s your peak knitting experience?

Perfect cable hat

It occurs to me that there are countless possible notions of what makes for a peak knitting experience. Maybe it’s pulling off something you didn’t think you were capable of. Maybe it’s the anticipation of a gift recipient’s response. Or maybe it’s making a thing that proves to be endlessly comforting or useful to you or a loved one. For me, it’s this hat, which is what got me thinking about the question.

There’s no doubt it’s a spectacularly beautiful hat — am I right? But more to the point, this was a case of all of the parts working in perfect harmony. The cable chart was fun, simple and easily absorbed, but with magnificent results. My beloved Dreamz needles — hard and pointy but still with the warmth of wood — were never better suited to the job. And I think it’s safe to say this undyed Worsted Twist (sent to me by Purl Soho) is the single most spectacular skein of yarn I have had the pleasure of knitting with. I’m not such a fan of what I think of as “the marshmallow yarns”; I prefer my yarn to retain some of its original sheepiness. But this yarn is, for me, right at the sweet spot on the continuum between soft and structured. I called it “well-behaved” before and I can’t come up with a better description than that — especially after having cabled with it. I feared it would be too soft to hold a cable well — and certainly these are not as crisply sculpted as they would be with a crunchier yarn, like the Shelter the pattern was written for — but the plumpness of the yarn and uniformity of the plies make it surprisingly great for cables. These look like frosting. (Or as Eva Kolenko noted on Instagram, ramen.) For the sake of learning something new, I also knitted this without a cable needle — using Grumperina’s tutorial — and again, the needles and yarn couldn’t have performed better: I wouldn’t have wanted to be doing that with blunter needles or a more slippery or splitty yarn. And it doesn’t hurt that, in this color and yarn, this is basically the aran sweater I’ve always dreamed of, but without all the pesky sweater-making business. (I kid!) Did I make mistakes? Yes. Did I enjoy fixing them? Yes! Truly, the whole thing was just bliss from start to finish.

So here’s my Q for You: What’s your peak knitting experience? I’d like to know how you would define that, and also to hear the details of your all-time best experiences.

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p.s. I should note that I haven’t blocked the hat yet. I finished it Wednesday night and wanted to take a pre-blocking photo, so held off on soaking it. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

p.p.s. The pattern is Gentian from Brooklyn Tweed and I highly recommend it. The attention to detail with regard to the placement of the ribbing and increases, such that everything flows perfectly into the cables, is commendable. But I feel bad for anyone who reads “Begin 2×2 ribbing (See Stitch Patterns)” and doesn’t turn the page to see that you need to begin with p2, not k2. Also, the pattern calls for 1 skein — 160 yards — of Shelter. The Worsted Twist is 164 yards, and I knitted the last stitch with literally an inch and a half of yarn left. I had to splice on another undyed worsted to cinch it closed. So even if you’re using the pattern yarn, be prepared that you might need 8 inches more than 1 skein. Or you could knit one less round of ribbing to be safe.

p.p.p.s. Added to Ravelry.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What are your favorite knitting pattern books?

64 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your peak knitting experience?

  1. I cannot answer your question for 2 reasons. First, I am a beginner knitter, and haven’t had any aha moments since I figured out how to purl from the picture. Secondly, I am too stunned by the picture of that hat to even think straight! It is a thing of beauty-a work of art, and I love every single thing about it! I’m so glad I found your site. I’m learning so much-thank you!

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    • I remember when I was brand new at it, everything felt like a peak experience.Look! I knitted and purled in the same row! Omigod — grafting! It was all so fun and new. Which I guess is a big part of why I try to always be doing something new or differently with every project, so there’s still some of that sense of discovery all the time. Thankfully, the well of knitting knowledge is bottomless.

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  2. My peak was also a hat, the Helm hat on Ravelry and I knit it up in Dream in Color’s Everlasting DK and it is just beautiful. It’s something about the cables, the short rows that made subtle ear flaps on the hat and the color change in the yarn and how the yarn holds up wear after wear that makes it my favorite thing I’ve ever knit.

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  3. That’s one gorgeous hat. My peak was a sweater, though. I’d made my husband an Icelandic (Lopi) pullover in bright colors, and he loved it but thought it was too pretty to work in. He asked me for an “ugly” sweater he’d feel okay wearing for farm work. So I knitted up another, this one in Butternut, Acorn, and Cypress – thinking just that these colors would hide dirt – but the sweater is stunning, if I say so myself. He looks like a grizzly bear in it. And it’s warm and practical – he wears it often, even on winter hunting trips. Beautiful and useful – yay.

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  4. Oh, Karen, that hat is gorgeous! And your descriptions of the yarns helps me wrap my mind around what I’m experiencing but haven’t found the words for. My peak experience was the lacey Everdeen Beanie. I found I’d been saying “I can’t do lace patterns because I’m so highly distractable.” 2 or 3 rows into a lace bookmark pattern I’d be hopelessly lost. But then I realized I was using that diabolical word “can’t.” Long story short, I DID IT, the Everdeen Beanie! And it was beautiful! I brought my “super focus” to bear, went slowly, and several rows into the pattern I began to get the logic of it. I could tell when I was off count because the stitches didn’t make sense (don’t know how else to describe it.) Huge breakthrough. Now I’m thinking that if I made the Gentian for the start of 2014, I would spring into my first cable experience with a vengeance. After that, the yarn world would be MINE!

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    • What I like to do in situations like this (because I have a very busy brain that will wander off onto other thoughts, even if I’m not also watching a movie, etc) is place a stitch marker at the end of each repeat. For example, this chart is 22 stitches wide. So on the first chart round, I work the 22 stitches, place a marker, work the 22 stitches again, place a marker, etc. (With a contrasting marker for the beginning of the round.) And that way, as I’m knitting along, if I’ve wandered off course at any point I’ll know it within 22 stitches of the mistake.

      I’m feeling like I’ve really totally got a handle on reading a chart and reading my knitting and understanding what’s happening and debugging my work, and all of that. And it’s a great, solid feeling. But given how distractable I am, a little thing like a conveniently placed stitch marker can save me from needing to do much of that.

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      • I think you’re right about markers with the Everdeen but thank you for the suggestion for the Gentian – I have just the stitch markers for the job ;) I’ve been going over cable hats with a friend in mind. This would be perfect for her and give me a new learning curve and a great January project! Also, you’ve handled the question of what yarn to use. I’m pretty amazed looking at your pics/Ravelry pics at what a difference the right yarn makes to texture/patterning.

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  5. A friend gifted me with a skein of 100% cashmere which I used for a lace crescent shawl. The yarn was so soft and beautiful to work with, I didn’t want the knitting to ever end.

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  6. Oh, Karen. That hat is absolutely beautiful.

    My peak knitting experiences always involve flow—that feeling of complete, joyful immersion. (Usually brought on by stitch patterns that are easily memorized and involve very little counting.) When I suddenly realize that I’ve finished making something, and the beauty of that something surprises me … well, it doesn’t get any better than that!

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  7. For me, it’s any time that I conquer something new – whether it’s a new technique, using colors that I chose (that magically ended up working well together somehow!), or using a new tool or material – I feel accomplished and confident. :)

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  8. That hat is sublime, and really beautiful knitting, Karen. And now you’ve convinced me I must try the P.S. worsted. That must be the Salt color (?), which I absolutely love.

    I think my most recent peak crafting experience was with my Daily Fiber blanket, which is crocheted. It wasn’t complicated at all, but it was spontaneous, used up a range of yarn already on hand, was both soothing and exciting in the making, and now lives on our bed, which brings both my husband and I, a good deal of joy. But the best thing about it is that it brought an “aha” moment that changed my painting process to one that has me back in the studio with enthusiasm. I am SO grateful for that.

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    • This is the natural one, which I think they call Heirloom White. I’m assuming it’s undyed, but the fact that it’s not called Natural or Bare or anything like that makes me wonder. It certainly seems undyed/untinted.

      And I love that answer — that your blanket inspired your art. I hadn’t thought of that angle at all. Although the projects I tend to love most are the ones that give me ideas about what’s next — being inspiring is a big factor of a successful project.

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  9. I love my Dreamz needles, too. So glad to hear I made a good choice. As for a peak knitting experience: as a beginning knitter, my peak is any time I realize I’ve completely relaxed during knitting instead of having my muscles tied up in knots through nervousness.

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    • Yeah, that’s a good one.

      Re the Dreamz and being a beginner, you might find them slippery for a bit, or might find the tips pointy enough that you’re splitting your yarn, etc. So they may feel frustrating depending on your comfort and skill levels, and your yarn. I started using them about a year in (having been resolute about bamboo up to that point), and I fall more in love with them all the time.

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  10. My peak for the year was knitting all the farm animals (chicken, 4 chicks, pig, dog,cat,cow and 3 mice and black sheep) and Spud & Chloe from susan b Anderson. The highlight was the barn that I made to house them all. I can only hope that my grand daughter enjoys playing with them!!

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  11. The project I’m still most proud of is my Funchal Moebius. It’s a stranded snood by Kate Davies, and to knit it I taught myself to knit continental and I dyed my own yarn for the first time. I’d never tried stranded knitting before, so it was quite a challenge and took me six months to finish, but the end result was totally worth it and it gets many compliments!

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  12. That is so pretty! I had a skein of worsted twist in my hand at Purl in November and put it back! Now I wish it was sitting in my stash! Drat! Thank you for your beautiful site I have been knitting for two years and you have made me more daring to try new things! I just learned to cable and love it! :)

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  13. Rock Island by Jared Flood. I was knitting on a deadline, I’d never done lace before and I felt so proud after. I think my big problem with starting larger or more intimidating projects is over thinking things. I hem and haw and worry myself that it won’t be perfect when at a certain point I need to just dive in, and I did that with this project. The value of getting through just one row a day, even if you’re feeling frustrated with it was an important lesson to learn. And then the transformation lace takes after blocking changed my world…I was a non blocker prior to that and I do it with every project now. I love that shawl so so dearly.

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  14. mine would have to be the paperdolls jumper (by kate davies) that i knitted with sheep instead of dolls http://www.ravelry.com/projects/lizoid/paper-dolls-2. i had an epiphany to knit it while riding my bike one day. of course i had to use rowan felted tweed in that fantastic avocado colourway. it’s a great pattern – kate is a genius and a great pattern writer – everything is so well explained

    ps i love your gentian hat! queuing now!

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  15. I somehow totally missed that hat when I looked through the latest BT lookbook, but in that yarn it is stunning. I am not a hat person, but I live in a cold country so it’s high time I knit myself a hat I love – I’m going to give this one a go. I knit the Scrollwork hat (from Wool People 4) it I loved knitting it, but ended up with a slightly too-small hat.

    My peak knitting experiences are always the ones where I feel like I sink into the work. It doesn’t matter whether it’s something plain or something complex, but those moments where are just totally absorbed are the best.

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  17. I think my peak knitting experiences come from successful problem solving. I remember learning to cable and finally understanding cabled fabric and knitting. The first time i laddered down an 8 stitch segment 40 rows to fix a mis-crossed cable and then laddered back up, my heart was pounding the whole time! That is high-adrenaline knitting.
    I had a similar experience learning to knit lace and getting to the point where I could “read” my stitches. Then I started designing sweaters for myself- and there is nothing like knitting and problem-solving one’s way through a lace cardigan, and have it turn out amazing, fitting perfectly and just as I imagined it. I think it was the combination of overcoming the challenges inherent in design and then knitting through them that made it an amazing experience.
    Thanks for raising the question- it’s an interesting one and there are knitting challenges I haven’t yet taken on that your post has inspired me to try (I’m looking at you, intarsia!)

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  18. It was a simple aha! moment but it gave me such pleasure – it was doing mattress stitch for the first time, seaming the sleeves of my first ever sweater. When I pulled on the yarn and those stitches magically disappeared I felt such joy! I like knitting in the round too, but seaming a garment never bothers me because I still get a silly thrill from it.

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  19. My peak knitting experience was the Icelandic yoke sweater on the cover of Vintage Modern Knits, my absolute favorite pattern book. I cast on the day after coming home from an incredible holiday in Finland, and finished in three weeks. I thought about how I wanted it to fit, so the sleeves and body are extra-long, just how I like it. It was a joy to knit, and my first big project to turn out perfectly. I’ve been wearing it constantly this winter. Its debut outing was at a local craft fair, and I ended up having a long conversation with a local artist I admire – she’s known for her books and papercraft, but apparently is a knitter too! So that was pretty exciting, too.

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  20. Mine was when I discovered japanese pattern books by Michiyo. I can’t find any links showing THE book that made definitely me learn to knit. I need to understand what I am doing (which is necessary when you just use the schemas) to take pleasure. I am totally unable to knit a row 1 row 2 row 3 … written instruction. I felt so superhero when I knit my first sweater while it was all written in japanese! It was a multicolored knitted in diagonal sweater I still love.

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  21. I don’t know if I’ve had my peak knitting experience. I’ve been knitting for 6 years (my how time flies!) but I still feel like a beginner in many ways. A couple of highlights – one of my very early projects was the Asherton scarf, and with something like an 18 row repeat, it was a REAL challenge – but at the same time, it was all either knit or purl – no challenging lace stitches to learn. Finishing that was pretty exciting and it really cemented for me the difference (as I look at my work) between a knit and purl stitch. From that base, I have been able to build so many skills and so much better ability to catch errors. Another highlight was knitting bears for each of my children – using the Mother Bear Project pattern (the reason I learned to knit in the first place was to knit a Mother Bear). They are dearly beloved, even 6 years down the road. Finally, it has been a true delight to see people wearing the knits I have made for them. Now that I think about it – that’s really the peak for me – seeing my children playing in the snow in hats I knit, seeing my husband put his hat on before leaving the house and knowing I knit it for him, seeing our whole family decked out in bright yellow Minion hats for Halloween this year, seeing photos on facebook of a friend’s baby wearing the sweater I knit at a family wedding. So – there you have it – many peaks – every time I see someone using something I knit, it brings the joy of knitting again!

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  22. Your hat is gorgeous! My peak knitting experience was a lace shrug that I designed and knit for my now daughter-in-law to wear with her wedding gown. She had seen a picture in a magazine and asked if I could make something like it. The one she saw was made of machine lace, but I said I would try (actually I said yes while a part of my brain was screaming “No!! It can’t be done”. I thought about it a lot and finally came up with a picture in my mind and went for it. It turned out exactly as we had both envisioned it and it is the item of which I am most proud. I think this link will get you to a picture. http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8543/8676625228_39cf7d9ea8_s.jpg

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    • That’s amazing, Doris. So much pressure to knit something for someone’s wedding day. It must have meant the world to you that she asked you to do that, especially as the daughter-in-law-to-be and not your own daughter. And for it to come together into something you both loved … amazing.

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      • Thank you. You hit the nail on the head. It DID mean the world to me. She is a wonderful daughter-in-law and it was so joyous to have it turn out the way it did.

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  23. I’ve been kniting for 10 years, and it’s been one peak after another. The first lace I knit was wonky, because my gauge wasn’t consistent. Once I got that under control, I started knitting socks — heel turns are an eye-opener! But the highest peak ever was seeing my niece dressed in a sweater & hat I’d made, and carrying her teddy I’d made, because she had to be away from me for a day but wanted these bits & bobs along so I could “be there” too. Brought me to tears, it did!

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    • That is too sweet, Anna. I’ve often bemoaned the fact that my little niece and nephew live in Florida — makes it very hard to knit for them. But my grown niece just asked me to make her some fingerless mitts, so that made me happy.

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  27. I’m a brand new knitter and, so far, I would say my peak knitting experience was the lace scarf (knit in a tubular shape) knit with kid mohair. The lace was much easier to do than people led me to believe and it looks gorgeous. The kid mohair was actually nice to knit with too. I’m looking forward to more “peak experiences” though because I am anxious to knit with Malabrigo, Madeline Tosh, and Some of the Purl Soho yarns.

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