I want to knit, where do I start?
April 7, 2004 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Any advice on knitting - instruction, starting points, shops, brands, websites, anecdotes. Who is knitting these days? Is this a trend on the horizon? Men, are you knitting? Why do YOU knit? Is knitting experiencing a surge for the same reasons that poker is?
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Knitting is WAY more than a trend on the horizon — it's a subculture in full bloom. Knitting is HUGE with the 20- and 30-something urban hipster set. And yes, that includes men. There's a whole Men Who Knit webring. New York has a knitting cafe. Here's just a few of the hip knitting sites out there:





QueerJoe's Knitting Blog

The Red Sweater

Wendy's Knitting

When Knitting Was a Manly Art

And no, I'm not a knitter. But I have many many friends who are.
posted by arielmeadow at 12:11 PM on April 7, 2004

I knit because it gives me the satisfaction of laboring to create a material product (my job doesn't do that for me). Also, yarn shopping can be quite addictive--looking around at all the hundreds of colors and textures.

Advice: Addi Turbos are some fiiiiiiine needles. And circular needles in general rock. You can find sets of 'em on Ebay on a pretty regular basis.

Check out www.knitty.com for a nice little knitting site. On preview, I see ariel already recommended it...yay!
posted by clever sheep at 12:12 PM on April 7, 2004

On preview, everyone else said what I said, but with links! So nevermind except this part:

I'm not a knitter, I'm a crocheter, because knitting has two pointy dangerous needles and crochet has one, relatively dull hook but the why is probably the same for both knitting and crocheting so I learned to crochet when I was a kidlet and took it up again because I felt like just sitting around watching TV was a waste of time, but turn on Survivor and give me a skein of yarn and a hook and LOOK OUT. I'm productive!

As for the uniting element between the two past times, yarn:

Check eBay and check estate sales and yard sales for fabulous yarn bargains. See if there is a small yarn/needlework store in your area. You can often find not only excellent yarn, but great instruction, books, and a knitting community there (like I'm a little on the outs of my local yarn shop because I'm a crocheter while everyone else is a knitter). The big meganormous craft stores maybe be cheaper for some yarns, but they are also real heavy on that nasty feeling acrylic shit so I usually only go there after I've checked the local shop first.

And yes, yarn shopping is waaaaaay addictive so beware.
posted by jennyb at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2004

Response by poster: Full Disclosure: My lovely wife and I are opening a yarn/knitting/crochet/fiber arts shop in Flagstaff, AZ. So , mainly I am looking for a load of advice and experiences from those who knit or know those who knit, or do fiber arts in any sense. What to do, what not to do, what to carry.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:35 PM on April 7, 2004

Response by poster: and yes, I knit.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2004

Attend your next local knitting meetup. While knitting shops can be hit-or-miss with regard to the level of help and advice you'll receive (some welcome newbies, others not so much), everyone at a knitting meetup is enthusiastic to help no matter how new or well-practiced you may be.

I knit for the same reasons as clever sheep and jennyb, and also because I can knit and zone out at the same time. It's like meditation, but you have a nice scarf to show for your effort...

On preview...in your shop, be extra nice to new knitters! The most frequent topic of conversation at every knitting group I've attended has been which shops are helpful and kind - and therefore worthy of our cold hard yarn cash - and which are snobby and so to be avoided.

Good luck in your venture!
posted by hsoltz at 12:48 PM on April 7, 2004

I don't knit, but Christine Lavin does.
posted by bondcliff at 1:04 PM on April 7, 2004

I second what hsoltz said re the absolute necessity of being helpful, nice and informative to your customers, especially newbies. The brand-new knitting store closest to me offers classes as well as specific times set aside for assistance with existing projects, which is very cool.

Everyone who knits knows that it can be fairly expensive, so if I were opening a knitting shop I would focus more on customer service than being the cheapest in the area. Competitive prices are obviously important, but helpfulness will bring the customers back again and again. I'd also make sure to stock a variety of metal, plastic and wood needles. I hate having to make do with plastic needles because the store didn't have metal ones in the size I wanted.

Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 1:12 PM on April 7, 2004

I'm surprised no one's mentioned this yet...Stitch n' Bitch: The Knitters Handbook. This is a great resource for both beginners and the more experienced alike. If you have the opportunity/time/money to take a class, go for it, but the Stitch n Bitch book has a lot of very helpful instructions for getting started.
posted by dicaxpuella at 1:15 PM on April 7, 2004

I love to knit -- I love being able to look up at the end of the day and realize I have actually made something with my two hands. Plus, it's incredibly soothing, and I love to be able to shop for new yarn.

There are also plenty of thriving knitting communities on livejournal.

oh! bamboo needles are fun and you can't often find them in your local craftoriums. And denise needles -- i bought mine online and they are freaking indespensible.

ps, on preview -- yes! stitch and bitch is an awesome book.
posted by sugarfish at 1:17 PM on April 7, 2004

I knit a lot but am completely intimidated by the ladies at the local yarn store (LYS) and so get all of my knitting instruction/help online, always buy my yarn online, and only go to the LYS when I need a specific needle that I can run in, buy, and jet.

Your "trend on the horizon" comment cracked me up because it's the faddiest fad of all time currently. Eeeeeeeverybody is knitting these days. However, all the kids seem to like the novelty yarns & knitting the simple garter stitch scarf, which is the exact opposite of me; I like to make complicated patterns with plain yarns.
posted by palegirl at 1:38 PM on April 7, 2004

Response by poster: I'll tell you all, first, THANKS!, second, I am a new knitter and as the male in the venture, am obviously quite interested in generating lots of friendly new-knitter vibe. We plan to open up in a really great spot, open with a whole variety of yarns and needles and probably offer 'knitting-101' classes for free the first 6 months. I have traveled around to knit shops endlessly lately (research) and have been snubbed snubbed snubbed! Wow. Our shop will be a knit-cafe model and waaaaay friendly. We will also be about 3 blocks from a major university, so young knitters are a big part of our model. Any ideas, or products for younger knitters are appreciated...
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:06 PM on April 7, 2004

I always have to laugh when I get on the subway, there is inevitably someone knitting. My girlfriend knits, and while I want to learn, every time I try I just can't keep what "pointy dangerous needle" goes where when my thumb goes there. I have been to the knitting cafe, and it is excellent, even from a non-knitter. That establishment is how all knitting [and all craft stores for that matter] should be run.
posted by plemeljr at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2004

I was a knitter when it wasn't hip--I'm 33, and have been knitting for 20 years. My advice is to try and make sure you carry something that other yarn shops in your area don't. For instance, I love Regia Multi-Effect (a self patterning sock yarn) and none of my local yarn stores carry it, so I must mail order. I'd much prefer being able to look at the colors before I buy, even if it meant paying a bit more. Self-patterning sock yarns are pretty big right now, even for non-sock applications (I've made several baby sweaters and hats with them.) I also saw a bigger version of self-patterning yarn somewhere... that would be cool, I think. For self-patterning yarns, it would probably be wise to have a sample something worked up, because in the ball, it looks pretty random.
posted by Shoeburyness at 2:23 PM on April 7, 2004

My wife — Ms. Anti-Hobby — recently took up knitting. She loves it. She took a class where she knitted a hat (a fancy one, not a stocking cap). She calls it her $180 hat, because that's how much it cost for the class and the materials. She hasn't worn her $180 hat yet, and the cost hasn't dissuaded her.

Kris keeps buying more and more yarn, even though she has nothing to knit. She'll take a class on knitting sweaters next month.

I'm very glad to see her taking up a hobby, especially one that might provide clothing for me at some point...
posted by jdroth at 2:43 PM on April 7, 2004

I also prefer to crochet instead of knit. It goes faster and I like a lot of the textured patterns (easier to create in crochet).

So my advice is: be nice to crocheters. At the local LYS to admit you crochet is to be brought down a peg or two with the ladies there. But I hold my head high.

So, carry books and hooks, for a lot of customers who can't get the hang of knitting may find crochet a great substitute, and crocheting takes more yarn, so more sales for you! ;)
posted by Salmonberry at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2004

Oh, hey, will there be a mail-order portion with a MeFi discount?!? Eh? Huh?
posted by Salmonberry at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2004

Is knitting experiencing a surge for the same reasons that poker is?

I thought the renewed interest in poker was due to the lipstick camera.
posted by jjg at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2004

Response by poster: Is knitting experiencing a surge for the same reasons that poker is?

- I was thinking more along the lines, of 'old world', 'relaxing', 'thoughtful', 'challenging' and 'finding a new audience'. And overall hip.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 3:20 PM on April 7, 2004

I don't know if anyone suggested this, but you should offer classes. I started when I kept walking by a yarn shop every day that offered classes. I ended up spending many hundreds of dollars there by the time we moved from that city.
posted by free pie at 3:59 PM on April 7, 2004

Some thoughts on knitting shops, many of which are repetitive of what has already been said, but this is something I thought about a bit:

Yarn snobs suck. Nobody likes the story that only stocks Rowan and Collinette and looks down their noses at the people trying to learn on plastic needles with acrylic. Be friendly, helpful and carry a range of product in different price points.

Independent Designers rule. One thing I love to see in a yarn shop is support for indie designers. Look for patterns by Just One More Row, Heart Strings, White Lies, etc, and carry them in your store. You'll have to make contact with the designers themselves to work out the distribution angle, but they're something that your customers just won't find in every yarn shop. These can be great options for putting together kits, as well.

People love kits. Not me, personally, mind you, as I'm a larger person and kits never fit me, but most people. Kits. Simple projects with fun novelty yarns seem to be the most popular items with a lot of knitters. Put together a leaflet and the appropriate yarn, and any buttons and such, and sell it at a slight discount, and people will snap it up.

Classes are good. You already mentioned beginner classes, which are good, but don't forget your more advanced knitters. Contact your local guilds. Are they bringing in a guest speaker? Offer to split expenses and have them teach a day long workshop in your store while they're already in town.

Guilds are better. If you don't already love your local guild, learn to. Sponsor them. Get involved. Donate door prizes. Let them learn to love you back.

Substitution is hard. Think of the perfume lines. "If you like Drakkar Noir, you'll love smelly crap #2". When the new issues of the major magazines become available, look at the patterns and pick out yarns in your stock that are listed, or are good substitutes.

Colours are harder. One of my favourite knitting stores has a few colour wheels hanging about in the store with instructions on how to use them to find complimentary colours. It's a little touch, but it helps when you're searching for the right matches.

References on hand. While copying patterns and such is illegal, it's a good idea to keep at least one copy of the last couple of issues of the major knitting magazines on hand. That way, when someone comes into your store looking for the yarn from that sweater in FCEK without the FCEK in hand, you can look it up for them.

Swatches are pretty and useful. If you're carrying a number of lines of yarn, waste a ball of each (yarn, not each colour of each yarn) and knit a swatch in the recommended gauge. It'll give people a much better idea of what the yarn will do as a finished product than looking at a ball. If you've got fancy yarns like the space dyed Regia sock yarns, knit a swatch of each pattern.

Organize a charity knitting project. It makes your store look good, potentially gets you some press and brings people in. Oh, also, you know, helps those less fortunate. Knit preemie blankets or mitts for poor kids, it doesn't much matter. Provide free patterns, and perhaps offer a rebate on some or all of the yarn purchase price when people bring their item back for the donation bin.

Establish an internet presence. You might be surprised how many people include yarn shopping on their itinerary when they travel. If you've got a web page - even if you don't do online ordering - people will be more likely to find you and include you in their list.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:30 PM on April 7, 2004

I'm a knitter and I'll second all the advice jacquilynne just gave. I was speaking to the owner of my LYS the other night who mentioned that their wool sales increased 70% last year. So yeah, big time fad. My biggest problem when starting out was the intimidation factor. Some of the old ladies who work the counter make you feel like you don't know the secret password. I only got good service once I brought in my first finished sweater and thus proved that I wasn't one of the silly garter-stitch-with-Feathers bandwagon knitters.

That said, I *am* a total yarn snob. Sure, carry the novelty yarns for the newbies, but don't forget the nice premium wool for people willing to pay for it. I love Jo Sharp's range, and also the Naturally line from New Zealand. Definitely get the self-patterning sock stuff. I love that. My LYS has recently introduced some really gorgeous designer cotton that I can't decide what to do with yet. Also, don't forget to stock as many knitting magazines as you can. Not all newsagents carry them so if you can be the one stop shop for all the big international titles, people will pay for the convenience.

Ooh, another idea - SPINNING. There's a significant subset of knitters who are into the idea of spinning and dyeing their own wool. You might look into sourcing some drop spindles or even spinning wheels. Not a lot of places carry them, so it would definitely be a draw for some folks.

In terms of needles, definitely carry a full range of circulars. Circular devotees are always on the lookout for suppliers of extra short and long needles. I've got a set of the Denise needles myself (via mailorder, since no shops here carry them) and they're pretty good. You could also carry some of the nicer accessories, like the Knitter's Purse I've been drooling over for six months.
posted by web-goddess at 6:07 PM on April 7, 2004

another thing -- my favorite lys (arcadia knitting in chicago) arranges everything by color, which is great.
posted by sugarfish at 8:25 PM on April 7, 2004

I wish I had taken up knitting earlier. My mother-in-law taught me a few years ago, but I never had much time to practice and ended up forgetting. I can crochet like nobody's business, though, and would probably patron a store like this, drooling over the yarns.

People love kits.
If you decide to put together some kits, consider doing some starter kits targeted at specific age groups. The only kid's knitting stuff I could find last christmas was pretty hokey, so I threw this and some supplies into a tote bag for a 9-year-old cousin who was interested in learning. She (and her mom) are both learning now.

and, as a side note, is it just me, or should all how-to books come with a spiral binding so you don't have to hold them open?
posted by whatnot at 9:27 PM on April 7, 2004

Definitely, whatnot. In fact, my favorite knitting book is "The Knitter's Bible", which not only is spiral but splits the pages in half. The top part consists of patterns while the bottom is instruction and technical stuff. That way you can flip to technical info without losing your place in the pattern.
posted by web-goddess at 9:44 PM on April 7, 2004

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