Saturday, August 11, 2012

August Craft/Art Form - Knitting

Hopefully if you're reading this you don't know what knitting is, that way you can Really get something out of this post.  But even if you are conversant in some aspects of knitting hopefully this post will serve as some additional instruction for you!

Knitting is not your grandmother's past time anymore.  When most people think of knitting, they likely conjure up itchy wool sweaters with reindeer or snowflakes on them, socks, scarves, hats, and the proverbial mittens.  These are well meant gifts from that older female relative that thought it would be sweet to make you a gift this year.  Then there is the "boyfriend sweater curse"...the one in which you make your boyfriend a sweater and he ends up never wearing it and quite possibly leaving you (and it) by the wayside.

Knitting is not those things anymore, it's so much more and thanks to kick ass designers like Debbie Stoller and her crew from the Stitch n' Bitch Nation (among the other myriad works she's compiled) knitting is hip, it's popular, it's cool, it's tre chic!  You can see knitwear in all the latest fashion mags, from simple drapes and sweaters to intricate and unique works of art.

So here's the down & dirty for ya...

What is knitting?

Knitting is "the turning of fibers (thread or yarn) into a fabric by means of using elongated and tapered needles and manipulating the fibers via rows of loops (eg stitches) in successive rows".  Now what all that jargon boils down to is this:  you have a bunch of loops on a knitting needle, and you make a fabric by pulling your working fiber (what comes off your skein, hank, cake, or cone) through the loops and transferring that new loop onto another needle.  Trust me, it's easier than it sounds.

And for those of you that wanna get "crazy" about what knitting is in detail check out the Wikipedia article about it...

How long has knitting been around?

Knitting is one of the oldest fiber arts with examples stemming back from Ancient Egypt (coptic socks).  Like many professions it was originally done by men only and for purely pragmatic use.  After it was industrialized it became more of a leisure activity and passed into the hands of women more.

How do you distinguish knitting from other fiber arts like crochet?

The biggest difference between knit & crochet is in the tools you use.  Knitting has a little more versatility in that you can do it three ways, crochet does not.  Knitting uses (when done by hand only) at least two needles (some styles use up to four or five, but only two are actively used at a time).  Crochet uses a hook.  Up until recently you couldn't knit with anything but a set of knitting needles (machine, or loom) but with the advent of Knooking that's changed.  However that's another animal altogether and it's not really's Knooking (knitting with a crochet hook).  Knitting also produces a widely different fabric than crocheting does.  Typically knit fabric is stretchy and lends itself well to things that need drape and is thinner, making it ideal for socks, and other garments where a lighter fabric might be preferred.  Crochet is purportedly three times thicker, and uses more yarn.  Knitted fabric is not the best for sculptural design given it's construction - you make an entire length of stitches at a time versus one stitch at a time.

As compared to weaving the stretch and give of knitting comes in handy making it much more suitable for garments (this statement is made were you to handweave & knit two different fabrics with the same type & size of fiber).  However weaving typically uses much finer fibers as a rule and in that case the bulk and drape of woven fabric is lesser and better than knitted fabric.

What types of knitting are there?

This is a two part question as it can be addressed in terms of the means by which one creates knitting as well as styles of knitting.  Knitting can be done by hand (the oldest and most popular method), by machine, or via a loom.  Knitting may also be characterized as Fair Isle, Intarsia, Entrelac, Flat Knitting, Knitting in the Round, Double Knitting, & Lace Knitting.  You can also characterize knitting as either Warp Knitting or Weft Knitting and within that English or Continental Knitting.

Important details about knitting?

The back of a knit stitch is a purl, and vice versa.  While there are only two "basic stitches" knit and purl, there are a plethora of stitches to create increases and decreases, each giving the finished fabric a characteristic look.  There are many techniques that involve the use of different stitch combinations within knitting, ribbing (vertical textured stripes), welting (horizontal textured stripes), and basketweave (a checkerboard like combination of ribbing & welting); that gives your knitted fabric more dimension.  There are many different types of stitches (Eg. Elongated Stitches, Left & Right Plaited Stitches, Cables) that give knitters and knit designers several options in their final pattern or design.

Have any questions about knitting?  Ask in our comments so we can revise the post or address it in another one!

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