Knitting, crafting, cooking, and motherhood… trying to do it all!

Posts tagged ‘baby’

Adding a Pocket to the Twisted Trails Sweater

The Child for All Seasons MKAL is in full swing on Ravelry! It’s never too late to join, and you can even preview the Autumn Collection before buying. Purchasing the year gets you 12 children’s patterns for one low price, released seasonally throughout the year.

This season, I have designed two of the patterns: the Trail Mix Fingerless Mitts and the Twisted Trails Hooded Sweater. Both are perfect fall knits for the little ones in your life!

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Having already knit 4 versions of the Twisted Trails, I decided to make a version with a kangaroo pocket for my godson Michael. I had never knit a kangaroo pocket, so it was a bit of a learning experience. My whole goal was to have the cables travel uninterrupted up the front of the sweater. I achieved that goal and I’m so happy with the results! Although this is not a pattern or an addition to the pattern, any adventurous knitter can use my notes to modify the pattern on their own. If you have questions, jump in on the MKAL forums and I’d be happy to answer them!

1. I began by knitting a rectangle the size that I wanted the inner pocket to be. I used a hoodie belonging to my older son as a guideline and chose to make mine approximately 8″ x 6″. I began with a provisional cast on (onto a spare needle). I also added the bright orange yarn as a lifeline since this was a technique I had not yet tried.

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2. Next I began the ribbing according to the pattern. On the first row of the main color, I knit all the stitches without beginning the cable chart set-up. Instead, when I came to the stitches that would center my pocket along the front, I lined up the needles WS together and worked k2tog with one stitch from each needle.

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3. After attaching the pocket to the ribbing, I worked the pattern as stated for approximately 1 inch to create some bottom depth for the pattern. At that point, I began working each section flat– the section that was the width of my pocket (including the cable chart) and the section that did not include the pocket. When I reached the length of the pocket, I was ready to join them together. I joined them the same way as before, lining up the needles and working k2tog or p2tog as needed. The difference was that this time I also had to cable as I was working the stitches!

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4. Once the sweater was finished, I used mattress stitch to seam the side of the sweater with the pocket rectangle, leaving the opening for the hands.

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5. Using the contrasting color (gray) and smaller needles, I picked up and knit 24 sts (a multiple of 4). I worked the same ribbing pattern as indicated for the hood ribbing. Using mattress stitch, I attached the sides to the sweater.

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6. The result was a beautiful new hoodie for my nephew’s birthday, shown here modeled by my son Adrian. I am sure this will get plenty of use all season long!

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I hope this is helpful to anyone wanting to add kangaroo pockets to their handknits. And if you haven’t already, join us as we knit our way through the year in the Child for All Seasons MKAL!

Taking the “EEK!” Out of Steeking

STEEKING. It means that you will be cutting stitches that you just spent hours (if not days) knitting. Crazy, right? I had never heard of steeking until I started knitting in January. While watching an instructional video on YouTube, it recommended a steeking video. Curious as to what it was, I watched in amazement as a carefully knit sweater was cut straight down the middle. From that point on, I was fascinated by the concept but did not take the opportunity to try it myself until this month.

Why would you cut your knitting? Steeking was developed by knitters of the Shetland archipelago and is particularly associated with Fair Isle knitting. The idea is that you can knit a cardigan sweater with frequent color changes and never have to turn your work to the back where all the colors are being carried. You essentially knit a tube in the round and make cuts for the front of the sweater and/or arm holes. If you use a particularly sticky wool and change colors correctly, you can cut your sweater without any extra reinforcement. If you are using a fiber that has been processed (such as a superwash), you will need to reinforce your stitches with a line of single crochet or with a sewing machine. After the sweater has been cut, the knitter can pick up stitches down the middle to create a button band to finish the garment.

I have read a lot about steeking and have watched several instructional videos. Elizabeth Zimmermann used steeking quite a bit and describes the process throughout her books. Intrigued, I was determined to try it myself. About a month ago, I received a digital download of the Tin Can Knits book Road Trip, which featured a steeked sweater. After knitting their Caribou sweater pattern (as I mentioned in my post about cables), I decided to try their Clayoquot pattern and experience steeking first-hand.

Clayoquot is a lovely sweater, featuring a Fair Isle design that I really love. I had previously purchased some Cascade 220 Superwash in “Ruby” to make a sweater for my two year old son, Jonathan. Since I had just knit the Caribou sweater for him, I decided to knit Clayoquot in the 6-12 mo size for my baby boy, Christian. I looked at all different colors to use for the Fair Isle patterning, perused project pages of other knitters, and finally decided that I didn’t want to knit with multiple colors. I wanted a simple red sweater. Now, I realize that the beauty of their design is in the patterning, but I wanted a versatile sweater that could go with everything. I loved that the pattern included pockets (my first time knitting them) and I would get the chance to try steeking with a sweater I could knit in just a couple days. I also feel that to become adept at stranded knitting, I need to teach myself how to “flick” the yarn with my right hand so I can knit a color in each hand. While it is on my list of things to learn, I’m still trying to improve my speed with Continental knitting.

If you are trying steeking for the first time (and every knitter SHOULD), I highly recommend reading up on it first. The lovely ladies of Tin Can Knits have an excellent blog post which I read repeatedly before making the first cut (and you get to see pics of a super cute baby!).

Here is a brief shot of my steeking experience: 1. Sweater knit in the round with the middle five stitches prepped for steeking. 2. Two lines of single crochets down the front to protect the stitches. 3. Cut down the middle of the stitches. 4. Steeking is complete.

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Add a button band and some buttons and, voila!

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Christian has a sweet little sweater now and it took just a couple of days. I’m glad I started with something so small, but I now have the confidence to steek in the future. It no longer intimidates me and I love that I can knit it all in stockinette with very little purling. And now a few pics of my own cutie in his newest sweater:

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Crochet the Day Away

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A few weeks ago, I was approached by a local photographer.  She offered an exchange of services.  If I helped her create some newborn baby props (hats, bows, etc.) for her studio, she would offer me a photo credit toward a newborn photo session.  I agreed and took a break from the knitting to crochet some items for her.  One of the pixie hats is knit, along with the strand of the bow.  Two of my sons agreed to “model” the pink pixie hat.  All the rest of the items are crocheted, so I thought I’d share some pictures.   I can’t wait to see them appear on some babies in her studio! These are only a few of the items, so you may see another post in the future!ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

My First “Raglan” Sweater

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I created a sweater a couple weeks ago (click here to see the post), but I knew I could do better.  I searched ravelry for more newborn sweaters, and came across a pattern that was sized from 3 mos. to 3T.  I figured that would be a good sizing option because it would make it slightly larger than the newborn sweater I had already created and I would be able to knit a larger size for my toddler if I wanted.  This Bigger Bitty Cabled Cardigan pattern was slightly more complicated than the last sweater I made, but still looked easy enough for me to handle.

The greatest thing I learned from making this sweater was the meaning of the term “raglan.”  I had heard the word used before, but had no clear understanding of what it was.  Raglan refers to the way the sleeves are attached in a diagonal from the collar to the armpit.  There are other ways of attaching sleeves, but this style is referred to as “raglan.”  The cool thing is that you actually begin making the sleeves when you start the pattern.  Using KFB stitches as directed, you create the diagonal which will later be the beginning of your sleeves. As you can see in the picture below, this was all knit in one piece.  There are stitch markers holding the stitches which will later be knit in the round to become the sleeves.

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Another cool thing about this pattern was that it included buttonholes.  The other pattern I made suggested sewing on buttons and squeezing them through the stitches.  Had I known how easy it was to make a buttonhole, I would have just made some of my own.  Instead, I left the blue sweater without buttons.  I did make a small mistake on the second buttonhole from the top, but it is still functional.  I did not realize that YO (yarn over) and K2tog (knit two together) could be combined.  I realized my mistake (although I’m not sure how I did the top hole correctly) and fixed it on the rest of the holes.

I have not yet posted on blocking, which is apparently a very important part of the sweater-making process.  I have blocked both the blue and the green baby sweaters, but do not have finished pictures to post.  I will mention that both sweaters look even better now that they are blocked.  Instead of more posts, I am 39 weeks pregnant and I am focusing on the upcoming arrival of Christian Joseph, my fourth baby boy.  Hopefully in the next week or two I will have some adorable photos to share of my new little guy wearing all of his hand-knit apparel!

Jogless Stripes and More Baby Accessories

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I finished the blue ribbed hat, but wanted something a little cuter for my new little guy, and also wanted to challenge myself with stripes.  I had learned through one of the YouTube videos I watched that you had to do something special to create stripes while knitting in the round.  I did not remember the technique, but did remember that it wasn’t too complicated.  I found a pattern through ravelry that had some of the basic shaping of the hat I wanted, but it used a needle size that I didn’t have and I wanted to make changes to the pattern anyway.

I used my previous knowledge of hat making (from both knit and crochet– I have crocheted over 100 hats in the past couple years) and the ideas in the ravelry pattern to design my own knit hat pattern.  I once again utilized the Magic Loop, which has become one of my favorite knitting techniques.  I also utilized YouTube videos to create jogless stripes on this little boy’s hat.  While I can’t explain how to do a jogless stripe, I can tell you that it’s not hard.  In fact, the hardest part is remembering to do it when you start the second row of a new color.  This pattern also used PSSO, which is a techinque involving Passing Slipped Stitch(es) Over a knit stitch.  I slipped the stitches purlwise, but learned in subsequent hats that it worked better to slip them knitwise.  The PSSO technique can be seen in the raised stitches in the picture below.

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The pattern I created ended up with an adorable little star pattern on the top.  I made some adjustments to my own pattern, and in the next few weeks created hats for two different friends’ baby showers.  One couple is Jamaican, so I used the colors of the Jamaican flag.  The other couple are both professors at Indiana University, so I used the IU Hoosier colors of crimson and cream.  Once again, I need to write up my version of the pattern because I plan to use this for many baby showers to come!

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After creating the jogless stripes of the baby hat and creating my own newborn hat pattern, I decided to try it with socks.  I had already made a few adjustments to the baby sock pattern I had previously used, but now I wanted to change it completely and make it my own.  I still used the worsted weight yarn and the size four DPNs, but now I wanted to continue the ribbed pattern all the way down the heel and use my newly-learned skill to add jogless stripes and colored toes to the socks.  It took a little bit of work to figure out the right number of rows/stitches to achieve what I wanted, but I was SO happy with the results.

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As you can see, one of the colored toes ended up longer than the other, and there are a few other minor differences.  This is because I was more focused on improving my own pattern rather than making them identical.  I love the green and blue cotton yarns, and look forward to mixing and matching these socks with the blue baby sweater and the two different baby hats.  Now to make another baby sweater in the green…

Newborn Hat and the Magic Loop Method

To complete a “going home from the hospital” ensemble for my newborn, I wanted to make a knit hat to match the sweater and socks.  For my last baby born (Jonathan), I had brought along an adorable crocheted hat for him to wear instead of the standard pink and blue striped hat they put on the babies (see pic below with Adrian holding Jonathan).  One of the nurses commented that, “these hats that Grandma makes are cute, but they’re just not warm enough for these new babies,” and promptly switched out my handmade creation for the hospital hat.  At the time, I was too worried about the fact that I was letting my baby’s head freeze to be offended.  This time, however, I decided to come to the hospital with a snug little KNIT hat.  Hopefully it’s acceptable to the nursing staff!

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I kept the same worsted weight cotton yarn and found a perfectly simple newborn hat pattern through ravelry.  The Little Boy Blue Ribbed Baby Hat was just what I wanted.  I could use the same blue yarn as I had used for the hat and sweater and by being created with lots of ribbing, it would be warm, stretchy, and comfortable.  Because you never know how big the baby’s head will be, it’s important for the hat to be very stretchy and the extended length could easily be folded into any size brim.

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The one problem with this pattern was that it called for size 7 needles.  I had size 8 and didn’t want to invest in the 7s, so I did some math and adjusted the pattern.  I basically just reduced the pattern by 12 stitches and skipped “Rnd 11” in the pattern.  I started this pattern using the DPNs.  While these are perfectly fine for knitting a newborn hat, the pointy needles kept poking my big, pregnant belly.  I watched a YouTube video on the Magic Loop method, and I was sold!  (Side note: I have found that VeryPinkKnits makes some consistently easy to follow YouTube tutorials.)  The Magic Loop method allows you to knit in the round without filling up the entire circular needle.  In fact, you start with very large circular needles (32″ or greater) and then shift the stitches back and forth along the needles.  This was a much more comfortable method for small-circumference knitting, and learning how to do it helped me in many future projects.

The project went rather quickly, and I ended up with an adorable (and very versatile) WARM hat for my newborn son!

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Socks! Well… baby socks

After tackling the sweater, my next ambition was to create some socks.  Socks were another knitting creation that had me baffled.  I can knit my own socks?  Like, to wear?  There are whole sections of yarn stores devoted to “sock yarn” and dozens of patterns on ravelry and other sites devoted to socks.  Nevertheless, I was intimidated by the idea of creating my own.

I decided to start small, as with all of my preceding projects.  I wanted to create a pair of newborn socks for the baby.  I was pickier than that, though.  I did not want to use the special (and expensive) “sock yarn.”  I wanted to use the same worsted weight cotton yarn that I had used for the newborn sweater.  After all, I wanted it to match perfectly.

I did some pattern searching and came up with this pattern for Simply Sweet Socks.  This pattern allowed me to make newborn socks while still using the worsted weight yarn.  Unlike other patterns that tried to simplify newborn socks, this one still required the heel flap, turning the heel, and knitting the gusset.  All of these terms were things that I knew were important for knitting adult socks, but they were all new to me.  I wanted these newborn socks to be an “intro to sock-making” on a small scale, though, so I wanted to learn how to do each of those steps.  The pattern also called for size 4 double pointed needles (DPNs), so this would be my first real attempt to work with DPNs.

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The pattern called for using four DPNs (with 6 stitches on each needle), although once I understood what I was doing I reduced the number to three (with 8 stitches on each needle).  I had previously watched a video of someone using DPNs, and I knew it was important to pull the stitches tight between the needles, otherwise I would end up with a ladder effect.  The DPNs worked fine, with one exception… they kept poking at my big pregnant belly!  Reducing the number of DPNs from 4 to 3 was helpful, but I still was not a fan of using these.

Knitting the heel flap and turning the heel were both easily accomplished, but I had to watch a YouTube video on how to pick up the gusset.  It wasn’t hard, but it is not easily explained.  I highly recommend watching a video to help you through the first time.  Here is a picture of the sock in progress, after I had picked up the gusset stitches:

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The rest of the knitting went smoothly, although I noticed a few changes I would like to make to the pattern.  One was the way the heel looked.  Because of the slipped stitches, the heel was reinforced, but didn’t look as smooth as it would if I had run the ribbing all the way down.  I decided that if I created my own sock pattern (foreshadowing!), I would continue the ribbing.

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Another change I did make to the pattern was to finish off the toe with a kitchener stitch.  I had watched a video of someone making socks, and noticed the nice finish they made by “grafting” the toe (aka using the “kitchener stitch”).  Because this is how adult socks are finished, this is how I wanted to finish my newborn socks.  The original pattern calls for a “star toe” by threading the yarn through the remaining stitches and pulling them tightly to a point.

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Once I was to this point (see pic above), I shifted the stitches evenly onto two needles and lined them up to create the top and bottom of the sock.  I then followed the YouTube video instructions (just search for “kitchener stitch”) and created a beautifully grafted edge.Image

The first sock was a bit of a learning experience, but the second one went very smoothly.  I love that they were quick to make and that they match the handmade sweater perfectly.  Next up: a hat to complete the set!

Knitting a Sweater, Keeping it Small

My goal for the year is to knit a sweater for myself.  I was not ready to jump into such a large endeavor, so I started looking up newborn sweaters.  I figured I would start small… if I could create a newborn sweater, there’s a chance that I might be able to create one for myself one day in the future.  I searched ravelry for an easy newborn sweater, and found one that was knit in one piece using worsted weight yarn.  This sounded like a good option, so I went with it!    Unfortunately, it was linked through ravelry, but it was actually from a book.  The good news was that my library had a digital copy in stock and I was able to borrow it for free on my phone, found and downloaded in minutes.  (Side note: if you have the technology, I highly recommend borrowing library books through digital media!)  You can click here to link to the pattern I found on ravelry, or you can find it in the book More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, by Joelle Hoverson.

Using the same circular needles I used on the hat, I was able to knit the sweater.  Although it is not done in the round, the circular needles provide lots of space to create larger projects.  Then you can simply switch back and forth between the needles as if it were knit using straight needles.  Knowing this, I have almost completely converted to circular needles!

Next decision: what yarn to use?  I found some great yarn at Hobby Lobby that is 100% cotton (“I Love this Cotton!” in blue).  The downfall to using cotton for a sweater is that it is not as springy as a wool yarn or mixed yarn (according to the lovely lady at the yarn store).  This makes sense and is good information for when I create a larger sweater.  For a newborn, though, I don’t think the yarn needs to be as springy and it’s hard to beat the soft feel of cotton while holding that sweet little one.

The project began at the bottom of the back of the sweater and utilized the seed stitch.  I had never done a seed stitch before, but it is created simply by alternating knit/purl stitches.  Instead of lining them up like you do to make ribbing, you stagger them.  Once again, if you don’t know how to do it, look on YouTube.  That site has revolutionized crafting!

It was SO exciting when a sweater shape started to form! Here it is with the back of the sweater completed. (Note: the wavy shape along the back is a result of it being held on the curved wire of the circular needles.  It would not lie completely flat while attached. Also, I realize the lighting is bad, so you get a better idea of the actual sweater color in the final pictures.)

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You’ll also notice in the picture that I got to use stitch markers for the first time (and understand what they were for).  Stitch markers slide onto your needle according to the pattern directions (typically indicated as “pm” or “place marker”) and you slide them onto each new needle as you stitch.  As you work, the markers define the changes in the pattern.  For example, you can see in the picture that the seed stitch was worked along the cuff  to create a pattern at the end of the sleeve.  Then the stitching went back to stockinette before reaching the stitch marker at the top of the garment, indicating that I should switch to seed stitch along the collar of the sweater.  The two remaining place markers work the same way to keep the garment symmetrical.

This project was a challenge, but it gave me a good understanding about a lot of techniques used in making a sweater.  It did not turn out perfectly, but, hey, I had only been knitting for a couple of weeks!  The biggest problem was that the stitches did not line up perfectly, so it caused some bumps during the seaming and prevent the front of the sweater from lining up just right.  Because of this, I am still debating whether or not to add buttons.  The pattern did not call for button holes, but says that the stitches have enough room to fit small buttons.  I have my doubts about this, mostly because my husband has a hard time lining up buttons on a baby when there are actual holes that match up.  That, and I kind of like it button-free.

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I hope to knit a few more small sweaters before I attempt to put the work into making one for myself.  With boys ranging in ages from newborn to age 7 1/2, I figure I have plenty of “models” for creating garments.  I want the sweater for myself to look GOOD, and not look like some kind of craft project… my boys aren’t as picky!

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Along with the blue cotton yarn, I purchased some coordinating green yarn.  I’ve been using them to create mix-and-match separates, which I plan to blog about.  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s coming:

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Learning to Knit

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to learn how to knit.  Having been an avid crocheter for 20+ years, the idea of using two straight needles completely baffled me.

I started by looking through some various books and kits my mom gave me for Christmas.  I looked at all the beautiful hand-knit clothing and made a goal to knit myself a sweater by next winter.  I started watching YouTube videos.  I watched quite a few tutorials before even picking up the needles, just so I could see the variety of styles and explanations.  There was one tutorial in particular that made the connection for me… a knitter who used the same left-handed tension hold that I use while crocheting.

After seeing the techniques used by several different people, I read through the “Learning to Knit” booklet I had received as a present.  I picked up my needles and started.  After trying a few rows (which involved restarting a couple times), I posted a picture of my garter stitch on facebook and asked for encouragement and comments from fellow knitters.  This was extremely helpful.  It allowed me to find a number of friends who had a variety of experiences knitting.  It also gave me confidence to keep going.  Here is the pic I posted:

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When I decided I was fairly comfortable with the knit stitch, I watched several videos and read my knitter’s manual to learn how to cast/bind off.  This was tricky (and is still one of my least favorite parts of knitting), but I managed to do it.

Next, I did my video-watching/manual-checking and moved onto the purl stitch.  This one was not as fun as the knit stitch and certainly took more practice.  The exciting thing, though, was once I had purled a swatch and cast off, I got to try STOCKINETTE stitch.  For all of you non-knitters, this is the beautiful v-shaped pattern that you think of when you think about knitting.  I have always been mesmerized by it and wanted so badly to be able to do this.  Now that I was somewhat comfortable with both knit and purl stitches, all it took was a row of each to make that beautiful pattern!  This was definitely the most exciting thing I accomplished on day 1 of knitting.  From here, I could go anywhere!

The next day, I decided to try out a pattern.  I wanted to make something small so I could avoid frustration if I had to start over and so that any mistakes I had made (and had not learned how to undo) would not be a big deal.  I scoured the internet for free patterns using a google search and found a newborn hat pattern.  It was perfect!  It was knit flat and then seamed, so I wouldn’t need to know how to knit in the round.  It utilized ribbing, which was new to me (but seemed easy enough).  It was mostly comprised of stockinette stitch (my favorite!).  I would also have to learn how to do a mattress seam to put it together.  This was important because it would not only use skills I already had (sort of), but I would have to learn something new as well.  Also, on a more practical note, I was six months pregnant so having a newborn hat ready for my new little one would be perfect!

So… I began.  I spent the day working on the hat in my spare time.  Luckily, my two older boys like to watch me knit and I could tell them about the process.  In fact, they took turns sitting next to me learning to crochet while I worked on this particular pattern (neither of them made it past the chain stitch, FYI).  They also spent a lot of time entertaining themselves while my littlest one took a nap.

By the end of the day, I had a hat.  More importantly, I had completed my first knitting project and had an adorable little hat for baby boy #4!  I posted the picture on facebook, to the amazement of all my knitting friends who had just seen me asking for knitting advice the day before.  I was excited that I learned so fast (which I mostly attribute to all my crochet experience) and was proud that I had created something by being a “knitter” (as opposed to being “just” a mom).

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For all of you out there learning to knit, I would not expect it to come quite as easily (although I really hope it does!).  My advice is to do your research before you start.  YouTube videos and knitting manuals can be invaluable before you even pick up your needles.  Start with cheap yarn and medium sized needles.  I used “I Love this Yarn” brand yarn from Hobby Lobby and size 8 needles.  The yarn is cheap (especially with that 40% off coupon), washable, easy to manage, and does not split as you are knitting.  Set small goals for yourself, but try to make every goal include learning experiences!  Most of all: good luck, have fun, and don’t give up!  It’s not always easy and it definitely takes some determination, but in the end you will be so proud of what you have accomplished!

I’d love to hear about your experiences, so feel free to leave me a comment!