Friday, November 03, 2006

Helpful (sometimes forgotten) resources for the knitter/spinner

We aficionados of the information superhighway tend to look online first for information. And we frequently find it – along with a bewildering array of misinformation! So where does the average spinner and knitter look for advice on that beautiful cashmere or qiviut or superfine merino fiber or yarn? How do you learn how to do a gauge swatch, and what information you should get from it, and how to translate that into the sweater you want to make for yourself this winter (hopefully without frogging the whole thing six times)? How do you duplicate the stitch pattern you saw in the LL Bean catalog – you can’t buy it, it’s only offered in men’s sizes and your three year old can’t wear anything that big for at least a decade!

We do indeed have multiple online resources. Various knitting and spinning lists are incredible treasures of first-hand experiences with almost any yarn or fiber. Even in the middle of the night in the US, it’s broad daylight and you can get an answer in a hour or so from someone in Australia or Europe. On-line forums with searchable archives are another 24/7 resource – I always learn something new from places like the Knitter’s Review Forum.

Yes, the information superhighway is an excellent resource. But what if you’re in the midst of a power blackout, or (horrors!) your teenager has the computer tied up working frantically on the mid-term report that should have been started six weeks ago? Of course you pay for the ISP, and you could claim seniority and owner privilege, but if said teenager flunks that course you may still be supplementing his/her income two decades from now because no college would take his/her application! Mental picture of yourself still working to support that child and his/her family at the ripe age of 85 intrudes…nope, I’m not going to do that. What other resource might you be able to reach?

Look on your bookshelf! Even if you don’t own many knitting or spinning books, you probably do own at least one or two. Some are staples for beginners – almost anything by Elizabeth Zimmerman, Sally Melville or Maggie Righetti will handle basic knitting questions, and spinners can look to Anne Field, Lee Raven, Alden Amos or Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. Chances are you own at least one basic book in your chosen craft, and often those basic books can answer almost any question you have, as long as you read thoughtfully.

And if you never purchase books, but do occasionally pick up a magazine like Knitter’s or SpinOff or Vogue Knitting for inspiration, check out those issues for the answer to your question of the moment. While nicely-indexed binders organized by year are wonderful, if your collection isn’t quite so organized, a fast perusal of the covers will bring back a memory of the sort of material that was included in that edition. Or you might find yourself re-discovering a technique that didn’t interest you at the time, but which is absolutely perfect for your current project!

Another sometimes overlooked resource is the expertise found in our local guilds or knitting shops. Most guilds have directories that include contact information for help between meetings, and guild meetings, even informal ones, are always opportunities for a bit of one-on-one instruction from someone else who’s got practical experience with whatever is giving you trouble. As for knitting shops, they’re almost always gathering places for knitters and spinners who simply go there to work in congenial company. While you’re working and chatting, you can ask a question.

So next time you have a question and the internet isn’t available, check out some of the ‘locally available resources’ in your immediate neighborhood. You might find exactly the expertise you need!

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