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How to Become an "Expert Knitter"   *Buy this book on CD for offline reading!

table of contents » epilogue

How I Became an "Expert Knitter" (cont.)

Having to write patterns for the general public was a wonderful training in how easily people could be completely confused. Because we produced so many books and editorials, we used many other pattern writers, and they all wrote patterns in different ways. Some were incredibly wordy, or wrote miles of directions for something bleedingly obvious. Some wrote patterns with silly sequences or unnecessary steps and some were just wrong. If the test knitters didn’t sniff out the mistakes or the confusing bits, the general public sure did. The boldest actually rang the company. Sometimes my friend, June, who took the complaints, used to ring through for me to listen in to some of the most bizarre questions. One lady was an “expert knitter”, and in fact, she assured June, so were all the friends she had consulted before ringing the company. She kept saying there was nowhere to put “me” in the garment. The instructions were for a sweater knitted from cuff to cuff, with a hole for the head, and because the number of stitches that eventually had to be knitted for the back and front was so large, the knitting was done on a circular needle to accommodate the stitches. She had missed that part of the instructions and had somehow, with the circular needle, knitted a strangely shaped sausage, with, indeed, nowhere to put her.

One of my great satisfactions was the response to a pattern I did for an editorial. It was a jacket that could be knitted in a weekend, if not less. Using huge needles and five different, luxurious yarns, knitters went crazy. I met one knitter who knitted sixteen of these jackets in various colours. Years later I still see some of them being worn. I have seen some in op-shops. Another buzz was seeing a very distinctive sweater I had designed on a passer-by, only four days after the magazine featuring the pattern went on sale.

Two new experiences, and here is where the niggling to write a book really started, were that we advertised constantly for test knitters and I also gave knitting lectures at yarn and craft fairs. Every round of advertising produced lots of knitters and every one of them swore she (we never had a he) was an “expert knitter”. Every single one!!! We looked at the garments they had brought to show us, paid them to knit from one of our patterns, and then chose the knitters we would employ. First of all, to keep our sample garments standard in the techniques used for knitting and finishing, the knitters were asked to spend two hours in a group with me so that I could explain what I wanted, and why. That rarely went down well. So many were insulted.

“Knitting lessons!? I’m an expert knitter!!!”

Some dropped off, some refused to come and the rest turned up, resigned grim faces and ruffled feathers, fluffing around and putting me through the hoops. They tried to throw me off balance with very good, or sometimes inane, questions and I really had to know my stuff. The knitters were an odd mixture. Aggressive, funny, weird, delightful, clever, nasty and gracious, every possible kind of personality. They worked like demons. Some worked at night, all night. I’m in touch with a few of them to this day. They taught me with their questions and I’m grateful.

My other teachers were the people at craft fairs. After I had given my fifty minute or one hour talk and demo, there was always a question time. And after that had finished, then there was the real question time. Usually accompanied by a docile (he had to be, he was there) husband clutching all the bulging plastic bags and a child or two, the women waylaid me as I was trying to escape and waited patiently in self-imposed queues with all sorts of queries. I heard amazing knitting tales and was asked almost all the same questions, over and over again. Occasionally there would be a curly one and that was great. New blood.

None of the questions disappeared into the ether, they all had to be factored in when writing another pattern. Very few knitters want to go to the trouble of contacting the yarn company or pattern writer, and so confusing patterns can stop a knitter from attempting to knit more garments. Less wool sold. Simple.

With such a huge range of contact with knitters with vastly different intellects and ranges of experience, as well as rusted-on techniques, I solidified what I thought I could put in a book. I have named this book for all those “expert knitters”.


All these stories are to establish some credentials, otherwise, why should you take any notice of what I have written and what I suggest? Most of the things I explain may just be motherhood stuff to you, but I hope something I have included will ring a bell and help you to make fabulous knitwear!

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