A few days back, I got a super comment full of great questions from Casey over at Adoption =. Casey has an informative, funny, supportive, funny, painful, funny blog, and whether or not you have adoptive, foster, or birth children, if you check her out you just might enjoy her work.
Casey had this to say:
So…here we go. Enlighten me, because my mother in law tried to teach me to crochet many years ago. I managed a (very trapezoidal) baby blanket and a (pretty darn good) scarf. Then we got the kids, and I really haven’t done much yarn-related-self-improvement since. I’ve watched with longing as mothers crochet/knit away while their children play, and we’re getting to the point that I could do it (the hyenas are much less wild)…if I knew how. Probably time to take it back up.
CL: Here here. I wholeheartedly support all forms of textile addiction.
Is knitting better than crochet? Easier? Harder?
CL: I would not say one is better than the other. Some of us love both of them and it also depends on who you ask, and believe me, there is a war out there for some folks. I do more knitting than crochet, because it’s what I learned first and I know it better. It’s my default. But my favorite thing I ever made out of yarn is a granny square blanket for my bed.
If you want to talk watching the kids out of one eye while you do it, and you want to talk easier, you want to talk crochet. There are fewer musts. Crochet is cool. It’s kind of lawless and wild; you can stick that hook almost anywhere and come up with something fun. Knitting takes considerably more patience when you initially start learning, and it is persnickety. If you drop a stitch, dude, you’re f’d if you don’t find it and pick it up. It’s easy to miss stitches, or knit into the backs of them, or accidentally add one and end up with a triangular scarf. However, I do find it infinitely satisfying.
If you need a crochet refresher or basic knitting lessons, you can find pretty good ones for free on YouTube. You might have to hunt a bit through the less helpful to find the more helpful videos, but I basically learned to knit from YouTube, so you can too. Google “beginning knitting” or “beginning crochet” videos, and you will be on your way.
Where I come from, “hankies” are handkerchiefs, unless you’re referring to a hank of wool (which I think I’ve heard before) but I don’t usually keep piles of silk around. Can you explain that a little?
CL: Sure! So, yes, most people are familiar with the traditional hankie, the kind you blow your nose on. Mawata silk handkerchiefs for handspinning are something different.
The very best silk is actually kept for the garment industry, which means the handspinning market, which is very small, uses silk cocoons that are flawed in some way, still in long filaments, but unable to be reeled out into the mile-long strands that mills will use for spinning silk thread for cloth. (Nope, not kidding. Mile-long strands of a filament stronger than steel.)
These cocoons are prepared in several forms for the handspinning market, and these forms have several things in common: the cocoons are soaked to remove the seracin (a hardening agent the worm spins alongside, but not permanently bonded with, the silk). Then the worms are removed and the cocoons several (25-50? See the layers in the picture at top) of them are stretched, one at a time, over a form of some kind and dried in that shape.
Some forms are three-dimensional and shaped like bells or hats, and some are flat and square. The square ones are about the same size and shape as a traditional blow-yer-nose handkerchief, hence the handspinner’s name for them: silk handkerchief.
Knitters use these in the way I (sorta) described in my two Stephanie Pearl McPhee posts. Spinners use these by similarly attenuating them and adding twist to make yarn, or by blending them with other materials and spinning the blend into yarn.
If you convince me to knit instead of crochet, what are the absolute must-have basics? The best type of materials for a beginner?
CL: Having just knocked knitting above, you know, I love to knit. You’ll need two things: a set of needles and a ball of yarn.
Some people recommend starting with cheap yarn, which you can find at many pharmacies or drug stores. Personally, I recommend starting with wool, which is a little more expensive than the acrylic you’ll usually find at these stores. It’s easier on the hands because it has elasticity that acrylic doesn’t have, it looks nicer and you can admire it more as you go along, and when you’re done you might actually have a pot holder you can use, instead of one that will melt onto your hand when you pick up the kettle.
(Another reason acrylics aren’t recommended for households with children: they are not fireproof. They are anti-fireproof. They don’t catch fire—instead they melt violently onto skin, stick to it, and destroy it utterly. Because of this, acrylics used in baby clothes and blankets are, by law, heavily treated with fire retardant chemicals. Wool is a natural fire suppressant, which is why firemen use wool blankets. But I digress. Good thing you have those crackers.)
If you have a local yarn store near you, a trip there with or without your hyenas might be fun, and your shop folks could help you pick out something relatively inexpensive to start with, get you set up with needles or hooks, and give you help when you need it.
Many local yarn stores also have classes, if you want to dive deeper, or if you learn better in person rather than online. You won’t likely find this level of customer service at a Joanne’s or a Michael’s. These are great places for a bargain, but are not the same as a local yarn store, although, if that’s what you got in your town, you will likely find wool yarn there, and it will likely be inexpensive.
Per your post analogy…gimme some crackers! 🙂 (Please.)
CL: Casey, I hope you enjoyed your crackers. And thanks for letting me proselytize. God that felt good.