From the time I was a wee child I swore that as I grew older I would never, ever say “You young whippersnappers! It was so much better in my day!” Yet here I am, saying it. Well, I could leave out the “whippersnappers” I guess!
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this question on social media (or versions of it) “I’m a beginner knitter, well maybe advanced beginner. I fell in love with a shawl pattern, but it’s marked intermediate. Should I try it?” and it baffles and confuses me to see the answers! “I would leave it till you have more skill” and “You are only setting yourself up for disappointment” etc.
When I was young (there you go! I said it!) patterns were not marked this way. For the most part, there was nothing said at all. Many American patterns had something along the lines of “this very easy pattern” or “with a little patience, this pattern can easily be knit” added into the description of the design. As a Canadian, I used a lot of British patterns, and one yarn company had their patterns marked in what is, to this day, my favourite designation system. There were symbols that indicated “degree of concentration required.” That’s it! Just concentration. So if it was high on the scale, you might not want to tackle it while looking after 5 children on a day when you couldn’t shovel them outside for an hour or two.
Why do I dislike the current system, and think the old one was so much better? Because I think it discourages people. It makes them hesitant to try new things…they automatically doubt their own abilities! When I was a wee kid, I’d say to my Mom, “Do you think I could knit this [insert cable hat, stranded sweater, lace socks]” and she’d answer “Why not?”. Degree of concentration: why not? I can concentrate! Advanced… Ummm… I haven’t been knitting that long; I don’t think I can.
First, let’s consider lace. It’s just holes made on purpose. Make some yo’s, and some decreases. That’s pretty much it. Not so tough. Add in some stitch markers to help keep track of where you are (thus reducing the “degree of concentration required”), use a life line if you are a nervous Nellie (like me!) and there you go. (A lifeline in knitting is just a strand of smooth yarn threaded through all the stitches at a point you KNOW you had it right! It gives an easy place to rip back to if need be.)
Take a look at Rippling Waves by Caroline Sommerfeld. You need to yo (wrap the yarn around the needle – that’s easy) and knit 3 sts together. Simple! And there you go. You can knit these!
Or the In Flight Shawl. A quick read over, and there’s that yo, and then slip 2 together, knit 1, pass those 2 slipped stitches over the one just knit, and that’s it. That’s all the fancy pants knitting involved!
So, don’t be dismayed by labels of “Intermediate” or “Advanced”. It’s all just knit and purl with a few variations.
A lady named “maryootsy” bought my book, Knitting Knee-Highs because she fell in love with Flora. She wrote me “I’ve never knit socks. I’ve never knit stranded. Do you think I could make these?” I told her to give it a try, and email me with any problems, and I sent her a few helpful links. A few months later, she sent me pictures of her knee-highs! She knit them 2 at a time so they would match…she’d never done that before either.
Be brave! Be like “maryootsy”! Knit that shawl, or that cowl, or that scarf, or those socks you fell in love with…just do it one step at a time!