Any number of books will teach you the knitting stitch; most of them with pictures, the best of these usually use photographs or colored diagrams. They will tell you various techniques, ways to hold the needles, differences between American and European yarn-holding techniques, and so forth. They'll also give you several arcane-looking charts talking about needle sizing and different weights of yarn, plus the all-important guide to abbreviations used in knitting patterns, which translates the faintly algebraic-looking language of knitting into meaningful instructions for making good-looking garments. Most of these books are preaching to the choir: they assume that you're keen on knitting already. Therefore, I won't give any of them here. Instead, I'll talk about metaknitting, the "inner game" of learning to knit.

First off, learning to knit is going to be a lot easier when you have good yarn and needles. Just as it's easier and more satisfying to learn to ride on a good, stable skateboard than a cheap tippy one, or use a computer that runs Mac OS or one of the *nixes than one that uses Windows, it's not really that much of a savings to buy acrylic yarn in an ugly color and cheap aluminum needles from Wal-Mart, if you're going to look and feel like a dork using them. You'll get discouraged, Do yourself a favor, and find a good yarn store in your area, preferably one with knowlegable sales staff who knit themselves. Introduce yourself as a beginner, and walk around looking at all the various kinds of yarn for sale. If they're anything like a good shop you'll be quite surprised at how many there are, ranging from futuristic-looking metallics, to hand-spun vegetable-dyed yarn from organically raised sheep with hand-written labels, to recycled mill-end silk blends that look like something from another dimension. There'll be smooth yarns and shaggy/scratchy ones, fine yarns and thick ones, and almost any color you can imagine. Pick them up and feel them with your hands. If there are sample garments worked up, take a look at them and see how the yarn in ball form differs from the finished product. Look at all the different kinds of needles there are: tiny thin ones for baby clothes to huge ones for REALLY bulky knits, made of metal, wood, plastic, faux whalebone, and so on. Then, take your courage in hand and ask if they have bamboo needles, size 8, and where they keep the Jo Sharp yarn.

Why these two? Well, bamboo needles are easy on the hands, and flex a bit. They warm to your touch and look incredibly chic. They won't make noise, either. Jo Sharp yarn is well, something else. Apparently, it's spun from the wool of exceptionally mellow Merino Border/Leicester sheep in a special process that takes almost all the shorter fibers out of the yarn. This makes it feel more like silk or hemp than wool, and makes it less likely to unravel or "pill". It also comes in a variety of distinctly unstuffy colors, which means that you'll be able to find a color you'll absolutely LOVE, and only one weight (double knitting) which is the most commonly used these days. It's truly the gold standard in the yarn world.

What to try first? Make a scarf. Yuppers, straight knitting (garter stitch), 36 stitches wide, four rows to an inch. 24 rows will make nice broad stripes, and for your first piece, try to keep them regular. You'll need about six balls of Jo Sharp to get a scarf six to eight feet long, and it's best to get two (or more!) colors, to keep your interest. Yes, it will seem at first as if you won't have the patience, the time, or the inclination. This will turn out not to be the issues you thought they were.

In terms of dealing with the actual process of knitting, what you're going to be doing, time, and time again, is to stab the working needle from front to back into the next stitch, pull the yarn front to back over the bridge you just made, catch the new yarn on the working needle, and drop the old end of the bridge from the passive needle. (It looks like one of those neat tricks your math teacher used to do to illustrate topology.) Any way you can accomplish this little miracle is OK, as long as you're comfortable with it, at first. The important thing is that you can make the process almost unconscious, like twiddling your thumbs: the elaborations you'll see in knitting books. This will prepare you for the next stage, which is finding the time and patience to knit.

Basically, you can knit almost any time or place you've got both hands free and clean and more than two or three minutes of time to kill. A little light helps, but isn't entirely necessary: it IS possible, with care to do it in total darkness. Carry your knitting with you wherever you go: to work, to class, to the laundromat. Knit in the doctor's office, while waiting for a page to download, waiting for (or riding) the bus...knitting and listening to music is incredible, and as for TV watching....made for each other. It's kind of like being pregnant: even when you're doing nothing, something is going on. At first you'll feel selfconscious, and people (especially if you're male or otherwise not in the knitting demographic) might raise an eyebrow. Mostly, they won't say anything, and those who do are usually appreciative and curious. Smile mysteriously, and look preoccupied.

Which you will be. Knitting is almost Zen-like in its ability to turn what would otherwise be boring, unproductive stretches of time into restful vacations into your mindscape, or even mindlessness. Now and then, you might make a small mistake -- a skipped stitch, maybe -- don't fret over it, the first few pieces you make don't really count. Just keep the process going. Soon you'll have a tight little ridge, that will turn into a ruffle, which will, imperceptibly grow to become a heavy, soft weight of fabric that, as it lengthens, will skim, and then rest on your lap. Soon you'll have to roll it up to keep it clean. Changing colors has its own little dance, as does the awkward instant at the end of a row. All these milestones will soon seem incredibly interesting, and a source of secret pride, as will be when you uncover the lattice pattern within the balls of Jo Sharp. When you use up a ball, you'll want to stand up and cheer!

Over so soon? Hand wash your new creation with mild soap to get the last few short fibers out, use a pill comb to get the last few tiny fibers off, and wear it with pride. As long as it stays out of the washing machine and the dryer, it will last for many years, mellowing and becoming more beautiful with the years. Hmm...maybe I need a nice cloth knitting bag? I'm going to put a skull and crossneedles on mine...Hats! Mittens! Sweaters! Back to the yarn shop I go!

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