In the summer of 2009, I needed a distraction. It was just before my sophomore year of college – I was an English major here at Missouri Southern – and I was looking for new ways to spend my time. I made a list of about 20 things to accomplish over the summer (nothing productive, just for fun): juggling, performing magic tricks, being ambidextrous. By the end of summer, the only thing could confidently cross off was: learn to knit.
The inspiration had come from a book – there are few more likely sources of inspiration for an English major. My knitting muse is a character from the young adult series “The Nine Lives of Chloe King.” The series is about a girl who learns she is one of a group of cat-people; the romantic interest opposite Chloe is a boy who knit his own earflap hat with cat ears. I wanted that hat, and by the end of the year – I had one.
I did not stop knitting after the hat, and the first place I turned to for new inspiration was knitting books. People who knit are incredibly creative, and there are some really excellent pattern books available at the Joplin Public Library. These books are full of glorious, full color pictures of the most amazing things knitters can accomplish – with step-by-step instructions so that you can accomplish them too.
I love looking at these books; I do not love trying to hold a book open while I am using both of my hands to knit.
So, instead of telling you about some of my favorites from the JPL’s physical collection, I am going to round up a few of the most interesting pattern books available in our digital collection. Knitting from a digital book is a breeze: my tablet sits propped up at just the right angle, never loses my spot, and I can often even zoom in to any particularly complicated charts I may encounter.
Most recently I was working from “Interweave Favorites: 25 Knitted Accessories to Wear and Share,” which is full of cute and colorful accessories that knit up relatively quickly. To me, small projects are the most fun – there is nothing more depressing than the half-done sweater or afghan that you just don’t want to finish.
If you are tired of knitting basic hats and scarves, maybe you will enjoy “Once Upon a Knit” by Genevieve Miller. These patterns are all inspired by fairy tale stories and classic literature: from Little Red Riding Hood’s red riding hood to a Wonderland-inspired beret.
Once you have knitting basics down, I recommend that you check out Margaret Radcliffe’s “Circular Knitting Workshop.” Radcliffe guides you step-by-step through circular knitting: the process of knitting in one continuous loop, making a tube of fabric. This process is a game-changer for socks, hats, sleeves, mittens, and almost every knitting project you want to make.
The final book in my round-up is “2-at-a-Time Socks” by Melissa Morgan-Oakes. Knitting a comfortable sock is complicated – it involves constant measuring, and knowing exactly where to make the heel is crucial. The last thing many knitters want to do when they finish a sock is start another one. That’s where this book comes in. If you master the two-at-a-time technique, you never have to suffer through knitting two socks in a row ever again! Knitting both socks at the same time also helps ensure that your pair is identical, rather than one sock being slightly longer or wider than the other.
I have been knitting steadily for almost eleven years now, and I am much better than I was in my cat-ear hat days. Being able to bring something to life with just a piece of string and a couple of sticks is a magical feeling, and if you find yourself at a loss for how to spend your time, you might give it a try. I have always found it to be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby, and I hope you will too.