By Kim Werker
Spinning yarn may be what led me to feel like a capital-K knitter after over a decade knitting, but it’s crochet that led me to settle into the kind of knitter I am.
Exhibit A: Garter-stitch shawl with a simple lace edging.
I am a garter-stitch knitter (and also, obviously, a stockinette-in-the-round knitter). And if we’re going to be super specific, I’m a garter-stitch-in-fingering-weight-yarn-on-4mm-needles knitter.
Which I discovered during a meeting about crochet.
I was in this meeting, and I had my knitting with me, as I often did in meetings. People would comment on it all the time—about my being the crocheter in the room, yet always knitting—and here’s how I’d reply, in one way or another: “Crochet, to me, is work; knitting is play.”
That’s a vast oversimplification, though, because of course I also crochet for fun, and of course knitting doesn’t always feel like playing. Here’s the longer story:
When I finally properly learned how to crochet it made sense to me completely and immediately. It was as if the craft was downloaded in full into my brain. I get crochet. I get the mechanics of crochet, I get the nuances of crochet. I grok crochet. Though it took being introduced to the craft three times for this understanding to come, when it came, it came fast and furious, and all at once.
Crochet is not as tidy as knitting—with only one stitch live at any time there are infinite possibilities for what to do next. If you have an active imagination or you’re not especially inclined to follow patterns as they’re written, crochet can be be downright liberating (or confounding, depending on your perspective).
Kim knitting a garter-stitch scarf with occasional eyelets, at a baseball game.
So I would sit in crochet meetings and I would knit. And people would call me out on it it. “Hey, you’re the crochet lady, why are you knitting?”
First and foremost: despite their differences, knitting and crochet are not an either-or. Nothing about being a crocheter prevents me from also being a knitter.
But the real heart of my answer is that because I don’t understand knitting as deeply as I do crochet, it has never, ever been work for me. And it’s very important to me that I not work all the time. Knitting is what I relax into when my brain is tired. I follow patterns without any pressure—from myself or from what I imagine judgy jerks might say—to wing it.
Almost from the day I learned how to do it, crochet has largely been work. I’m not even sure I’d completed my first real project before I started an online magazine about it. I went on to write books about crochet, I spoke about it at conferences, I teach about it.
My need to relax into my knitting means that don’t often make knitting projects that are taxing. Rarely do I follow intricate lace or cable charts, rarely do I make sweaters in pieces. I often knit when I don’t have the patience or mental bandwidth to think about what I’m making, or when I want to actively think about something else.
Starting a second sock on a two-week camping trip in the summer of 2017.
My favourite things to knit are garter-stitch shawls and stockinette-stitch hats. I’ve started exploring whether I might be a Sock Knitter, and as I experiment I find I’m only really interested in making ribbed socks.
So it’s not only that knitting has never been work to me, it’s also that that knitting has been, and continues to be, a form of relaxation. If I’m going to bang my head against pattern math, it’s going to be for a crochet pattern. If I’m going to go seriously off book with a pattern, it’ll be in crochet. If I want to make something fancy, crochet again.
Knitting is what I come home to. It’s what I always bring with me in case I have a few spare moments. It’s what I do when I need to think, or grieve, or create quiet for myself.
Am I capable of making more complex knitting projects? I sure am. I just don’t want to.
Back in that crochet meeting, when I discovered that I’m a knit-without-looking-at-my-hands, no-worries-about-counting knitter, I was knitting Araucania Nature Wool in the round on 4mm Addi Turbo needles. It was a bottom-up sweater with set-in sleeves and a small cable detail at the v-neck. It’s one of the few sweaters I’ve ever knit to completion, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling of my hands working that stretch of the body in the round while my brain worked on something more taxing. It was perhaps my first feeling of being in the zone while knitting.
A more recent sweater knitted in the round. This one destined to become a Weasley sweater for Kim’s son.
Since that day, I’ve sought that feeling in every project I make. What I seek isn’t a sweater I love, or to challenge myself to learn something new. It’s the peace, the rhythm, the fluid motion.
Knitting is a feeling that I love; it’s a feeling I first noticed when I was thinking about another craft entirely. And it’s a feeling that’s at the center of my creative life.
Kim Werker teaches Crochet at Craftsy, makes something every day for #yearofmaking2018, and is thinking about writing a book about camping.