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field guide

By Lee Ann Dalton


Knitters are a varied bunch, and while no two are exactly alike, there are certain characteristics that serve as clues to help identify knitting types out in the wild. This indispensable guide, organized by description, will help you explore knitters’ natural habitats: go forth, identify, and enjoy who you find. Who knows, you may discover an entirely new type of knitter previously unknown to the fiber arts world!



The Teacher

The Teacher is, by far, the easiest species to identify. Commonly found in local knitting shops, Teachers are also known to frequent YouTube channels, websites, and the occasional cruise ship. Teachers are remarkable for their ability to mix and mingle with other species of knitters, and often assist other species by letting out a warning call, should the group be in danger of encountering predators such as moths, roving kittens, and people who think knitters are their personal Walmart.



The Designer

This intrepid species of knitter has never followed the crowd per se, but may be found on the outskirts of a group of knitters, observing wearing habits of other species and taking note of stitch trends. Designers can often be spotted lugging large bags of yarn samples to their nests. Only slightly harder to identify than Teachers, they tend to congregate on sites like Ravelry, can be followed on Pinterest, and may even be tracked by searching the ground for dropped stitch markers and crumpled Post-its with random numbers scribbled on them.



The Cheerleader

You’d have to live in the most remote of places to miss identifying a Cheerleader, as their calls of “You can do it!” and “Knit on!” are quite audible, even in the midst of other vocal knitting species. They can be found flitting from one knitter to the next where knitters gather to ply their craft, they always seem to have stitch markers, needle gauges, and a full set of circs in their multiple pockets. Their colorful plumage is a dead giveaway. A Cheerleader in the knitting wild is a joy to behold.



The Producer

The Producer is another easily identifiable knitting species, because the Producer is never not knitting. There is no specific type of plumage to observe, but the actions of Producers give them away. Their large knitting bags are filled not only with the latest project, but also at least three finished objects at any given time. Producers often drop off their finished objects at the nests of other knitting species as a sort of gift to keep the larger knitting family intact. Producers can also be identified by the fact that at least 50 percent of their plumage is self-constructed, possibly from handspun yarn they created themselves.


The Dabbler

Dabblers are difficult to identify because they are often camouflaged by species of non-knitter. The best way to identify a Dabbler is to keep your eyes open for other, more easily identifiable knitting species. You’ll know the Dabbler by the glow about the eyes when another species pulls out a knitting project in public. The Dabbler doesn’t frequent knitting-heavy environments but will make an exception for yarn stores with large, obvious sale signs, and may also be found circling the yarn department at craft stores, glancing over longingly at the ombre. Their knitting projects are almost always hidden in their nests, and Dabblers often have difficulty finding their previously started projects.


The Starter

The Starter, a close cousin to the Dabbler, has a similar difficulty finding previously started projects, but only the ones that are directly in progress. The ones that are no longer fun to do seem to multiply in droves in the nests of Starters, an obvious clue for quick identification. Starters can be found pretty much wherever yarn is sold, and are easily identified by their enthusiastic “oooohs” and “ahhhs” as they fondle the latest offerings of yarn companies and knitted samples. Were it not for the enthusiastic Starter, the knitting wild would be a dull place, indeed.


The Processor

Processors are one of the calmest species in the knitting wild, which can make them hard to identify. The mark of a Processor, similar to that of the Starter and the Dabbler, is a plethora of projects, but in the Processor’s case these projects are often completed, albeit not always to pattern specifications. A Processor’s call is notable for its smooth tone; weirdly, they don’t seem to have a distress call. The love of technique is the Processor’s clearest marking, which makes their plumage, though often subtle, quite beautiful.


The Climber

The Climber is a unique species of knitter, willing to try anything. It’s not always easy to spot a Climber unless you observe advanced knitting classes. If you’re lucky enough to do so, look for the knitter in the class with a devious sparkle in the eyes. That’s a Climber, ready to do the absolute impossible in knitting and master it in about five minutes. Climbers are fearless and easily approachable, so wrapped up in the thrill of learning a new technique that they often don’t see you watching. Still, don’t make any sudden movements around a Climber, especially if one is in the midst of steeking. The Climber’s intricate knitting habits take total concentration, and must be accomplished without interference.


The Flyer

They can be rare, depending on the part of the world you’re exploring, but the best way to identify a Flyer is to search for the total blur from the elbows forward. Flyers move so fast you can barely tell they’re a knitting species. The hummingbirds of the knitting wild, Flyers get more done in five minutes than many other knitting species get done in a lifetime.



The Stasher

Stashers are secretive, making them tough to identify. Their nesting habits are remarkable, indeed, but there is really no way for an observer to tell just exactly how much yarn (and possibly spinning fiber) is stashed away in the nest. Stashers find places to put their yarn that no other knitting species would even dream of. Stashers come in a variety of subspecies, including Attic Stashers, Basement Stashers, Guest Room Stashers, Laundry Room Stashers, and several others who have yet to be named by knitting observers. If you come upon a nest and discover yarn in the freezer, under all the beds, and especially under the lid of the piano, you know you’ve found a Stasher.


The Collector

The Collector is very closely related to the Stasher but with a wider range of yarn storage habits and the distinction of  earmarking yarn for specific projects. It is the pattern collection that clearly identifies a true Collector. Collectors are easily tracked on Pinterest, but the best way to identify Collectors is to peruse their Ravelry libraries. Many knitting observers have the Collector on their life lists, but it is the rare observer who gets to record a documented sighting of a Collector. Keep at it, though. Once you’ve seen a Collector’s pattern collection, you will be a knitting species enthusiast for life.