Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Great Debate

If you scan the internet for more than a few minutes you can find a million and one websites on the needlecraft of your choice. I have my own personal views on crafts using sticks and needles and hooks. Everyone has an opinion of which is “best.” I don’t want to elate one over the other but I will offer up the ones that I prefer.

Cross-stitch:I started cross-stitching when I was 10. It was my first needlecraft and I learned from the woman across the street who used to keep me before school. She actually cross-stitched for a living. She was the person who made the display pieces for kits. She would take a never before cross-stitched piece and work it up for the company. Then it got sent off, photographed and used in all the cross-stitching kits for that pattern. Pretty nifty. She taught me one day and soon I had completed my first project:
I’m still very proud of this. Over the years I taught myself some of the finer things like French knots, chain stitch, etc., etc., etc. (I have a real thing about teaching myself). I’ve even won some awards for my cross-stitching.
But since I’ve taken up knitting my cross-stitching has really tapered off. I still work on things from time to time but not like I used to.
The problem is that cross-stitch projects are cumbersome. There are a million threads you have to keep track of, one tiny little needle, and a huge canvas.
This takes up a lot of space. Cross-stitch is also hard to do while participating in other activities. Riding in a car: too little space and the thread you need always seems to get lost. Watching a movie: you have to keep looking down at the pattern and at the canvas. So, there is a limited frame of time in which to work on a cross-stitch pattern. But the biggest thing is where the cross-stitch ends up. In a frame. On a wall. The most you can do with cross-stitch is make a pretty decoration for someone’s house. Granted there are cross stitch quilts and pillows but many of these are for, you guessed it, decoration. I’m always concerned when I cross stitch a baby blanket about all those loose threads on the backside. Thread being wrapped around a baby is a major concern. So, you can see where my appeal to do cross stitch has waned a little. Which is a little bit sad for me. There is a special connection one feels with a skill they have learned and practiced for almost 15 years.

I actually was inspired to learn to knit by my great-grandmother who could crochet (how that works out I’m not quite sure…). Once I actually learned to appreciate my heritage (for those wondering mothers this happens post-college), I really wanted to learn an “old” skill that I could pass on to my kids. I wish I had gotten my great-grandmother to show me how to crochet when I was younger. The funny thing is, I don’t particularly care for how crochet looks. Crochet is a much more open weave as compared to knitting which has a very tight stitch to inch ratio (comparatively). I like the openness of crochet for one thing and this is why I want to learn to crochet…

I want to make an afghan just like my great-grandmother did (in fact, I’m not sure that she made anything besides afghans and Christmas ornaments). I’ve watched people crochet and I think it goes much faster once you get the hang of it than knitting. Thus, a large piece like a blanket would go by much faster. I’ve tried knitting a baby blanket. 15 inches seemed to take forever. I mean look at this:This is an afghan hook. That’s all you use it for, to make really big blankets. Plus, I like a the open weave of a crochet afghan because it’s not as hot as a densely knit piece. Now, I know there are a hundred arguments that could be begun with this. Using a different type of yarn, using different size needles, etc., etc., etc. I just want to point out that this is my personal opinion.
I’ve tried to teach myself to crochet. It didn’t work out too well. I can make the first chain. Turn it around and do it again? I’m just not sure how that works out. My friend Jenn is a crotchetier. One of these days I plan on cornering her and making her show me how to work this magic.

I taught myself to knit about 2 and half years ago (again with the self teaching). I have to say that my first scarf was pretty rocking.
From the first completed project on I was hooked. Work got in the way for awhile but after just 6 months, after I was inspired by a story of a woman who learned to knit and within 2 months had made her first sweater, I started my pink sweater (still in progress). Then I realized the flexibility of knitting and it’s been hard for me to put it down.
Knitting, to me, is bliss. I can do it pretty much without thinking. I can work on something while watching a movie or talking on the phone. I can work on little pieces of it and not lose my place. I can make a million and one things and use all of them. But, knitting can still challenge me with a really hard pattern or a really big piece. It can make me use tiny needles and fine thread or I can use the biggest honkin’ needles I can buy and some super chunky yarn. I can make a simple scarf or a complex lace shawl. Personally, I’m an instant gratification person. I like to turn projects out very quickly. This is why after 2 years I’m still working on a sweater.I’ve come to find that I prefer to make baby items. Small, I can practice a million techniques, and they take less than a month to complete (usually) from start to finish. I like the challenge a sweater provides and I’m sure I’ll make more. But for now, I’m enjoying the baby stuff.
Maybe some day I’ll switch to toddler clothing. Possibly when all these babies grow up.

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