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When You Can’t Travel, Get Creative: Learn to Knit

I knit when I don’t know what to do with myself. I knit when I’m stressed, or worried. Personally, knitting works as a stress reliever for me. Nothing calms me down easier than a new project. Although if I try following a pattern, it might have the opposite effect. I like to make it up as I go. Just like my trips.

But now I don’t want to talk about trips. Travel is on hold, for who knows how long. We are not going out, except for groceries. And it’s been a while since I last went; my husband did our last shopping alone. We try to limit our outings, and our meetings with others. Even after I made a few face masks. It feels too weird wearing them.

So I’d rather stay home. Besides, I like staying home. Especially since I am not only a book hoarder, but yarn hoarder, too. So I have plenty of projects to occupy myself with.

But Why Would You Want to Knit?

You don’t. It doesn’t work for everyone. But if you ever wondered about it, if you ever wanted to try, and maybe even bought some yarn, but never got around to start, now is the time to try.

Besides, maybe there’ll be a time when we all slow down. For good, not only momentarily. Maybe your new-found hobby will be worth something. But you can do other things. If you like yarn, but not knitting, try crochet. Or try needlepoint, embroidery, or sewing.

You can also learn a new language while stuck at home. Or visit art museums virtually. Read, bake or cook. Paint or draw. Play with your pets. Talk to a spider – you might learn something about weaving from her. Or start weaving, regardless of the spider. Watch a movie, take an online course – there are many free ones offered now.

Knitting could be one of the many activities you could try. Or, you might like it enough to get hooked on it. I did. Though I’ve been doing all of the above activities, knitting is something I keep returning to, especially when I am stressed or worried. It might work for you, too.

If You Want to Knit, Where Should You Start?

When I was a kid, growing up in Romania, we learned to knit in elementary school. And then most of us forgot about it, certainly I did, until I needed it in high school – for stress relief, and to look cool. Yes, in those days, we looked cool if we had knitting projects we would take to school and work on during classes when we should have been paying attention. Or maybe it was just my imagination; I was never a cool kid, I was the nerd who had no idea how to interact with her peers. I still don’t know. But that’s another story.

But chances are, you didn’t learn to knit in school. These days though, you don’t need to. You have internet access to thousands of tutorials, all different styles, and I know a self-taught knitter who now teaches it too others. So, it is possible.

I am not going to post a tutorial here, because everyone has different learning style, and different knitting style will resonate and feel natural. I still don’t know how to knit American style; so if that’s what you’re looking for, I could not show you even if I wanted to.

So look up youtube videos about how to knit. You can type in “learn to knit” or “how to knit” or any other combination you can think of. Watch a few, and see which one seem natural to you. Bookmark it, watch as many times as you need to. It should not take long to learn it if you found the right one.

Or, you could try to find written tutorials if that’s more your learning style. You’ll find plenty of those, too.

So, You Got It. Now What?

For a first project I would make a dishcloth. Use simple garter stitch – you would have learned the term in your tutorial. You simply knit each row; turn, and knit the next the same way, and keep doing it until your project is finished.

After a few projects in garter stitch, you’d learn purl stitches. Again, find a tutorial that works for you. In this case, it’s even more important to figure out if American or Continental style works for you. They do purl stitches very different, and one comes more naturally to people than the other. You’ll find which works even by watching a tutorial, since one will make more sense than the other. It’s all about how our brain works. And having the opportunity to find which works better for you makes a difference on how easy it will be and how enjoyable it will be for you to knit.

With only the two basic stitches you can create just about anything. At least anything flat for now. And what better way to use your new-found craft than knitting a few dishcloths?

Knitting Dishcloths

Most of my projects these days are dishcloths and wash cloths. Not because they are easy, though that fact makes them a great first project for beginners. But they help reduce waste. Of course, I’m thinking of the environment: instead of using disposable sponges? Ok, I haven’t used one for years, so I don’t remember how often I needed a new one; but I know you have to replace them. While with dishcloths, you wash them. I also make larger ones to use instead of paper towels. I don’t buy paper towels, either.

knitted dishcloth
A dishcloth or wash cloth I just made… from leftover cotton yarn

The only thing is, you can’t use acrylic yarn for dishcloth. You need cotton. Still, even you think about it from saving money perspective, a ball of cotton yarn is about two or three dollars. I found that I make at least four dish cloths from it. I can wash and reuse those for a few years before they fall apart. And when they fall apart, they were natural cotton, which will not harm the environment when I throw out the pieces.

Cotton works best because it has the absorbency you need and it is a natural fiber. But if you want to make something to replace a scour-pad, just buy the “dishie” yarn. Though a bit harder to work with, it makes great scouring pads. Like the tough part of your sponge that you can throw out now.

How To Make A Wash Cloth?

Again, you can find plenty of patterns and tutorials online if you look. Or you can come up with your own stitch combinations. As a general rule, I cast on about 30-40 stitches, depending on how big I want them (I have a few different sizes), then knit until it is the size I want. If you know the basics, you can play with patterns, and sizes. You’ll use them anyway; if they turn out to big, use them as cleaning cloth instead of paper towels; if they turn out too small, add to them by knitting into the sides. I really can’t think of an easier project. Have fun with it, and use each as a learning opportunity.

Knitting Is Rewarding

Even if you don’t take your knitting to the next level, those knit dish cloths are worth the trouble. Of course, you can make your wash cloths the same way, also using cotton. You can make them as gifts for your friends and family members, too.

You are saving money, doing your bit to save the environment, having fun, relaxing, and even making gifts, all at the same time. I could think of worse ways to spend your time in isolation.

And when you can travel again, you have something to do during long airplane rides, or waiting times (when you can’t concentrate on reading anyway), or long road trips (when you’re not driving).

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