Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Play Nice!

May 8th, 2013

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Writer/illustrator/knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column on the life of a yarn crafter.

I was at a yarn shop a few weeks ago, troubleshooting a thumb gusset in the company of those who understand the importance of good thumb gussets, when the topic of steeks came up.

A steek, in case you haven’t run across the term before, is an opening cut into a piece of hand-knit fabric. There are many ways to create one, but they all end by taking scissors to your knitting. Snip! It gives some knitters the shakes to even contemplate this. It shouldn’t, but it does.

That’s not what I want to write about today.

I mentioned to the group that I’ve launched a class in which the students cut steeks, then sew zippers into the openings. Zipper installation is another thing that gives some knitters the shakes. It shouldn’t, but it does.

That’s also not what I want to write about today.

“I’d take that class,” said one of the junior knitters at the table. There was a murmur of agreement from the other junior knitters. The most junior shook her head. “I’d like to,” she said. “But I’m not good with a sewing machine.”

“You don’t need a sewing machine,” I said. “In my class we use crochet to secure the edges.”

“Forget it,” said the least junior knitter. “I don’t crochet.”

“It’s only basic crochet,” I said. “Even if you haven’t done it before, you can pick this up in sixty seconds.”

“No,” she said, under a slightly curled lip. “I don’t touch crochet hooks. Ever.”

Several of the others–junior and senior–echoed her. No hooks. No hooks ever. Well, maybe to pick up dropped stitches. Never to crochet.

“I don’t crochet,” she said. “I’m a knitter!”

That’s what I want to write about today.

Play Nice! An essay by Franklin Habit for Lion Brand

Certain rivalries make sense. Certain things don’t mix. Yale and Harvard, Capulets and Montagues, coyotes and roadrunners.

But knitting and crochet? Why should these be kept apart?

It seems that everywhere I travel–and I spend most of my time on the road, ministering to yarn addicts–I run into knitters who openly hate hooks and hookers who reject knitting with an almost religious zeal.

It wasn’t always so, if the pattern books produced before the second World War are any indication. Many of these publications–including Lion Brand’s own Lion Yarn Book from 1916–offered patterns that mixed knitting and crochet together. I don’t mean just on the same page, I mean in the same project. The editorial assumption seems to have been that if you knew how to do one, you probably had–or would be willing to acquire–a passing familiarity with the other.

It makes sense. Crocheted fabric has certain strengths, knitted fabric has others. Why not use each where it will do the most good? Heck, why not use both for the sheer beauty of the contrast? If you put a pretty crochet lace collar on a sweet knitted cardigan, will the finished product explode?

You’d think so, based on some of the talk I hear.

I have a friend, an otherwise reasonable woman, who once spent three weeks knitting and ripping and re-knitting facings for the front of a cardigan that drooped like an untended houseplant. She could have spent ten minutes shoring up the same edges more effectively with two rows of single crochet, but she refused to do this on the grounds of Textile Purity.

And then there was the time I pitched an idea to a well-known crochet magazine for a piece about a hybrid pattern, written in the 1880s, that was ninety percent crochet with the balance in very simple knitting. The editor declined with regret, explaining that she had once before let a few rows of knit and purl into her publication–and it took months to answer the subscriber mail calling for her head on a doily.

When the present Great Divide began, and why, is something I haven’t been able to determine. I always ask the zealots why they feel as they do, with the hope that one day I can promote a reconciliation through understanding.

In summary:

Among the knitters, there seems to be a strong conviction that crochet hooks can only turn out three things: novelty toilet roll covers, lumpy afghans, and sweaters too stiff or heavy to wear.

Among the crocheters, there seems to be an impression that somehow learning to knit means giving in.

If I might address both groups at once, please: You’re talking crazy.

I’m not saying you must grow to love both equally. Life is short, yarn is long. Play with it however best pleases you. But do please consider, at least for a moment, that the folks on the other side of the imaginary minefield may have something useful and lovely to share with you. It won’t hurt to take a peek.

—–

Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep.

Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue KnittingYarn Market NewsInterweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkCast On: A Podcast for KnittersTwist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with an Ashford spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

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  • Valarie

    It doesn’t help that every time someone in a movie wears crochet, it’s to accentuate their eccentricity. In Harry Potter, Mrs. Weasley had some amazing sleeves .. I wouldn’t wear them, but she was meant to be a bit eccentric, as was her house. She knitted, but had crochet. Then later along comes Luna Lovegood, wearing crocheted sweaters. This sort of thing leaves impressions on people out in the real world.

  • MTRSHA

    I knit and crochet! AND I do it left-handed! Talk about a hard time learning……my mother couldn’t teach me because she was right-handed, so I learned from a book. I am better at crochet and it is my first love but I think knitting is great too and when I find patterns that I feel qualified to make, I GO FOR IT! The controversy is silly, both crafts produce beautiful projects and that is what matters, so I say To Each Her Own!

  • neednap

    My first comment before reading other comments is a resounding AMEN. I knit some things, crochet others, and have combined the two in the same project on more than one occasion. I love knitted AND crocheted lace, although I generally knit garments. Crochet for me is usually reserved for ornamental things (some literally, as I do crocheted snowflakes). Both are wonderful and amazing crafts, and there are incredibly beautiful examples of both everywhere you look. To those who insist on restricting yourselves and doing one or the other exclusively, all I can say is that you are truly missing out, and only hurting yourself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/polly.collins.50 Polly Collins

    Comment made below under name of neednap…that’s me, but with my knitting/crochet/craft email address, which is different from my facebook registry address…

    Also, my Ravelry user name is neednap, just to clarify. Request: can we log in or share with Ravelry some time in the future? I practically live there! (grin)

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.page.7355 Karen Page

    I do both and actually have sought out patterns that combine them. They are definitely in the minority! What a shame. Which reminds me, I’ve been struggling with a collar that just doesn’t do it for me. I may have to rip it out and convert to crochet on this all knit sweater. Now to pick my stitches …. I’m feeling better about this sweater already!

  • crafty,crafter

    Very true , we can become very blinkered once we get involved in a paticular craft , we should be open to all methods then decide which we are best at !

  • beth

    I was sneered at in a yarn shop once for saying that I crocheted! You would have thought I said I didn’t bathe! It was a shame, too, because the shop was gorgeous and I tend to buy yarn for it’s own sake and not just for a project.

  • Janet Ford

    I learned to both crochet and knit as a child. When my youngest was a baby 46 years ago I quit both until my children were grown. I then picked up crocheting again. A fefw years ago I decided to start knitting again. I made scarves for Christmas presents. Then a few years later I went to a friend of mine who owns a yarn shop and said I needed help. I wanted to start really knitting again but I would NOT use double pointed needles (bad experience in those old years. He taught me how to use the circular needles and I love them. I have made several large projects for myself (as in knit shawls) but my preference is to knit hats for the troops. With circular needles I don’t have “chicken wings” flapping beyond my elbows and my work easily stays in my lap.
    Why some people discriminate regarding crocheting and knitting I don’t know. I love them both. I have friends who do both as well as many other of the fiber arts.
    I just came home from a trip with a hank of alpaca yarn that my friend made from fiber she carded, and spun and it is beautiful. Watching a fiber go from an alpaca to a finished project whether knitted or crocheted is really beautiful.
    I have discovered that whenever I pick up some yarn my mind automatically switches on the right information as I pick up the needles or a hook.
    The new thing I’m going to learn is how to use 2 circular needles at a time. This was just recently suggested to me and it will greatly enhance making the hats for our military.

  • shhp61

    I completely agree. I happily do both. Right now I’m knitting afghan squares that get connected using crochet and then a crochet border around the whole thing. I’ve seen crochet sweaters with knit ribbing. As you say, both have strengths and weaknesses.

  • Anne Åbom Dahl

    I had a grandmother who knitted and another who crocheted. I do both and remember my grandmothers fondly :-)

  • Tomo

    I really envy crocheting because they can make such perfect balls and little amigurimi! But ii am really good at knitting(told so, honest) and can follow a pattern with ease. I’m the only one in my family to do so, everyone else crochet’s and ii just can’t get it :P ii sum it up to a freestyle or grid mindset.

  • Norma Paio

    I learned to crochet at a young age & my mom taught me to read instruction books well. I couldn’t “get” knitting until many years later a friend at work taught me the Continental style. I love both equally well, but never thought to put both into one project … gotta try that!

  • Eugenia O’Brien

    I crochet and knit. I feel good about myself that if I see an item I like, I can do it either way. I’ve never used both on the same item, but it makes sense to me. All I have to say about it is,
    “Bring it on!!”.

  • Julia

    I’m a knitter who recently learned to crochet, and have just finished my first crochet project. Let’s not be purists – let’s embrace bicraftuality!

  • Terri Westgate Torgesen

    I crochet and knit, and I love to find patterns that combine the strengths of each. I would also love to see more patterns that take existing clothing and add parts of it in knit and/or crochet. It would be a great way to recycle!!

  • Ellen

    I can do both easily, but I’ve heard even professionals on early episodes of both Knitting Daily & Knit & Crochet comment they can’t.
    ref “…pitched an idea …for a piece about a hybrid pattern… took months to answer the subscriber mail…” Simply Knitting, the only magazine I subscribe to had a recent issue with a few pieces of hybrid & pure crochet included – wow, the outrage.

  • Jennifer

    I attend a Knitter’s Fair every fall that won’t allow vendors to display weaving, machine knitting or crochet. I think that anything you can do with fibre is fair game and I love to combine hand and machine knitting or hand knitting and crochet. You can get effects by combining techniques that you could never get by using just one.

  • Bridy Madill

    I knit, but I sure wish I could crochet. I have tried learning buy going to a class and I just do not have the patiance to learn. I have however learned how to do simple, and I mean very simple crochet steps for finishing some of my knitted items. I think crochet should be taught along with knitting, they really do go hand in hand and both skills are good to have.

  • Annetta Mallon

    As ever, beautifully put, Mr. Habit. I go both ways, myself, so I applaud anyone who advocates for a blending of two harmonious approaches to making yarn into beautiful, useful things. Thank you!

  • Leigh

    I do both – they do have their strengths and weaknesses. Why throw out the screwdrivers and only keep one hammer?

  • Pingback: Jenny: Bicraftual | creativecommuknitty

  • Katherine Devonshire

    Mom originally taught me to knit and a teeny bit of crochet when I was younger, and I retaught myself to knit in… 9th grade, and had an army brat freshie friend poke me into relearning how to crochet. I have to admit, I like both. I’m better at knitting, though;.

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