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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.

  • SJ

    I know how to both knit and crochet. Last fall I had brain surgery, in my rehab they gave me a crochet hook and let me work with it. Because it was something that I had been doing instinctively, it was easy for me to go back to it. I am right handed and my right side was weaker, so they were thrilled that I wanted to crochet. I have taught people to both knit and crochet. I even taught myself different ways to knit to help others learn. I have loved doing that. I am still at this point in my recovery still having a hard time reading a pattern and so tend to do things that do not take a pattern for me. I miss being able to pick up ANY pattern and moving forward. I am not a patient soul with myself and want to be just like I used to be. So I just keep battling forward.

  • SJ

    I know how to both knit and crochet. Last fall I had brain surgery, in my rehab they gave me a crochet hook and let me work with it. Because it was something that I had been doing instinctively, it was easy for me to go back to it. I am right handed and my right side was weaker, so they were thrilled that I wanted to crochet. I have taught people to both knit and crochet. I even taught myself different ways to knit to help others learn. I have loved doing that. I am still at this point in my recovery still having a hard time reading a pattern and so tend to do things that do not take a pattern for me. I miss being able to pick up ANY pattern and moving forward. I am not a patient soul with myself and want to be just like I used to be. So I just keep battling forward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rebecca.weaver.714 Rebecca Weaver

    This article speaks the truth I have run into teaching classes! Fortunately, I had one Grandma who knit and taught me the craft… Another Gramma who crocheted and taught me her craft. So I grew up with each Gramma saying to me about the other, “I’m glad your Grandma is teaching you to do that (knit/crochet)… Because I couldn’t do it!” LOL! (Just to get this out here… The crochet Gramma is now 95 years young and still crocheting!)

  • Knittingyoyo

    I was taught to crochet by my grandma and then was taught to knit by my mother. I go through periods of using one more than the other or sometimes like right now I am doing both in different projects. I think we should all know how to do both. It is kind of like driving. Most of us drive an automatic but everyone should know how to drive a standard because you never know when you may need to drive one. We are all fiber lovers. There is enough meanness in the world. Knitting and crochet is one area that can help us unwind and relax. I think we need to be kind to one another and not be snobs about the craft that someone chooses to enjoy.

  • ondrizek8

    I learned to knit as a child and later taught myself to crochet. I love both skills and have taught both at LYS and adult continuing education classes. I have incorporated both in many projects satisfactorily. Anyone who rejects either skill is denying herself the expansion of her horizons.

  • http://twitter.com/TheWoobDog Kelly Melton

    I know! I learned to knit and crochet at the same time and had no idea this schism existed until the day I walked into a yarn shop (which shall remain unnamed) looking for yarn for a specific project and was completely dismissed by the shop owner because it was a crochet project. In fact, the owner walked over to the ladies at the table (after disdainfully pointing me to the quite expensive alpaca I was looking for and intending to buy – hello, wait to disrespect your customers until AFTER they purchase your pricey stock!) and said, “Oh, she crochets…” as if it were an infectious disease! Needless to say, I don’t frequent that establishment anymore for my crochet OR knitting supplies, but for a brief instant it made me feel ashamed to be a crocheter. Why can’t I be bi-craftual? I can do ANYTHING with yarn, and I’m proud of it!

  • Liz

    I knit and don’t know how to crochet, but really want to learn – if only I had the time (and patience). You see, I am a tapestry weaver, and it takes up all my spare time AND patience. But I have an idea for a tapestry that incorporates crochet in a 3D sculptural element, so I am hoping to remedy this gap in my knowledge soon. Now weaving and knitting – thus another can of worm is opened!

  • Kerry

    I know basic knitting and crochet. Have recently learned broomstick knit and would like to learn how to do hairpin lace. I think they are all beautiful!

  • A.J.

    I also knit and crochet. 52 years ago I was taught crocheting by my grandmother, and knitting by my mother. My mother learned from a sweet elderly German lady that owned the yarn shop in our neighborhood, and thus taught me what we always called the German method, or I guess the European method. I can easily knit and pick the yarn through the loop, but have never mastered the yarn around then needle method! I love doing both.

  • Carol Penry

    My ‘Gramma’ taught me to crochet somewhere around 60 years ago. I wish mother had kept that piece. By now, I also knit, and make jewelry (wirewrap, and chain maille) and dabble at tatting. That is the one I can’t get the hang of. But my reason for commenting is to recall the lady in a crochet class I was taking in the early 70′s. We were treating it as a club kind of thing, occasionally we would get a new, completely new person. We tried really hard to let the teacher handle the new addition. She had problems, More Problems, she was making us all on edge. Finally she just burst out BUT YOU DON’T KNIT THIS WAY !!! The only thing I could think of to add to that wouldn’t have been any help at all and so kept on biting my tongue. It was NOT A KNITTING CLASS. I think that lady gradually dropped out, she was unable to make the transition. and even today, if you asked me how I hold the yarn for each, I have to pick up the yarn and let my hands just do it. So maybe we lock down and are too intense to grab the action of the other. Carol Penry

  • http://www.facebook.com/ilnara.hesken Ilnara Hesken

    I actually learned how to knit and crochet at the same time. However, I found it easier to crochet because I had trouble holding both needles and working with them. I have trouble working with two items of any sort that need to be used at the same time. I can knit but never learned more than the two basic stitches. I would love to learn more but my manual dexterity has never improved. However, I’ve been working on adapting knitting patterns to crochet since the look of knitted items can be done in crochet.

    I do a lot of crafts with yarn – weaving, plastic canvas, string art, etc. – and find a lot of people don’t think much of the crafts until they see some of my projects. Especially plastic canvas, too many people have done cheap little items leaving lots of the canvas exposed and given plastic canvas a bad rep.

    To me, being crafty means experimenting with any and all crafts I can get my hands on. Otherwise, how can I truly express my creativity?

  • Diana

    I also crochet and knit. And love doing both!

  • Stephanie

    Great article! I always get such a kick out of how he says what he says. I definitely prefer crocheting over knitting – mostly because I could never quite get the hang of working with two needles; the hook just seems easier to me. However, I have run across some really great knit-only patterns that have made me want to give knitting another go. I’ll be honest, if I start to knit, I will feel like I’m having an affair! HA! But I definitely see the benefits of both and don’t have a problem with the mixing the two within the same project.

  • dnieling

    I knit and crochet and have for almost 50 years. I’ve gone through spurts of doing one or the other but love them both.

  • dulcina

    I love them both.!!!! I sew too!! Guess i am just crazy!!

  • Maud

    I enjoy knitting, crocheting, sewing, and all the arts my grandmother called handwork. If I have a favorite, it’s probably embroidery – or maybe needlepoint. We have the Christmas stockings my mother made for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren; the quilt my grandmother made with yarn sheared from the sheep on their farm; my daughters still have the granny-square ponchos I made so many years ago. The crewel pillows are on the sofa; the one-thread-at-a-time birch trees will eventually be framed.
    I love handwork – all of it – and am sorry for those who choose not to explore all the venues. It is Art as well as Craft.

  • Heavenly Stitchers

    Heavenly Stitchers is the name of our Knitting Ministry, because we knit, crochet and sew. Some of us knit AND crochet, and others, only one or the other. With ten different charities to accept our varied items, everyone is happy.

  • CarolC

    I can do both, and enjoy both…I can actually do them both with little attention unless its a hard pattern. I learned to do them both as a child and love them for different reasons. I truely dont understand why people would be so admitly opposed to knowing both.

  • Laura

    try explaining on is quicker to make the fabric, another to give the interesting details and no the tatting is not just to show off but just compliments the other two.

  • Lknits

    Why don’t you throw knitting machines into the mix? That should start another disagreement. I crocheted and wanted to knit but find hand knitting very slow and tedious (but beautiful) so I took up machine knitting. Many machine knit patterns include crocheted finishes. Now I have the best of both worlds.

  • Happywool

    Yea for this post! I agree 100%, and I love hearing a respected teacher heralding the positives of crocheting and knitting together.

  • sewold

    My grandmother did both knit and crochet so well. How I wish I had paid attention and learned from her. I am more comfortable with knitting than crochet, but it’s all self taught – and sometimes I needed a better teacher!

  • Afghan nanny

    I both knit and crochet. I love both and, yes, I already know I am weird. Perhaps we could form a group–People who love yarn so much they will use anything to keep it in their hands.

  • Grandma L.

    I learned to knit at 5 yrs. old. I taught myself to crochet. I love them both and do both. I am now 78 so I have been doing both for a very long time. I have a large family so I have lots of takers for my crafts.

  • Ruthe

    Let’s go back to “steaks”. I am working on a sweater that calls for this to be done, would love some encouragement . I do sew, so the sewing machine does not scare me the CUTTING does.
    Please help build up my hand to do this cutting :)

    • http://www.lionbrand.com/ Zontee

      You can totally do it Ruthe! Michelle, one of our managers, did it a month ago on a colorwork sweater she was working on to make it into a cardigan, and it came out GREAT. It’s totally worth it! Courage!

  • Jenn

    Franklin,
    Thank you, thank you for addressing this craziness!
    I learned to crochet at a very young age, but always loved the look of knit fabric. So a few years ago I taught myself to knit. Now I love doing both. I think rejecting one or the other is nuts. As you wisely point out, both have their own advantages and both can work together. As a yarn lover, I cannot bring myself to discriminate against how the yarn is worked up. :)

  • MichelleB

    I knit and crochet. Heck, I just love yarn in general! I enjoy doing both since there are so many patterns and textures for both that I want to try.

  • Roberta

    I learned to crochet first and struggled to learn knitting UNTIL I taught myself the continental method. It feels familiar in my hands. So, now I do both, whatever the project calls for. But, I must say, my hands ache more following a crochet session than a knit session (even though I crocheted for many, many years). My sister taught me hands exercises and massage methods. Helps some. I love both.

  • Grandma Lin

    I enjoy knitting over crochet, simply because I can watch TV, visit with others etc. Right now, I am dealing with an eye problem, unable to read a pattern (or drive for that matter). So I can do my tried and true patterns that are familiar to me by knitting, I can knit a hat or cowl with my eyes shut, just by feeeling it. Not so with crochet. I often trim my knitted items with crochet. Crochet flowers are prettier than knit, in my opinion. I do agree with the needles also, I only use circulars!

  • Barbara

    I was asked to knit a sweater for a small dog. I found a cute pattern and decided to crochet the leg openings so the toe nails would not get caught in the loser knitted stitches. Both the dog and the owner love red it. I learned to crochet first then to knit, both have their strong points and are fun!

  • Barbara

    I was asked to knit a sweater for a small dog. I found a cute pattern and decided to crochet the leg openings so the toe nails would not get caught in the loser knitted stitches. Both the dog and the owner love red it. I learned to crochet first then to knit, both have their strong points and are fun!

  • Limping Wolf

    Do all yarn textiles rate fairly? How about the tatters, and the weavers? Can they too play in this new group of yarn experimentalists? A nice picot edging along a finished woven project would be rather dashing no? How about a tatted lace insert in your crocheted/knitted project? Lets include all people who create with yarn :)

  • Limping Wolf

    Do all yarn textiles rate fairly? How about the tatters, and the weavers? Can they too play in this new group of yarn experimentalists? A nice picot edging along a finished woven project would be rather dashing no? How about a tatted lace insert in your crocheted/knitted project? Lets include all people who create with yarn :)

  • greening

    I find that it cuts down on symptoms of repetitive stress to have at least one knitting and one crochet project in progress, alternating my work on them, since I stitch for an hour or so most evenings and more on weekends. The two crafts require slightly different motions and postures, so switching between them is easier on joints and muscles. I’ve also noticed that people who don’t do either craft regularly mistake one for the other, so the snobbery is strictly within the needlework community. Quality work always looks good no matter the craft or combination of them, and snobbery always makes the snob look small, insecure and mean-spirited.

  • greening

    I find that it cuts down on symptoms of repetitive stress to have at least one knitting and one crochet project in progress, alternating my work on them, since I stitch for an hour or so most evenings and more on weekends. The two crafts require slightly different motions and postures, so switching between them is easier on joints and muscles. I’ve also noticed that people who don’t do either craft regularly mistake one for the other, so the snobbery is strictly within the needlework community. Quality work always looks good no matter the craft or combination of them, and snobbery always makes the snob look small, insecure and mean-spirited.

  • terri

    I love to create all types of things from a single strand of fiber. The more methods and techniques I know, the more creative I can be. No Hatfields or McCoys in my house!

  • grammypammie

    Thank you, again, Franklin, for MAKING SENSE! I started a Knit & Crochet group in our area almost 6 years ago – why exclude one over the other, just doesn’t make sense! We all love YARN – why not learn from each other? (I also knit & crochet).
    Hugs;
    Pam L, Waterford, MI.

  • grammypammie

    Thank you, again, Franklin, for MAKING SENSE! I started a Knit & Crochet group in our area almost 6 years ago – why exclude one over the other, just doesn’t make sense! We all love YARN – why not learn from each other? (I also knit & crochet).
    Hugs;
    Pam L, Waterford, MI.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1630031939 Deb Van Iderstine

    I’m a knitter who tried to learn crochet on my own in the past without success, except to do an edging on a knitted piece or as a means of attaching knitted squares, The current online resources are so much better than what used to be available that I’m trying again, this time with Tunisian crochet. We’ll see what happens.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1630031939 Deb Van Iderstine

    I’m a knitter who tried to learn crochet on my own in the past without success, except to do an edging on a knitted piece or as a means of attaching knitted squares, The current online resources are so much better than what used to be available that I’m trying again, this time with Tunisian crochet. We’ll see what happens.

  • mommymee

    What a great topic….I have been a knitter for years and was recently turned on to crochet by my son’s girlfriend. What fun I have had with it, however, have been surprised by the attitude of some of my knitting friends to my new craft! It is all good….keep an open mind. Some items I have made for years knitting are better/stronger done in crochet (market bags and kitchen cotton items). Found a sweater on this website that I will be trying this summer. Anything yarn is great…

  • Shannon Belcher

    Wow. The intensity of this feud never fails to shock me. I was blessed to learn knitting from one grandmother and crochet from the other. I enjoy both and love being able to turn fiber into the fabric I want because I can use either method. Sometimes the speed of knitting is what I want, other times the density of crochet. Also, I find making laces and edgings much easier in crochet.

  • Kventers

    I knit and crochet and, last week, inspired by a pattern on Lion Brand’s website, just tried my hand at Tunisian crochet (which makes a fabric that almost looks woven and was easy to learn)! I have thought about how to describe my interests. Am I a knitter, yes, but not exclusively; am I a crocheter, yes, and I also like to do embroidery (cross stitch, surface, needlepoint), sew a garment (machine or hand sewing) or make a quilt. I have decided to say to people that I like working with anything that requires a needle. I am a needlework aficionada!

  • Grammy Kahuhu

    I learned to knit and crochet as a child, one skill from each grandma, but as a teen did more crocheting, it was faster! When I was 30 a friend gave me a beautiful pair of knitted booties for my new baby and I just Had to learn how to make them. That was my introduction to what she called European knitting. I held the yarn in my left hand as I always had for crocheting and it was Fast. Years later I took the squares my deceased grandmother (my crochet instructor) had made in her knitting class and joined them together by crocheting the tunisian stitch. It looks like knitting on one side so it blended and gave the illusion of a knitted afghan with the flexibility and ease of crochet. Then I crocheted an edging and gave it to my mother, her daughter, as a gift of love from two generations. I lean more towards knitting now but enjoy, and employ, both.

  • amyrose669

    I’m an avid crocheter and I don’t hate Knitting or Knitters at all…I’m scared to death to learn how to knit. I’m also a lefty and it took years (and I mean many, many years) for me to learn how because I was trying to learn from someone who wasn’t. It looks like knitting is much harder than crocheting so I may not have enough years left to get the hang of knitting.

    • Suzanne

      Don’t be too scared to try. Many people find knitting easier than crochet. Others find crochet easier. It’s down to the individual, and you can’t be sure which group you’ll be in until you’ve tried both.

  • Dancewithmarg

    I knit, crochet and machine knit and enjoy all of them. Any snobbery I have encountered from knitters is towards machine knitting – they say it’s cheating, yet they don’t consider making an article from purchased fabric and putting it together on the sewing machine as cheating. Machine knitters actually create the fabric before assembling the pieces, so what’s cheating about that? Plus, machine knitting is a lot harder to learn the knitting with needles! (hope i’m not stirring up another hornet’s nest :-)

  • Widow’s Peek!!

    I LOVE the summary!!!!!! Thanks fof the laugh!!!!!

  • Judy, Highland Village TX

    I am an avid knitter and crocheter and often combined both in projects. I recently made a market bag with a crocheted base and knitted in the round sides. I like the ease of picking up the stitches around the base. I have also used crochet edging or inserts on knitted pieces. Thanks for the article.

  • Susie M

    I learned to knit as a child, over 40 years ago. I only recently taught myself to crochet from books and online videos. It is so easy, what was I so nervous about all these years???? It’s also faster than knitting, and oh boy, what beautiful lace it can produce. I love to put a lace edge along a crocheted shawl. There is nothing like a garment knitted with an even tension, especially when done in a sock weight yarn; so delicate, yet strong and long lasting. I never could do just one project at a time. Now I have both crochet and knitting in my basket next to my recliner, and work on each every day. It is so soothing, and I am even able to earn a little money from it. Oh, and I’m not even against quilting, sewing garments, mosaics, painting, or any other crafting. It’s all artistic expression.

  • Butterflymind

    I knit and crochet, and I love both. I have crocheted beautiful christening shawls in cotton for all 4 of my grandchildren. I both knit and crochet shawls for our church prayer shawl ministry. And I frequently mix both in the garments I make for myself and my family. I have bought a Russian magazine with amazing crochet fashion designs, and a book on Irish crochet lace. When I retire (Ha! ha!) I intend to learn more skills, such as tunisian crochet and tatting.