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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  • Fransien Garrett

    Crochet is my favorite, but I knit as well. At one local yarn shop, when I mentioned I crochet, the shop owner told me “we don’t sell crochet yarn”. No sale for me at that shop, and I didn’t go back. We have some great yarn stores in the area, and one has a sign on the door “Crocheters welcome”.

  • Alice Comer

    I learned to knit at a very young age. I never had to learn to crochet because my mother, then later, my mother-in-law would make any item I wanted for myself or my children. Now, both moms have passed on and I still only know how to knit. Maybe I can learn when I retire next year! I now have a new grandchild and would love to crochet her some new things.

  • Rowdybird

    Try adding tricot (Tunisian crochet) and croknit to the mix.!!

  • The Gilded Strawb

    I also knit and crochet, love both for different reasons, and can’t imagine why anyone would want to restrict themselves..each to their own I suppose.

  • Sue Wadas

    Live this post (I actually meant to say ‘love’, yet ‘live’ works even better :)
    & I love it, too … Thank you, Franklin!

  • Connie

    I make knit hats and crocheted blankets for the newborn nursery at my local hospital. I’m sure they are equally warm and comfy!

  • Su2ie

    I do both but prefer crochet because its gentler on the joints. I’ve come across prejudice too, sadly only from knitters.

  • Sue Atkins

    Thanks to my grandmother, I was a hooker when I was 5, designing crochet items for my dolls. I have always wanted to be a knitter, particularly of cabled items. But every time I try to do so, I get quite far along into my beginner’s project knitting and purling, when I notice that I dropped a stitch several rows back and I must rip it all out and redo. So, I’m a dyed in the wool crocheter and after 60 years of never dropping a loop while crocheting, I will probably NOT try to knit ever again. But I hold nothing against knitting just to maintain an attitude. When Mom was in her 40s, I showed her how to do single crochet so she could edge a knitted project. She managed that, but didn’t feel comfortable with the process, and prefers to choose knitting projects which don’t require any crochet. Still. So, at least for us, something more is going on here. Our preference is like feeling comfortable in our skin. The other seems like hard work, where our favored yarn craft is an old friend, comfortable, stress-free, at times mesmerizing, at times mindless.

  • Brenda Ann

    I crochet but have knitted. It has been so long I no longer remember how to cast on and never figured out how to cast off. I bet there’s help out there for those problems.

  • Sue Atkins

    PS. After reading the article AND all the posts, it sounds like yarn shop owners would do well to heed the words of the crocheters in these replies because it sounds like we buy about 50% of the yarn. If I owned a yard shop, I’d want EVERYONE’s business. Luckily I’ve never been treated badly. Woe to the shop that snubs me because I’m a hooker! ; ) Social media is pretty powerful today.

  • Esther Wagner

    I knit and crochet both!! I actually like crochet better because I think it’s easier, but I absolutely love knitting also. I don’t understand those people either!!

    Check out my craft blog at http://www.dollycreates.blogspot.com

  • knittinglady

    I knit and crochet and love them both. I even teach them both. My students have asked what I like better and I tell them it depends on what I am making. It is ashame to discriminate because of the love of one or the other. Both make beautiful things and each have their merits and their faults, so why not embrace both. Just making something you love out of a beautiful yarn how canthat be wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pjaway Peg Morehouse

    knitting and crocheting belong together!! I do both and much, much more…..

  • Noella Lamoreux

    I will soon be 90 years old – my brother once asked my Mother & me “if you were to lose some part of your body, what would you miss the most? Mother said “my eyes.” Brother & I both said “my hands.” Since the age of 5, I have been interested in all crafts and learned that no matter what happens in life, there is always something one can do to smooth the path of living. Please keep an open mind and gain all the knowledge you can. Have learned to crochet, knit, tat, spin, paint, draw, pottery, jewelry, designing, weaving, life has been full. My only regret is that there is so much to learn and so little time in a lifetime. Open the floodgates for yourself, be it in the beauty of sunrise or sunset, the fresh smell of earth after a rain, freshly mowed lawn or field, the song of a bird, mew of a kitten, bark & friendship of a dog, enjoy what is all around you every minute and hour of every day!

  • JMixx

    My preferences tend to go in stretches. For years I wasn’t terribly interested in knitting, and made afghans and scarves and other crocheted projects, some quite elaborate. About 8 or 9 years ago, I picked up knitting needles because I wanted to make a fine-gauge sweater, and felt that crochet would be “too bumpy.” Did I say stretches? Looong stretches. Some of my favorite projects, however, are sweaters with crocheted edging at hem, sleeve, button band, and collar. To me, lace seems easier with a crochet hook, and knitting is better at turning out fabric for garments (particularly socks, in which you will be standing on stitches, and an even fabric is close to a must for comfort). And, from what I’ve read in comments already posted, the “divided” crafters are in the minority!
    Long live the stitch, no matter what implement we use to make it! :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chelli.wilson Chelli Wilson

    I have trouble with keeping a gauge when I try to crochet, so I don’t as a rule crochet. But I do have a full set of hooks and I use them to slip stitch edges together or to add a simple single crochet border to things I knit. I also occasionally crochet a mini bag or clutch purse. I do amigurumi knit animals and would love to learn to do them same in crochet. My mom crochets some beautiful things and sometimes I do suffer from hook envy. I love both as the art-forms they are and combine them when I can. I also make mixed media jewelry and love to combine things with that including yarn. My late grandmother taught me to knit and to sew, both by hand and on a machine, but the most important thing she taught me is to not be afraid to experiment with different things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and you learn from that.
    I know people who are beaders and would not think of using wire and people who make jewelry and are apparently terrified of fiber art, so there are divides everywhere that don’t need to be there. I want to learn it all, but I also like to teach so I guess I am just a mixed bag of tricks. lol

  • Marsha Preuit

    I started knitting in HS in the 60s and started crocheting a few years ago. My Italian grandmother did both marvelously well. Because she could not read or write English, she would look at a picture of something that you wanted and would knit it up for you. I’m sure many folks have grandparents like that. My fondest memories are of her and a group of her lady friends sitting around, crocheting or knitting, and talking a mile a minute in a language I, regretfully, never learned. She could talk to you and never look at her project but the project always turned out correctly. I have many doilies that she crocheted in her “spare” time. Although I don’t use them, I can’t part with them either.

  • Jessica

    I wasn’t aware of the hostility between the two groups! I learned to crochet ten years ago and learned to knit a couple months ago. Here is my story about it:

    http://redonblack.weebly.com/1/post/2013/04/knitting-the-knots-out-of-my-brain.html

  • Slowknitter

    Tried unsuccessfully to learn to knit. Learned to crochet so-so, but then when I decided I REALLY wanted to learn to knit (was around European knitters and saw more than scarves and afghans), I picked it up better because I had learned a little crochet. I have found each has helped me improve at the other, and like them for different things. I love to knit, but can crochet much faster and with less concentration.

  • CD

    Great article! So true (for whatever nonsensical reason)! I’ve done my part as a “Crocheter” to learn to knit, and I love it! I think it makes both arts more versatile to know some of each.

  • JudyRoe

    I learned to crochet when I was about 8, and taught myself to knit about 25 years later. I love both, but mainly knit because of stiff hands. Get with it – both are useful skills.

  • Lilbit Knits

    I thoroughly enjoy ALL fiber crafts!!! Though I have learned and regularly do many, I just haven’t learned them all yet. I share my creative talents by crafting for others… who very much enjoy whatever I make for them and often request additional items. I firmly believe it’s just plain ugly to scoff at or demean any type crafting talent, no matter what it is. It’s best to NOT place one creative form in higher regard than another. They ALL have their good and bad points depending on what is desired in the end product. So, maybe those who reject a particular craft are really just jealous and need to take the time to learn how to do it themselves.

  • Denise

    I do both and have combined in the same project (altering a crochet pattern to give a knitted back). I have crocheted for more than 50 years and knitted for most of those. I love both, but probably try to convert more knitting to crochet than the other way around because I can edit in crochet and only copy in knitting (sometimes poorly because of gauge errors). Thank you for your blog.

  • SweetestTrini

    I learned to crochet first, a blessed gift from my grandmother and I cherish it, as she is not with me anymore. I learned to knit many years later by a friend. I do both…I love both! When I do projects, I alternate…one knit project, one crochet project. I used to think that I did that to keep my skills up. But now I believe I do that because I love them both immensely! I guess I’m weird. But its ok, it adds to my charm!

  • Carrie Renzuli

    I’ve been crocheting for over 20 years . I’ve always wanted to learn how to knitt and this year I will!! ” life is short and yarn is long”!

  • Jesus1fan that is my Ravelry

    Y no you are not weird knitandcurl I knit AND crochet and I like both to

  • maspinner

    I learned to crochet before the age of 5 and to knit in high school. I learned to weave in my twenties and to spin in my forties. I love it all and depending on what I am making depends which it is at the time. Why settle for one way to use fibers!!!

  • Grasshopper

    I have also encountered this phenomenon and frankly, I just don’t understand. All of the ladies in my family made an effort to learn every handwork skill they could, with the understanding that each craft was more suited for certain uses than others. I sew, embroider, needlepoint, cross-stitch and knit. It is also on my list to learn crochet. When I find women spewing venom about certain skills and those that choose to do them, I have to wonder at their motives. Why should another woman’s love and preference have such a violent reaction?

  • Rayna Thompson

    Thanks Franklin! So true! I learned to knit and crochet about 6 years ago. It’s too bad more people don’t learn both (extensively) so they can open up their options.

  • Heidi Viar

    I learned to knit and crochet about the same time. Both crafts were valuable to me at some point in my life. I crocheted a beautiful (not lumpy) diamond afghan for a friend as a wedding gift. I knit a baby blanket for another friend. Just last week I crocheted myself a beanie with bear ears and a propeller for a play (it was the Gaelic-language version of the Three Bears, for a class) because it was faster than knitting one. The projects I knit take a long time but I enjoy the process. The knit shawl I’m currently making requires a crochet hook to place beads. Now, I’m intrigued by the notion of crochet instead of sewing for steeking! Thank you for this piece, Franklin!

  • Mary

    Ah, Franklin! If only it were that easy! My sister’s M-I-L despaired of ever getting me to learn knitting, while I did master crochet and embroidery thanks to her patience. Maybe that disdain from knitters is their feeling of superiority that some of us can’t master two needles and use only one. I don’t know, but fortunately, she had patience in abundance. A co-worker finally succeeded to show me the way, but it only lasted as long as I worked there, b/c once I left, I did not have her with me every day at lunch to direct me how to fix issues. That was 26 years ago. I still have that 6-ft long piece with all those different stitches and long to get back to it, but I am intimidated and have no one now to help me get back onto two needles. I even was given two of Martha’s looms so it would be “easier”, but talk about intimidation….! I did open one package! LOL! And as far as patterns go, I do understand the reasoning behind the “don’t mix” ideation b/c I’m probably not alone when I say I won’t buy a book of patterns I can’t finish, and they need to sell the books, so…! As I approach retirement age, still a few years yet, I hope to find another patient someone near me who knits and will not curl their lip in disgust and condescend to re-teach me. If that does not happen, I won’t despair b/c Lion Brand has so many types of yarn suited to crochet projects that are just as beautiful, in my opinion, as some knit projects, and they have so many free patterns, I could crochet until I’m toes up and not run out of ideas! Thanks, Lion Brand!

  • mlb

    Bravo!

  • mlb

    Bravo!

  • eastcoastsunshine

    this harks back to the day of class discrimination and race discrimination. The Irish did stunning crochet that from what I have heard, simply breathless in scope and complexity. However the Irish were much malign, and ANYTHING they did was looked down upon. Another section of the US also crochets more than knits, African Americans. Again the same sort of discrimination.

    Lastly I would LOVE to learn to do really stunning items in crochet and have even bought a knitting & Crochet stitch dictionary. The crocheting I have heard eats up more yarn and I really don’t want to buy more yarn. My walk in closet is about to burst.

  • Connie Race

    I can crochet, and I think it’s a handy skill to have, but I really don’t like the way crocheted fabric looks. That doesn’t make me a bad person or anti-hooking; it makes me a a person with an opinion, one that I’m perfectly fine sharing with anyone who asks.

  • knownway

    I am not sure I understand what the big deal is and why crocheters hate knitters and vice versa. I crochet only, but it’s only because of time constraints. I work full-time and just don’t have the time to learning knitting right now. I have my hands full with crochet. But there will come a time when I will want to add to my reportoire of skills and learn to knit, too! I have encountered knitters who are somewhat hostile to crocheters, though, and I’ve never understood why that is.

  • Colleen Humphreys

    And, don’t forget…picking up sts and casting off as you go (in two different ways, no less!) is the same as picking up and single crocheting or slip stitching. Great ways to support or finish an edge, and you can’t tell which technique was used to do so.

    Until the 80s, at least, I saw patterns for knit garments with crocheted edgings. I am sure I didn’t see them after the eyelash craze took off.

  • B Mathes

    Crochet has done some very nice things to my knitting.
    I learned to hook first from my husband’s grandmother; taught myself to knit from a children’s book and only put the needles down to add crocheted loops, or ti spin ‘n weave-a-little. After all, it’s all fiber manipulated with tools and practice.

  • Rita McKay

    I also knit and crochet and love doing both… I have a couple young friends who just learned how to knit and both are very good at it and now they are both ready to learn how to crochet… I don’t understand why knitters would shun crocheting and vice versa… I have never heard that before…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1253418358 Melissa Lund Savoy

    I crocheted before I learned to knit, and must be honest; my crochet skills are far superior. BUT – I can do both.

    I have been to both a LYS and to Stitches East and been “hated” on for being “only” a crocheter at the time. I was purchasing luxury yars at both locations – spending a lot of money – and was sneered at. “WHY would you spend so much money on ‘just’ crochet?” “Don’t you want to find the Red Heart or Lion Brand booths?” To which I’d already been and spent the first half of my savings. But they didn’ need to know that.

    Because I preferred wool and silk and alpaca to acrylic? Because there are BEAUTIFUL crochet projects that are better suited for those fibers? Because making my son’s earflap hat from alpaca will make it warmer and I want him warm in Boston?
    Anyhow – I am now bicraftual (bistitchual?) and love both arts for what they bring to the table. There are some things that are better suited for crochet than knitting and vice versa. But I see no need to hate.

  • Karen M

    I both crochet and knit. I learned to crochet 60 years ago and knitting not long after. Although knitted projects were lovely it was such a slow, tedious process I never got good at it, then I learned about the continental method which uses movements similar to crochet. Knitters who consider crochet a simple, cheap craft should wake up to the fact that crochet was originally a lace making technique and is far from simple or cheap, where as knitting was the simple and inexpensive alternative because it could be done with a simple homemade machine, and was from about the 1400 – 1500 hundreds. Both methods have their uses so I can only pity those who are so narrow minded that they look down on either technique as cheap and outdated. Hooray for yarn manipulators no mater what technique they use.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.mcallister.9638 Amanda McAllister

    I do both, love both, and regularly incorporate both into the same item. I don’t understand the knit or crochet snobs, man. I guess it just means I have more pretty toys and more pretty yarn to play with than those that militantly stick to one or the other. :P

  • knittingdaisy

    I do crochet as well as knit.
    In fact, this is the first time I hear about rivalries between the two crafts. Is this specific to the US, maybe? I live in Germany.
    I learned crochet at the age of 6 and knit around the age of 11. Usually I prefer knitting, yet I love crochet for finishing, embellishments and for accessories. I love the variety of both. Each has endless possibilities and unique look and touch. Depending on what I want to achieve, one technique might be more suitable than the other.
    Most German knitting books which aim to give a deeper introduction have a chapter on crochet as well. When teaching a knitting class, I also teach basic crochet.
    I think both are wonderful crafts and complement nicely.

  • Marlene aka Ouma Miaau

    Presently making an afghan using both knitted and crochet blocks and it looks stunning! I also tend to embroider at times on the knitted blocks. The more crafts one can master, the more equip one is to live an independent life.

  • SUZIQVS

    I try to incorporated crochet in my knitting whenever it makes things easier. Definitely for the border, but also I Bind off with a crochet hook! It’s much faster & gives consistent stitch size. Also, if I need to bind off loosely I just increase the size of the crochet hook to get the desired looseness I want.

  • wendy

    I have crocheted for 31 years & knit for 13 now. I do not have a Jekyll-and-Hyde split in my psyche, & don’t have a problem with either craft. Can’t understand the “either-or-but-not-both .”
    The “won’t do” folks miss out, in my opinion, on a very enjoyable craft, no matter which it is.

  • Crochet Queen

    I am with you, I do both. My knitting is basic, but I learned after crochet. Its like cooking beef 1 day and pork the next. Or chicken or turkey, or beans and peas. You get the idea. They each have a purpose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.fields.334 Lisa Lybrand Fields

    My mother was both a crocheter. I mostly crochet but im in the process of improving my knitting. I like doing both. It opens up your world to so many more projects that way..I met a woman that said you cant do both. I say if you want to you can.

  • DarkElectra

    Okay, so call me crazy too! I learned how to knit & crochet at a very early age. My Mom was a lefty and I’m a righty … boy was that fun! As she was teaching me, she said to remember the three most important words: “Yes, You Can”. Today, there isn’t anything I can’t do and I’ll be hanged if I’d let a little hook or pointy needle scare me back to hide under my afghans!

  • Martha

    I can see where a crafty person might prefer crochet over knit or knit over crochet, but a yarn shop should embrace crafters of any kind who will buy the yarn. The yarn shop owner or salesperson who one prefers one or who can only teach one skill, can say “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that.” Of course a SMART saleperson would do a little research on the other craft to be able to suggest appropriate yarns and amounts for a given project.

    As a costume sewer, I have only dabbled a bit into quilting, but I can assist a customer with selecting fabric and colors for a quilt. Similar skills, different projects, but ends up selling products which makes the store a profit.

    As for knit and crochet, I have knit some, but prefer to crochet, if I drop my work and it starts to unravel, it only unravels one stitch at a time.

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