the great knitting debate..

the great knitting debate..

In this country, where knitting and other handicrafts are in the oblivion phase of their life-cycle, the community of knitters has dropped to minuscule numbers. Knitters reading blogs and surfing the Net for inspiration? maybe just a handful. Let that not stop or discourage any knitter who is currently thinking of embarking on a project.`

THIS is the season for some knitting!! creating a warm piece of love is a good feeling — no pizza or burger can reach that standard. No movie or book either, methinks. The days of women knitting away to make the hours go past/to contribute to family savings/to keep the snotty kids warm/to make other knitters peer at their complicated patterns, those days have marched into the “good old days” of the past.

I have met a few brawny, tall and bearded outdoor instructors at NOLS India who knit caps and scarves while camping with students. They bake amazingly good bread too, but that is digressing from the point. I have friends who struggled through the first pot-holder, and have now moved onto spending knitty and chatty Sunday mornings with me. And then, my daughter taught herself crochet through one holiday week and sent me my favorite cowl, crocheted diligently by her now-expert hands!

Knitting has come a long way from the days of my mother and favorite aunt. They had these long, straight AERO knitting needles, the ends blunted and polished by years of yarn slipping past them. They had the “Imperial system” numbers, ranging from 12 to 8. The eternal favorite seemed to be No. 10.  It was borders with No. 12, rest with No 10…and if a bulky wool appeared, it was No8. Socks? No 12. And years and yards of yarn were knitted into sweaters and everything warm.

Knitting has moved to the Metric system now.  that favorite No 10 is now 3.25 mm and its not my favorite anymore! With my penchant for lace and draped shawls, 4mm and 5 mm are the favored ones these days.


More than the numbers, its the advent of circular knitting needles which has changed the knitting scenario forever..Now that they are freely available online , its a good idea to introduce them into your knitting circles.

And that is when the Great Knitting Debate begins…

“Straight needles have always been there,  one pair is enough to knit everything and they are what tradition is all about” your expert aunts and mothers will say.

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To which, you can reply

  • Circular needles stay together–one of them does not hide in the sofa crack/fall down and roll into the darkest corner/ vanish when you get up to make tea.
  • Their ends do not poke people seated next to you.  Moreover, since the ends are small, they fit nicely on the fingers and the weight of the knitting is taken by the cable…good news for the joints of the fingers and wrists.
  • When knitting with circular needles, you only knit on the right side of your work…that is the side which you want the world and the mirror to see. If mastering the purl stitch seems to be the main reason for not knitting much, then your days of cursing that poor purl are over!  You can make hats, jumpers, socks, cowls, mufflers and everything else with not a purl stitch on the horizon.
  • best of all–there is no stitching involved.  Once you complete the last row of that hat, you can cast off the last stitch and wear the hat right away! its a great feeling, believe me!

Of course, this will not be the end of the Great Debate. But the first step is the most difficult step.

When I had started our knitting group in Ranikhet, the hill women were shocked to find circular needles being supplied to them. Were they supposed to knit with these wiry contraptions?

The initial horror was then replaced by stubborn refusal. Trepidation and cautious optimism followed.

It was just a matter of days and then I would see women climbing up a rocky pasture, yelling at their cows and knitting with their circular needles.  My home-keeper, Hema, knits and walks briskly down the 2 km road to my house. She swears by her trusty circular needles which churn out long scarves to augment her income.

So then, my dear friend and knitter, if the hill women can embrace new technology, surely you can give it a try?!

Watch out for my next post…I will take you through the steps of knitting an easy-peasy hat with a 40 cm circular needle and one ball of yarn. Fun times ahead!!


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