This time of year is full of questions.. like how many stitches to cast on for a scarf, how to avoid curling edges, or what to do about joining in a new ball of wool etc.. And although I know there are multiple solutions to any one of those problems, I’ve learned that new knitters prefer an unambiguous do-it-like-this answer, to hearing about my encyclopaedic knowledge of alternative yarn joins or my PhD dissertation on curly-edge-prevention techniques.
6 years since opening the shop, I’m pretty good at it now. ’25cm is a nice width for a scarf, so you’ll need about this many stitches if you’re using that wool and those needles.’
As for length, I no longer explain that the length is up to them, in favour of, ‘3 balls should do it. Keep knitting until you reach the length you like and just come back for more if you want to make it longer than that, or you can return any un-used balls.’ Call me misleading, but I think it provides a secure hand rail to hold onto whilst the knitter discovers the answer for themselves.
But there’s one question that I’ve never managed to find a satisfactory answer to:
‘How long will it take me to knit it?’
Now let’s not get started on all the things I would have to know in order to begin to even fake a simplified answer here. The real problem is that I don’t like the question. Basically knitting is just not a very good idea if you need to know the answer.
What we know is that it’s probably going to take ages. And just the saying of that in words sounds like a bad thing. But it’s one of the very best things of all. It will take days, weeks, possibly months, in some cases years, to finish. And in that time, all sorts of things may happen – you may fall in or out of love, discover a new friend, lose someone or something, have a baby, an epiphany, an accident, win or lose a campaign, travel faraway, endure a global pandemic, feel lonely, frustrated, calm, bored, relieved, inspired. All of life will happen while you knit and your stitches will carry that life story as they loop on and on. And when your knitting is finished, the age that it took will make it more, not less. The trouble with that answer is that it takes longer to explain than the knitter has time to wait, but like all the answers really, it’s best learned by the knitter on the job.