so you want to knit :: part 2 :: switching it up

(…Not to be confused with “stitching it up”. Bahahaha. Ahem.)

Did you watch video tutorials on knittinghelp.com? Weren’t they awesome? I hope you’ve tried making something that helped you get your feet (fingers?) firmly under you and that you weren’t afraid to take it out and start over as you got better.

The second phase of my knitting obsession stayed within the realm of “easy” projects, but with each one I would try to find a pattern that had a new method or element to challenge me. Some of those ‘elements’, for example:

  • increasing and decreasing stitches (see: head wrap pattern below)
  • seed or moss stitch pattern (see: pencil case pattern below)
  • ribbing (see: fingerless gloves pattern below)
  • lace patterns (see: headband pattern below)

Where did I find patterns to challenge me (but not too much!) like those? Well, remember how awesome knittinghelp.com was? I’ve got another knitting website to knock your freshly-darned-socks off  [drum roll and fan fare]:

The Ravelry Community

This site is a network for knitters and crocheters to connect, share their projects, get and give advice, get inspiration, and (how I use the site the most) access patterns. There are both free and for-purchase patterns on the site, and you can search the database pretty specifically (which helps when looking for something only slightly challenging). You do have to create a profile and join the network (free!) to access the site. When you do, search for “omyfamily” and be my ‘friend’! (Forewarning: my profile is pretty lame. Updating my knitting profile falls near the bottom of my to-do list, if you know what I mean.)

The best resource for me on Ravelry has been the advanced pattern search. You can, for example, search for free knitting patterns for headbands that are made with the needle size you already own (because UGH to getting excited about making something, only to find you’d need to BUY new needles) and you will have 360 options. THREE HUNDRED AND SIXTY.

{screen shot from ravelry.com}

So, you want to be more specific than that? Good, can do. “AllisonO told me to try a new element, like maybe lace stitch to challenge myself,” you might say. Then, you would go over to the side of the Ravelry.com advanced pattern search, and you would select “fabric characteristics” as shown in the screen shot below. Under fabric characteristics you can select lace stitch, ribbing, cables… all sorts of methods of knitting to challenge you.

{screen shot from ravelry.com}

Then, when you find a pattern with an element that’s new to you, don’t forget about knittinghelp.com! When those instructions and abbreviations look like gibberish to you, go on over to the knittinghelp.com glossary to watch and learn. I found it helpful to read through the entire pattern going through and watching the KH glossary videos for any stitches or techniques I didn’t know before even starting the project. By doing it that way I had a better feel for how challenging the new stuff was going to be and if I was up for it. I even often practiced just the new stitches a few times before starting the actual pattern.

You guys! Isn’t Ravelry the awesome?? You can find a pattern that is just challenging enough to make you feel accomplished without having so many new aspects that it is frustrating.

Because I find myself needing to switch it up from time to time, I will have multiple projects going on at once. A longer, larger one and a smaller, quick-results one. I also try to vary difficulty. If I am working on something difficult like a lace pattern or brioche, I will set it down for a week or two and pick up a straight-forward wash cloth or coffee cozy project to give my brain a rest.

A small warning: This can turn into having a million un-finished projects. I speak from experience. Right now I am “working on”: a baby blanket for Gummybear, a cabled hat for a friend, a neck cowl in a difficult pattern, and always always whipping up coffee cozies to mail off. That? Is too many simultaneous projects just sitting on my needles. See?


(Apparently I have a favorite color scheme. It’s true. I like me some teal.)

Pile of unfinished projects and all, it’s fun to try new things! And for some reason, those unfinished projects don’t stress me out right now. They aren’t gifts with deadlines (with the exception of the baby blanket), they are just things I enjoy creating. I can’t put too much pressure on myself or it wouldn’t be fun anymore, you know?

So About Those Patterns:

Here are a few patterns I have followed myself that taught me how to create new and somewhat challenging fabric characteristics. I listed the techniques used in each, and I tried to put them in order of what I think is easier to harder, but everyone is so different. Some things that stump me and take me forever come easily to others. So, consider my rankings completely arbitrary and just go for whatever makes your fingers happy!

:: :: :: :: :: ::

:: Fingerless Gloves Pattern and photo credit ::

Techniques: ribbing, edge seaming, and one-time stitch increase

Note: links to a knit AND crochet pattern; scroll down for knit instructions

:: :: :: :: :: ::

:: Pencil Case Pattern, pencil case photo credit ::

Techniques: moss stitch, bobble button, decrease stitches, edge seaming

Note: you could easily alter this pattern to remove the bobble button but

keep the button loop, then use a sewn-on button instead.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

:: Head Wrap Pattern and photo credit ::

Techniques: a lot of stitch increases and decreases, ribbing

Note: probably the easiest “impressive looking” project I’ve made. LOVE it.

:: :: :: :: :: ::

:: Headband Pattern and photo credit ::

Techniques: decrease stitches (knit 2 together), yarn over, and slip-slip-knit

:: :: :: :: :: ::

This is part two of a series of ::so you want to knit:: posts. Click here to see so you want to knit :: part one :: getting started. I hope you are excited to start switching it up, because I can’t wait to share more with you!

Also? I was not compensated in any way to share any of these links with you. They’re just awesome sites that I think my friends and readers (who are friends I just haven’t met yet) might find helpful.


6 Responses to “so you want to knit :: part 2 :: switching it up”

  1. Catherine

    What kind of yarn do you use? It looks so pretty and soft! I go to the craft store and get overwhelmed!

  2. Amy K

    I was so inspired by the first post that I have taught myself (with help from knittinghelp.com!) to cable, increase/decrease and knit in the round. Thank you!! I am very excited for next year’s homemade Christmas gifts.

    I also stumbled upon http://www.darngoodyarn.com. They have fair trade and recycled yarn for sale and provide income for women living in impoverished nations.

  3. kim

    this is a GREAT intro to Ravelry!! I learned my way around there by spending HOURS getting lost — this would have been so helpful! I’ll have to look you up next time I’m there — which should be tomorrow. I think I’m there like every day. I just found out I’m going to be an Aunt again so I have to get knitting tiny little things!! Enjoy your projects — these look delcious!

  4. Kimberly Payne

    Thank you so much for this post. For years I have wanted to get serious about knitting but never got further than scarves because everything seemed so intimidating. The knitting help website is amazing and so helpful. I now find myself spending hours looking through ravelry at all the projects i want to eventually do, and I don’t feel so intimidated anymore.


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