Relearning Knitting – the Arewa Sweater by Handmade by Kunbi

Hello everyone, it’s been a while, but now I’m back with a different kind of make this time. I decided to pick up one of my old hobbies and do some knitting. I’m a serial starter and I’ve got several half knitted items lurking in the stash. I decided to join a knit-along, I thought that would give me the incentive to finish.

I’m knitting the Arewa short sleeve sweater by Kunbi Ayo-Okanlawon of @handmadebykunbi

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She is as lovely as she looks

She’s a knitwear designer who I discovered via the Amplify Melanated Voices movement emerging in the online community. She put out a call for test knitters and I decided to join in. Having a deadline would help me finish this garment. it looks a relatively easy pattern but it is lace and it is a long time since I’ve knitted anything like this, but here we go, I’m in for this one.

This project uses a new to me method of knitting in the round and it’s also a top-down sweater. It’s my first time using these methods, but I’ve never been shy of taking on challenges and whenever I’m doing something crafty, I want to know ALL the techniques.

I contacted Kunbi and straight away she just seems like the loveliest person, welcoming me into her group and very easy going. I explained that I was a returning knitter and it had been a long time. She said that it’s fine because this pattern is intended for advanced beginners.

Picking up a new hobby, of course, means new kit.

I actually had two circular needles but I hadn’t realised that you need a whole range. There are different sized needles and different length cables. All I had at the moment was one 4-mm needle with a 16cm cable. I needed a much longer cable and smaller needles. I’d also acquired one interchangeable pair of needles that I bought out of curiosity on a long-ago mooching session in C&H fabrics, and of course, the 8 mm needle was also the wrong size. I can’t remember what I was intending to knit with it but it was so pretty…

They’re pretty…

I ended up investing in a set of interchangeable circular needles which came in a very beautiful box, so I’m committing myself to knit more in the future.

The start was very promising because one thing that you find when knitting in the round is you don’t have to do any purl rows. I don’t know why but I’ve always hated knitting a purl row. With knitting in the round, as you are going in a circle you, just knit or pattern, continuously, there is no reverse side knitting so you never have to knit a purl row.

Progress seemed to fly at the beginning and everything was going quite quickly. However, once I‘d gone through the pattern a few times I was thinking this isn’t growing very quickly lengthwise and I got to my second increase round and realised that I was slowing down because obviously, I’ve got a LOT more stitches each time. What I hadn’t registered is that when you’re knitting flat you start at the bottom and then you’ll need to do some decreasing for armholes, necklines etc. so your knitting rows will get smaller. It hadn’t occurred to me that when you’re knitting from the top down your work is going to grow as you increase. Ahh, Revelations.

This happened quickly, then I had to increase…

Still I was making reasonable progress when cabin fever set in and we decided we were going away for a couple of weeks. We’d been talking about trying Scotland for a low risk Staycation. We figured there wouldn’t be a lot of people now it was autumn. I thought, no problem we’re going to be doing some long stretches of driving. I could see if I could get some car knitting in. This unfortunately never happened because the first time I tried, I suffered a bout of motion sickness, I knew that reading in the car is not recommended but I hadn’t thought that knitting would essentially cause the same problem. Apparently your eyes are focusing on a steady thing, the book or in my case the knitting, but the inner ear senses motion, so your brain gets confused and you feel sick. That slowed down my progress although I still managed to get in an hour or two knitting every evening after we had done our days’ touristing. I did hit the real snag when I realised I’d got the wrong number of stitches and had no clue where I have gone wrong. Having knitted large chunk of this jumper I had to rip it back and start again.

When you don’t know what you don’t know

I am an unapologetic autodidact. I love to learn things and most of my hobbies have been self-taught. One of the things about teaching yourself is that you don’t always know what you don’t know. This was the case with knitting – I taught myself to knit out of a book at least 40 years ago and what I’ve discovered during this process is that one of the things I didn’t know I didn’t know about knitting was the magic of stitch markers. I went wrong quite a few times on this project and had to go back to the beginning and undo hours and hours worth of knitting. If I had known how to use stitch markers effectively, I could have saved myself an enormous amount of time, effort and frustration. I didn’t realise that I could use my stitch markers not just to mark the beginning of the round but also to mark each pattern section and the increase points, This would have meant only frogging back to my mistake rather than having to start all over again. This you can find filed under “You live and learn”. You’re welcome.

I had bought a small packet of markers when I decided to start knitting again however I didn’t have enough so I had to improvise, first of all, a few paper clips I had in my bag, then fashioning stitch markers out of rolled up and twisted paper – it did the job. When we got home I did invest in a set so now I have stitch markers to last me a lifetime and to allow me to do several projects all at once – just the way I like it.

Can you spot the naughty ones in the wrong compartments?

That my pace has slowed considerably is a little dispiriting, it seems to take me hours just to do one set of pattern repeats. it wasn’t growing very quickly at all. I remember in my old knitting days I seemed to fly through projects. I remember one time when I knit an Aran jumper in one week. Is it a matter of getting old or am I just a bit rusty? I just can’t seem to get any speed up.

On the other hand, I’m enjoying the moments of quiet that knitting is bringing and the portability means that I’m still doing some form of crafting wherever I am.

Nearly there – and oh great that you can do this!

This was an unexpected bonus. Knitting in the round means you can try on your project as you make it. You can’t do that with flat knitting!

Even the finishing process is news to me. I don’t remember anyone ever talking about things like blocking of finished products. I’ve knitted several jumpers in the past. I’ve never blocked anything, I just cast off, pat myself on the back, throw the project on and just go about my business!

I’ve now learned about the importance of blocking the projects, washing it properly and laying it out in its proper shape and letting it dry. I stopped myself from buying a set of blocking mats, I’m sure I’m way over my theoretical budget for this project already.

Another lesson – blocking

Okay, so by the time I had to frog the project multiple times and use my markers in counting carefully. I realised that I wasn’t going to meet the testers’ deadline. Even after I came home from my trip and knitted solidly for 5 days, I was still not making the kind of progress that meant I was going to finish in time. I contacted Kunbi, feeling guilty, maybe if we hadn’t gone away I could have finished in time? However, I couldn’t have been more surprised. Her priority was that we all enjoyed our knitting, we agreed that I would give her whatever feedback I could about the process and the pattern and then follow with finished object photos when possible. As it happened I finished the day after launch – I know that if I had had my markers epiphany earlier, I would have nailed this in plenty of time. So this is how we learn and why I have a thousand stitch markers at my disposal now.

Okay why relearning? I knew how to knit but it had been a long time since I’d done any. I learned a few things from others that I missed as a self taught knitter. Tools are your friend – Stitch markers can save you a lot of time and frustration and stitch holders can also help you keep your sanity while you knit. Finishing touches like blocking take your garment to the next level.

So here is Arewa, I love the pattern and the garment itself. I also enjoyed the test process very much so I will do it again.

Have you got any dormant hobbies waiting to be revived or is there a secret stash of UFOs that you could bring back to life? I’d love to see them.

Thanks for dropping by,

About Elaine Batiste

I'm a teacher, a lifelong learner, a traveller, a maker, an adventurer and a 'want to do more' kind of gal.

2 Responses

  1. Beth

    I remember when I picked up knitting again after a long hiatus—the explosion of knitting content online reminded me how much I loved it. I had to learn about stitch markers & blocking too—and so many other things that just weren’t part of knitting when I first learned to knit from my grandmother. I relate so much to this post. I am learning to knit sweaters for myself now after knitting many shawls, socks, hats, cowls, etc. Getting garments to fit the way I want them to, so they are comfortable and look good, is really challenging. I re-knit so many parts of my first sweater-after-a-long-time—the collar twice, one sleeve 3 times and the other twice, the body 3 or 4 times. “This is how we learn”—you are so right. I love that attitude. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

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