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Conquering knitting fears - small needles, fine yarn, arthritis.

For knitters who feel daunted by small gauge knitting needles and fine-gauge yarn, this post is for you.

Meet my sister-in-law Linda, a new knitter. Last December, Linda was on a plane trip with a girlfriend who was knitting hats. Watching her friend knit, Linda thought, “I can do that.” Back home, Linda bought bulky acrylic yarn and size 13 and 15 needles, pulled up YouTube videos on how-to-knit and away she went, immediately knitting two hats. Out of the blue, she texted me a photo of her finished hats - I was thrilled for this new knitter!

Linda has longed for our Sand Waves Poncho, designed by Norah Gaughan, even before she became a knitter. It absolutely planted a seed for her to want to knit. Not feeling quite ready for cables, she jumped on our newest wrap pattern, Wanderer, recognizing that it’s knit in stockinette stitch with just enough challenge in lace stitches.

Having a motivating pattern, Linda felt ready to tackle these anxieties:

  • knitting with small needles (US Size 2 – down from US 13 and 15!)
  • using finer yarn (our cashmere fingering weight vs. bulky)
  • seeing how her arthritic hands would handle both
Additionally, Linda was in for learning many new knitting skills, including:
  • swatching for gauge
  • learning the lace stitches
  • reading a pattern for the first time
  • understanding charts
  • reading her knitting

Knitting journey

Currently, Linda is halfway through her swatch. She has successfully completed a length of stockinette and the first half of the zig-zag lace pattern. She’s now working the second half of the lace – or the zag of the pattern. I explained to Linda that she would hand wash her swatch and check her gauge once her swatch was completed, to which she replied, ‘Gauge? Why does that matter? I’m knitting a rectangle.’ The lightbulb went off when my sister Signe and I explained that she is making a fabric that is expected to drape and wrap around her shoulders. If her fabric is knitted to loosely or tightly, she will have a very different finished piece than what she sees in the pattern photos, one that isn’t going to drape and wrap as she expects. Not to mention that a different gauge will require all new math to achieve the desired wrap size.

Fear of small knitting needles, fine yarn, arthritis

Per Linda, “I am so empowered! I am creating cloth and I’m loving this experience. I thought working with finer yarn and small needles was going to be difficult. It’s just the same process as working with bulky yarn and size 13/15 needles. But now I’m creating a beautiful garment that I can’t wait to wear, that will be lightweight and just incredible in this cashmere, which is so soft in my hands. I’m relishing the process. And I really believe it’s helping my arthritis – just like yoga helps my joints.”

For needles, I had Linda try my favorites, Kollage circular square needles with the firm cable. They are anodized aluminum, always warm in the hands. The firm cable has a stainless steel swivel to connect the cables and needles. As for Linda’s stitches, they are incredibly even, a quality of the cashmere yarn that also is encouraged by the square shape of the needles. To a person who knits with our yarn regardless of needles, the result is even stitches, especially once a finished piece has been washed and blocked the first time, allowing the yarn to relax and bloom, and the stitches to settle into place.

We’re just at the swatching stage of Linda’s journey; she does have an entire wrap to go! But it’s exciting that any anxiety Linda felt about starting this project has turned to empowerment and enthusiasm. Yes, there have been false starts and rip-outs, but that is part of learning – and this cashmere is milled so that you can knit, unknit, knit, unknit, making it just fine for learning. The process is bringing Linda joy. . . and me, too, as I watch her giggle and say, ‘It’s perfect!’

We’ll check in with Linda periodically and give updates as she continues knitting Wanderer with our fingering weight cashmere and US Size 2 needles. The take-away for now, however, is to be not afraid! Wait no longer to start your own fingering weight project with our 1-skein kits or our exquisitely designed timeless garments. Giggles of accomplishment await you, too!


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