Knitting: Am I doing it wrong?

When it comes to knitting, I’m a bit nontraditional. I like to think it’s because my grandmother let me decide what style of knitter I wanted to be. When you’re eleven years old and an adult lets you be the boss of something – the power is intoxicating.

Young me: Why do I have to hold the yarn in my right hand if I need it over on the left side to wrap around the needle?

Grandma Margie (who was an English style knitter): You can hold it however you want to, as long as you get your stitches right.

And thus began my career as a kind-of-Irish-Cottage-Style, left-handed slight-thrower knitter (who doesn’t happen to be left-handed). The way I knit works for me: it’s efficient, my gauge is consistent and my hands/wrists don’t hurt. It’s weird, but it’s not wrong.

Has anyone ever told you you’re doing it “wrong”?

There’s a difference between doing something differently and doing it wrong.  Wrong means your results are incorrect. Different means your results are good, but your process is unique. The more experience you have in knitting, the easier it is to understand the why. Why do we count gauge in stitches and rows? Why do we bind off a certain way? Why do we wrap this direction? Understanding why makes it easier to know when (and where) you can take liberties.

Sometimes when you hear, “You’re doing it wrong,” when what they really mean is “You’re doing it differently than I do.” And as we’ve established, different isn’t always a bad thing.

But how do you know if what you’re doing is different or if it’s actually wrong? And how do you decide when to stay close to the guidelines, and when it’s okay to freestyle? There are some rules in knitting that are intrinsically tied to the end result, and you can’t just throw them out because you’re feeling like a wild child. Today. Thursday. Just because. Sometimes the rules matter (especially when you’re knitting sweaters).

When you know the rules really well, you can learn to bend them to your will – and get cool results.  But when you break the rules without knowing what they’re for in the first place, THAT’S when you run into problems.

So here you go:

My two rules for breaking the rules:

  1. Is the result correct? There’s a difference between making the stitch correctly and the movements that happen whilst making it. If the result is correct and it feels good on your hands, then how you got there works for me.
  2. Do you know what you’re doing? If you’re trying a new technique or a new type of project, then follow the rules until you know what you’re doing. When you know how to do it correctly, then go ahead – freestyle to your heart’s content. But don’t ignore guidelines and recommendations about gauge, swatching, techniques, etc… when you’ve never done them before, and/or when you haven’t yet figured out how to get the right results.

I became a nontraditional style knitter because I had a mentor who knew enough about the rules to guide me. She knew that where I carried my yarn and how I held my needles was less important than how my stitches landed. Having that insight early on helped me to understand that rules are negotiable. But I’ve also learned that some rules are there for our own protection (or at least for our success). Learn everything you can about the process, and then test the waters from there. And if you don’t know if it’s the right way or not, give it your best shot and learn as you go.

The best part? There are no tragic consequences in knitting, so worst case – you get to start over (and there’s nothing wrong with that – more opportunities to get it right). Mistakes are the best teachers.

Knit like you mean it,


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