So, setting aside that Hobby Lobby is in the midst of suing the United States federal government over the idea that birth control should be a part of the health care they provide because, let's be honest, it's none of their godsdamned business what their female employees do with their bodies. I do not shop at the Hobby Lobby. I did, a couple times, despite my discomfort over their giant aisle of crosses, until I found out about the fact that they're one of the employers who has gone bat-shit over the idea that they should pay a little more money so that birth control is covered. Those are my politics. If you want to shop at Hobby Lobby that is your business. I would urge you to consider spending your knitting dollars elsewhere, but that's just this liberal's opinion.
Politics aside, here's why I think a beginner's scarf kit is a crappy idea for any beginning knitter. Not everyone really gets what goes into knitting. Knitting is fun. I love it. Still, when you're new to knitting, it is slow. Knitting can be tedious and frustrating. So let's start with a thing that is, by its nature, long and repetitive!
"Okay, smarty-pants, what's your idea?"
Cool it, dude. I'm not putting down the starting scarf, but here's what I like to suggest to first time knitters.
Seriously. If you are learning to knit, make a washcloth, and here's why.
Reasons Why First Time Knitters Should Make a Washcloth
- It's quick.: Even if you're new a washcloth is small and easy to finish. As the newest of new knitters, if you devote one to two hours a day for a week on a dishcloth, I guarantee that you will have it finished by the weekend.
- CO, K, P, BO: Cast on, knit, purl, and bind off; these are the things you need to know. If you start with a scarf I'm going to teach you how to cast on. Maybe you'll do a garter stitch scarf, so you aren't learning to purl. You aren't doing a stockinette scarf because it's going to roll up and look like junk. Regardless, by the time you get around to doing the bind-off, you've been knitting for so long on one piece that you can't even remember how to cast on anymore. The washcloth is the answer to these problems. Again, it's small. You can easily jam those four basic skills into one little project in a short enough period of time that you can actually retain the skills.
- It's useful!: Who doesn't need a washcloth? You may think, I don't need anymore washcloths. You do. It doesn't have to be a washcloth. It can be a dustcloth or a dishcloth or just a cloth that you wipe things up with. You can use a cotton washcloth for any number of around-the-house cleaning needs. When you or your child - and maybe even especially when your child - makes a washcloth and you use it, that's a big deal. They can look at that thing and say "I made that." "Check me out, I have contributed." They probably aren't going to say those exact words and maybe they won't even consciously think about it, but I promise they'll feel proud of themselves.
- Wearables don't make good first projects: In contrast to number three, scarves, and wearables generally, don't usually turn out as pretty as you think they will. You're new at this! That's totally fine and to be expected. Your gauge will probably be a little off. If you do a pattern you will probably screw it up in spots. In keeping with our scarf idea, a scarf is long enough already without you having to stop and fix things or, worse yet, realizing twelve inches down the road that you screwed up royally and then have to figure out whether you've got to tear out stitches or can it be fixed. What do you do? It's not fun, and I've fixed those issues for many people. Not everyone has a person that can do that. On the contrary, if you screw up a little on a washcloth, it's small! Also, it's a washcloth! Who cares if it's a little wonky? It's going to wash things.
- Cotton yarn is cheap.: This pretty much speaks for itself. If you knit a scarf, you might feel tempted to buy some pretty yarn and spend serious cash on it. Cotton yarn is super cheap. You can make two washcloths out of one skein of super basic cotton yarn and it probably won't run you more than $2, maybe $2.50 at the outside.
So I've laid out here only 5 reasons why I think that washcloths are the perfect starter project and now I'm going to give you the most basic washcloth pattern that pops into my head...
The Crazy Basic WashclothNeeded: size US7 or US8 straight needles, one skein of basic worsted weight cotton yarn
CO 36 (cast-on 36 stitches)
Row 1 - Knit all
Row 2 - Knit all
Row 3 - Knit all
Row 4 - Knit all
Row 5 - K3 (knit 3), purl to last three sts (stitches), K3
Row 6 - Knit all
Repeat rows 5 and 6 until your washcloth is just a few rows short of square.
Knit all stitches for four rows.
BO (bind off)
This is, as I said, crazy basic. It's casting on, knitting, purling, and binding off. You get to learn garter stitch and stockinette at the same time and if you devote just one week to it, you'll be on to your next project. This is a project that gives you a feel for knitting. It is also easy to change or customize. Once you know more about knitting you can play around with it. Cast on 36 stitches and the sky is the limit. You can do whatever kind of pattern you want. And I'll tell you what else, washcloths are perfect for practice all kinds of knitting techniques and at the end you get a useful little thing. You can practice cabling and yarn overs, increases and decreases, whatever you want.
Save scarves for once you've gotten more comfortable with knitting. In meantime, pick out a ridiculous color of cotton yarn and make something that you're going to use for decades. A washcloth hangs around and stays useful forever. Enjoy that.
I hope that I've made the case for new knitters and washcloth and I hope that if you're a new knitter you go out a start a washcloth today. If you're a veteran knitter, I hope you start recommending washcloths to every knitting newbie you meet!