Jen and the Owl

My friend Jen started knitting earlier this year. She asked me a few questions about technique and shared some photos of her well knitted hats, but she kept saying she was just a beginner and a bit scared of knitting anything complicated. I suggested that we conduct a knitting experiment to see how she would handle one of my Natty Knits patterns. She eagerly agreed and I sent her the pattern for the Owl.

I chose the Owl because it isn’t the easiest pattern, nor is it the most difficult. The pattern uses the techniques of short-row shaping, knitting in the round, some K2tog decreases and a bit of sewing.

Jen said she had a day off and was planning to spend the day knitting and watching the Olympic cycling on the TV. Later that same day, she had finished her owl. She called him Wiggo after the British Gold Medal winning Bradley Wiggins. She sent me some notes about how she got on.

The first thing she said was that she didn’t have the right tools or materials, but had still found something that worked:

“I used Aran yarn. I had some left over. I used dk for the beak. I couldn’t find 3.5mm needles. So I used 3.75mm. I think the moral of this is that your potential customers need not be put off by not having the exact tools! I got on fine!”

There are plenty of knitters who would find this comment scandalous. But she’s absolutely right. That kind of substitution wouldn’t work if you were knitting clothing, then gauge and yarn choice are very important. If you’re knitting a toy it just needs to be knitted in a tight gauge.

It’s interesting to me that Jen doesn’t even mention the short row tutorial that’s in every one of my patterns. I always think that picking up the loop under the stitch is the hardest thing about short rows, but Jen seems to have picked it up with ease. Instead she showed me the notes she’d made to help her understand where she was in the short row. I have never thought of writing it this way:

This is my pattern written as a chart. When I knit from another designer’s pattern, I am always looking for clues to repeating patterns, that’s why I find complicated socks so interesting. Sometimes, I write myself a little chart like this to get the overview straight in my head before I start. I suppose this is the difference between following a pattern line for line and understanding how the pattern works. This may also mean that Jen is a designer in the making!

And speaking of being a designer, Jen then made an accidental modification to the pattern.

“I knitted the beak on straight needles. I don’t have round ones yet. It worked! Somehow. I just knitted a row when it said to knit round.”

The beak is supposed to be in stockinette stitch in the round. It’s supposed to have a smooth finish. If I was going to knit the beak flat I would work every other row in purl, which is not what Jen did. Having said that, she did find a way to modify the pattern that worked for her and Wiggo still looks cute with a bumpy beak. I always love it when knitters modify my patterns, even if it’s accidental.

So what did Jen think of the experience of knitting a Natty Knits pattern?

“I found it really enjoyable to knit something so small and cute. It made fear of error lessen.”

A big thank you to Jen for agreeing to help me with my experiment and for letting me write about her. Jen will be tackling the Natty Knits Pig pattern in the New Year. For now, she’s working on her Christmas knitting. 

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