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Knitting for geeks

April 14, 2011
By Jordi in public

Margarita Manterola from Debian Women asks:

So, after the whole Wikip. thing, I ended up following lots of links
about knitting, and as everytime I come in contact with this, I feel
like I should learn to knit (or maybe I should say, re-learn, I was
taught during primary school, but forgot all about it afterwards).

Is there a “knitting for geeks” tutorial around? :)

There’s tons of videos in YouTube to get you started, although I don’t think many of them are “for geeks” specifically… or at least different kind of geeks. Knitters geek out over types of yarn, needles, complicated patterns, unorthodox knitting, knaughty knitting (e.g. knitting a bra or a thong)… they do end up speaking a special kind of language and getting very passionate about it. What worked for me was when my mom sat down with me to teach me how to cast on, the basic knit and purl stitch, and from then on I was able to bootstrap my first scarf. Perhaps you can learn from videos instead. We didn’t have YouTube when I learned how to knit, heh.

I personally do appreciate a certain mathematical aspect of knitting. I got started because I saw a friend in algebra class in university (y’know, the Galois theory kind of algebra) do complicated lace patterns with needles while she was listening to the lecture, so I was intrigued (and later in love, long story). My kind of mathematical knitting is usually limited to things like knitting a Möbius scarf (non-orientable knitting!) or a hyperbolic plane (negative curvature knitting!). It’s rather remarkable how with just a few basic stitches you can build very complicated things. It does feel a little like Turing machines!

If you need a book, I rather like the Vogue knitting series myself. I hear Stitch’n’Bitch is popular. And most knitting magazines also have introductory instructions in every issue. I liked Knit 1, another Vogue publication, or you can read Knitty online. Knit 1 seems to have ceased publication, but you can probably find back issues in your LYS[1].You might also want to find people near you to knit with, in which case language can be a slight hurdle at first. I really enjoy social knitting. I actually get a little lonely when I can’t find people to share my knitting with.

Incidentally, it’s kinda interesting how knitting patterns are a lot like source code, with similar kind of politics. People share them, remix them, some jealously guard them and try to sell them, others want to ensure as many people as possible can compile your knitting instructions… Interesting world, definite parallels with the free software world.

[1] Local yarn store… too bad most knitting distros don’t ship with the wtf(1) binary. ;-)

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