3 Ways to Go “Back to School” with Your Knitting

Is “back to school” a season or a day?  For most people, the beginning of the school year does mark the end of summer, even if you’re no longer a child and don’t have any school-aged children.

During those hot, humid summer days when you couldn’t get to the beach, did you look at patterns and your stash and imagine what you could do once it got a little cooler? Time to put your needles in play.

End of Summer, Not the End of Memories

Some of us love summer.  We love our summer activities:  swimming, hiking, biking, and most of all, travelling to new and beautiful places.  How can you integrate and memorialize your wonderful summer with your knitting?

Did you bring your knitting with you on your travels?  Did anything you saw or did inspire you to make something or maybe tweak an existing pattern?

Don’t forget knitting can be art, too.  You could make a wall-hanging of your impression of a beautiful view. While you could use intarsia or duplicate stitch to make fairly well-defined objects, you could use different colored yarns in an impressionist kind of way to create areas or gradations of color.

Alice Starmore, the famous Fair Isle designer, frequently chose the colors for her patterns based on the color combinations that occurred in nature around her.   The colors of a flowering field, the lichens on rocks, a fiery sunset, any of these could inspire your color palette for your next project, whether you’re making simple stripes or stranded colorwork.

Scenic designs have pretty much gone out of fashion, but you can get out some graph paper, or print some knitter’s graph paper and make your own design.  You can use your spreadsheet program (Office, LibreOffice, etc.) to create a page of boxes, with borders, in the gauge of your choice.  Remember, knit stitches are wider than they are tall.

Make Your Own Gauge Graph Paper

Example:  a pattern calling for #4 worsted weight yarn in a gauge of 11 sts by 14 rows = 4 inches

  1. Divide 11 by 4 to get the number of stitches/inch.   11/4= 2.75 stitches/inch.  That’s almost 3 stitches/inch.
    1. You want your gauge boxes to match as closely as possible, so round up to the number of columns it would take to cover 3 stitches.  That gives you 2.75 divided by 3.    2.75/3=0.916666 column width, or set your column width at .92  (This isn’t rocket science.  You only need to have it close enough to give you a good idea of how it will look once you knit it.)
  2. Divide 14 by 4 to get the rows/inch.  14/4= 3.5
    1. Again, round up to the number of boxes it would take to cover all the rows in an inch.  This gives you 4.  Divide 3.5/4=0.875.  Set your row height at .875 or .88

Make sure all of the boxes have borders, and print!

You now have your very own gauge-specific knitter’s graph paper for creating any design that comes to mind.  Keep in mind you can use the graph paper for texture as well as color.  Putting a purl stitch in a field of stockinette stitch, for example, to create a bump, or a row of purl stitches to create a ridge.

Experiment, create your own colorful and textural design and add it to a plain and simple pillow, sweater, etc.  You can add it to the front of the pattern by locating the center of the front and counting off half of the stitches needed from your graph pattern on each side.  Place a stitch marker at each side so you know where the pattern begins and ends.

Presto!  You have your very own, very personal summer memento, no tourist trap needed.

School Knitting

Many knitters are parents or grandparents, or have other connections to kids going to school, some for the very first time.  Here are some ideas for the students in your life:

  1. Knitting a comfort toy for that first day modeled after the family pet
  2. Making  an extra special picture day outfit
  3. Going Harry Potter and making your version of a Weasley sweater (or vest – knitting sleeves is boring!)
  4. Making a pair of socks with a secret message from mom
  5. Winter is coming!  Now’s a good time to get started on new hats, mittens, scarves, and socks.
  6. Knitted bookmarks, phone/tablet holders, laptop cases

Hopefully, you stocked up your stash during some of those great summer sales, because now is the time to get serious about knitting for the colder season.  Not only that, Halloween is coming!

A Leafy Way to Become a Better Knitter

Handmade is big in the rustic esthetic, so knitting fits right in.  Not only that, fall is the season of earth colors:  browns, oranges, muted greens – perfect for your rustic inspired knitting project.

Combine fall and rustic and what do you get?  Leaves!  I have to admit, colorful leaf designs, on any object, are a big hit with me. Leaves on socks, leaves on blankets, shawls, mittens.  You get the idea.

Here’s one idea you may not have considered.  Find a freestanding leaf pattern, such as Ali Hogg’s “Leaf for Poppy,” available for free on Ravelry, and knit it over and over again, in as many different colors as your heart desires.  Choose different yarns of different weights and colors.  Choose different needle sizes.   Just keep knitting the same pattern over and over again, with as many different materials as you can find or until you’re too bored to make another stitch.

You’ll end up with 2 results:  a mastery of leaf making and a pile of knitted leaves for rustic decorating.  The leaves can be made into wreaths or swags or appliqued onto sweaters or turned into decorative brooches.  Your newfound skill will give you the confidence to take on new knitting challenges.

The magic of knitting is in the repetition.  The repetition of the stitches, the repetitious sound of the needles, and now, the repetition of the pattern.  By keeping the pattern the same, you will develop a new understanding of the things you change;  color, weight, gauge, etc.

Learning, Growing, Changing = Knitting!

All three apply to “back to school” and to knitting.  Knitting is easier because there’s no one grading or judging your work – unless you want them to.  The learning, growing, and changing are solely for your personal satisfaction.

I’ve suggested 3 ways to make this season inspire your knitting:  learn to make and use graph paper to personalize a design (and preserve a memory), make a useful or special gift for the students in your life, and improve your knitting skills with a small, simple project that you make over and over again.

Grow your skills, create keepsakes, try a new style, add color and fun to your life, all at the same time.  Knitting offers so much!

Let me know if one of these appeals to you or inspires your knitting adventures!

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