Skill sets

Skill level isn’t a measurement of a knitter’s capabilities; it’s a reflection of the knitter’s attitude.

Any knitter can handle any knitting technique; it’s just a question of practice, being able to read and count, and having confidence.Â

Some people don’t like applying labels such as “skill levels” to knitting patterns for that very reason; they’re concerned that some knitters will be put off from attempting a because they’re afraid of the perceived difficulty level.  So, you’ll see some patterns that instead set out the techniques that will be used in the project.  The pattern skill ratings here reflect that kind of philosophy.Â

However, I’ve used a shorthand skill rating notation on the pattern pages, because I’ve defined the relevant skill sets in a cumulative manner: the “intermediate” skill set includes all of the “beginner” skill set elements, plus more; the “experienced” skill set includes all of the “intermediate” skill set elements, plus more.  I’ve also broken up the skill sets according to particular technique: there are separate ratings for cables, intarsia, and stranded colourwork, because it’s possible to have a pattern with “beginner” cables, but “experienced” overall construction.Â

“But,” you might interject, “you’re still applying labels that denote some level of experience is required, which may dissuade a new knitter from attempting Rogue, although we know that it has been a first-sweater project for more than one knitter.  If you wanted to be truly neutral, why did you use ‘beginner, intermediate, experienced’? Shouldn’t you have called these skill sets something else, like ’1, 2, 3′ or ‘dragonfly, butterchurn, feathertop’?”Â

Well, I take your point, but I’d like to add that using labels that have some pre-existing meaning has utility.  Ratings systems that use words with ordinary meanings that have absolutely no relevance in assessing the relative difficulty of one pattern to another are cute, but get old really fast.  I gave these skill sets the names you see here, and put a link to this page next to each pattern’s skill set rating, so that you would come here and read this: I like knitters who think for themselves, and who ask questions about the things they are told.  Thank you for being one of them.

The beginner construction skill set includes:

the basics of knitting both flat and in the round, such as casting on, knitting, purling, counting rows and stitches, binding off;

reading from a small-to-moderate sized (e.g., less than 30 stitches wide) chart, if required for cables or colourwork (there are separate skill sets for cables and colourwork, below);

increasing and decreasing stitches for a desired effect (e.g. left- and right-pointing decreases), grafting two edges (Kitchener stitch), picking up stitches along an edge, and assembling simple garment pieces (e.g., grafting, mattress stitch, backstitch).

The intermediate construction skill set includes:

all of the beginner skills, plus:

reading and knitting from multiple charts at once, knitting from large charts, working short rows (with or without wrapping), and assembling a garment with set-in sleeves or other curved pieces.

The experienced construction skill set includes:

all of the intermediate skills, plus:

reading and knitting from multiple complex charts, working more than one set of instructions at once (e.g. following a chart, while binding off or decreasing at neckline or working short rows at shoulder), assembling a garment with curved or three-dimensional pieces (e.g. attaching a sleeve, with the sleeve seam already sewn, to an armhole where the shoulder and side seams are already sewn).

The beginner cables skill set includes:

working cable patterns that can be memorized without too much difficulty;

working more than one cable pattern at the same time, but with repeat sizes having an easy-to-handle least common multiple (e.g. if you have an 8-row repeating cable and a 16-row repeating cable, it’s easy to remember that there are two of your 8-row cable repeats for each 16-row cable–you’ll be starting over from row 1 on both cables every 16 rows);

some relatively simple travelling cables and twisted stitches, but no designs where the beginning of a round has to be shifted to accommodate the cable design

The beginner “Celtic” cables skill set includes:

all of the beginner cable skills, plus closed-loop (“Celtic”) cables.

Closed-loop cables generally require increase and decrease techniques that are not necessarily part of the beginner construction or beginner cables skill set, but are not hard to learn.  The trickiest part about closed-loop cables, really, is the fact that you usually have to remember that you need to work a particular stitch, decrease or increase on a wrong-side row.

The intermediate cables skill set includes:

all of the beginner cable skills and beginner “Celtic” cable skills, plus:

harder-to-handle least common multiples (e.g. if you have an 6-row repeating cable and a 10-row repeating cable, there will be five 6-row cables knit for every three 10-row cables–you’ll be starting over from row 1 on both cables every 30 rows);

travelling cables and twisted stitches, including complex designs; but no designs where the beginning of a round has to be shifted to accommodate the cable design.

The experienced cables skill set includes:

all of the intermediate cable skills, plus:

cables with less intuitive repeats, or no repeats at all; you’ll continually need to refer to the chart or written instructions;

allover cable patterns merged with short-row shaping.

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