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Level Up!

In a video game, once you have achieved certain goals, you get to level up. Oftentimes a bell will ring, some sort of alert will appear, and you get to choose new skills that will enhance your ability to:

  • throw flames from your hands at undead skeleton warriors (enhance your mana),

  • pick the locks of the Mayor's secret storeroom (enhance your dexterity),

  • survive falling from a great height (enhance your health), or even

  • impress the ladies (enhance your charisma)—or in some more enlightened games, even impress the men.

But in knitting, it works in reverse (and, alas, there's no bell): once you have acquired some sort of competency at new skills, voila, you get to level up. And it's your decision—you don't have to wait for game developers to decide the time is right. Though, to be fair, when you tell people "I'm a beginning knitter," and an increasing number of them point to your current project or finished garment and say "Not if you knit that, you're not," then it's probably time to opt for leveling up.

Here's the back of my prior business card, probably underplaying my current ability:

So: I'm no longer a beginning knitter. I'm an intermediate knitter! It only took 4 1/2 years, but I made it, and I will proudly ring my own bell (ding, ding!) And I honestly think I've only just hit the level, truly.

I checked a random website (the 21st century way of confirming one's bias) and Over the Rainbow Yarn listed 13 skills that define the intermediate knitter—if you know them all, then you're no longer beginning. Well, a random list from an unknown yarn store is good enough for me!

Some seem like no brainers: Cast On, Knit, Purl, Bind Off. Jeepers, if you can't do those, you're not even a beginner knitter, you're a non-knitter. There's Ribbing ... I've been doing that for ages, and have an opinion about it (2 x 2 is stretchiest, in my hands at least). Yarn Over, simple. Knitting in the Round? My favourite method (well, for round things, at least). Reading Your Knitting ... it used to be a mystery, but no longer (and if you need practice, start with Stockinette rather than Garter). I can read most Crochet now, too, when it used to look like adjacent blobs. Picking up Stitches—heck, I've done Entrelac, for Pete's sake, I actually like picking up stitches (and far, far easier than picking up people, with less a'cohol-induced courage required).

The final skills were Chart & Pattern Reading, Short Rows, Increases, and Decreases.

I can remember the time when I was truly a beginner knitter, and eschewed charts (save for colour work) in favour of reading the list of stitches in order. No longer—charts are so much easier to read since they show you Where You Are in relation to Where You Were, which is invaluable information. As for Short Rows? I've even taken a class at Madrona ... I now have my choice between German, Japanese, and I-can't-remember-what-it's-called-but-it's-the-one-I-use-most-often.

Increases and Decreases ... now these are the final key skills for me. Until recently I have increased by whichever method made me happiest that day, and decreased by knitting two together (unless the pattern insisted I ssk sometimes). But a combination of factors (really seeing how decreases lean left or lean right or are centered—after I'd swatched patterns from the Japanese Stich Bible—and reading Judith Durant's book on the subject, and doing an awful lot of mirrored increases right next to each other in "The Age of Steam and Brass" scarf) have given me a better understanding of what, why, and how to do these. I can confidently aver I am definitely a better knitter than I was three weeks ago.

And that's why I've leveled up!

There's less clarity (in other words, I failed to find a convenient web site) around what it means to be an Advanced Knitter, but I suspect it will have something to do with understanding construction, being able to create patterns (that fit!) easily oneself instead of relying on others, and knowing more theory about the materials one is using (how staple length and ply might affect one's garment), etc. ... as an intermediate knitter that all seems rather esoteric and far in the future, but that's what I once thought about short rows, or charts, so perhaps I'll get there eventually. In the mean time, I know that k2tog makes a right-leaning decrease and it's sometimes absolutely necessary to lean left and ssk, even though it's just the tiniest bit more tedious.

I now have a brand new back-of-my-business-card to reflect this change in ability (and the conviction that I am, actually, humorous and not just "slightly humorous":

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm halfway through the third repeat)

  • Sophie's Universe crochet project #1 (doing extra rounds, to turn it into a queen-size bedspread, I'm on round 121, or 8 past the official stopping point))

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 35 of Hexagon 8)

  • Caldwell Vest (up to 7th stripe of the back)

  • Grey Intarsia Vest (my own pattern, almost finished the first set of squares which will be more like rectangles, I think)

  • Hat (my own pattern, using Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible Pattern #52 for its motif) ... almost finished!

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