Casting Off a New Hobby

I wrote this in the middle of hotter-than-blazes July, when wool yarn was the last thing I wanted touching my skin. But looking ahead to the holiday gift-giving season and autumn’s invigorating chill, I signed up for a beginners’ knitting class, “Knit Now,” at KnitWitts Yarn Shoppe with the goal of mastering the basics well enough to make some new cool-weather accessories and handmade Christmas gifts.

The Scoop:
When I stepped inside KnitWitts (5040 Bellemeade Ave.), owner Kris Proctor greeted me right away and helped me choose a pair of bamboo needles and a simple, beginner-appropriate skein of yarn. I joined a group of knitters, ranging from twenty-somethings to octogenarians, all knitting and chatting in the center of the shop.

Don’t let the word “class” intimidate you — the Wednesday night gatherings are informal opportunities for KnitWitts customers to work on their projects, and novices will feel right at home in this friendly, encouraging bunch. Proctor sat down next to me on the couch and walked me through the four steps of knitting, chanting, “Make an X, wrap it around, take it through, slide it off” each time I made a stitch. She watched me plod through row after row of stitches, forming a clumsy practice square as her own needles clicked away and a sweater began to take shape.

The second week, I learned to purl, which is basically knitting backward. (Knitters combine these two stitches in different patterns to give their projects different designs and textures.) At my third class, I learned how to cast the stitches on and off my needles, and Proctor deemed me ready to start my first project: a hat knit from irresistibly soft alpaca yarn, perfect for crisp fall weather.

The Verdict:
The stereotypical frumpy sweaters and moth-bitten afghans were nowhere to be seen at KnitWitts — the other knitters’ works-in-progress and the finished projects displayed in the shop were undeniably cool. Among them: a chic black felted purse called the “Jackie O” and a swing-style cardigan with lime green buttons.

Plus, the group isn’t kidding when it calls Wednesday nights “group therapy.” The repetitive stitches are as soothing as the lively banter is stimulating, and I loved making visible progress every session. At the risk of alienating my fellow knitters by using a crocheting term, I’m hooked.

Need to Know:
Knit Now is an ongoing class; show up Tuesdays at 10 a.m. or Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. to complete your three sessions. After finishing Knit Now, you’ll know how to knit, purl, and cast on and off — all the basics you need to start a simple project such as a scarf or hat. Three sessions cost $30, which includes a 10 percent discount on supplies. To sign up, call KnitWitts owner Kris Proctor at (812) 471-8540.

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