What Makes a Real Knitter?

I periodically read some of the online knitting email lists.  I have subscribed to a couple of them for quite some time.  I read them sporadically, post a question now and then when I’m stuck, and answer a question on the even rarer occasion when I know the answer to something.  I tend to read blogs more, both for entertainment and to keep up with what other knitters are doing.

Every once in a while I get terribly annoyed at one or another of the lists.  One such list, which shall remain nameless, has had an ongoing thread for several days regarding what makes a real knitter.  Are you a real knitter if you slavishly follow patterns every time?  Are you a real knitter if you only knit with novelty yarns or acrylic?  Or are you a Real Knitter only if you design your own pieces from scratch without any software or pattern assistance, and only if you use 100% wool yarn?  If you carry this to extremes, you are only a Real Knitter if you raise your own sheep, shear them yourself, and spin the wool into yarn.  Of course you would dye the yarn yourself also.


The messages finally trickled off after one lister posted that she thought you were a real knitter if you knew which end of the knitting needle is up.  (That’s a paraphrase of her comment.)

I write about this because I am currently knitting a scarf out of orange novelty yarn.  Now I think of myself of a real knitter.  I have made socks.  I’ve done cables and Fair Isle. (OK, the Fair Isle was a pair of baby socks to fit a 1 month old infant, but, still.)  I’ve knit in every state and country I’ve ever visited in the last five years.  Knitting borders on being an obsession with me.  I used to have just a touch of snobbishness when I saw not-real knitters making endless scarves out of novelty yarn, in any color.

I am a snob no longer.  Knitting with polyester novelty yarn, especially in a color so orange it makes your teeth hurt, is not as easy as it looks.  The yarn slips and slides around on the needles.  It i painfully easy to drop stitches or do unintentional yarn-overs with this stuff.  And it is not particularly exciting to knit garter stitch in an endless rectangle.  I thought that a garter stitch scarf would be an easy project and that I could watch the season finale of “24” while knitting.  Hah.  You have to look at every stitch you do with this.

Lucy seems to think this yarn is related to her.  It might be the color, or the long feathers attached to it, but she keeps trying to bond with it, so I can’t leave it out anywhere in between rows.

Here are some pictures of the work in progress.  You might note that I am using vintage plastic needles from Australia, color coordinated, of course.  That makes me a little more of a Real Knitter, right?





I’m calling it a boa; sounds more sophisticated than “orange polyester scarf”.

Posted in Knitting, Pets permalink

About Lorette

My name is Lorette. I learned to knit in 1999, and took up spinning in 2009. I'm a physician specializing in internal medicine, and live in the Pacific Northwest. Enjoy my blog!


What Makes a Real Knitter? — 16 Comments

  1. A “real knitter”? Give me a break. A person who loves to knit is a knitter in my book. Why get elitist about it? (Though I totally support your decision to call your project a boa.) Such sweet photos — cats are so funny. Just don’t let her swallow any of that stuff, OK?

  2. These lists are just too much. Why are we always so concerned with separating ourselves and somehow making us better than them…or me better than her. I quit reading those email lists. Even in digest form it was too undigestable.
    Love the kitty and yarn photo. I have been known to knit novelty scarves. People love them and they are quick but not always easy. I also sometimes envy those people I see in the yarn shop, you know, the ones who can knit but not purl but are selling their scarves for $100 in the Hamptons. I would do that.

  3. I’m not on any knitting e-mail lists, and you’ve just killed any desire I might have ever had to be. Why does it matter if you’re a Real Knitter or not? Are these people just angry that it’s all trendy now?
    I knit because it’s relaxing. It’s fun. I like it. And I get to make things! If someone over there thinks I’m not a Real Knitter because I don’t spin or design my own patterns? Well, whatever. That’s just ridiculous, and they can take their 100% wool and go jump in a lake.
    Wow. Sorry about the, ah, emotion there. I’ve had a few issues working my nerves this week, and this kind of thing just sets me off.

  4. I agree with your real knitter comments. Seems silly doesn’t it? If you love to knit, you are a real knitter. This is akin to saying if you don’t drink your coffee with (without) cream you’re not a real coffee drinker.
    Regarding your previous post, I loved both Middlesex and No Ordinary Time. If you like political biography, I would recommend Caro’s Johnson bigoraphy. It’s at three volumes now, but is absolutely facinating.

  5. Hear, hear. I agree with all of the above! I think of my daughter and her college friends — all so deliriously happy with their acrylic scarves and punch-drunk when they successfully learn a new stitch — I’d slap anyone silly if they told those girls that they’re not “real” knitters!

  6. You can hold the knitting needles in your hand and know what to do with them without piercing someone? Well, then you’re a real knitter. 🙂
    I’m glad you enjoyed germany. 🙂

  7. Hah, not a ‘real’ knitter? Gee, too bad that being a DOCTOR and all gets in the way of your being a ‘real’ knitter…what a bunch of snobs. Sometimes I feel guilty that my blog isn’t ALL about knitting, but hey, knitting is just a PART of who I am, as much I love my knitting. Elitists will always be what they are, ANNOYING, no matter what they are being elitist about.

  8. I am making boa’s for my 3 flower girls in my weddng. I also think it seems silly to call them scarfs!
    I am a new knitter, and I certainly consider myself a *real* knitter. Mainly because after only one month of knitting I own like probably 9 paris of needles. OMG the money I have spent on needles. I also consider myself a real knitter cause well.. I CAN MAKE STUFF! 🙂

  9. I agree, if you can knit, then you are a knitter. Everyone has different abilities and interests and goals and those do change over time.
    I’m not a scarf person by nature, although I’ve just made a novelty yarn scarf as a store display. I did enjoy knitting it. The yarns were pretty; I didn’t have to think much, and I could knit fast.
    Your yarn is VERY ORANGE. My school colors were orange and white. Is the boa for yourself?

  10. I’m not on any knitlists – partly because I heard there’s so much flaming going on. Personally I am just happy whenever I see ANYONE knitting ANYTHING! With all the crap going on in the world, I can’t understand why people would waste their energy putting other people down for lack of knitting experience…
    By the way, I think Lucy is in love. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gives birth to little acrylic fur balls soon…. 🙂

  11. And if you’re not a real knitter, what are you? Unreal? Pretend? Fake? If you knit, you’re a knitter. That said, I have to admit that as I’ve neared completion of my first adult sweater, a rather challenging one, in my mind I’ve been telling myself that now I’m a real knitter. So without realizing it, I was buying into some ambiguous set of criteria that doesn’t hold up when it’s actually examined.
    Btw, I enjoyed Middlesex also.

  12. Sharon said it before I could. What would you be if you were knitting and not a “knitter”? There’s a lot of things you can fake in this world, but knittings not one of them.

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more! Thanks for reminding me why I stopped reading the lists and just stick to blogs now…

  14. I just learned to knit and I love it.
    I saw your web site in June 2005 Better Homes and Garden. Love your web site, its