There was a time in my knitting life when I turned up my nose to garter stitch. Deep down, I think I was afraid of it. Or rather, afraid of what people would think of me. As if using garter stitch was some sort of indication that I was not a skilled knitter. It was at that point in my life when I kept churning out project after project of the most intricate lace, complex cables, and fancy colourwork. I wasn’t happy unless everything I knitted ended up looking like this. Maybe I’m exaggerating a tad. Nevertheless, with knitting as with every new task I take on, I had to be constantly working one step ahead of my skill level, despite the incessant frustration it caused.
I like to rationalize it by claiming that it helps me advance quickly at any given activity. But there are many flaws to that argument. In fact, that kind of behaviour is more of a hindrance. It is a very isolating form of practice because the fear of criticism prevents me from joining interest groups, or working with others. Instead, I hide in my house and work at the skill alone until I feel I am at an appropriate level to show people. That means it also prevents me from learning from others; from getting advice, tips, and tricks. It prevents me from learning new skills at a proper pace. Since I’m always one step ahead, I often times miss out on the subtleties of the previous step. (For instance: I’ve been knitting for over twenty years, and I only last week watched a YouTube tutorial to double check that I have been doing YO SSK properly all this time.)
I’m trying hard to overcome the performance anxiety. Working as an arborist has certainly helped, considering tree-climbing isn’t exactly the type of skill you can perfect without the help of others. I’m even sucking up the embarrassment and attempting to use my broken German with native speakers in order to become more fluent. As for knitting… well, I think I’m definitely at a point where I’m perfectly comfortable sharing my work. Comfortable enough to use garter stitch and not debase myself.
I am so glad that I have had a change in heart regarding garter stitch. I can now appreciate its simple elegance. The soft, bouncy tactility you can almost taste. Moonraker is knit entirely in garter stitch on the bias, with each little bump of a stitch imitating the rough, rugged lunar terrain, interrupted only by rows of “craters.” I love the texture that garter stitch offers in this pattern. And although this is not my typical style to knit or to wear, I have absolutely fallen in love with the Moonraker wrap. It was certainly worth test-driving three other patterns to finally stumble upon the perfect one. In the past, I might have overlooked such a stunning piece of work due to my garter stitch aversion.
The signature of a skilled knitter is not the complexity of their project, but their ability to know when to use which stitch to achieve their desired effect. Even the most basic stitch – knit, knit, knit, knit…. – has its place in the repertoire of a master.
My advice to beginners: Don’t be afraid to show off your work to experienced knitters. Knitters are a naturally kind, encouraging, and enthusiastic breed, eager to compliment and offer advice. Also, never think you are too good to go back to basics. If you race to the end of the road, you’re sure to miss the scenery along the way.