Ever since I started knitting, Chengdu winters have seemed much more tolerable. Apart from being able to snuggle into a daily rotation of warm (and stylish!) scarves, hats, mittens, there's something undeniably cozy about being surrounded in skeins of soft, fuzzy wool and wiling away a cold weekend knitting and drinking hot chocolate.
What You'll Need
One skein of yarn
A pair of needles suitable for the yarn you're using (the shopkeeper can recommend the right size)
Get Started (Cast On)
1. Start by making a slipknot and placing the loop over the left-hand needle.
2. Insert the right-hand needle into the stitch from left to right, pointing away from you.
3. Wrap the yarn over the top of the right needle (clockwise).
4. Use the needle to pull the new loop through, and transfer this new loop from the right needle to the left one.
5. Continue until you have the desire number of starting stitches. This is known as the knitted cast-on.
How to do the knit stitch
(These directions are written for right-handed knitting. Left-handed knitting is also possible, but the directions will need to be reversed. There are many online resources for left-handed knitters.)
1. Insert the right needle into the first stitch (loop of yarn) on the left needle, from left to right.
2. Wrap the yarn over the top of the right needle (clockwise).
3. Use the needle to pull the new loop through, and drop the old loop off the left needle.
4. Continue in this manner until the end of the row.
5. Place the empty needle in your right hand and place the other needle with the stitches on it in your left, so that the yarn end is at the right-hand side of the work.
Work knit stitches across the row. Continue in this manner until piece is desired length. To finish the piece, bind off by knitting the first two stitches on the needle, and then using the left-hand needle to pass the first completed stitch over the second one. Allow the first stitch to drop off the needle. Knit the next stitch from the left-hand needle, and pass the first completed stitch over that one. Drop the stitch from the needle. Continue to the end.
With just the knit stitch, you can form a square or rectangle, which can then be used (depending on the size and material) as a coaster, washcloth, placemat, scarf, headband, table runner, rug, and so forth.
With some basic sewing, you can transform your square or rectangle into a
• a draught snake
• fingerless gloves (sew two ends together, leaving a hole for the thumb)
• arm warmers, leg warmers, or a neck warmer (sew two ends together to form a tube)
• a hat (sew the two short ends together; run a yarn through the upper edge of the fabric and then pull tight, like a drawstring)
This is just the beginning! If you master the knit stitch and just a couple other stitches, you'll be able to combine them to create many patterns and textures. If you read Chinese, you can find how-to and pattern books in bookshops, but if you don't—just go online, where you will find a wealth of resources. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started:
Knittinghelp | Lots of videos demonstrating basic and advanced techniques (the videos are hosted on the site's server so you will be able to view them without a VPN)
Dummies | Basic step-by-step instructions with well-drawn illustrations
Knitting about | Step-by-step instructions with photographs and additional tips
Knitty | Online, free knitting-pattern magazine, released quarterly
Ravelry | Social-networking for yarn crafters: forums, yarn database, free and paid patterns galore, user project photos, and more. There's even a China Knitters Group with a Chinese-English knitting dictionary.
Buying materials. Clothes and accessories shops (especially those located near university gates) sell chunky yarn in the wintertime, and they'll usually throw in a pair of bamboo needles for free. Wander down neighborhood side streets, and you're sure to stumble across a few dedicated yarn shops. But none of these compare to yarn paradise at the Lotus Market. Take the metro to the Renmin Bei Lu stop, walk north a few blocks, and turn left onto Beizhan Xi Yi Xiang (北站西一巷). There you'll find a street of shops selling nothing but yarn, needles, crochet hooks, buttons, etc. These are wholesalers, but most will sell to consumers, and the yarn is very inexpensive, generally high quality, and comes in a variety of fibers.
How much? One 100-gram skein of yarn should be sufficient for any of the above projects apart from the table runner, rug, or draft snake. For scarves that will wrap multiple times around the neck, 300 to 400 grams will do. Any yarn sold in an unwound hank will need to be rolled into a ball before knitting.