A Knitting Afghan Sampler 101

By Alice Seidel

To be knitting. That, is one of the things which I cherish most. And it has such a long history, too.
Known today as typically a woman's craft, knitting was originally done by men, shepherds, to be exact, way back when. Even in literature, there are knitters scattered around; the most famous has to be Madame DeFarge in Dicken's 'A Tale of Two Cities'.

Most knitters begin with simpler pieces, such as a scarf, or one-color vest. Usually, they keep to a few well-liked patterns, or stitch types, and seldom venture very far from these.
In this mid-winter time, what with Christmas behind us, and much snow and ice around us, my favorite project of all, comes to mind.

Whether you have a real fireplace, or just one playing on your TV, (ala Channel 11, all you New York people know what I mean), nothing goes with your hot chocolate or steaming tea, and that good book, like an afghan. Lap blanket, bed throw, any way you say it, afghans make rooms come alive with personality. Yours.

Of course, you can never have enough good afghans around. Eventually they all begin to get 'old', or become the dog's favorite blanket, or the cat's place to perch, so you can always use a new afghan!

Before beginning an afghan project, though, there are considerations that you need to decide on.

Just what kind of an afghan are you going to knit?

Will you use block patterns or knit in the round?

How about yarn color and amount?

Do you need to learn new stitches or ways of advancing what you already know about your knitting?

Other thoughts aside, these fundamental questions should be answered before going forward with a larger project such as knitting an afghan.

You know, afghan patterns are all over the place. Not just on the Web, either. Pick up a knitting magazine or book, and ideas will start to fly at you. How cute this one is, or oh, I just love this color, I think I'll knit this one.

A few good pointers when considering knitting an afghan are:

A. Decide on a pattern. Simple, right? Wrong! Be sure to check out the "skill level" listed with each pattern; if it says advanced, and you are still a newbie, don't attempt it! They really do mean what they say, and you will soon find yourself lost in knitting terms and instructions you never knew existed.

B. Will you use regular needles or circular ones? I find either/or is fine by me. Some of you have never used circular; they take some getting used to, but hold a large number of stitches. So, if you are planning a pattern that calls for anything over, say, 75 stitches, use a circular needle.

C. Which yarn will you use? That's a biggie! Usually with afghans, I find that the emphasis is on the pattern stitch(es), and by utilizing color, you can turn out a masterpiece with some of the more traditional yarns. I don't recommend the fun furs, or eyelash yarns for afghans, nor should you use super-bulky either. Unless you don't mind stiff fingers all the next day!

D. What about joining yarns? How does that go again? Incorporating lots of different colors, or just three or four, means knowing the correct way of joining yarns, so as not to make your work look amateurish.

So, you see, deciding on knitting an afghan, requires some planning ahead. Next article, we will pick out needles and yarn, and choose some pretty patterns to get us going! In the meantime, finish up those post-holiday projects now. Afghans take some time, but, when they're done, they are beautiful!

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