How do we get the entire world knitting?

It’s a mission of mine to get everyone knitting. Today, we discuss the five pillars of knitter assimilation:

  • Marketing
  • Self-belief
  • Tools and Materials
  • Medium and motivation
  • Access to decent resources

Of course, this is the Shinybees Pentagon of Knitting Assimilation and I think these are the things we need to be considering if we do want knitters to take over the world. More specifically, if we want the entire world to knit. Think how awesome that would be.

No longer is it the case that we keep our knitting hidden away to ourselves.

No more hiding behind closed doors in case someone asks us a silly question, offers a flash of the blindingly obvious, or says, ‘You must have a lot of time on your hands.’

Want to hear what this Pentagon is? Sit back and grab a brew, it’s about to get technical.

Pillar 1: Marketing

Knitting has an image problem.

There you go.

I said it out loud.

Knitting has an image problem  Every man and his dog this that knitting is for Nanas and pregnant ladies, and the media and film do nothing to change that view. Everything people see is stereotyped like this and that is a big issue. Any character in a story who knits? Nana. Comparison to getting old and putting your feet up? Take up knitting! (subtext – Nana). I could go on with all the examples, but the point I make here is that this narrative has to change. This can only be achieved by changing the image of knitting, in much the same way that Skoda have managed to change their image from crap, unreliable junk car to actually pretty decent, no longer embarrassing and, arguably, maybe even a little bit rebelliously hip.

So, how do we change these Nana perceptions? Marketing.

No, it’s not just for sleazy snake oil salesmen and here’s why: marketing is all about conversations and communication. The brand of knitting at the moment is wrapped up in Nana-dom and unless more people see young, cool people doing it, that won’t change. Yes, we all know that it is cool AF, but we’re the enlightened few. We need to find better ways to get it out there that knitting is for everyone.

Knitting needs to become more relevant and desirable if we want everyone to do it.

Pillar 2 – Self belief

Sit in public and knit, and you will get an array of comments like ‘Oh, I could never do that’ and ‘I tried to learn when I was a kid and I was terrible at it’ and ‘It looks so hard!’. Curiosity is the first step to learning, but we also need to deal with the issue of self belief. In order to get people to actually try and learn the skill, instead of telling themselves repeatedly that it is too hard, they need to believe they are capable of doing it.

Pillar 3 – Materials and tools

Very often, a first foray into knitting is a cheap kit with low end acrylic (not all acrylic is created equal) and bendy plastic needles. The instructions are almost always total pants and the whole thing is set up to encourage failure.

New knitters don’t know this is a problem. Think back to when you first started. Given your time again, would you really have used the same tools and materials to get going? Yes, it is probably amusing, looking back now you know what you know. Back then though, there was probably reasonable amount fo frustration involved, and you lily wanted to give up on the whole sorry thing on more than one occasion. Did you even finish the first project?

Whilst this approach may be a cheap failure, the fact is, failure is not what is needed for assimilation (see Pillar 2). We need to be setting newbies up with better tools and nicer yarn, to encourage continuing, and to make the end product worth it (see Pillar 4). It’s mush easier to press on through the difficulties of learning a new skill, if the tools you are working with feel good in your hands, and you really want to achieve the end result.

Pillar 4 – Medium and motivation

Aka Death to the Dr Who Scarf. How many times have you seen others, or have been yourself, taught to knit using the Whovian method? Let’s just all knit a massive boring scarf that will take forever and hope they stick at it. Do you know anyone who has actually finished a Dr Who scarf?

Chances are you still have your first one, and it wasn’t even long enough to achieve neck warmer status. Mine was turned (spectacular holes and all) into a hot water bottle cover.

Yes scarves are easy and allow for (a lot) of repetition but they are so large they are insurmountable. This doesn’t help people stay motivated when the going gets a little tough. It helps them get bored and switch off.

We need to be bringing the Shinybees Trifecta of project awesome into this: a quick win + right level of complexity + desire for finished item = knitting dreams.

Pillar 5 – Access to decent resources

Most of the freebie videos on YouTube are crap. They are too fast, badly lit, too far away to see what is going on, or, lately, have an alarming array of props in there. Learning is not about perfectly styled shots; it’s about getting the information across in an accessible a way as you can. We need decent resources to point newbies towards.

This could take the form of a curated (cringe) list of good places to get started, depending upon what they are interested in making. Whilst there are a lot of really solid tutorials included in independently written books, often these are pitched at slightly more complex skills that may not be appropriate for the new knitter. Many of the mass published ‘learn to knit’ books I have read have had naff projects and unclear techniques sections – again, not exactly inspiring or motivating stuff.

What’s your experience?

What’s been your experience of learning to knit or teaching others? Whilst I talk passionately in this episode, I’d love for this to be the opener for a conversation about how we can all get better at assimilating new knitters. Head on over to the Shinybees Podcast Community on Facebook and let me know your thoughts there!

6 comments on “Ep111 – Assmimilating New Knitters

  1. Sara says:

    Although my mum taught me to knit as a child it is friend of mine who is responsible for my fall down the knitting rabbit hole after inspiring me with her hand knit socks. She started me off with a pair of borrowed Knit Pro Symphonie needles (still my favourites) and the book “Purls of Wisdom” after a tea-cake-knitting session at her house. My first project was a DK weight, 100% wool, baby hat knit in the round using the magic loop method. I am so thankful that she taught me circular knitting from the get go, that she made sure I knew I was capable, and that she is also an amazing baker with a good cake supply! She is also responsible for my fall down the spinning rabbit hole. I owe her a debt, and I’m trying to pay it forward. Several of my colleagues have asked me to teach them to knit after watching me knit socks in my lunch breaks so I am organising a work coffee morning where we will learn to knit house slippers. They all want to learn to knit socks so I thought this would be a good, in the round, sockesque project to get them hooked.
    Thanks for your lovely podcast, I recommend it to all my friends. I listen in the car on the way to and from work, and at silly o’clock in the morning when I can’t sleep!

    1. Jo Milmine says:

      Aw thanks Sara – and thanks for sharing your knitting journey, too! It sounds like your friend had all the right ideas about learning to knit, and it is great to hear you are passing it on too 🙂

  2. This episode is my life. I’m a knitter with a capital K (well probably all in caps) and someone who has a job (among other jobs) encouraging people to knit and trying to change the image. I have had all those conversations when working or when knitting when I’m out and about.
    Recently I seem to be teaching people about DPNs on trains a lot.
    You are absolutely right that it is getting people over that fear hump and once you get some needles in their hands they start of feel that sense of achievement.
    One of my big messages is that there are lots of ways to knit – hold the yarn, hold the needles, etc – so you need to find the right way for you. Unfortunately people tell them they are “knitting wrong”. When they tell me that at a show I use a line stolen from Stephanie Purl McPhee – do you like what you make? Yes? Do your hands hurt? No. You knit fine. If they do have a problem with one of these I help them with new approaches but that is about improvement not failure.
    So agree about the scarf. The FO buzz is really important.- small projects for the win.
    Thanks for this episode

    1. Jo Milmine says:

      Do you like what you make? Yes? Do your hands hurt? No. You knit fine. <---- THIS! DPNs do seem to attract people more than other needles. I was once asked if I was playing some sort of Kerplunk game!

  3. Anne says:

    I just listened to the “Isn’t it Time We Put a Stop to all This” podcast. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with your daughter and the school council.
    I grew up before girls had a voice, at least before it was common knowledge (I’m 66) and I am so glad things are changing. Not fast enough, but still, it’s happening.
    Great podcast!
    New York City

    1. Jo Milmine says:

      Thanks so much for the lovely feedback, Anne. We can only try, can’t we?

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