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Headshot of me wearing red lipstick Kara Babcock

Sharing the knitting knowledge

Today I showed someone how to long-tail cast on, and I can’t help but feel like I did a good thing for the world.

I was working in the evening at the gallery, and had just taken the vacuum cleaner out. Winter is upon us, which means people track salt de-icer from the walkway onto the carpet. Vacuum every day!

As I came back to the front with the vacuum, I saw a mother sitting there waiting for her child’s art class to finish. She had her knitting needles out and was casting on with some bulky Lion Brand yarn. (I love Lion Brand. It’s so soft, so nice to use.)

I love talking to knitters in the wild, so I did something unusual for me and struck up a conversation! I asked her what she was knitting (a scarf, with some lacework since she has find a new technique to try). I mentioned that I was a knitter, of course, and we agreed that knitting in front of the TV is about as good as life gets. She also told me that her son, who is probably 11 or 12 years old, knits too, and that she hopes she can get this scarf started and then he can finish it as a Christmas present for his teacher. That is adorable—and I’m all in favour of more men knitting! Get 'em while they’re young, too.

While we chatted, I stared at her casting on. Slowly. Painfully so. And I thought, Is that really how I used to cast on? (Yes, yes it was.) And, That would go so much faster than long-tail cast on. Yet I held my tongue, because no one likes a backseat knitter, and for all I knew she already knew of long-tail cast on but simply didn’t want to use it, and I didn’t want to risk having to reset my “days since mansplaining” count.

So I was going to move on and actually vacuum, because that’s what I get paid minimum wage to do. As I was going, though, she asked me, “How do you cast on?”

I’m a teacher. I can’t not help someone when they ask.

So I replied, “I usually use the long-tail cast on.”

“That must be faster than what I’m doing!”

“I … I could show you.”

So I did! I demonstrated, then had her try the steps, and she picked it up first try. Had no problem getting the 30 stitches onto her needle in less than a minute! While we did this, I explained why I like long-tail cast on so much so much (it is super fast once you learn it, only needs one needle—so you can double them up if you want a looser cast-on, and it produces a nice, knitted edge of stitches). Unless my pattern specifically calls for another cast-on method (and sometimes you need to), long-tail is my jam!

It continually surprises me how long I’ve been knitting (coming up on 5 years now!), and I still feel more like a beginner. I still feel more often like a student than a teacher of the craft. So I was glad I had the opportunity to teach someone one of my favourite skills, which let her start her project faster. Moreover, I don’t always step outside of my comfort zone and strike up conversations with strangers about things, so I’m proud of that too.

Hopefully, come Christmas time, there will be an elementary teacher in Thunder Bay sporting a nice, bulky red scarf made by mother and son—courtesy of some long-tail cast on help from me!