Continuing Education

The Joys of the Forensic Knitter

Beginning Knitting instructor Patricia McHugh says she cannot put her finger on the precise Imagemoment knitting came into her world because the craft’s fibers are so deeply woven into the pattern of her life. “When I asked my mother, she didn't recall either, but she said she learned after I did.” Clearly, McHugh has taken point in inspiring others in their knitting— something she says she was born to do. “Teaching is great fun in itself. I am a natural teacher, which I got from my dad. He was an airline pilot who was always teaching anyone to fly. Teaching knitting is great because it can be very creative too. Everybody learns differently so it is important to pay attention to that and adjust your methods to fit.”

McHugh says learning knitting was not without a few moments of doubt. “As a high school exchange student in Germany, we decided to knit sweaters,” she recalls. “My German sister watched me and then suggested she finish mine…I guess she didn't have much confidence in my abilities.” Undaunted, McHugh went on to refine her knitting skills, leading to employment in several yarn shops and eventually running her own store for 15 years.

The knitting tradition predates written record with variations found in nearly every culture across the globe. Derived from the word knot, the term’s origins date back to the Old English word cnyttan or to knot. Recent studies have shown that participating in such handcrafting activities as knitting and needlepoint have not only a utilitarian value, but health benefits as well. The rhythmic and repetitive aspects of knitting actually prevent stress and ward off many forms of pain and depression while boosting the body’s immune system.Image

As a crafting medium that literally spans centuries, McHugh says knitting holds a great deal of fascination for her because it successfully draws together many of her interests and abilities, particularly the mechanics of how things mesh together to form a cohesive whole. “For example, I studied engineering in college and worked as a computer programmer. This technical side together with the creative part of me combine in knitting and I love it!”

Like all forms of creativity, knitting attracts those with a natural affinity for the craft and those who excel through trial and error. “To be successful as a beginning knitter, I think it's important to understand that you won't be perfect right away—true for many things,” says McHugh. “You need to keep at it. There will be frustrations so you need perseverance. The take away: Don't give up.”

McHugh says she has learned a great deal about the rewards of dedication to the knitting process from her students. “I had one male student who had not tried knitting before,” she Imagerecalls. “His stitches were so tight that I didn't think he could do the next row. I really didn't expect him to continue in the class. Not only did he learn all the stitches, come to all classes and do all homework, but he went on to learn sheep shearing and made several original patterns.”

However, perseverance takes many forms. “Another student was very frustrated by the first class and said to me this was the most stressful class she had experienced. This from a person who has a technical PhD! She persisted and several years later, she still enjoys knitting and is very good at it.”

The warp and weft of knitting continues to inspire McHugh’s teaching process in numerous ways, allowing for qualities that complement her unique instructional methods with her infectious joy of the process. “One of my students called me a forensic knitter and I love that because I so like to figure out what is the problem in someone's knitting and then fix it.”

Learn more about Beginning Knitting.

Photo credit #2: andigal01_cc_2.0