Learn how to knit like a pro from a pro

We sought advice from Madison’s Susan B. Anderson, a straight-up celebrity in the knitting world.
Susan B. Anderson
Photo by Evan Anderson

Most new knitters start with a scarf. But Susan B. Anderson, the founder of Madison-based Barrett Wool Co., recommends making a hat.

“You cast on, learn the knit stitch and then just zoom on from there, knitting around and around until you reach the top of the hat,” she explains. Start with a small, gratifying project; a scarf is far too long to finish and not very interesting, she says.

Anderson is a nationally known knitting expert whose passion began 37 years ago when she would knit gifts for family and friends. She made hats for nursery school silent auctions and eventually sold her creations locally. She channeled her patience and skills as a Madison middle school teacher from 1989 to 1996 into being a stay-at-home mom, knitting like crazy and writing about how to do it. She makes getting published as a knitting expert sound easy.

knit stuffed pig

Photo by Evan Anderson

“I wrote a quick letter, packed up a baby hat and a sample pattern, sent it off to the address at the back of a coffee table book I admired and gave it no more thought,” she remembers. Two weeks later she had a book deal with Artisan Books, a big New York City publishing company, and her first book, “Itty-Bitty Hats,” published in 2006. She’s since written six knitting books. “It was so exciting and really hard to believe,” she says.

With the help of her son, Evan, Anderson launched Barrett Wool Co. in 2016 to offer patterns, custom wool yarns and one-of-a-kind knitting kits. Her company operates online-only, so she didn’t have to make many changes with COVID-19.

Her designs and patterns vary, but her specialty is knitted toys as they are smaller projects you can actually finish. She says one of the most heartwarming things is to see final projects created from her patterns by others and shared on Instagram. (Find her work at @susanbanderson and @barrettwoolco.)

small knitted babies

Photo by Evan Anderson

“I receive feedback all the time — not just during the pandemic — about the comforts of knitting during stressful and joyful times in people’s lives,” Anderson says. “It is a somewhat slow, repetitive craft that eases the mind and provides a positive distraction. At the same time the knitter creates something beautiful and functional.”

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