I learned to knit when I was 14. (I also started smoking that year, because poor white trash. I broke the cigarette habit, but not so much with the yarn.) Over the years, I’ve taught several people to knit, and I have been blamed for enabling many others with the addiction. Since I have a few friends who are currently beginner and/or aspiring knitters, I thought I’d give a few pointers that may be useful to people looking to learn.
- Don’t get those crappy aluminum needles from the local mega-mart. They’re too slippery for when you’re first learning, and you will end up hating yourself, hating knitting, and hating me for suggesting that you learn. Instead, get some bamboo or wood needles, or even better, a set of interchangeable circular needles with wood or acrylic tips, which will be suited for probably 90% of the patterns out there. My personal favorites are the ones from Knitpicks, which come in gorgeous colors and go on sale regularly, so it’s easy to replace a tip if you misplace it. They’re also fully interchangeable with the ones from Knitter’s Pride, so you can pick up tips at many local yarn stores.
- Start with a plain yarn, not something metallic or with a funky texture. My boss tried to learn to knit by doing one of those ruffle scarves that were so popular a few years ago, and all she accomplished was to convince herself that she’s too stupid to knit. In reality, she’s a perfectly intelligent and competent woman who just picked the wrong place to start.
- YouTube is your friend. I learned before online videos were a thing, but there are a lot of video tutorials out there, and you can find someone to show you basically any technique you want.
- If you’re left handed like me, you may find Continental knitting easier than English style. I have a really hard time controlling my working yarn with my right hand, which is one of the things that makes colorwork difficult for me. Continental style has me carrying the working yarn in my left hand, which makes it a lot easier.
- Take gauge seriously. If your pattern says that 16 stitches should be 4 inches across, you need to knit a swatch of your pattern stitch with the needles it calls for and see if you’re getting 4 inches out of those 16 stitches. If your swatch comes out small, try it again with needles a size bigger, but keep trying until you get the recommended number of stitches at the recommended measurement. If your stitches come out too big or too small, that really adds up over time. Learn good habits going in, and you’ll be glad later that you did.
- Pay attention to what your yarn is made from. Don’t bother with the cheap, crappy stuff you’ll get at mass market stores. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy the top of the line yarn to start off with–there are some entry level choices that are great to learn on, like Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice (probably the only time I’ll recommend a 100% acrylic) or Knitpicks Mighty Stitch (wool/acrylic blend).
- Get on Ravelry! It’s one of the best knitting sites out there. They’ve got a database where you can look up almost any yarn out there, forums where you can ask questions, and more patterns than you can imagine.
- The very most important advice I can give to a beginner, though, is that it’s just yarn. There’s very little you can screw up that can’t be undone. Worst case scenario, you pull your needles out, grab the end of the yarn and rip out the stitches you messed up. And you’re going to end up doing that more often than you want to admit at first. Give yourself permission to back up and try again. You don’t have to get it right on the first try.
I hope these few pointers are helpful. As always, if you have any questions, drop me a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy knitting!