5 Tips for Beginning Knitters

on Wednesday, May 27, 2015 5:09:00 PM

Knitting has been experiencing an up and down roller coaster ride with American women for over a century. Once factories began machine knitting everyday items like socks, knitting began to take a back seat as a needed, and started appealing to women as a craft or art—less a necessary way to keep warm and more a way to show off skill and creativity. Surprisingly, the “down” periods seem to coincide with times when women were experiencing more rights and newfound freedoms—the 1920s, 1940s, and 1970s. One thing is certain, all people have the right and the freedom to knit, and it’s not some old-fashioned hobby. If you like the idea of knitting, don’t let anything stop you.

With so many new knitters on the scene, there are bound to be those who need help getting from novice to knitting pro. With that in mind, we present these 5 tips for new knitters. While not a step-by-step guide or path from never-held-a-needle to knitting-up-a-storm, they just may be able to help you break through to the knitter you’ve always wanted to be.

Tip 1 – Start Big

Start with a big needle, or even your arm. Starting with a bigger needle, say a size 13, will allow you to create bigger stitches, which in turn will allow you to see exactly what you are doing. Using arm knitting puts it into perspective: you’ll notice that when you “knit” the needle and the yarn do this, but when you “perl” they do that. Anytime you want to learn a new stitch or pattern, break out those old big beginners’ needles and give it a try. You’ll find that being able to see and understand exactly what you’re doing is better than trying to figure out in miniature.

Tip 2 – Start Small

Choose a simple, small pattern to begin with. A baby blanket in only one or two stitches or a cap all in one stitch make perfect beginners’ projects. Shy away from the more complex and complicated patterns available until you have mastered the basics. You’ll be less likely to give up in frustration. Also, start with only the materials and supplies needed for that first, small project. If you don’t need those fancy bamboo needles, leave them in the store. Who knows if you’ll even enjoy the feel of them? Same thing goes for notions and gadgets, too. Stitch markers, knit tallies, cable hooks, yarn needles – all may come in handy someday. But if you don’t need them for that baby blanket or cute cap, don’t spend your money and time on them.

Tip 3 – Learn the Language

If you need to, keep a card with abbreviations handy on the side table as you sit and knit. Watch YouTube videos of others so you can see what each stitch and supply is called, and what each abbreviation actually stands for. You wouldn’t expect to take up computer programming or app coding without knowing the lingo first, would you? What makes you think knitting is any different in terms of technical pursuits? You may be unplugged and covered in yarn, but you are still creating something. Knowing what’s what will go a long way to avoiding frustration, as well as seeking help when needed.

Tip 4 – Keep it Simple

We’ve already discussed keeping supplies and projects to the bare minimum of basic. Now let’s talk about yarn. There’s a reason we’re discussing yarn after learning the lingo. Yarns can be classified by the fibers used to create it. You can classify yarn by weight. You can even classify yarn into various types. Knowing what a worsted weight, a pom pom, or a cotton/poly blend type of yarn actually is can go a long way to not only educating you, the new knitter, but also in helping you choose the right yarn and the right project to begin your knitting career.

Choose a medium worsted weight yarn for your first project. This yarn doesn’t separate, doesn’t snag as much, and can take the beating your new knitting skills are going to dish out. (Let’s face it—you’ll be doing more unknitting than knitting at first.)These medium weight yarns form the bulk of most yarn selections, so don’t worry about finding it. Also, keep in mind that you are just beginning. Don’t expect miracles or great things right off the bat. Never judge your progress for at least 5 or 6 rows. Don’t try to talk or watch television when first starting out, either. Keep your focus on your task at hand. Keep it simple and you’ll soon be producing row after row of knitting all while keeping up with Dancing With the Stars and Skyping with your sister knitter in Topeka.

Tip 5 – Don’t Go it Alone

Whether you join a knitting club or find a favorite channel of YouTube videos, there’s no reason to attempt this whole knitting thing on your own. You can learn. You can inspire (and be inspired). You can encourage (and be encouraged.) So what if none of you are experts at knitting? You can learn and grow together. While knitting may be a solitary thing you do to relieve stress at the end of the day, you can still be “social” in your pursuit of knitting skills. Girls used to learn at the knee of their mother or grandmother. Whole groups of women would sit and knit together over a pot of tea and a plate of cake. There’s no reason for you to lock yourself away and fret over your knitting in isolation.

And the best tip of all: NEVER GIVE UP! When you reach the point that you want to commit your needles to the kitchen for kabob skewers and the yarn to a lovely bonfire, take a breather. Consult a more experienced knitter. Watch another (or the same) video. But don’t, whatever you do, stomp off in a fit of frustration and declare that you will never knit another stitch again. Knitting is a wonderful, useful, creative pastime. It does take skill, time, and effort. But once you finish that first lumpy cap or that first not-so-lumpy sweater, you’ll feel the pride and joy that makes knitters keep reaching for their needles and perusing the yarn aisles in search of their next conquest.

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