Simple tips for a beginner knitter
by Hanna Gough
For your own sake, try not to google this but if you do, I hope you find this blog post.
I promise SIMPLE tips here. Not 25+ tips, or instructions, just tips.
The process of learning to knit requires 3 foundation parts:
That is the basis for learning to knit. The next part is how you learn.
1. Classes and groups. I would recommend these if you have no one to show you how to do it in person, and if you would prefer to be able to ask questions and have someone demonstrate right there and then. You can do this in a physical or virtual environment. Classes can also speed up your learning, as the class is focused entirely on the technique. There is no risk of disappearing down a rabbit hole on the internet when you have an instructor.
2. A friend or family member. This can be a blessing or a curse. You do run the risk of "You're doing it wrong. Give it here" but you could also find that learning with someone you love or trust has great benefits e.g. you are less likely to feel silly or flustered if you know the person.
3. Youtube/Online blogs. These are brilliant for quick reference and seeing how a written instruction should be carried out, but approach with caution. These days, there are so many videos that it can be quite intimidating fishing through them. They are fantastic when learning a new technique, joining a make along or wanting to see finished items.
4. Books and magazines. Written instructions and accompanying photos/diagrams are really useful and are usually displayed in a step by step format, so you can take your time reading through them. Most mainstream knitting magazines have a 'how to' section at the back. The best beginner book I have ever come across is Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel. Every project is broken up into simple steps and the photographs are so helpful. The finished items are also really lovely, wearable and giftable.
There is no right way to learn. The ways mentioned above are great individually or grouped. We all learn differently and prefer different things.
I have already seen beginner blogs starting with "make sure that the yarn you use is x, y, z" please ignore this nonsense.
Whether rarebreed wool or bargain box acrylic, yarn is yarn. What matters is what YOU get out of it. Think about what fabric and textures that you already have at home in your wardrobe. If you like the feel of premium acrylic, knit with it. If you don't like the feel of Shetland tweed, don't knit with it. It's pretty simple. I feel that there is an unfair amount of pressure on new knitters to knit with "the right yarn" but in my experience, you don't know what you like until you try it. No one can tell you what yarn is best for you.
Go for the price tags that suit your budget, the fibre content that suits your lifestyle (handwashing might not be doable for you) and have fun. Explore.
As for yarn types and thicknesses, borrow/buy a good knitting book and see what it's all about. Yarn weights and needle sizes do matter, and books such as Knitty Gritty and Stitch n Bitch: The Knitters Handbook have great pages on what the labels mean. Well written patterns will always recommend needle size and yarn weight. For a beginner, stay in the area of 4mm and up so that you can see your stitches.
Things to bear in mind:
This is not a race. You will learn for as long as you need to. In truth, you never stop learning but with knitting, you master the basics first.
You don't have to hold the needles and yarn in the same way as the person in the video/book. Find a way that feels comfortable for you. As long as we get the same result as the pattern intended, why does it matter?
People will want to offer their opinions and advice. They will want to offer them all of the time. Just smile and say "I'll think about that for next time" if you aren't sure how to take their suggestions.
You don't have to have the fanciest needles to get started with. Some plastic or wood needles are enough for a new knitter. Use needles that have been handed down if you have them. Just concentrate on casting on and the rest will follow later.
Hanna is a full time knitwear and crochet designer offering online 1-1 knitting and crochet classes for beginners. You can also find her on social media as @GermanderCC