Hopefully by now, you all know to never take advice from me. But, lately, several have asked about knitting for a beginner. This post is for those who are thinking about starting knitting and even though you may have no interest in knitting today .. you never know what tomorrow may bring! 🙂
First of all, starting out with a sweater as your first project probably isn’t the best idea but in all honesty, if I wanted a sweater and didn’t want to start with something else, I’d probably start with a sweater. But you know . . don’t do as I do but do as I say! 🙂
Second, there is NOTHING you cannot do . . whether it’s knitting or something else. If someone else (especially me) can do it, you can do it too . . unless you have some physical limitations that prevent you from knitting.
Third, even if you’ve tried knitting before and felt like you weren’t able to grasp it, and you still want to knit, try again. I’ve heard from so many who had tried, given up and tried again later and it clicked and now they love knitting.
Anything and everything knitting related can be found on Ravelry. There’s inspiration, suggestions for yarns, patterns, ratings for yarn and patterns. There’s a wealth of information there. When I find a pattern I think I want to make, I find a picture where someone (a round granny) with my shape has made the sweater and I try to figure out how that sweater would look on me. For the most part, I knit because I love to knit and not so much because I need another sweater.
A great thing about knitting is that you can rip back and start over. It isn’t like quilting where once you cut the fabric, it’s done! And ripping back with knitting is so much easier than ripping out sewing stitches.
I’ve told this before but it was back in about 2004 when I wanted to knit socks and my friend, Susan, sent me a pattern and yarn and needles because she was tired of hearing me say I wanted to knit socks. She basically said “Here . . do it and be quiet!” I could not get it. It had been so long since I had knitted that I didn’t even remember how to cast on. I ripped those socks so many times that Vince, so kindly said to me “Why don’t you just give up? You’re not going to figure it out!” I knew I could get it and eventually, I did . . and so can you if that’s what you want to do. On the other hand, if you have no desire to knit, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with NOT knitting.
Now that you’re sure you’re ready to start knitting, start with something small, flat and easy. Look at Ravelry, click on Patterns, then search for “dishie” and you’ll find a lot of dish rag patterns, many of them are free. Dish rags can be made from the sugar and cream (or whatever it’s called) yarn from Walmart or Hobby Lobby. A blog reader gave me a dish cloth probably 5 or more years ago and I have used it so much. It was brightly colored and now it’s faded to a grayish tan but I still love it. With dish clothes, you can give them away and even if they aren’t perfect, they’re still quite useful. If you don’t want them, fold them into a little square, wrap a ribbon around it, stick it in your purse and the next time you’re somewhere and see a young mom or elderly lady . . hand them a “gift”. Everyone needs another dish cloth.
Once you’ve mastered something simple, go with something small but has a pattern, maybe a scarf or cowl – something where you have to stretch your limits but if you make a mistake, it isn’t that big of a deal. Cowls are usually worn scrunched up a bit and scarves are wrapped and folded and twisted so mistakes are easily hidden.
Another suggestion is a felted bag. Nicole and I are going to make Booga Bags. If you aren’t familiar with felting, you use a 100% wool yarn (some are better at felting than others), the project is knitted usually on large needles, then washed in hot water with an old shoe or tennis ball or something like that and it felts. There are instructions online but any mistakes would be easily hidden in the felting process. The Booga Bag does require an I-cord which isn’t hard, takes a lot of time and there are plenty of instructions online. I don’t make it enough to remember how to do it and have to watch a video every time before I begin.
When you feel you’re ready for a sweater, I recommend starting with a child’s size. First, it would take less yarn so your investment wouldn’t be quite so big. Second, if you have to rip back, you shouldn’t have so much ripping to do since there are fewer stitches. Third, as adults, we generally wear our sweaters for years and years. Any mistake or not so perfect area, is going to be something that bothers you every time you wear that sweater. A child is going to wear out or outgrow a sweater in a winter or two and you can pass it down or donate it and any mistakes or not so perfect spots are gone . . never to be seen by you again.
If you don’t know any children for whom you could be knitting . . I know a size 4 or 6! 🙂
Tea with Jam and Bread comes in children’s through adult sizes so you wouldn’t have to buy two patterns if you wanted to make a child’s size first.
With any pattern, before you buy it, read the reviews/comments. If people have had problems figuring out, or found problems with the pattern, I avoid that one. I’m just not good enough yet to find and fix mistakes. Once you buy the pattern, read through it all before beginning to knit. I love the Knit Companion app and use it for every single project I make.
As far as yarn, of course I love The Loopy Ewe and Eat, Sleep, Knit. Most of their yarns are not inexpensive but they are good, quality yarns that feel good when knitting and the colors are gorgeous. Hopefully they will hold up well but for the most part, I haven’t worn my sweaters enough to know which ones are going to hold up and which ones aren’t. JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby and similar places have yarn for less. Knitpicks has some good quality yarns for less $$ and they often have sales. WEBS also a whole lot of yarn – some that’s the same as what The Loopy Ewe and Eat, Sleep, Knit carry, but a whole lot that’s less expensive too. And, if you order a certain amount, there are discounts. But, TLE and ESK both have customer rewards, and free shipping over a certain amount, not to mention that both have excellent customer service. I find that WEBS and KnitPicks can be a bit slow about shipping but anything from TLE and ESK will get mailed priority mail the same day I place my order.
When choosing yarn, always check the ratings/reviews on Ravelry. If there are a couple of bad reviews, I don’t worry too much about it but if there’s a pattern of bad reviews, I usually don’t consider that yarn.
Of course, you must have needles and needles are darned expensive. I love the interchangeable sets and it’s a toss up as to which ones I prefer — I love the Addi Clicks, the ChiaoGoo and HiyaHiya about equally. I’m pretty happy with whichever of these three sets I grab. I also have the KnitPicks interchangeables and I’m not unhappy with them. I feel like they cost quite a bit less than the others, I should find fault with them but I do not. I like them a lot.
I bought a set of Addi Clicks and a set of KnitPicks for Nicole so I think that tells you that I like them all. When buying needles, you may need two sizes for a sweater and then having different length cables can be advantageous so you could easilyl end up buying 4 different fixed needles for any sweater. That can add up quickly to where you could have purchased a set of interchangeables. Also, once you get the interchangeables, you can buy additional tips and cables. I find that I use sizes U.S. 6 and 7 often and since I often have two or more projects going, I’ve ordered extra 6 and 7’s, as well as extra cables. The cables will war a bit, getting snaggy at the connections maybe but that’s after quite a bit of use.
Once you know that you’re going to enjoy knitting enough to invest in a set of interchangeables, I think you’ll find them quite convenient. Also, if traveling, I throw a set in my knitting bag and I know that even if I decide to buy yarn and start a totally unplanned project while I’m away, I’ll have the needles I need to take care of the job.
Until you’re ready for an interchangeable set, you can purchased the fixed circular needles individually in the sizes/lengths needed.
Probably my best advice is this: Buy yarn that you love (feel, color, content), buy a pattern that you know you’re going to like, and buy only the needles you need to get started. Until you know which needles you will like best, don’t go buy a ton of needles.
And remember . . if someone else can make it . . so can you!
liz n says
After a 30 year hiatus from knitting, your socks lured me back. I love wool socks and oh the yarn is so gorgeous. I’m keeping my buying under strict control for the time being and I haven’t ventured into sweaters yet…….I keep checking on what you’re knitting…..the pull is strong but, not yet……..must stick to those small very portable projects………..so thank you…….I love my socks!
You’re doing great! Stick with what you love. I always have a plain Jane pair of socks in the works because I can take those anywhere and knit without paying a whole lot of attention to what I’m doing. Once you get used to hand knitted wool socks, it’s real hard to wear anything else, huh?
Thank you for the information on getting started in knitting. I have knitted in the past- 2 sweaters and a few other items. I more recently attempted using double pointed needles thinking I was going to make a pair of socks. I couldn’t get the hang of the DP’s. I put down the project. Now, with your advice and maybe a You-tube video, I think I’ll pick up that project and give it another try. Also, about making mistakes…I really don’t know anyone that lives in a glass house, do you?
Thanks for sharing your joy in life.
kim webb says
Great post. Lots of information to get started.
I just found out yesterday that my son’s best friend’s mother gives lessons and I was seriously thinking of talking to her about knitting.
She makes the best things for Christmas. She made a hat in the shape of a fish for my son this year. I’m more interested in knitting socks in all different colors.
On a different note, I just received notice that my electric pressure cooker will be delivered tomorrow. Can’t wait to try cooking fresh eggs in it.
Yep, I am going to have to give it a try again. I gave up on the socks and will try something easier like you said–Michael said, “oh, no, you will burn my ears again!!” Maybe not if I try something simple!
Diana in RR,TX says
I still haven’t mastered socks and probably never will since I rarely wear them! My Mother taught me to knit many years ago. Started with the basic sweater which was very boring. I put it aside and knitted one on circular needles with the Nordic pattern in the yoke! That one I finished and wore for many years!
I love the idea of putting a dishcloth in my purse to “gift”. Putting a smile on someone’s face is the best gift you can give to yourself.
I learned to knit on a retreat, where someone taught me to knit a scarf. I continued knitting square things and rectangular things… wash cloths, scarfs. My Daughter dropped in one week (she lives out of state) and wanted to learn how to knit. I taught her to knit a scarf. A couple months later she shows up KNITTING LACE!!!! and SOCKS!!! I’m still on wash colths…. Told me about knitting video’s!!!! She learned all of that on videos!!! now when I’m struggling w a heel I go to Knitting.com and watch how to do it!
Oh MAN, I LOVE those booga bags!! Unfortunately, I’m one of those who cannot knit! I’ve tried multiple classes, practicing, practicing, practicing and it just never worked for me. 🙁 I LOVE the knitted socks, I always LOVE the knitted baby caps some of the gals would bring to guild for donation to the county hospital, I just LOVE the way knitted things look even more than crochet. But I’ve given up trying. It’s not there for me! 🙁 So I will just keep crocheting the baby caps. They’re cute, too.
Peg H says
Judy, aren’t you a dear to put this post together for those of us flirting with the idea of knitting! Thank you so much!
Linda Steller says
Great advice, Judy! I had been knitter when I was young. My grandmother taught me, and I knitted scarves, afghans, caps, etc. I left it be from about age 16 until I was about 30, and then I knit three Icelandic sweaters. Again, I stopped knitting again for a while, and I think I picked it up again back when you started talking about knitting socks. Or, at least when I began reading your blog and you were talking about socks. I’ve found that if there’s a stitch I’m not familiar with, an abbreviation I don’t recognize, for a technique I’ve never tried, I can generally get a demo of it on YouTube, so I have no trouble trying harder things. Sitting and knitting in the evening can be so relaxing. I really love looking at all the things you’ve made.
i’m almost finished knitting my first project in a gazilllion years–a simple garter stitch scarf for my sister-in-law. I’ve got 5 more inches to go!
Ann Jorden says
Thank you!! Because of your knitting posts of projects, Ravelry, and the Loopy Ewe, I said to myself, “I want to do more than knit dishcloths.” In early summer, I visited a local yarn shop, described what I wanted to make, and left with Whimsy Lace Scarf ( Maureen Mason-Jamieson), 2 skeins of Silky Alpaca Lace, Basic Socks (Churchmouse), and 2 skeins of Panda Silk. After several bad starts, my Whimpsy Scarf is done as are my first pair of socks.
Yay! You’re living proof that you can do it! 🙂
Patty M says
My first time knitting was a class about 25 years ago. I started with a fishermans cable sweater against the advice of my teacher. I entered it in the state fair several years later and won third place. Didn’t knit for years after that. I am trying to get back into it. Making a blanket with bulky needles ang chunky yarn. I really want to learn to knit socks. Will probably take a class.
Your advice is so timely for me! I have started a shrug with 3″ of seed stitch FIVE times and can’t keep track of knit-perl-knit-perl…. So I just quit this evening and then your blog arrived. Thanks!
Tam mcbride says
Oops email misspelled. Sorry!
Dar in MO says
Judy, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through your knitting advice today. YOU were the motivating person that got me going on knitting socks. It took a few years and many tries, but I finally can say that now I have 4 pair of hand knitted wool socks, thanks to you getting me started when you were in St. Louis. I love the feel of wool socks and just wish I had gotten started earlier in my life. I love seeing all the beautiful sweaters you are making. I may try one of those, one day, but right now I’m enjoying smaller items so I can get them finished to wear before I get too old.
Thank you for all you do to encourage and inspire us.
There is an old saying; Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in a seed.
You plant seeds.
Because you are so free with information you have caused me to try so many new things. Because you encourage I have tried hard things. Because you care enough to blog about everything, I count you as a friend. My life is better because of you.
Great advice. I’m 55 and I started last January. You gave me the nudge to learn something I had always wanted to learn. I have read your blog for a while and followed a lot of the advice you have given us before on knitting needles and and such. I visited a yarn shop, bought a book. I talked to a friend that knits and I watched videos. I started with a cowl and then a scarf and then more cowls and scarves. Then just before Christmas I took a sock class. One of my main goals when I started was to knit socks. I finished my socks right after Christmas. I have a nine month old great niece who is the apple of my eye. I don’t have any grandchildren yet. So I wanted to knit her a sweater and I just finished it. None of my projects have been perfect, but I think they are good enough and I have enjoyed learning and the process. Knitting is very relaxing for me. Thank you again, Judy.