It would probably be more appropriate to call this post something like ‘How to not be intimidated by your knitting.'
I don’t know about you, but from the outside, knitting looks like seriously hard work. You’ve got the patterns which look like a foreign language, the different types of yarn that are somehow meant to be used in different ways with different needles in different sizes, and then there’s the time it takes to actually make the thing…
I get that the whole concept can look a bit off-putting and I felt the same for a long time. So that’s why I wanted to create this post, to encourage anyone out there who does want to give it a try, to just have a go and get started.
Anyway, here are my top tips – I hope you find them useful.
1. You don’t need to spend a lot of money right away
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as prone as the next person to start grabbing armfuls of wool like a crazy person if I’m left on my own in a yarn shop. As with any new hobby, it can be really fun to go out and get a whole lot of lovely new ‘stuff’, but by no means does knitting have to be an expensive thing to do – especially if you’re just starting off.
This isn’t everyone’s preference, but when I was first learning to knit, I didn’t want to spend much on yarn and needles. I wasn’t confident that my skills were good enough to make it money well spent, that’s why I went for less-expensive brands and also acrylic blends, which usually don’t cost as much as natural fibres. Now that I’m a little more experienced, I’m happy to pay for something that’s better quality, but I still try to shop around. You can sometimes find some great bargains on eBay or even in charity shops.
So here are the essentials that I’d recommend to any knitter who’s just starting out:
- A few balls of a yarn you really love the colour of, that feel squishy and soft
- A pair of straight knitting needles that match up with the size of your yarn (it will tell you on the label or ball band on the ball of yarn what needles they recommend)
- A tapestry needle to weave in your ends.
- Maybe a free pattern to follow. (Head to Ravelry for some amazing, free, PDF patterns.)
And that’s kind of it!
Everything else can pretty much wait until you know knitting is something you really enjoy – then the fun really begins.
2. Try a chunky yarn
Personally, when I started knitting, I only used chunky yarn. For one, it’s way quicker to finish your project, as chunky wool knits up a lot faster. And two, it’s easier to see any mistakes and correct them. (picking up dropped stitches when you’re using tiny needles can be a lot more difficult.)
Plus, chunky-knit scarves, hats and jumpers have kind of been in fashion these recent years.
3. You only really need two basic stitches to begin
There are hundreds of different stitches out there that look amazing. However, to get started, and to make some cool stuff, you only really need to know how to do one or two max; the knit stitch and the purl stitch. If you have those two under your belt, you can still create some great fabrics.
4. Understanding patterns
So you know how to knit and purl, you may have made a basic scarf, now you want to make something a little more challenging, so you check out some patterns for simple hats or a cardigan…
However, when you open it up, you are met with what looks like gibberish, and you’re left without a clue as to where to start.
Yep – I know how you feel. Knitting patterns are confusing and it can feel like your wading through a foreign language, but most of the time, once you know what the abbreviations mean, things get a lot more straight-forward.
For a breakdown of the most common abbreviations and techniques, click here for my jargon- buster post. You'll find examples, translations and explanations.
5. But then again, don’t feel like you have to use patterns!
A lot of knitters like to follow patterns and make something specific. But there are no rules here. Don’t feel like using patterns? – it’s all good. After all, this is meant to be something you enjoy doing so make sure you do actually enjoy it! Try making a scarf or a blanket, and simply work until your project is as big or small as you want it to be.
6. Sometimes it’s good to follow the rules
Experimenting with knitting is something I’ll always recommend, however, there are two occasions where taking instructions into account kind of makes sense.
1. Washing instructions – When you’re knitting, especially with pure wool, checking the label for washing instructions is really important. It can take quite a while to make the thing and no one wants to spend five hours on a hat to find a shrunken, felted mess when they open the washing machine.
2. Matching needles and yarn. If you’re aiming to make something in a specific size, then making sure your needles and yarn are compatible is important. On the ball of yarn, you’ll see what needle size they recommend. Of course, you don’t have to pay attention, but it is probably a good place to start.
7. At the end of the day, it’s only yarn
If something goes wrong and you don’t think it can be saved, so what? It’s only yarn, and nine times out of ten, you can rip it back and start again. You’re not going to waste it and you’ve probably learnt something along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand how frustrating it can be to make a mistake and have to start from scratch, I know how annoying it is when you’ve spent so long making something and it doesn’t quite work out. But ‘It’s only yarn’ is something I have to constantly remind myself of, to make sure I keep things in perspective and enjoy the process.
If you’ve been holding back on knitting, I hope this post gives you a few ways to get started. If you have your own tips for any beginner-knitters then add them in the comments below!