Beginner Knitting: The Right Way To Learn

Whenever I tell people that I like knitting, it takes away a lot of my cool points. The conversation usually goes something like this:
them: “So what do you do for fun?”
me: “Ya know, I like being outdoors a lot. I do a lot of hiking and I downhill ski a lot. I just like adventurous things, like martial arts and stuff like that.”
them: “Wow, that’s cool.”
me: “I also knit.”
them: “Yeah, well that’s um, that’s neat.”

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

Fun knit/crochet socks. Knitting can be so darn fun!

I get it. I mean, it’s cool to go drop 300 bucks on a sweater at Anthrolopoligie. But making something just like it for yourself for a tenth of the cost? That’s lame. But times, they are a-changing. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but knitting is fashionable these days. It’s not just for grandmas. At my local yarn store, most of the participants in knitting night are in there twenties and thirties. So if you’ve ever thought about knitting, now is the time to start. It’s time to get off the fence and join all us hip knitters. I knit and I’m cool. Knitting is cool, okay?

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

My copycat Anthropoligie sweater

But maybe you don’t know where to start, and that’s fine, too. I’ve taught myself a lot of knitting techniques and I know that if I can figure out how to do it, you can too. I can tell you, though, after several failed attempts at knitting that there is a right and a wrong way to start knitting. Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way that turned me from a failed knitter and into somebody who could actually knit. So here’s how to go about learning how to knit, the right (or at least easier) way.

Lesson One: Go On Pinterest and Ravelry.com

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

I found my first pattern on Ravelry: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/outlander-cowl

Don’t even try to start knitting or crocheting until you find some projects that you might actually want to complete. I tried and failed to learn to knit at least five times before I actually started knitting. I attempted several washcloths using cheap yarn and plastic needles. I kept losing interest after a few rows and kept putting my knitting aside for a few years. Each time, I vowed that I would get a handle on knitting sometime, but I never did. The problem was, I hadn’t committed myself to making something that I actually wanted. So before you even begin to knit, find yourself some patterns that you might be interested in making. It’s important to be invested in the project so you’ll actually finish it. I actually prefer Ravelry (get it? ravel? unravel?) over Pinterest for finding knitting or crochet projects because it’s a social network dedicated to fiber arts. Just go to https://www.ravelry.com/. You can search for projects by difficulty, yarn size, cost, clothing type, etc. It’s perfect for someone starting out because they can find projects that are perfect for beginners. My first project was a circular cowl, which was perfect, because I didn’t have to turn my work and I could just concentrate on learning my stitches.

Lesson Two: Buy Wooden Needles

Don’t try to knit on metal or plastic needles to start with. They are slippery. You won’t have the control at first that you need to keep your yarn under control, so you want something a bit stickier. Bamboo needles are fairly inexpensive and the yarn won’t slip around on you too badly. I really like circular needles as well. Some people don’t care for them, but I learned on them and I’ll never use anything else. For my first project, I bought a cheap pair of circular bamboo needles that were the right size for my cowl. After that, I bought myself a fancy set of interchangeable circular wooden needles and I’ve used those exclusively ever since. 

Lesson Three: Don’t Buy Cotton Yarn

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

Good wool: This is some homespun wool I made. Your local yarn store will have quality yarn like this

When you first start knitting, it’s tempting to buy cheap yarn, but you’re actually making life harder on yourself. Wool is easiest to learn with because it’s not as stiff or slippery as cotton. I recommend a thicker yarn to start with as well, so search for projects that use worsted weigh or aran weight yarn. Also, don’t get intimidated by the lingo, you’ll figure it out as you go. Just remember: worsted is best, aran like the famous and thick aran sweaters of Ireland.

Lesson Four: Speaking Of Yarn, Buy It At Your Local Yarn Store

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

If you want to learn to crochet, there will probably be a few crocheters on knitting night as well. I happen to love both.

Don’t be embarrassed to go into your local yarn store with a project in mind. Heck, print it off and take it in with you. Most likely, they’ll be able to help you with everything you need for your project, such as the needles and yarn that would work best for it. The yarn at the yarn store is going to be of way better quality than you could ever get at those other places (pretty much any store ending in Mart or your chain fabric stores) and good yarn is just easier to work with. Plus, most local yarn stores usually have a knitting night. If you want to learn how to knit, just go to a knitting night. You’ll be surrounded by experts who won’t mind helping you get started on your first project. Knitters are truly addicted to fiber arts and we want you to be addicted too. We’re incorrigible.

Lesson Five: When In Doubt, YouTube it

YouTube is the best resource there is for learning how to knit. If you’re working on a pattern and you’re uncertain about a certain direction or stitch, all you have to do is type that stitch or direction into the search bar in YouTube and tons of videos will pop up showing you exactly how to do it. It’s amazing. I’ve learned some really cool techniques on YouTube, and it’s so helpful to be able to watch the video while you’re practicing the moves with your hands. You can pause and repeat the video as many times as you want. I’m a visual learner, so YouTube has been an invaluable resource for me on my knitting journey.

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

Once you learn how, you’ll want to put a knitted sweater on everything in sight.
Small Child? Check.

beginner knitting: the right way to learn

Coffee Mug? Check

So many of my friends lament to me, “I wish I could knit or crochet, but I just can’t.” I know that a lot of you probably feel the same way. I didn’t have a grandma who taught me. I didn’t learn when I was a child. I was in the same boat as you until a few years ago. But I know you can do it. And it’s good for you! Knitting has been shown to improve depression and anxiety. It keeps your brain sharp and keeps dementia at bay. This might not matter to us in our twenties or thirties, but forties years from now when our friends are forgetting their kids’ names, we’ll still be sharp as tacks, and we’ll have knitting (or crocheting) to thank for it. Knitting is relaxing and creative and fun. You’ll have friends everywhere because us knitters like to sit with each other and chat. There’s something really wonderful about knowing how to make things with your own, two hands. I very much believe in that. Everyone should have some craft or skill that they can be proud of. Why not make knitting yours?

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