So, there are thousands of videos and tutorials out there that show you how to knit and purl. It has never been easier, thanks to social media sharing to pick up a new craft like knitting, but do some things get lost in translation as you skip from video to video? As a complete beginner do you really feel like you have all the tools you need to get started?
The answer to this for many people is probably no.
Here I will attempt to get you started on your knitting adventure and try to fill in some of those gaps between knit and purl.
How to start knitting
1. Find your LYS. That’s “Local Yarn Store” to the uninitiated. They will have lots of advice and maybe some in-person classes there. Someone live, telling you and showing you how to knit is probably the best way to learn for most people. If there are no classes in your neighbourhood, see if there is anyone in your community who knits who might be able to show you a thing or two. Once you start asking – you may be surprised who is revealed to be a knitter.
2. Choose your yarn! Choose wisely!
There are many factors when choosing a yarn to knit with – colour, texture, price, sustainability, fibre, washability, and on and on. So what should a beginner choose?
Choose a yarn that is thick! Thicker yarns knit up more quickly and this is motivating for a first time knitter. It is defeating to work on a project for hours and not see much progress and this is inevitably what happens when one uses thin yarns. Also, thicker yarns make it easier to see your stitches and this is very beneficial. Yarn is categorized into different sizes. We suggest beginners should choose yarn in one of the following categories:
Super Bulky (also called #6)
Chunky (also #5)
You can find this information on the yarn’s label.
Choose a yarn that is smooth! No mohair please for your first project. Fuzzy yarns mat together and make it hard to fix mistakes, it is also hard to see your stitches through the fuzz. Other very textured yarns can present similar problems.
Choose a yarn you love! You will be spending a lot of time with this yarn so it should make you happy! One of the wonderful things about knitting is that you can always reuse your materials. Just unravel it and knit something new. So even if your first project is not the greatest, your pretty yarn can be made into something new later.
The Knit Cafe has a section in our webshop with yarn suggestions for new knitters called Best for Beginners
3. Prepare your yarn for knitting. Yarn can come in a few different forms. Shapes like balls, donuts, bullets, and cakes are all ready to knit. Just find the end of the yarn and knit away, but look out for yarns that come in a pretty twisted shape that unfolds into a big loop of yarn. Those are called skeins or hanks and they need to be wound into a ball before you begin knitting, otherwise they turn into a tangled mess.
Click HERE to see a video where we show how to wind a skein into a ball!
4. Find the right needle size! If you choose a needle size that is out of step with your yarn size you will run into trouble. Bigger yarn is going to require a bigger needle size and smaller yarn will need a smaller size. To find a good needle size for your yarn consult the yarn label. On most labels there will be a recommendation. If you are purchasing your yarn online, pay attention to the knitting needle size suggested on the yarn’s product page.
Note: There are two different sizing systems that are most commonly used for knitting needles. Some labels will list both and some only one or the other. The American Sizing System is indicated by a number alone – for example 10, or US10. In Canada and many other places we use the metric system to size our needles. A US10 is a 6mm.
6. There are two different styles of knitting. One is called English Style and the other is called Continental Style. The instructions that you find will show the knitting techniques in one of these two different styles. English knitters hold their yarn in their right hand, Continental knitters hold their yarn in their left hand. That does not mean that English Style is only for right hand knitter and Continental Style is only for left handers – it really makes little difference. Find the style that suits you best and look for instructions that showcase that style.
7. Find some good resources. If you are not able to enrol in a class. Find some easy to follow video tutorials. You will need the following “how-tos”:
How to Cast On
How to do the Knit Stitch
How to Bind Off
How to Weave in Ends
The Knit Cafe has released a how to knit a scarf tutorial video that shows all these techniques. It is called Made By You. Here it is:
Check out your local Library for beginner knitting books. We recommend Knit How for beginners who come to The Knit Cafe
8. Choose a good beginner project. A good first project will be square or rectangular, with no shaping. It will be all knit and no purl. It will not have complicated instructions that you cannot understand. In fact it may not come with a knitting pattern at all.
The most common first knitting project is a scarf because it fulfills all the above criteria. When you purchase your yarn from your LYS they can make a recommendation on how many stitches to add to your needle for the width of your scarf. You can also figure this out for yourself but be warned it will take a bit of math, but only a little. If you are interested in how to calculate the number of stitches required for your scarf you can check out this resource: How Many Stitches to Cast On for my First Scarf Project
9. Get all the yarn you need! Again, the helpful folks at your yarn shop will be able to help you figure out how much yarn you will need for your project. If you are following a pattern look for how many yards or metres required and compare that to the information given on the yarn label. The length of the yarn more accurately represents the quantity than the weight.
If you do not get all the yarn you need for your project you run the risk of not being able to get more when you want it. Also…..the colour might be slightly different the next time you buy it. Yarn is dyed in batches called “lots”. Dye lots are represented by a number on the yarn label. Make sure all the dye lot numbers match before purchasing your yarn or risk a slight colour difference between balls.
10. Read the yarn label! So, by now you probably know this is an important step. To review look for:
yarn size, needle size, yardage, and dye lot number. The label will also tell you what the yarn is made of, where it was made, and how to care for it.
11. Find a community. Once you are hooked on knitting you will want to share it.
Invite your friends over for crafter-noon fun! Ask your LYS if they have a social time. Look for knitting meet-ups in your area. Check out online knitting communities like ravelry.com.
Good luck on your knitting adventure!