Q for You: What’s your best advice for new knitters?

Advice for new knitters

This month marks two years since I learned to knit. The experience of being a new knitter is still really fresh in my mind, and I hope it always will be, because I want this blog always to be approachable and inspirational to people at all levels of knitting. Not to mention there’s still a world of stuff for me to learn. That said, I thought this month I’d do a handful of posts specifically for beginners — both guidance for getting going, and also for how to get beyond that beginner stage as quickly as possible. But I want to kick it off with a Q for You, which is: What are your best tips for beginning knitters?

I’m spelling out mine below — 10 tips! — but the things it occurs to me to say are likely different from what it will occur to you to say. And you may even take issue with some of mine, which is all sort of the point. When you’re taught to knit by a relative as a kid, you have the benefit of watching and knitting alongside that person (or persons) for potentially years, and you pick up all sorts of advice people don’t even know they’re giving — the sorts of invaluable tidbits that come up conversationally. When you’re a grown person learning to knit, like me, largely based on online videos and interactions, it’s much much harder to get those priceless asides. (Which is why I love Q for You in general.)

So these tips are what sprang to mind for me, things I had to mostly figure out for myself, but I’d like this to be a group effort. Anything and everything you think a beginner needs to know, or that you wish you’d been told when you were starting out, please post it in the comments!

OK, here goes—

1. Yarn matters. When you’re first knitting, it’s sort of like driving a car for the first time: Everything feels perilous, and like there are too many (awkward) things to remember to do all at once. The wrong yarn will compound that. Start off with a “sticky,” yarn — something tweedy and tactile — where the stitches are likely to stay in place even if you accidentally drop them off the needles, which you will. Also, nothing dark colored or fuzzy — you need to be able to see your stitches.

2. Needles matter. Lots of people have tried and given up on knitting, thinking they hated it, when really they just had the wrong needles. Like sticky yarn, you’re best off starting out with needles that offer some friction, meaning bamboo instead of metal. (Harder, pointier needles will make you faster and trickier once you’ve got the hang of it.) If you’re splitting your yarn a lot, your needles are too sharp for the yarn. If you can’t work a certain increase or decrease without a lot of effort, your needles may be too blunt. It’ll all make sense to you over time. But there’s also the matter of straight needles vs circular needles vs double-pointed needles. Everyone has their preferences, and most things can be accomplished a variety of ways. So if you aren’t digging straights (or they seem to hurt your wrists), give circulars a try, and vice versa. (You can knit flat and in-the-round things on “circular” needles.) Don’t give up before finding what works best for you.

3. Yarn stores can be overwhelming. Shopping for yarn takes practice. It comes in lots of different fibers and weights, among other variables. Don’t be shy about telling the nice people at your yarn store that you’re a beginner. They can steer you toward non-slippery yarns and needles, but they’ll also help you understand how the store is organized and even help you decipher the labels on the yarn. If you buy yarn that’s sold in a loosely twisted skein instead of a wound ball, most stores will wind it for you upon request. But once it’s wound, it can’t be returned. You can always wind it yourself when you’re ready to use it.

4. Labels are your friends. Patterns are generally written for a specific yarn, but you might not be able to find that exact yarn (or even want to). Understanding yarn labels is the key to substituting yarns. The label will tell you the yarn’s weight and fiber content, which are the two most important factors to match up when substituting. It also tells you how much yardage there is (given in both weight and approximate yards) and how to care for it. If you’re knitting socks, baby things, or a gift for a low-maintenance friend, for example, pay extra close attention to whether the yarn is machine washable.

5. Swatching is for winners. If you start out knitting scarves, washcloths or blankets, and you’re using the same yarn weight and needle size(s) called for in the pattern, you have my permission to not knit a “gauge swatch.” Anything else — a hat, gloves, socks, a sweater — needs to actually fit you. And that means you need to make sure your knitted fabric measures the same as the pattern writer’s. If your stitches are bigger than theirs, your garment will be bigger than theirs. And vice versa. So take the time to knit and measure a gauge swatch.

6. The internet is amazing, and so are real classes. I’ll expand on this in an upcoming post, but I did most of my learning in the first year by carefully choosing projects that each required me to learn one or two new skills (increase, decrease, pick up stitches, etc). And to learn how to perform each of those new skills, I watched videos at Knittinghelp.com or YouTube. But as I alluded to above, the real learning — the difference between knowing rote skills and really understanding what you’re doing — comes from conversations with real people. I’ve taken lots of classes for things I could easily have learned from watching a video, but all the best things I know I learned in the breaks and asides and conversation that happened during those classes. Check the class schedule at your local yarn store and/or watch for the big conventions like Stitches, Vogue Knitting Live and Knitting Lab (among countless others), which I refer to as Knitting College and where you can cram in a whole lot of learning in one weekend.

7. Free patterns are a blessing and a curse. The web is full of free patterns and some of them are extremely well and professionally crafted. See The Purl Bee, for instance. (And hopefully mine are in that camp!) But there’s also a ton of junk that will go badly if you try to knit it, because it’s error-filled or incomplete or poorly written, and you’ll get horribly frustrated and think you’re a terrible knitter — or worse, that knitting sucks! — when really it’s just that you’re knitting from a crappy pattern. A good pattern is a lesson unto itself, and they only cost a few dollars! So until you know enough to spot the errors or fill in the mistakes, stick with professional pattern sources, and check the ratings and comments on the pattern’s Ravelry page. (Side tip: If you haven’t already, join Ravelry — the database is invaluable.)

8. Starting out can be expensive but doesn’t have to break the bank. Like most hobbies, knitting requires gear. It would be difficult to spend as much on needles and notions as you would on a set of golf clubs or a full complement of backpacking gear. But in the beginning you’ll find that you have to go buy a new needle for nearly every new project. If you’re on a strict budget, here’s my suggestion: Buy a set of US7 (4.5mm) needles — a 16″ circular, a 36″ or 40″ circular, and a set of 8″ double-points — and stick to projects that call for worsted weight yarn. You could stay busy for years, knitting everything from hats to slippers to gloves to sweaters, and never need a different needle.

9. A kitchen scale is an excellent investment. When you finish a project and have a lump of yarn remaining, how do you know how much you used, or how much is left for another project? What if you need to wind off a skein into two equal sized balls? How could you tell how much yarn you need if you’re copying a friend’s hat or a 4-year-old vest in your closet? In these and countless other circumstances, the answer is: You weigh it. As noted above, the label will give you yards per ounce (or per gram, in some cases). And from that you can calculate anything. (If your 1-oz. skein started out at 140 yards, and the leftovers weigh .5 oz., 70 yards went into your project and another 70 remain.)

10. Bravery is rewarded. The most important thing is to try stuff. Every time you pull off something new, you’ll feel like a genius! I mean, don’t try to knit a cables-and-lace sweater right after you finish your first garter-stitch scarf, but push yourself to gradually expand your skills. As I always say, it’s just yarn — no harm will come to you if you try something outside your skill set and it doesn’t go right the first time. If you only take one knitting class your whole life, take it right away and make it a class on fixing mistakes. Nothing will make you a bolder or more confident knitter than feeling like you can try new stuff because you’ll know what to do when you mess up.

OK, your turn — whether you’ve been knitting a month or four decades. Share your best advice in the comments below. And if you’re a new knitter with questions, bring ’em on!


PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What’s your ideal travel knitting?

57 thoughts on “Q for You: What’s your best advice for new knitters?

  1. This is a really great blog post! I think my tips would be don’t give up if it’s tough to pick a particular technique up, keep trying, keep practising because you’ll get better and better. I think knitting is like exercising – if you do it regularly, you’re used to it, it’s routine and your work is of an even quality; you know the mistakes you are likely to make and correct them before you make them. You know what works for you. :)

  2. My best advice would be that if you are frustrated, put it down and walk away for a day. The next day you’ll be fresher. Also, don’t be intimidated by things like cables. If you want to make something that has a cable, try it – you get a lot of satisfaction from something that isn’t as hard as it might look.

  3. Start with hats, cowls and fingerless gloves (but not scarves) or if you have access to young children, start with babies – a great way of knitting actual garments without having to worry too much about accurate gauge (if in doubt, go bigger and they’ll grow into it) and quick to make .

    It’s not that expensive to start (you could make something with one ball of wool and two needles) especially when compared with sewing (where you need a sewing machine to begin). although once you have all the gear, the cost per garment is eye watering when compared with sewing. Buy a few stitch markers as well.

    Knit in public, particularly in train carriages full of folk playing on their iphones.

    If it’s a disaster it can be unravelled, but no one is going to notice small mistakes.

  4. “Learn what a lifeline is and use it.”

    It’s surprising how many knitters have never heard of lifelines. When you’re beginning knitting or even when you’re advanced but working on something tricky, taking the time to put in a lifeline will save your work, not to mention your sanity.

    Especially when you’re a beginner and have no idea how to fix mistakes, you can try to with the confidence that all is not lost if you really screw up. (Or, as I often did, just try to pretend it didn’t happen and move on.)

  5. Again Yarn Matters. If you have a very busy pattern (fancy stitches, lace, cables) choose a tonal or more solid color yarn. If it’s a very plain pattern, you can choose multi colored yarn. The reason? All those fancy stitches will disappear in busy yarn.

  6. Oh, and there will be occasions when the yarn you choose will simply not work for the pattern. Don’t get discouraged. Unravel and choose another yarn. (Usually the best results are using the yarn that is recommended in the pattern, it’s been tested!

  7. I’ve been learning to knit over the last year or so and I biggest learning suggestion is to take your time. Read through a pattern and make sure you understand all of it before you begin! And Yes, make a test swatch. I have never made one. I just spent a couple of days making this gorgeous slouchy hat! Way TOO big. Total bummer. So this will be my new to do in anything I make moving forward. :)

  8. Great post and great tips. I would also add that there is no shame in keeping it simple. You will find your skills progress quickly, but there is much to be said for simple, straightforward knitting that gives you a pleasing result, especially at the beginning.

    Also, swatching is a must as Karen has already said. But also take advantage of those things in your closet that you love and that fit you well, to guide you. A piece of knitting still on the needles can be deceiving. Measure and compare.

  9. For truly New Knitters, learn the stitches, before you overwhelm yourself with intirguing designs; master knitting, then master purling. THEN intergrate them.

  10. I would also suggest choosing a first project that is a) comfortably challenging but not frustrating, and b) something you will actually love to wear. I have seen so many beginner knitting books/patterns that are simple but hideous (I’m looking at YOU, boleros!), and what’s more likely to alienate a new knitter than slaving away at some ugly, useless thing that’s going to sit at the bottom of their sock drawer?

  11. I think the best advice I’d give is related to your last point, about bravery. Every time I’ve been intimidated by a new technique, or stitch pattern, or what have you, I would just screw up my courage and try it anyway. And I would find it’s nowhere near as complicated or hard as I’d thought. It’s just a matter of not letting a complicated-looking knitting technique overwhelm you, and realizing it’s all just knit or purl, pretty much.

    Also, practice practice practice practice. And then practice some more. I’m a really good knitter now, but I’ve been knitting since I was 8, which means I have over just over two decades of experience at this point. So it might look effortless to a new knitter, but that’s 20 years of getting to “effortless”. Even if you can only spare little bit of time a couple of days a week, it adds up over time. And you’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop confidence in your work.

    And finally, I’d say you should be proud of your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Every time you finish a scarf, even if you think it’s just a long rectangle, pat yourself on the back! You took a ball of wool and turned it into something useful! That’s pretty much plain awesome! In a world where you could spend a couple of bucks on something at the store that will probably fall apart in a year (or less), taking the time and effort into making something that can last for many years to come, well, that’s pretty darn cool I think.

  12. I always tell new people to use yarn that they LOVE – even if it’s more expensive, and even if they know the project will most likely not be wearable, they’ll feel motivated to fight through the hard moments because the yarn is so beautiful and fun to work with!

    • Absolutely agree with you Leah! When I first started knitting I (understandably) chose cheaper yarns that I didn’t really like the feel of.

      When I finally splurged on some beautiful yarn it made a WORLD of difference. My project was more fun as I was oohing and aaahing over every stitch and the yarn was actually much more pleasurable to knit overall – it just felt better and was knitting up smoother and easier.

      Like my sculpture teachers always use to say ‘buy the best tools you can afford’. It makes a huge difference to both your enjoyment of the craft AND the finished product. There will always be someone you can sell off your unwanted tools or yarn to if it is quality stuff.

  13. I remember feeling terribly awkward at first – like my fingers just did not get it. So stick with it though that part, it will pass. Before the end of your first project, your hands will have the muscle memory and the act of knitting will actually feel more natural.

  14. Take your time. Don’t rush . Look at how your stitches look and feel front and back. Use markers. I always suggest using circular needles and learning to loop the ends together when you put your knitting down.

  15. Great blog post and even the most advanced knitters can appreciate being reminded of your basic 10! I recently taught a friend to knit and my first piece of advice was about how to sit ~ I think we tend to forget about sitting properly when we knit especially when we first learn. The second piece of advice is “it’s only yarn.” It’s hard to frog, tink, or rip back but in the end, it’s only yarn and we should love what we’re working on, right?

  16. i think when you are first learning it’s important to learn how the stitches are supposed to look and work on a needle. i learned how to knit from my mother as a child but i also did miles and miles of stockinette and garter before i ever tried a pattern. i knit swatches. i became my mother’s production knitter (she hated knitting stockinette so i would do it for her until it was time to increase or decrease or do something else) i know it sounds boring but to me something has to almost become second nature before all of the other things start making sense including pattern reading.
    also i think learning to knit with a relatively smooth worsted weight yarn and size 7 or 8 needles is helpful. the stitches are big enough to see but the needles are not so large as to be awkward to knit with.

  17. What a wealth of information! I’m going to repeat a few things: When YouTube knitting instructions got rolling, I was in heaven. ANYTHING, no matter how simple, is carefully explained and demonstrated by some lovely knitter on YouTube. If the first person isn’t a “match” for your learning style, try another until you “click.” Good yarn and good needles and a SIMPLE pattern, as suggested above, will give you something you love as you’re learning, even if its not perfect. And good yarn can be ripped out and restarted without a problem… ;) Also, don’t waste your precious knitting time knitting with yarn or needles you don’t love the feel and look of. The Yarn Harlot’s book, Knitting Rules is still one I pick up for how-to’s (plus she’s hysterical!) Finally: DON’T STOP.

  18. This is an amazing blog post and some incredible followup advice. I agree with mjoxrieder on Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. She’s so funny you forget you’re learning. Also, she reads her own audio books for knitting AND listening.

    Some other things that worked for me: 1. don’t be ashamed to immerse yourself. Listen to podcasts, read books, obsessively check blogs. It’s YOUR hobby and nobody questions people who watch 8 hours of football a week.

    2. knitters are usually pretty nice and, as long as you don’t take advantage, are willing to help anywhere from your LYS to Ravelry.

    3. I found my skills increased greatly when I subscribed to Knitcrate (knitcrate.com). Getting a package with everything I needed (except the needles but they sell those too) to knit something helped me to learn why certain yarns go with certain projects and has allowed me to knit with new fibers I might not have otherwise tried (and has made me brave enough to try some new techinques). That little service is the best investment in my knitting I’ve made.

    4. There are some people who believe very strongly in rules. They will tell you that you don’t carry your yarn right, shouldn’t use a certain technique, etc. They typically mean well and you might learn something really valuable by listening. In the end, however, the only rules are the ones you set for yourself. As long as things turn out the way you’d hoped and you have fun, all is right with the world.

  19. Do not start with garter stitch scarf. It is boring, it takes a long time to make adult-sized scarf, and I don’t know of anyone who actually wore their first scarf. Make a coaster or cup warmer (sitch up the side) and then move onto a hat or handwarmers or something what is interesting to you. Garter stitch scarf is the worst start-off point. My first project after a potholder was socks.

    The other bit of advice is kind of obvious but lots of people don’t seem to realize it. Take your knitting with you. Stick it in the purse and knit in public. I can’t count how many people have told me they wish they had time to knit. It always happens in the park, where they just sit and I sit and knit (while watching my kid on the playground) or on the bus or in a waiting room. Hello! This is prime knitting time and you DO have time! I’d say around 80% of my knitting is done out of the house.

  20. I love this post! My advice:

    1. Be patient. It takes time to get a good rhythm going, and it takes time to feel like you even know what’s up. but eventually you’ll get there! Even when I’m trying new stitches (and I’ve been knitting for years) I still have that “is this even going to look like what it’s supposed to look like??” moment – sometimes you just have to follow the directions, let it happen for a few rows, and it’ll turn out! :)

    2. Do what works for you – even if it looks goofy. When I first learned to knit, I would put one needle between my knees (while sitting down) and would work the yarn and the other needle around that one stationary needle because I couldn’t handle the yarn plus holding TWO needles up in the air. But I learned, and it worked! And now I can handle holding everything, haha.

    3. Make a swatch. I never do this and it’s because so far I have gotten away with it but I really wish I would have gotten in the habit early enough for it to be second-nature. Now I’m just lazy.

  21. karen you’re so accomplished for knitting just two years!

    my best advice is to find a mentor, a knitting guru. i’ve never had one, but always thought it would be the greatest thing, so i’ve tried to be one. i learned to knit at age six from my swedish grandmother, only the basics (she passed when i was young), but knew i would someday want to make the things she did.

    i teach beginning knitting for adults and children. encouraged are wood or bamboo straight needles, ten inches in length, and beautiful natural wool in a medium shade (dark or white is more difficult to see). we learn slipknots, casting on (knitted cast on is best in the beginning) and understanding how a knit stitch is oriented, the way the leg of the stitch lays, and after a few rows, we learn what i think is the most important thing to know in the beginning:

    how to pull the stitches off the needles (unraveling a few rows if necessary to fix a wayward stitch) and how to put the stitches back on the needle. i learned the importance of this from my second knitting teacher (40 years after my grandmother) at the fashion institute of technology (FIT) in NYC. when i went to become a certified knitting instructor. our teacher said students would be horrified when told they must pull off their knitting. and it’s always true. but it’s the one thing that new knitters are commonly fearful of, how to fix mistakes and or what to do when stitches come off. there is an easy trick, and i wish i could show. when a new knitter has learned this, confidence comes next. it is really just yarn.

    i don’t teach a specific way to hold knitting needles, or that english vs continental is a ‘better’ way. i learned to knit the english way (throwing) and it works fine for me. if a person wants to learn to pick (continental) i would show them, but really, style of knitting is personal and each knitter will find their own. i learned from a knitter i’ve met and admire, kaffe fassett, that there really are no rules. he is charming and humble and says there is no right or wrong, just knit!

    p.s. the trick to putting live stitches back on the needles is: unravel to the row where you’d like to begin knitting again. at the start of the row hold your needle in one hand, the working yarn in the other (assuming the right hand is holding the needle, left the yarn) and gently pull on the yarn freeing the first stitch, which you will pick up with your needle. what you are doing is actually unraveling another row, but essentially the only ‘live’ stitch is the next one you are going to unravel and immediately pick up. beginning knitters, be brave, but mostly, have fun.

  22. Read some of these comments and the one about a ‘lifeline’ I have no idea what that is so I would want to hear about this. Have been knitting since Feb and love it! :)

    • Hi, Elizabeth. A lifeline is used a lot in lace knitting but is also really useful when you’re a beginner or you’re trying a new skill, or any time you think you might need to rip something out and don’t want to have rip ALL of it out.

      Basically, as you work your way up your garment (or whatever it is) when you’ve completed a good error-free chunk and are headed maybe into a more complicated part of the project (or you’re making modifications and aren’t sure how it will go, etc), you sort of wall off that good work. You thread a piece of smooth cotton yarn — or a lot of people use dental floss — onto your tapestry needle and thread it through your live stitches, being extremely careful not to split your yarn with your tapestry needle. Run it through your whole row or round of stitches (making sure it’s long enough for your stitches to spread out comfortably along it if needed) and then either let the long ends hang or tie them in a loose knot. Then keep knitting.

      You want the lifeline to sit against the previous row of stitches, so below your needle, and when you work across that next row of live stitches with the lifeline running through them, stick your needle into each stitch above the lifeline, so you’re only knitting the stitch, not the lifeline. (That should make sense when you’re doing it.) As you keep knitting, the lifeline will just be waiting there for you in the row you placed it in. Then if you make a mistake further into the project and need to rip it out, you can safely rip back to that lifeline and it will hold those stitches safely open for you, so you can place them back on your needle and start again from that point.

      When you’re finished, you just pull the end of the lifeline to remove it (as long as you didn’t split the yarn when placing it). And that’s why you want to use a smooth cotton yarn and not wool — you don’t want it leaving fibers behind when you pull it out.

  23. an excellent list of suggestions, especially re: gauge IMO. So many people seem to want to skip this step, it’s not worth the agro later. thanks for sharing this info, I’m sure it will help a lot of newbie knitters in particular. ;)

  24. Great post!! Two things, one of which you included on your list, I find myself telling knitters over and over:
    1) Swatch, and make it big. Get into the habit early. Every pattern, especially garments, is built entirely on gauge and the particular yarn it’s written for. So getting gauge, and finding the right yarn for the project is key. But, it’s not just to get gauge; it’s to familiarize yourself with the yarn, how it behaves, how it will behave after blocking and will give you the opportunity to practice a stitch pattern which may be tricky or difficult.
    2) Learn the construction of knitting. It is essential in learning how to fix a mistake. Once you understand the construction of the stitches you’re creating, you can fix any mistake and most likely come up with the fastest, easiest and best way for you to do it. I’ve come across too many knitters who come up against a mistake they’ve made and never end up finishing the project. It could be as easy as picking up a stitch, or ripping back a few rows. But, a knitter should never fear fixing their mistakes. It’s part, if not the biggest part, of knitting.

  25. I have taught a few people to knit, and after practicing garter and then rib over and over until they have it down, I then put them through a mistake “boot camp” where I have them study their knitting and show them common mistakes and then how to fix it. They then practice fixing mistakes, undoing stitches, ripping back rows and picking them back up, what it looks like when you accidentally do a YO, etc, so they can feel confident to fix things when someone isn’t there to help them. It’s what I wish I had learned sooner when I first started knitting rather than having my mom fix all my mistakes when they happened.

  26. I thought of one more thing that has made ripping back much easier (Lori’s above p.s. had me think of it.) When you get to the final row to unravel, I take a deep breath and I use a much smaller size needle to pick up the “live” stitches – one at a time as Lori said. Its so much easier to pick them up with the thinner needle! I’ve never seen this mentioned. And not to worry that it will affect your gauge because when you go to reknit, you’ll use the same needle you’ve been using for the project. I’ve saved myself a ton of frustration. (I rip out a lot.)

  27. I always tell new knitters that if you can knit and you can purl there is NOTHING you can’t knit. It’s all knitting and purling and some variation of the two.

    Also, never ever be afraid to rip. The worst thing that can happen is you have to start over. And all that means is that you get to knit more, which presumably you love anyway.

    I completely agree with the swatching advice. My most successful garments have worked because I have immersed myself in the pattern and stitch pattern and crunched the numbers before ever officially casting on.

    One last thing. If you plan to knit garments, take the time to learn quality finishing techniques. That includes casting on in an appropriate manner for the pattern. Quality finishing makes all the difference in the final product.

    Thanks for your post!

  28. I thought of something I wanted to add, and that is, make friends with a crochet hook. Even if you don’t become an avid hooker, the hook itself, and a few basic crochet skills, will become an indispensable asset to your knitting.

  29. I have been reading and nodding my head along with most of these – what a great idea for a post! :)

    For many years I picked up knitting and then put it down again (before finally plunging headfirst about two years ago like yourself, Karen). These were the things I wish I had known back then:

    1. YouTube is your friend.
    2. Stay away from scarves. Even experienced knitters have a hard time working row after row of boring ‘ol seed stitch or garter.
    2. Learn to read a pattern and what all those abbreviations mean – again, YouTube is a great help for this.
    3. Learn to fix basic mistakes, such as picking up dropped stitches or ‘tinking’.
    4. Learn to knit in the round using the magic loop method – it will save you both time and money. You really won’t need to buy a new set of needles for every project, just use some 36″ or 40″ circulars and embrace magic loop. :)
    5. Commit to a project – the only way you will truly learn and get better is to actually be committed to working on it.

  30. **Knit with (really) good yarn.** It makes a world of difference. Start with something simple that you will wear and take your time. Enjoy it…you are creative something with sticks & strings – that’s amazing! Videos are great but a live (patient, talented) person is the best. Seek out help from your LYS and have fun! (I know I’m just repeating what’s already been said but I felt compelled to chime in.)

  31. Knowing how to compromise. I’ve been knitting for about a month now and with my current financial difficulties I cannot afford any type of good yarn at the moment. I used what I currently have in my stash to start a seed stitch scarf for my daughter and quickly realized that the yarn I had was not the right yarn for the stitch. So I changed it up. Now I am making a garter stitch scarf instead. Why frustrate myself when I can still make a great looking scarf. Plus, my daughter is 2 so all she is currently worried about is the color!

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  34. Here’s my advice: try and keep a knitting journal/notebook! I’m not very organized, and it’s taken me a while to get in the habit of writing in my journal, but it’s already proved invaluable. Previously I wrote notes on the patterns or scraps of paper, and then promptly became confused about where I had placed the all-important details about how many rows I had completed for Part A for the first sleeve, or what the gauge was for the sock yarn I had knitted up and then taken apart but now wanted to reuse, or what pattern used the nifty trick for buttonholes… my list could keep going. It makes more complicated projects simpler and helps you grow as a knitter.

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  36. To the two commenters re: lifelines…Thank you! This makes me feel a whole heck of a lot safer trying something new (and not having to completely restart =)

  37. One more recommendation. Bring along one of those cheap, small calculators that is powered by light. (Batteries die at the worst moments.) Bring along a little pad of paper and a pencil, or a notepad. Knitters keep so many numbers in our heads and it’s easy to get it wrong. Use the little machine, write down your calculations and eliminate a lot of errors.

  38. Holy Cow…I love it,I too (for some of you that mentioned picking the knit back up)just started knitting again in October .I am so determined this time,that my wrist hurt.I have reverted to conventional knitting ,I know the basic stitches and tear out and pick up,and some other stitches that I learned on youtube.I am avid crocheter so yarns not a issue,I thought swatching would be a breeze but,I guess its not .So much to learn,and I still struggle with holding my yarn ,switching it.I have no clue.I really need to get into a group,they are all about 2 hours away.So I’ll make a well worth trip.Thank you all for the advice .

  39. what do you think is a good first project? I took a class last week. I’m practicing and trying to figure out what I should knit. Thanks.

    • Hi, Leigh. Congratulations! It really depends on how much you learned in your class and how adventurous you are. If you can knit and purl, I’d suggest starting with a very basic hat, which will teach you several more building-block skills and and also get you quickly to your first finished object. You might want to check out the Beginning to Knit page: http://fringeassociation.com/beginning-to-knit/

  40. This was super helpful! I’ve been crocheting for years and recently picked up knitting… as of 4 days ago! I had a set of needles that my mom had given me about 2 years ago and never got into it. I found them while unpacking and thought it would be worth another try and surprise… I LOVE IT!
    What style do you use mainly and how did you decide? I’ve learned that continental seems to be my thing but the videos I’ve watched show that it’s really up to you on how you hold the yarn. Do you agree?

  41. Good yarns don’t have to be expensive…touch and hold them to see if you like the way they feel. Also gently roll a strand between your fingers to see if the ply is good. If it isn’t it’s likely to split while you knit. If there is a swatch already knitted, feel that to see if you like it.
    This is where a local yarn shop comes in handy. If it’s a good shop they will carry a variety of yarns at a cost that is not prohibitive to new knitters or those on tight budget. They will also have staff and customers who will be more than happy to help you with choices and give you tips and opinions .
    As a counter-point, not all expensive yarns are good yarns. I recall buying an incredibly expensive yarn because I fell on love with the way it looked. I hated working with it; it was scratchy, had no give and resulted in a stiff prickly fabric that I couldn’t bear to have touching my skin.

  42. This is all great advice.
    I found stretchy yarn made my knitting too tight to work with. Nylon or wood needles work best.

    Are you left handed? I am so learning from a book was horrible. No internet back then. I taught myself to knit back and fourth (like with entralac) never turning my work. With stockinet stitch facing you it is like knitting in both directions. Only difference is you work in the back of the loop going left to right. If you turned it around it would be a purl row. I find this method makes for very fast knitting.

  43. I’d like to chime in and say also that don’t just be inspired by your yarn, be inspired by what you’re knitting, try to embrace or at least accept the imperfect when you’re starting out and don’t be afraid to experiment different ways to do things, even if you’re in the middle of a project. I tried and failed to learn to knit about a dozen times because even though I knew I could learn if I tried hard enough, I just wasn’t inspired by perfect looking socks and scarves to make the time and effort it takes to knit worthwhile. So every stitch would feel like an eternity of tedium and I’d just give up. Until I was inspired by designers making the style of knitting I love the look of; raggedy destroyed spider webby black knits a la Rei Kawakubo, Angela of Morphknitwear and Maude Nibelungen and realised that this was a perfect way to learn how to knit because as a beginner I didn’t even have to try and emulate this style, I naturally knit like a spider on PCP!
    So instead of knitting yet another scarf as my first FO, I knitted two large rectangles, not caring about the dropped stitches, extra yarnovers etc. which allowed me to learn tension and the anatomy of the stitch without fear of making it look perfect. I made myself a boxy tee, then a drape hooded Morphknitwear cardigan, both garments which I love and wear all the time and that even garner me compliments from strangers.
    Only then did I start projects in which I tried to perfect my tension but I still wasn’t afraid to experiment, which eg allowed me to discover that my knitting looks like a mess when I knit English style but my stitches look even when I knit continental (even though I now have a shrug/cardigan half of which looks like a 2 year old knit it and the other half looks like a smooth even fabric!). And because I’m inspired by what I make I’ve come full circle and LOVE stockinette when most knitters moan at having to do it. It’s amazing what you can learn when you allow yourself to love what you’re doing and give yourself the freedom to learn it without fear of failure.

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