I have rarely come across knitting handbooks that describe how to actually start knitting, other than describing casting on, the basic stitches, and binding off. In this post, I want to provide some suggestions for beginning to knit.
How To Start Knitting:
Knitting requires yarn and needles. Before you start any “real” projects, practice by making a square (swatch). My suggestion is to buy a ball or two of inexpensive, smooth, medium weight yarn, and either 4.0, 4.5, or 5.0mm needles. Do not choose textured yarns like mohair, boucle, or chenille; these are difficult to work with as a beginner. Cotton is not the best choice either, because it is not flexible or stretchy making it harder to work with. Make sure you also have a tape measure, scissors, and knitters (tapestry) sewing needles (these needles have blunt tips; don’t use regular sewing needles). With your first ball of yarn cast on 20 to 30 stitches and knit rows until you finish the ball, leaving a long piece of yarn to cast off with. You can practice different pattern stitches with this swatch, or make a few different squares. Mistakes will be made, but don’t take apart your knitting each time you do. Recognize the error, and I guarantee as you practice you will notice improvement. Refer to my beginner tutorials on YouTube.
Manipulating the needles causes frustration for many beginners. Some instructors recommend short needles; I feel standard needles (14″/35cm) are better because they provide stability by tucking them in the side of the body below the armpit (not in your armpit). I don’t want to discourage you from ever trying short needles, as they are useful for small projects. Using bamboo, wood, and plastic needles may be helpful; they are not as slippery as metal, allowing control in making stitches.
Choosing Your First Project
Information and pattern sources are widely available. Since knitting has made a revival as a social activity, there are many knitting groups locally and online, providing information, feedback, projects, and ideas.
Other sources include the variety of women’s magazines, and specialized magazines, such as Interweave Knits, and Vogue Knitting. Craft and yarn stores often have private label patterns, in addition to the yarn manufacturers pattern books and magazines. Libraries also have pattern books and magazines.
Just as there are many excellent patterns online, there are many poorly written pattern instructions. Some certainly have the experienced knitter shaking their head. The problem with the internet is that any Joe can place pattern instructions online; often unedited. The pattern worked for the writer, but is not readable by the knitting audience. I have come across many online pattern errors causing problems for the inexperienced knitter. If you are looking for beginner projects online, stick to sites that edit patterns and have pattern writing standards such as http://www.vogueknitting.com and http://www.knitty.com.
The most common first project is a scarf. Other simple projects to consider include baby blankets, placemats, pillow covers, or any straight, flat piece of knitting. Most beginners ask the inevitable question “How much yarn do I need?”. Yarn quantities depend on the thickness of the yarn, needle size, and the pattern stitches used. As more knitting experience is gained, answering this question becomes easier. At first rely on the purchased pattern instructions, and the help from your local yarn store.
I hope these few suggestions will help you in starting your knitting journey.