We were all beginners once. I’m sure we can all remember the old death grip on the needles, the dropped stitches and the pattern interpretations that ended up being hideously flawed. I’m only just coming into my third year of obsession with the string thing, so I thought I’d pause for a moment to reflect on the things I would tell myself back when I was a new knitter.
1 – Buy a nice yarn that you like to touch
Yes, it’s tempting to grab the cheapest yarn possible when embarking on a new venture so that minimal investment is lost. Seriously though, if you can’t stand to touch it, or if it is impossible to work with, then you won’t enjoy it. Period. One of the reasons it took me so long to learn properly is that the yarn I was trying to use had the tactile sensation of a plastic bag and was terribly splitty. But fret not, knitter of slender means, for there are budget yarns out there that are good to work with! I am also a knitter of limited budget, but I find that Stylecraft Special DK, Hayfield Bonus DK and Red Heart Lisa (or Bella) are pleasant to work with and come in a wide range of colours so you should find a colour you love!
2 – Buy decent needles
I started with a pair of Pony 4mm metal needles. They were heavy and cumbersome and I despised them. Then, I decided to buy one of those packs of 20 wooden needles for a tiny price. That wasn’t my finest hour because I’ve got both splinters and puncture injuries from them. This is a personal viewpoint, of course, but if you’re just learning then I would suggest paying a little more for needles that you find comfortable to use. There are a lot of needle types out there, but for an absolute beginner you will only need a pair of straight, single pointed needles. Take time to touch a few, if you can, to see what you like. If you fancy wood needles then Clover do a nice range of reasonably priced needles or, if you are happy spending a little bit more, KnitPro Symphonies are very attractive and durable. If you fall into the metal needle camp then I would suggest KnitPro Zing (review here) which are lovely to work with. I would avoid plastic needles if possible because they can be a little too sticky. As for size, 4mm is a great start if you’re in the UK, because a lot of our patterns call for Double Knitting yarn, which normally uses a 4mm needle. For length, I would recommend 25 or 30cm at first otherwise you may feel like you’re rowing a boat!
3 – Find a teacher
A live teacher is wonderful, because they can help you through any problems you have. If that’s just not an option, though, you can learn from books, websites and Youtube. I taught myself from a 25 year old book and got there in the end, but I was also fortunate enough to have a highly skilled knitter on hand to help me over the bumps. A local knitting group is a wonderful thing but if there isn’t one you can get to then Ravelry and Knitting Help are great places to go. Both of these websites are stuffed to the gills with extremely talented knitters who are usually more than willing to help you through any problems you encounter. With that said though, once you understand the basics, the best teacher by far is patience and practice. Go gently on yourself, you’ll get there in the end.
4 – It doesn’t have to be a scarf
The general consensus is that a new knitter’s first real project after they’ve got the basics should be a scarf, usually in garter stitch. That is a great start for many knitters, but it doesn’t have to be a scarf if you don’t want it to be! My first project was actually a hat, because that was the pattern I was in love with at the time. It was 18 months before I knitted a plain scarf and about 2 years before I did a garter stitch scarf. Go with what you are in love with as your love of the pattern will help you persist through the bumpy bits. One caveat though – be careful not to bite off more than you can chew! If the pattern is on Ravelry, take a look at the difficulty level and stick with something easy for now – give yourself a little space and you’ll be churning out complex wonders in no time!
5 – Don’t panic
Like many other things in life, knitting feels horribly awkward at first. Knitting projects can and do fail. Even the most experienced knitter has a few disasters, every now and then. If you see a mistake, don’t worry, it can usually be fixed. If the whole project needs ripping out, don’t worry, most yarn can be knitted right back up again. Things will go wrong, so show yourself a little kindness and try not to be too hard on yourself, remember, you are still a new knitter! Think of it this way: if I’ve knitted 10 rows of 20 stitches and there is one crooked stitch then that means 199/200 stitches were accurate. That isn’t a bad ratio. A final thought is to take your time. Like any extreme sport, knitting comes with special equipment, rules and jargon that you won’t necessarily understand at first and that’s OK. All you need right now, is your yarn, needles and a willingness to learn and you’ll be just fine.
What would you tell yourself if you could meet yourself as a new knitter (or any other crafts for that matter!). Please leave a comment and tell me your list, I’d love to hear them!