Typically, I reserve this blog for talking about my life, topics about yoga and health, and of course, my knitting, but for some reason, I feel compelled to write about knitting for beginners. I have a few people in my life that either want to learn to knit, or have just learned, and I know how overwhelming it can be to look at projects (especially in Ravelry), you think to yourself “I will never be able to do that” and you feel like giving up.
The pressure for first projects to be things like scarves and “no-project” projects can make people turn up their noses too. I mean really, do we want to scare off new knitters with miles and miles of the knit stitch? We experienced knitters complain about project boredom all the time, and yet we sick it on first-timers? Something in that does not seem right to me.
I have been of the opinion for a very long time that there are two very important things to do when teaching people to knit for the first time. The first, is that you don’t cast on for them, teach them a cast-on method that will actually help them in learning how to do the knit stitch. It’s called Knitting On and if you click on the link, scroll down to the cast on method that says “Knitting On” and you will be able to bring up a Continental and English video of this cast on. Before the new knitter even begins to knit, they have essentially learned how to knit, they just haven’t slipped the stitch off at the end, they’ve carried it on top of the stitch they just knit.
The second tip that I give new knitters is not to knit a scarf or a “non-project” as their first project or even practice piece. Knit a dishcloth. Think about it; the yarn is cheap, there are countless patterns to choose from for free online, they can be as simple as garter stitch or stockinette stitch, or as complex as roped and braided cables and intricate lace. AND, at the end, they have a functional, useful project that they can use, show off, give away, etc. They are easy to care for (throw them in the washer and dryer), and if they look like crap, who cares? You will be scrubbing your greasy pots with them.
Once your beginner knitter has mastered dishcloths (and consequently the knit and purl stitch), it’s time to learn how to knit in the round. And what better way than with a hat that’s only stitches are cast on, knit, purl, and k2tog?
If your knitter is doing very well and learning quickly, perhaps you will teach them the Long-Tail Cast On method so the brim will be nice and stretchy. You can teach them Magic Loop, or find a circular needle the right circumference to knit in a continuous circle, and you could teach them how to use DPN’s. A simple hat is a great learning experience, and at the end, again, a functional, useful project.
From there, I finally recommend the scarf. Get them comfortable with a smaller needle and yarn maybe, and teach them various decreases and increases, and practice working a simple lace pattern. If your knitter is comfortable, bright, and not afraid of a challenge, this may be the perfect time to introduce them to a simple chart.
When your knitter has finally graduated past working flat or semi-flat knitted projects, they may be eager to jump into the sweater category. Now, I caution new knitters on jumping into a sweater for themselves right away. They are large, time consuming, and the cost of doing one will scare many into making the mistake I did – using Red Heart cheap acrylic yarn, and consequently, not being able to wear it unless it was snowing outside. And the pattern I chose was SO simple, that the fit was ugly, and I didn’t even wear it in sub-zero temperatures. No, instead, I recommend a baby sweater. A new knitter can get accustomed to a few different styles of sweaters, such as top-down, pull overs in pieces, cardigans in pieces, and a variety of finishing techniques, as well as seaming, before they attempt something for themselves. And if they give you the “no babies to knit for” excuse, remind them that there are charities that take hand-knit sweaters happily. Right now, it’s experience they are going for, and if donated to a good cause, new knitters can feel a sense of giving back too.
From there, the possibilities are endless. Socks, lace, small shawls, and a myriad of other patterns await them. As I was knitting, I tried with every new pattern to learn a new technique, be it lace knitting on socks, or cables, or other things that were new to me. Now, I’ve got something like 70 patterns in Ravelry, and that doesn’t count all the patterns I’ve ever done. Many have never been added in, simply because I no longer have them in my possession, or photographs of them, and some because they were for people that I don’t care to name, and so I do not keep a record of them. My Ravelry projects list also does not keep a record of all the dishcloths I’ve done, which are many. My total list is probably will over a hundred now, and still growing.
One last piece of advice, is that if you are learning to knit, do your best to obtain these two books for your collection right away.
The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square – This book has a wealth of information, everything from various cast-ons, to a ruler and gauge measuring devise, as well as needle gauge on a card in the back. It’s spiral bound for easy laying out and reading, and there are a lot of helpful pictures.
The Knitting Answer Book – is amazing. It’s along the same lines as The Knitter’s Companion, but it’s smaller, more compact, and it’s written in plainer language than TKC, and I find a lot of the instructions easier to understand. This book, instead of just showing you various techniques, as the TKC does, it seeks to actually answer questions. If you find yourself facing a mistake in your knitting, especially on the go, I recommend this book more for problem-solving. Also, if space is an issue, it fits better into a purse or knitting bag.
Well, there you have it. Pick up those needles, cast something on, and get going! Be it as scarf, shawl, dishcloth, or leg-warmer, don’t stop knitting. Every project gives you something new to learn, and something new to experience. Don’t worry, you’ll be doing delicate, gossamer lace shawls soon. It just takes climbing the right steps to get there.