Knitting 101: Knitting for Beginners
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Are you learning how to knit? As a crochet addict and yarn enthusiast myself, I have begun to dabble in the world of knitting. While it can feel scandalous to cheat on your crochet, when you learn to knit you’re opening up a while new world of fiber possibilities! I have asked my knitting pro sister, Meadow, to step in and help us learn how to knit. Thanks for guest posting, Meadow!
Many people who play with yarn got into the hobby through one of a handful of yarn-manipulation methods: crochet, macramé, friendship bracelets, or knitting. Some people stick to one style of working with yarn while others will attempt to put knots in just about anything and call it crafted (this sounds like the tons of cables behind my entertainment center…they are knotted and a mess, that’s for sure).
I learned knitting first but quickly threw in crochet so it is fair to say I learned them at the same time. I like the versatility of being able to do both. Learning them at the same time allowed me to understand the mechanics of looping yarn into something tangible.
Whether you are a long-time crochet addict who’s always wanted to learn to knit, or someone who tried knitting as a child but haven’t picked up needles since, I encourage you to give this a whirl! Below are some tips for beginners, some suggestions for knitting accoutrements to buy and some to save for later, and a simple project using only the knit stitch that turns out looking way fancier than it is!
What Do I Need to Learn Knitting?
Beginners should start with a standard yarn. Too many other variables will be at play when you’re learning that I suggest sticking with a wool or acrylic yarn in a worsted (medium) weight like this. I know that specialty yarn with the fuzz or loops looks fun…and you’ll get there. But, until you feel comfortable with the motions, counting stitches, understanding stitch structure, etc., stick with an all-purpose yarn. Thankfully, the options of yarn suitable for learning to knit are plentiful!
Great examples of worsted weight yarn:
Red Heart Super Saver
Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice
Impeccable by Loops & Threads (Michaels)
Big Twist (Joann)
I Love This Yarn (Hobby Lobby)
A standard yarn will also be good for a wide variety of projects. Matching the characteristics of a yarn to the project underway will ensure that your baby blanket isn’t too scratchy, the washcloth holds up to repeated uses, or the piece of clothing drapes well. Cottons are great for utilitarian projects used around the house, soft worsteds make cushy baby blankets and comfortable gauntlets or scarves, wools … I don’t really care for wool, to be honest. Love me some sheep, but I think wool is scratchy no matter what. Sorry 😀 Just me. Whatever project you decide to start with, pair a yarn that will be suitable to the use.
Solid colors are nice to start with because it’ll make things easier when it comes to counting stitches or seeing the different components of each stitch (front bar, back bar, purl loop, etc). If you’ve got your eye on a variegated or self-striping yarn instead, go ahead! It can be really satisfying (addicting?!) to watch the colors change.
Bottom line is to choose something easy to work with, appropriate to the project, and something you like looking at (if I’m uninspired by a yarn I am unlikely to finish that project – sad but true for me!).
These are an obvious necessity to knit (unless you want to try finger knitting or arm knitting!). But, given the plethora of options when choosing a pair of knitting needles, we should chat about it.
Most needles are aluminum, although bamboo and other hardwoods are quite popular as well. If I’m working with a standard yarn (worsted acrylics, for example) I prefer the glide and lightweight feel of aluminum needles. I also like the point of aluminum needles (rounded pointy…I know that doesn’t exactly make sense but that is what they are, and they make for great starter needles). If the yarn itself is slippery, something like mercerized cottons, blends with tencel, silks, etc., I might consider using wooden needles. The grain of the wood, even though it will be sanded smooth, will grab the yarn a little better and keep it from sliding around unnecessarily. However, I’ve found wooden needles to have blunt tips which can be hard to use when you’re learning to pick stitches from a needle.
Most needles are 14” long. Depending on your project, you may want to consider the 10” size for starters. These are great for washcloths, scarves, gauntlets, headbands, or other small projects. The longer needles can feel awkward when half of the needle is empty and keeps whacking you in the side or leg as you work. Smaller projects have a better chance of getting finished, too, which can go a long way towards you continuing your knitting journey rather than giving it up for 15 years and coming back to it in your 30s (no judgements, just seen it happen a lot, ha!).
Truly, yarn and needles are all you need to get started! Below I’ll talk about some additional materials you may want to consider using, and ones you could probably do without for a while.
Most Used Knitting Accessories
Stitch markers – a loose category for anything that keeps your place and saves you from counting and recounting (there really isn’t any getting out of counting a lot but these will save a few passes, at least).
Standard stitch markers range from 6-12 mm in diameter and come as metal or plastic circles. They vary widely but new knitters should look for ones that won’t snag the yarn (rough plastic may do this, as might a split-ring design). The size should be big enough to allow you to easily pick the hoop and flick it from the left to right needle (1.5-2 times as big as the needle works well). You’ll be moving the marker on every row so make it a smooth motion by using an appropriate size. If you have jewelry supplies on hand, you might take an afternoon to make your own stitch markers using O-rings and beads. They are very cheap, customizable, and beautiful! I have made lots of stitch markers for myself and as gifts for fellow knitters. Know though, that fine yarns may snag at the o-ring join so make sure it is really flush together or use a yarn less likely to catch.
Obvious places to use stitch markers are when knitting in the round with a circular needle. Marking the beginning/end of a circle is essential when working in the round. I’d never knit in the round without one! Knitting in the round isn’t any harder than knitting flat and it’s great for mastering the knit stitch. Don’t let the join or needing a stitch marker stop you!
Stitch markers are also useful to mark the middle of flat piece, to divide sections that will become the sleeves and back of a sweater, or to create visual ques that a pattern repeat is starting (a cable, a decrease/increase section, or just a different stitch).
Other uses for stitch markers
But, one of the most ingenious uses for stitch markers is to save yourself from counting when you’re casting on a large number of stitches. Depending on the number I’m shooting for, I evenly divide the total stitches and count in manageable sections – 20 to 25 stitches works great. That range is doable without getting interrupted (“come ON, cat!”), losing count (“stop counting out loud while I’m counting!”), and easy to repeat if needed (because you will lose count, the cat or dog will jump on your lap, and someone in your household will suddenly have to math out loud even when that never happens any other time). When casting on lots of stitches you ARE going to count it more than once. Every single time I’ve casted on more than ~20 stitches I’ve had to count it multiple times. Don’t think you’re getting out of it completely! But, seeing 8 segments of 20 is a much faster way to count to 160 stitches than counting each stitch one at a time (again, ha!).
Stitch markers are so useful that I have been creative with stitch markers when I don’t have actual markers handy. Paperclips, twist ties, keyrings, a loop of yarn (use a different color or you’ll be sad!), and even folded bits of paper pierced in the middle by the needle (I do-not-recommend-this-unless-you-absolutely-have-to!), have all been objects that allowed me to continue knitting when I didn’t have a real stitch marker close.
Needle stoppers cap the end of the needles and keep the project from sliding off. Good ones are rubber or silicone and at least double the size of your needle. Cute ones can be had, of course, but they tend to be made of a smoother and tougher plastic material. I like the reliability of the rubber ones that look like blue earplugs.
Like stitch markers, I’ve been creative with needle stoppers when in a pinch. I’ve been known to wind a rubber band a gazillion times around the needle to create a ball that the yarn cannot slip pass.
If your project isn’t that wide, just slide it down to the end (make sure it’s not going to slip off that side, though!) and you probably won’t need a needle stopper. In this scenario I like to skewer the ball/skein of yarn with the needle holding the project, and stick the free needle in there, too. This keeps the project together and helps keep your project securely on the needle.
Something to cut yarn with is essential. Notice I didn’t say scissors, though. My go-to yarn-cutting device is a pair of fingernail clippers. They are compact and ubiquitous (except when you actually need to trim your nails). Small scissors are of course good too, though they need to be stored in something (a scabbard or small knitting accessory bag). I was gifted a beautiful pair of embroidery scissors in the shape of a peacock. And many other gorgeous options exist. But in the end, if you just need to cut the yarn, clippers will do the trick.
Weaving in ends
Yarn needles or a crochet hook are useful for finishing projects. Yarn ends can be managed pretty well at the cast-on edge (it can easily be tucked into the base of the first row) but at both ends of the yarn there will be a loose end to weave in. How to do so varies a lot but all of them will use a yarn needle or crochet hook.
Now that you know what you do and do not need, head over to my friend Marly Bird’s beginner knitting tutorials!
Give knitting a whirl, and stay tuned for a beginner knitting project!
More knitting tips:
4 Things You DON’T Need When Learning to Knit
Russian Join Tutorial for Crochet and Knitting
Yarn Hacks Every Crocheter and Knitter Needs to Know
Are you learning how to knit? While it can feel scandalous to cheat on crochet, when you learn knitting you’re opening up a world of fiber possibilities!