I’ve had a few friends ask me lately how best to get started knitting. I even had a woman come up to me in Hobby Lobby the other day in the yarn department and ask for help getting started knitting. My usual “Just do it” comment has left everyone I’ve spoken to wanting more details. As there may be some others out there who are interested in getting into knitting, I thought I’d do a mini-class/series on it.
So you want to learn to knit?
It may seem daunting at first, but relax. No one is expecting you to take on a lace knitting or cable pattern your first time out. Those are great projects to aspire to, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself yet. One step at a time.
In general, knitting involves two different stitches: the knit and purl. You get the complicated designs by manipulating these two stitches in a variety of ways. You may use decreases to create angles, cables to create gorgeous braids, or yarn-overs to create lacy designs. In the end, though, it’s just those two stitches. Isn’t that reassuring? Once you’ve mastered the knit and purl, you’re ready to take on anything!
What will you need?
The obvious answer here is needles and yarn, but I’m going to say start with a budget. A lot of people say this is an expensive craft to get into. That can be very true. It all depends on what you get. When starting out, you don’t need a full set of interchangeable circulars, though you may end up buying them later anyway (like I did, and I’ve never regretted it). You also don’t have to pick the most expensive yarn out there.
A good budget to start with is $20. That will easily get you some yarn and a set of needles, depending on what you buy.
I would recommend getting a size 6 and 8 (for conversions, check out Knitting Needle Sizes) circular needles at least 24 inches. While I knit with nickel plated needles, I do think wood or acrylic needles are the best for beginners (I learned on bamboo).
Wood needles (like bamboo) or acrylic/plastic ones have just the slightest grip to them that keeps the stitches in place until you’re ready to move them. If you want, go for interchangeable, as well. I love my set from Knit Picks, but my Boye circs are quite nice as well.
Why circulars? I use these whether I’m knitting flat or in the round. The appeal is that your stitches won’t just slide off if you have to pause in the middle of a round, which will happen, particularly in the big projects. You just pull your needles up and push the stitches down onto the cable. They’re relatively secure.
Interchangeable needles are great because you can get a couple of cable lengths and just switch out the needle tips for whatever size you need. That saves on getting a size 6 at 24 inches for one project, a size 6 at 48 inches for another project, etc. In the long run, it can save money.
As for the yarn, the most I’m really going to tell you is go for worsted. Go to a local yarn/craft store and touch everything worsted. (Best part!) Get a feel for what you like. I’d stay away from fancier, more expensive yarns just starting out, but the decision is ultimately yours. What appeals to you?
My first projects were all acrylic. I do hesitate about recommending Red Heart Supersaver, as it’s so rough on the hands (at least for me), but other lines in Red Heart are just fine, like Soft Yarn. Loops & Threads (Michaels) Impeccable is nice to work with and has great color options. I also really like Simply Soft. The name says it all with that one; it truly is simply soft. Hobby Lobby’s I Love This Yarn is super soft and squishy, as well. So if you’re drawn to acrylic, there are plenty of options.
You can go natural, though! Try some wool out. Merino is so very soft and easy to work with. My favorite merino comes from MadelineTosh, a company here in Texas. The colors are gorgeous (Edison Light Bulb, anyone?), but it can be a bit pricey. You can also try out Lion Brand’s Wool Yarn or Fishermen’s Wool. Fishermen’s Wool doesn’t necessarily feel soft to the touch on the skein, but it’s very nice knit up. I think it just needs to get worked a bit to let out it’s softness. I love it, particularly because the resulting stitch definition is wonderful.
How about cotton? I haven’t used much cotton. There is a stigma that knitting with cotton feels like knitting with rope. It can be a little tough on the hands, but like with any yarn, it all depends on what you choose. Lily Sugar n Cream’s cotton yarn comes in a variety of great colors (can you tell I’m a color girl? It’s the first thing I notice). I used this yarn for Rebecca Danger’s Chadwick the Shakespearean Caterpillar. I’ve also used Knit Picks’ Comfy Worsted Yarn, which is a blend of pima cotton and acrylic. It is very soft and relatively easy to work with.
These are by no means your only options with yarn. There’s also mohair, alpaca, silk, cashmere, hemp, soy, bamboo, viscose, and any combination of those that you can imagine. Even that list doesn’t represent all the different kinds of yarn out there.
Go out and get your needles and yarn! Next week I’ll talk about casting on and getting started on your first project. That’s right, straight into the fire! We’re going to start our first project next Thursday.
For the experienced knitters (or crocheters or other crafters!) out there, how did you get started on your craft? What other advice do you have for the beginners out there interested in starting knitting?