Get Started Knitting: What You’ll Need


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?

Acrylic Yarn

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.

Wool Yarn

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.

Cotton Yarn

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?

48 thoughts on “Get Started Knitting: What You’ll Need

  1. I totally agree with the circular needles, too! It also keeps your knitted work in your lap instead of having the weight all out on one side, and you don’t have to worry about scrunching all of your stitches on one needle. I also really like bamboo – it has a little give to it unlike metal and is easier to work in if you find you’ve got tighter stitches. Great post! Good luck to you new knitters out there!

  2. I’m mainly a crocheter, but my mom and grandmother showed me some basics of knitting. For a newbie starting out, the main thing is be patient with yourself! Take your time, and have fun with it. Eventually I’d like to master knitting as well, but right now I’m still in love with my hooks. I do have several sets of knitting needles.. I guess it’s never too early to prepare. 🙂

  3. Awesome. I can do the basics, but I’m rusty. Really looking forward to your next post. Thanks for explaining the yarns. I never know what to use! Reposting to my page.

  4. I would add that you should pick a really simple skills-building project. Perhaps one where it doesn’t matter if you drop a stitch or make other mistakes…like a cotton dish cloth. Cause who cares what a dish cloth looks like as long as it can scrub 🙂

  5. Hi, and thank you for liking one of my latest posts. I’m quite new at the blogging thing, but I really enjoy it, so I try to improuve every day. I have a passion for clothes, colors, textures, art in general, and knitting is something I really should learn!
    I bet you already know “wool and the gang”, it’s great, check the website if you have never seen it, it’s interesting if you love knitting…
    I’ll be here taking a look every day for sure!
    See you, and thanks for your blog!

  6. Aw man. I hate circulars but I’m forming a relationship with them for sure. My suggestion is grab some 13 size needles some heavy weighted yarn like bulky or super bulky and make a seam up cowl. It gives you that nice instant gratification feeling and you have a project done. Also this way you can practice what ever stitch you want knit or purl or alternating, making a rib k2, p2 or what ever combination. My dear friend Margot who is in her sixties taught be at the beginning of December and now that I have the confidence and know I can finish a project I’m starting on smaller needles and thinner yarn. Good luck newbies and great post Ana!

  7. I taught myself to knit from Maggie Righetti’s book, “Knitting in Plain English”. Her explanations, illustrations and humor were the best! I still use it as a reference when I haven’t knitted for a while and need to look up what that stitch is that I’ve forgotten how to do. I need to get back to knitting!

  8. When I started knitting I made lots of hats in the round. I didn’t have to purl, and it was quick work. It’s very nice to have a sense of accomplishment so fast!

  9. I am the endless knitter of scarves… just scarves. Can’t get past a scarf. Let me just add, they aren’t all the straight either lol! I will definitely be following your knitting posts – time to expand the wonky scarf that looks like it belongs on Dr. Seuss 🙂 Thanks!

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  11. Madeline Tosh is simply lovely!
    I would recommend also Berrocco Vintage or Cascade 220 superwash – a gorgeous amount of colors, worsted weight, soft (the former is deliciously soft and springy), and easy to care for. I make a lot of kid stuff out of these yarns because of that. Also, they are fairly inexpensive (I think around $8-13/ball depending where you get it). One skein is enough for a lovely scarf!

  12. Love this! I was a reluctant learner and now love knitting. Going to share this on my FB because I’ve had alot of people ask to learn and I think this is a great intro. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series! 🙂

  13. A good tip about circular needles. I find it so stressful on my hands to have all the weight of the knitting on one needle so I may try that. Thanks 🙂 I have started using bamboo needles as they have been recommended to me by other knitters for hand strains. I am not sure how much difference they make but I prefer the feel of them to metal pins. 🙂

  14. I’m a self-taught knitter too and my first project was a scarf. But before I even got the courage to start knitting that, it was plenty of practice with knitting squares. It’s a great way to get a grip on the knits and purls, and also getting used to the feel of the yarn and needles in your hands. Knitting books always mention about correcting mistakes but never tell you to practice doing so. I do recommend beginner knitters to do that as it’s an invaluable skill to have! I didn’t think about it when I started out so when I was on a my 2nd project (a baby blanket and essentially a giant square), I was on a steep learning curve on undoing the stitches I just put onto my needles; it was that or unravel the entire thing when I was already part way. It may be daunting and painful, but once you’re past that most things just become second nature =)

  15. What a great idea to have a knitting “class”! My mom taught me to knit years ago and we both still love it. This year we started knitting projects together, and just selecting different yarns. She lives a couple hours away so it is great that we can talk about our progress and then when I visit, I usually bring my knitting and we can see and compare. If you don’t mind, I would like to link to your class in my next blog post!

  16. I’m just learning to knit and found this to be very helpful, thanks! You might want to check out the post I wrote about a knitting shop in Ljubljana, Slovenia called Niti Niti – I think you’d like it.

  17. How I started to knit.

    Bought some yarn and needles from a non-craft shop (the only size and some horrid acrylic).

    Bought The Lord of the Rings extended boxset.

    Watched youtube ‘how to cast on’ and ‘how to knit’

    Proceeded to watch all three movies and by the end of it had a decent size but very irregular garter stitch scarf.

    The rest (as they say) is history.

  18. Be kind to yourself – and know you can learn as much from ripping out the work as creating it. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the outcome. That beautiful knitted object will happen one day. I am self-taught.

  19. Hi Anastasia!
    Thank you for liking the Ayurveda tea recipe! I actually recognize myself a little in your relationship to knitting: when I was 15 I asked my grandma to teach me how to knit socks. In the beginning it was fun but when I got around to the heels, I handed the work over to her. Then I took up knitting again at 23, teaching myself how to knit socks (thanks, internet!). This time I followed through. Not too much into knitting right now but maybe your blog will inspire me!? Nice pictures, btw.
    PS: I just realized I am wearing the socks my grandma then finished for me as I am writing this …

  20. I am thrilled you are teaching us how to knit! The last time I tried knitting was in 6th grade. I was inspired by my mom. She enjoyed knitting. I would love to knit little sweaters and dresses for my daughter. Thank you again. I will stop back for more lessons for sure.

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  22. I taught myself to knit 20 years ago (just the basics) and made some baby booties just because I wanted to do something small that I would finish. I was in my early 20’s and found nice yarn so expensive so I stopped. I apparently even got rid of all my knitting supplies that I had but I would love to pick it up again. I’m going to have to remember this post for when I decide to dive back into it.

  23. Like many of your commenters I’m a big fan of knitting on circulars – much easier to bundle it all up into my bag, and I can knit on the bus or the train without stabbing people – always a plus. I love the colours you’ve used in your photo.

  24. I plan on starting to knit and I wanted to search the web for the “ground rules”… now I know it all – thanks to you.

  25. Hi Anastasia, thank you sharing this post with us. I have been wanting to learn to knit for some time now. I will definitely be giving this post a much thorough read this week & hopefully begin knitting soon! Happy knitting!

  26. Circular needles all the way. I wish someone had taught me this when I was starting out – I would have saved a lot of money on normal needles which are sitting in a cupboard never used now! Good luck to all the knitters starting out – you’re going to love it!

  27. I learned to crochet from my granny when I was just a little girl. My mom always knit, but didn’t like to crochet. I finally bought needles and attempted knitting a few years ago, but failed miserably. I was talking to a new friend at a craft show last weekend about it and she said I was probably using too tight of tension. So I may just try again one of these days. One of my best friends knits very well, so maybe she will give me pointers.

    • Knitting too tightly is a very common issue with beginners. In the start, I always tried to strangle my needles, it seems, with the stitches. It took a while for me to relax and realize that the stitches would stay on when they were just hugging the needles, and that I didn’t need to tighten down nearly as much. It also makes for much easier knitting.

      Good luck!

  28. I love knitting even though I’m awful at it. One of the most important things for every beginner is a knitter friend who can rescue your project when it all goes wrong.

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  30. I’ve been crocheting since I was a kid, but have never picked up knitting needles before. Lately, I’ve been considering it because I came across this absolutely gorgeous jacket, but it’s a knitted pattern instead of crochet. I would totally learn to knit JUST to be able to make this jacket. So thank you for your wonderful class/series; as soon as I’m ready to begin, I’ll be right back here to learn how.

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