Welcome to my Introduction to Knitting!
I was first taught to knit by my Nana when I was a child, yet only quite recently (in my twenties) have I picked up my knitting needles again. I’ve always enjoyed crafts but have neglected this interest for years, so it’s definitely time to get back to it!
This time I was determined to get past the basics and progress towards techniques like double knitting and – my favourite – fair isle knitting. So, with the help of several books and many YouTube videos, I have learned lots of interesting new methods and am going to carry on learning for the foreseeable future.
Because I have found that a lot of instructions on the internet are not comprehensive enough, or they assume you already know the basics and don’t go through everything step-by-step, I have decided to make my own knitting series aimed at absolute beginners.
My experience with knitting is that it seems very daunting at first, and yes, my first few attempts didn’t go well and I ended up giving up and hiding my knitting needles for a few months (seriously!) All I can say to anyone who ends up doing the same thing is that once the concept of knitting ‘clicks’ in your brain it really does become a lot easier. It can look extremely complicated and be off-putting to beginners but the most important thing is to persevere. Knitting really is quite a simple concept, honestly!
To prevent becoming demotivated, don’t try and run before you can walk. Start with the basics and get them right before moving on to more adventurous techniques, and don’t start a project which is too complicated for you or will take forever to finish. Trust me when I say that everyone learning to knit gets frustrated and can’t understand why they are unable to do something (especially when it looks so simple when done by an expert!) If you start feeling like this, put the knitting away, breathe, and carry on another time.
It will be so worth it when you have mastered the skill and can create something amazing from scratch.
Which Needles For A Beginner?
I would suggest that you purchase one set of straight (single-pointed) needles and one set of circular needles to start with. I found circular needles a little intimidating at first because I’d only actually seen people knitting with straight needles before, but don’t worry, they’re friendly really!
You can choose needles in any material (bamboo, wood, metal, plastic), and if you can afford to, I would suggest that you buy 4 sets of straight needles – one in each material – so that you can test them all out yourself. I have used all four types and I’ve now decided to stick to wood most of the time, although I don’t dislike using any type. You’ll soon get to know what you personally prefer.
The needle size you choose to use doesn’t really matter, but I would suggest that you start with a relatively large needle diameter such as 6mm (U.S. size 10), which is best suited to using with a bulky yarn (weight 5). Go for a plain and quite inexpensive acrylic/wool yarn to start you off, and even though it’s tempting, it’s best not to go for a fancy mohair or art yarn at this point. Pick a yarn you like that feels like good quality; you should pick a yarn that appeals to you, since you’re likely to enjoy knitting with that more than with an ugly yarn.
As for the cable length on the circular needles; I’d go for a 60cm (24”) cable personally as it’s a common size.
Note: If you can afford it, I think it’s definitely worth paying more for better quality needles, as it’s frustrating to work with bad quality ones. I bought a pack of cheap bamboo needles when I was starting to learn, and they weren’t very smooth so the yarn kept snagging. Grr. It's best to go for a named brand, and for the circular needles I would choose the thinnest cable you can find (KnitPro make really nice ones) rather than going for the relatively chunky plastic tube cables. Needles can be used again and again for years so are worth investing in I reckon.
Other products you may need (depending which of my videos you want to follow) are double-pointed needles, a yarn/tapestry needle, and stitch markers.
Photo by Chiot's Run.
The First Steps of Learning
There are 4 steps to get to grips with before the whole of the knitting world opens up before you (exciting!) These steps are:
- Casting on: This is where you loop yarn onto your knitting needle before you start knitting; it is the first step of any project.
There are several different methods for casting on but you shouldn’t even think about this at first because you won’t need most of them until later on, and some you may never use. The different methods simply give you a slightly different appearance to the edge of your knitting, or give you different amounts of stretch. For instance, if you get into knitting socks at some point, then you will need a casting on metho which provides a stretchy edge to make the sock comfortable and easy to get on your foot.
I would point beginners towards learning the ‘long tail cast on’ (my personal favourite) and/or the ‘knitting cast on’ first. Then you only need to learn other casting on techniques when you advance onto specialised projects later on.
- Knit stitch: The classic stitch which you learn first, and forms the basis of pretty much all projects. If the knit stitch is used alone, and repeated row after row, then this creates what is known as the garter stitch. Garter stitch is usually the first type of knitting attempted by beginners.
- Purl stitch: This is basically the knit stitch done backwards and is used in conjunction with the knit stitch to form different patterns and textures. You will get to know the knit stitch and purl stitch very well!
- Casting/binding off: This is the last step and is where you finish the last edge of your knitting and remove the work from the needles.
These 4 methods are the foundation stones of knitting and as beginner you just need to concentrate on getting comfortable with these, before you progress further. By this point you will be able to knit anything flat and rectangular in shape such as a scarf, washcloth or simple blanket. A lot of people stop at this point (as I did when I was younger), but everything you learn after these 4 steps is going to advance your knitting and allow you make much more interesting items.