How to Start – Knitting Tips for Beginners
The last time I picked up a couple of knitting needles was when I was 13 years old. I had to knit squares to make slippers in order to get community service hours for Ticktockers, a mother-daughter philanthropy organization of the National Charity League. I did not enjoy it. My stitches were always too tight. I was prone to dropping stitches. And the resulting squares were never really square. Ugh.
Fast forward 33 years. Knitting is now all the rage; everybody’s doing it (or at least millions are exploring this popular craft). When I was given a press pass to learn about VogueknittingLIVE, I was also given the opportunity to take a beginning knitting class.
The class description said I would learn all about knitting and purling and how to make a scarf. All I had to do was bring some yarn of my choice and some knitting needles that worked with the yarn. Simple enough. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a beautiful royal blue skein of yarn that said I needed size 7 needles. So I also purchased some plastic size 7 knitting needles and I was ready to go. Or so I thought….
My class was taught by a very patient, kind and very experienced knitter. There were 4 other students in the class besides me, and we were all at different stages of beginner. I barely knew how to cast on and a couple had already made a project. By far, I was the most novice.
1. Buy the Correct Yarn
The first thing I learned was I had bought the wrong yarn. Apparently, acrylic yarn is frowned upon, beautiful color or not. And I quickly found out why: it separates and slips on the needle. What I should have bought was wool yarn from a reputable yarn source — not necessarily a craft store.
What other tips did I pick up that a beginner knitter should remember?
2. Knitting needles should be wood.
Plastic is “OK” but never metal. Metal needles are cold, slippery, and shiny. Light is reflected off of shiny needles, and knitters complain of vision problems like getting a migraine.
3. There is only one stich in knitting.
Some people will say there are two: knit and purl. But Chris pointed out that a knit stich and a purl stitch are actually the same thing— it just depends where you put your yarn and needle.
With a knit stitch, your needle and yarn go behind the casting. They are smooth and resemble a miniature V-neck sweater.
The needle and yarn goes in front of the casting needle for a purl stitch. Purl stitches are bumpy and look like a turtleneck.
When switching between a knit and purl, always move the working yarn between rather than over the kneedles.
4. Knitting goes right to left.
It is the opposite of reading a book (well, reading a book in English, that is). This is important when looking at a pattern.
5. The tail tells you which side you are knitting on.
When you cast on your original stitches, always have a 6-8 inch tail hanging. When the tail is on the right of your project, you are knitting on the front (an odd row of a pattern). When the tail is on the left, you are knitting the back or wrong side (even numbered row of a pattern).
6. Casting on does not count as a row.
It just serves as the starting point to begin your stitches. There are different ways to cast on. I liked the two finger method that Chris showed me.
7. Don’t pull on your yarn.
Have confidence in your needles and let them do the work. I wish I would have known this in my teenage knitting days. Then maybe my squares wouldn’t have kept on shrinking.
8. Resources are everywhere.
I prefer reading instructions when I am learning something new. I asked what would be a good beginner reference book to have, and Chris suggested the Vogue Knitting Quick Reference. And because this is the 21st Century, there are lots of good online help out there. Ladies in my class recommended two knitting community web sites: Lion Brand (makers of wool yarn) and Ravelry.
9. Relax!! It’s just knitting.
Chris couldn’t stress enough to have fun and so what if you goof up. Like any skill, it takes patience and practice.
What did I think about knitting at the end of my two hour class? I really liked it!! It is portable and relaxing and fun!! Chris was such a good teacher that I felt confident enough to venture out on my own. I can definitely see myself as a beginner knitter. After the class, I made my way to the Marketplace. I purchased 3 skeins of yarn and also got some wooden needles and the Vogue book.
Starting a new hobby can be so exhilarating.