So, you’ve started knitting or are thinking of starting—congratulations! Knitting is a terrific activity that is not only fun, but is shown to improve memory and mental clarity, as well as allow you to meet new friends who also love to knit.
Maybe you’ve seen a sweater that you simply must have and want to knit it for yourself, or maybe you can sense that the meditative quality of knitting will dovetail neatly into your lifestyle, providing moments of calm in a whirlwind. Whatever your reason for starting, here are six tips to help you as a beginner have the most successful start to your knitting journey as possible!
1. Try, Try, Try Again!
Knitting is not necessarily difficult, but learning a new skill as an adult can actually be really challenging. Since we are accustomed to being successful at tasks we are already well versed in, learning a new one (one that you might not be great at initially) might be frustrating. Remember that repetition is the key to learning and you need to revisit a new skill multiple times to really learn it, so just keep going!
2. Be a Style Hound
One of the best things about knitting is that there are loads of different methods to accomplish the same thing. Essentially we are looping thread over sticks but you can work that by throwing the yarn (the English Method), picking the yarn (the Continental Method), or running the yarn around the back of your neck for tensioning (Portuguese method). And the needles can be held in your hands, or one needle can be held in your armpit (Lever Knitting), or in a leather belt at your waist (Shetland Belt Method). The point is that if one method doesn’t work for you, don’t give up! Try another method and see if you like it better.
3. Choose Your Tools Wisely
Sometimes those squeaky acrylic yarns and stiff sticky needles from the local craft store can be really challenging to use. Yes they are the least expensive, but they are that for a reason. The yarn sticks to the needles, preventing the stitches from sliding smoothly and making tension issues like uneven stitches pop up in the knitting. The plastic part of the circular needles is stiff and difficult, never uncurling from the shape it took in the package and making your knitting unpleasant to work on. You may want to consider using a natural material to start knitting with. A yarn made of 100% wool has more elasticity (spring! And bounce!). This makes it easier to knit with and smoother on the needles, plus it is a sustainable resource. Smooth solid colored yarn is the best to start with, stay away from those feathery, nubbly, or crimpy novelty yarns since they can make your stitches difficult to see and knit.
Remember Count Dracula from Sesame Street? Well you need to channel your inner Count for a while and make sure to count your stitches on the needle after every single row. It might seem tedious but it is a way to make sure that nothing tricky has happened on the row you just finished and it is much easier to fix a mistake you just made versus ripping back rows and rows to fix an earlier one.
5. Read Your Pattern Like a Book—Then Write ALLLL Over It!
You don’t know what you don’t know and reading the pattern all the way through before starting to knit can prevent mistakes and improve your knitting experience. Copyright laws allow you to photocopy the pattern for personal use, so get a copy of the pattern and a pencil, read it all the way through and mark down any areas of the pattern you might find confusing. Look them up! Check out all the great videos available on The Knitting Circle for any techniques you don’t know. Next go through the pattern and circle your size for every set of instructions and make checkmarks as you knit when you have completed an area. Write down the needle size you chose to use, the yarn you used (if you substituted a yarn) and any alterations to the pattern you made. This will come in super handy if you choose to re-knit the pattern, like if you managed to make the PERFECT sweater and want another one!
6. Gauge Swatches Can Actually Tell the Future
Did you know that knitting patterns are totally based on math? When the gauge is stated in the pattern for a number of stitches and rows over 4 inches, that ratio is used to create all the sizes in the pattern. The gauge and weight of the sample item are also used to determine the yardage amounts that the pattern calls for. So if your gauge is dramatically different than what the pattern calls for it can adversely affect the size and yardage of your project. Gauge swatches are a small but important piece of knitting; they might seem tedious but should not be skipped. They allow you as the knitter to tell if your yarn/needles/knitting style combination are a good match for the pattern you want to knit. And they can literally tell the future, if your gauge matches then your project will turn out the intended size!