Beginner Tips for Successful Knitting

You’ve started knitting or are thinking of starting, congratulations! Knitting is a terrific activity that not only is fun and interesting but is proven to improve memory and mental clarity as well as gain you new friends who also love to knit. Maybe you have 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 6 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.

4. Count!

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!

Related Videos: How to Read a Yarn Label, English Knitting (Throwing), Continental Knitting (Picking)

Discussion
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41 Responses to “Beginner Tips for Successful Knitting”
  1. Gail Knisely
    Gail Knisely

    Starting to knit again after years spent working,
    raising a family and volunteering…looking forward!

    Reply
    • Kathy Svendsen
      Kathy Svendsen

      Making knit blankets. Blanket edges are not straight (curvy). What am I doing wrong.

      Reply
      • Customer Service
        Customer Service

        Hello Kathy,

        Thank you for contacting us.

        It could be a few different things. If you are working a pattern that has Stockinette stitch (knit on Right Side/purl on Wrong Side) right up to the edge, it may curl and distort. If it’s more curvy, it’s possible that you are inadvertently added or taking away stitches, which would change the size and make it curve in and out.

        Depending on the reason for the curve, it might help to add some kind of edging onto the blanket when it’s complete.

        Here’s a video you might find helpful:

        https://www.theknittingcircle.com/video/crochet-edge-018783/

        If you have any additional questions, please email or contact Customer Service at 1-833-622-6523.

        Sincerely,

        Lindsay
        The Knitting Circle Video Membership

        Reply
  2. Irene Styles
    Irene Styles

    Just completed the simplest of blankets. First time knitting in 40 years. So am a beginner again. Love your tips.

    Reply
  3. Arja A Polley
    Arja A Polley

    I have knitted for years and learned from my Mother in Finland. Some American abbreviations I am not familiar with. So need to have those explained.

    Reply
  4. MARLENE G.
    MARLENE G.

    I’ve been knitting for a few years now mostly prayer shawls, but with the virus I had more time so wanted to do something extra for Christmas for family members. I have made hats and some cowls on circular needles. I need help with adjusting the cast on for patterns where my yarn does not match the weight of pattern. I just picked yarn that I thought would be good for the person and washable. Is there any rule of thumb for this. I have done more than my sharing of ripping out because I added too many stitches or not enough.

    Reply
  5. Lucinda Cebular
    Lucinda Cebular

    Just subscribed to this group and I have already been pleased with the information I have gleaned. I am a self taught knitter and have been knitting for about 10 years. THANKYOU for useful, commercial free info. I look forward to using the videos and tips.

    Reply
  6. Elaine Slater-Kogler
    Elaine Slater-Kogler

    My Mom was an avid knitter and I learned the basics – it was after she passed and I couldn’t part with her knitting needles and a boatload of baby yarn that I wished I had paid more attention to her more advanced knitting… I picked up the needles and found a pattern for preemie hats and started knitting! I found such comfort knitting those little hats and using my Mom’s collection of yarn – I donated 50 hats just before Christmas to two local NICU units. I am enjoying simple projects for now. I have made myself a couple of scarves and a couple of baby blankets. I am so glad I kept my Mom’s collection of needles and baby yarn! I gave the “other” yarn to her church where they make prayer shawls for the local nursing homes. Feeling the Love!

    Reply
  7. Becky
    Becky

    Just like Aspassia….picking up after 50 years. Might even finish a sweater that’s half done from that period (found the pattern).

    Reply
    • Janice Christensen
      Janice Christensen

      Me too. I don’t even have my needles out of the store bought package yet and haven’t yet bought any yarn. I have a lot of yarn from other projects left over and may use that to learn the technique. Glad to know there are other people out there willing to learn new skills.

      Reply
  8. Barbara Flanagan
    Barbara Flanagan

    I’ve been an off and on knitter for years, and each time I come back to it, I’m much more comfortable and ready to add new skills! One thing I need to learn at the start is how to correct errors. Many of my errors have to do with not ending up with the same number of stitches at the end of each row or round! What? Where? When?!? Did I drop one somewhere, or did I inadvertently add a stitch as I merrily knit the last row? I become so frustrated that I’ll set my knitting and stew over it for a year or two. Help!

    Reply
  9. Hazel Wyatt
    Hazel Wyatt

    When you get to knit the yoke on a babies jumper is it better to cast off and then pick up the stitches for the yoke or put the stitches on a stitch holder and then knit from there?

    Reply
  10. Hazel Wyatt
    Hazel Wyatt

    When using circular needles do you start at the same place for each row or move on a stitch?

    Reply
  11. Cheryll Girard
    Cheryll Girard

    I’m so happy to see that I’m not the only “old” new knitter! It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m thrilled to have found this group. Great tips, videos and comments… thank you!

    Reply
  12. Sherry P
    Sherry P

    I am an 80-year-old who use to be a knitter. I just picked up some yarn I found from years ago and started knitting a scarf for a friend. Love it. I am a “picker” but I would love to be a “thrower” and hold the needles in one hand. Have you any videos on that method? Wish I would have learned that way but didn’t know that method existed till I started watching some on you tube.

    Reply
  13. Doris
    Doris

    Though I’m an experienced knitter, I find that bamboo needles either circular or straight work more easily with yarn that is slick and slips too easily off metal needles. It’s easier to maintain a consistent tension or gauge using bamboo, too. New knitters might find them easier to use, too.

    Reply
  14. Monique Johnson
    Monique Johnson

    My mom was a fabulous and FAST knitter. She could knit complicated pattern keep up an adult conversation and keep littles engaged in an activity. . .all at the same time. I can do vey basic knitting scarves & simple slippers. I am now retired and want to learn to do more, eventually to be able to knot Mom’s baby booty pattern and sister’s baby sweater pattern.

    Reply
  15. Sherry Reeves
    Sherry Reeves

    I have been doing basic knitting for years but now I want to further my skills and learn new patterns! I look at all the cute patterns for toddlers and say “ I wish I could knit that,”

    Reply
  16. Shirley Croel
    Shirley Croel

    Would appreciate some Afghan patterns with ripples and “V ‘s” for babies and adults. Thanks

    Reply
  17. Rosee
    Rosee

    Have a 7is pound ChiPom. I keep promising him a new sweater. I never see patterns or tutorials to my needs. Like it to have some leg as he’s bones. Winter booties in teeny size too. Always fall off. I started knitting few months ago but knew basic knit, purl, long tail cast on, cast off. Brain still trying to do k1, p1 ribbing.

    Reply
  18. cATHY DRESINSKI
    cATHY DRESINSKI

    took a year off from knitting but starting again. Have made many pairs of socks, a few sweaters and a few schawls. Have a stash of some beautiful yarns and just retired so plenty of time on my hands.

    Reply
  19. PAM
    PAM

    Having a hard time finding actual projects for a beginner. Can you suggest something besides squares, which are getting boring.

    Reply
  20. MARCY
    MARCY

    My mother-in-law taught me to knit years ago. It was difficult because I’m left handed. I still struggle w/ the whole knitting process but the videos and seeing someone allows me to adapt quickly.

    Reply