Intro to Knitting

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I hope that the last few knitting patterns have inspired you to maybe, possibly, be interested in knitting. Before I get too carried away with my patterns, I wanted to start a bi-weekly (every two weeks…not twice a week… I never know what the right word is for that…) series that will give you the first steps to starting out, helpful links, instructions, videos, good beginner patterns, new yarn discoveries, and information about where I buy my supplies, so that YOU can start knitting too! So with that, let’s get started with the first step to happy knitting!

I have found that of the many people I have taught to knit, there are two types: those who pick it up immediately and those who really have to struggle to get it. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground, so if it’s difficult for you, don’t feel like you’re the only one who doesn’t get it! Just be patient and keep it up, and I promise it will get easier.
A couple quick notes before you start:
– Get comfortable with knitting BEFORE you begin an actual project, then practice practice practice! Make a little square, and just keep knitting and purling until you feel comfortable with the motions and the stitches, and are not making a ton of mistakes. Part of making items you can actually wear and enjoy looking at is being willing to make mistakes and rip things out, but if you are constantly ripping things out in the very beginning, you are going to get very discouraged. If you start off with just a simple block and are able to learn how to knit without needing to go back to fix mistakes, you will get the hang of it and then your first project will be much more rewarding!
– Learning how to knit is like riding a bike; it may be extremely frustrating for you in the beginning, but once you jive with it, you won’t know what it was like before you knew how. So don’t give up!

How knitting works
It is basically made up of two stitches: knit, and purl. And purl is a backward knit stitch. Simple, right? You will start with all the stitches on your left needle. As you complete each stitch, you will gradually be moving the stitches from your left needle to your right by “rows.” Once you reach the end of a row, you will flip your work around, switching the needle that has all the yarn on it to your left hand, and your empty needle will become your right needle. Then you begin again! Knitting works kind of like weaving, so the amount of stitches “cast on” to your needle in the beginning is the set width of your project (until you learn how to increase and decrease but that will come later!). As you knit back and forth width-wise, row by row, you will gradually increase its length, while (hopefully!) keeping the width the same.
Because you are flipping your work after you complete every row, one side will be the “right (correct) side” and one side will be the “wrong side.” Typically, the “right side” will be when you are working the odd-numbered rows, and the “wrong side” will be on the even numbered rows. This distinction will come in handy once you start working a pattern. All this will make a bit more sense when you watch the videos below as well. So keep reading!

Step 1: Buy supplies
You will need two basic things to get started: knitting needles and yarn. Complicated, I know. There are lots of different sizes of needles, and several different materials: plastic, metal, wood, and bamboo. I recommend getting:
– Size US 8 needles, no longer than 9 inches (wood, bamboo, or metal)
– One skein or ball of “worsted weight” light colored, and simple yarn (darker colors and funky chunky yarn make it hard to see your stitches)

Several important points of interest:
– Never get plastic needles ever. It’s not worth it. I personally like wood and bamboo because the metal can be slippery. But it’s really about your own preference, so just pick what you think you will like and then go from there.
– Don’t start off with any needles that are longer than 9 inches. When you are first learning, longer needles can be cumbersome and heavy and will just make your life difficult.
– “Worsted weight” yarn is a term used to describe the thickness, or “weight,” of the yarn (not the actual weight of how heavy the whole ball is, but the weight of the strand itself). Basically, the thicker the yarn, the bigger you want your needles to be. If you can’t find this term on the yarn label, look for a little diagram that will tell you what size needle goes with that yarn. If it is anywhere from size 7 to size 9, you should be good.

Step 2: Casting on
This is the first step to every knitted project, and I would recommend starting off by casting on anywhere from 20-30 stitches.

Casting on:

Step 3: Knit stitch and purl stitch
This next video explains both knitting and purling; the first minute and 15 seconds shows the knitting stitch, and the rest is of purling. Watch, and re-watch, pause and rewind, and watch again!

Knit stitch and purl stitch:

Another video of the purl stitch:

There are many different ways to hold the working yarn in your left hand when you knit; some wrap it around the pinky finger, some weave it between their fingers, and I just kind of loop it over my left pointer finger, then pinch it between my fingers and my needle. All are correct, so you just need to find what feels the best to you and what gives you the best tension so you can grab it and pull/push through with your right needle.

Learning to hold the yarn in your left hand (continental style) rather than your right may be difficult at first, but in the long run it is known to help you knit faster and with fewer motions.

I hope this helps you get started! I know that many people learn differently, so if you find that you are just not getting it or if you have any specific questions, please leave a comment and I will respond. I can also record my own videos to answer/show answers to specific questions if you have them, so please, feel free to ask away!

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4 responses to “Intro to Knitting

  1. Lovely photo – I tried knitting at a local class in Haymarket a few months ago. It was…a disaster, mostly because of the other people in it. I picked up crochet pretty quickly just using online instructions, so I’ll have to try this sometime. I’ll be sure to come back here!

    Btw, that is a lovely photo! Where did you get that basket?

    • Thanks! Oh man, I understand. I actually started out crocheting too, and hated knitting for yeeearrss.. Then I picked it up as an adult and have fallen in love with it. Like most skills, slow and steady wins the race! Let me know if you have any specific questions in the future.
      My mother in law bought the basket for me, I think at a farmers market or a really hippy natural food store… I love it.

    • Awesome! I’m so happy that it is helpful for you. There are so many great resources out there, and I’m glad you could use some of the favorites I’ve found. Happy knitting!

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