Friday, July 22, 2011

The Newbie Knitter's Guide (Part 2)

In case you missed it, Part One (Getting Started) is here.

The Newbie Knitter's Guide, Part Two-
Make it Easy

There isn't much out there that can make learning a new skill super easy (if only there was a magic *learn to knit* pill!) but you can make a few choices along the way to make the process simpler.

Pick a project that doesn't give you the vapors.

Feel a bit ill at the thought of trying to tackle a sweater? Does the prospect of a huge afghan make you feel faint? Then don't choose those projects. Recognize your limits and work within them. There are *tons* of projects available that use a lot of garter stitch (just the knit stitch) and as you feel mor ecomfortable you can try some new techniques. There's no reason to force yourself into new and exciting knitting territory if you dread it- you'll never want to knit again.

So what kind of project should I choose? A scarf, right? I hear that's the first project every knitter should do.

Um, I didn't. I've actually only ever knit one thing that could be considered a scarf and it was of the lace variety. It totally doesn't count as a traditional scarf.

Rule number one here: you don't really have to do anything in any certain order once you know a few basics, and you'll be practicing the basics on any project you pick. My best advice is to go pattern hunting on ravelry and favorite a ton of projects and patterns on there. When you have an idea of what you like read through several patterns to get an idea of the skills required, then decide if it's something you are up to trying.

Remember- the worst thing that can happen is that you have to rip it out (undo your knitting) and start again. You always have a do-over!

Seriously- where should I start?

Okay- a few suggestions:

:: Stella Pixie Hat- a baby hat that is knit flat and then sewn together at the end. This was one of the earliest hat patterns I tried and it is still one of my favorite baby gifts to give.

:: All kinds of dishcloths: plain (plus the options for something a little fancier), with a yarn-over, and two dishcloths with a pattern (the last one is one of the first dishcloths I made)

:: a garter stitch baby sweater: Pie

:: Okay, okay.... a scarf: Merci Scarf

If none of these strike your fancy, I recommend you look around and pick out something that is fairly small so that you can accomplish it pretty quickly. Setting out with the goal of knitting a huge afghan is certainly possible, but that can be one looooooong goal.

Remember: You're new (no matter your age or crafty skill)

Give yourself room to make lots of mistakes without guilt or those sneaky words "I should know by now...". If you spend your knitting time beating yourself up instead of practicing knitting you won't get very far and you won't have the desire to continue learning.

The truth is that even as an experienced knitter you have times where you totally mess stuff up, have to rip out, or make a mistake when you honestly should have known better. Some knitters are comfortable leaving little mistakes in there. I'm not one of those people so I rip out with impunity and go again.

Don't be ashamed of watching the same technique video again and again.

There were knitting days when I just watched the knit stitch video again and again, holding my yarn and frowning. I've done the same with the M1 video, various cast on videos and most recently the different seaming videos as I tried to decide how best to seam my Textured Tunic.

If you're an experienced knitter, what were some of your first projects? If you're a beginner, what project are you planning to start with?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Newbie Knitters Guide (Part 1)

I received a few qestions about learning how to knit over the past few weeks so I thought I'd share a little today about how to get started. I shared earlier in the week about how I got my start, but I thought I'd also share about the helpful bits I've come across and what I would tell my newbie knitting self now that I have three years of knitting behind me.

The Newbie Knitter's Guide, Part 1 - Getting Started

Learn from great resources.

On the ravelry boards you can read about a TON of different ways that people have learned to knit, but it all seems to boil down to a few certain methods:

2. Videos from or youtube.

3. A friend or relative or Local Yarn Store (LYS).

For me it was a combination of books and videos. I don't know many people who knit in real life that are also local to me, so I essentially taught myself using books and videos. I'm pretty visual, so between those two resources I was in great shape.

I have learned a few really great things at my LYS though, including a super stretchy bind-off for socks and also got help with sock construction when I was having problems with my heel turns.

And because I simply can't move on to the next section without mentioning this life-changing site, go right now to and sign up. I'll wait until you get back- promise! If you're on the fence about whether or not knitting is for you ravelry will convince you- online access to thousands of patterns, many of them free, just about every bit of yarn information you could ever need, super helpful forums...

Just go.

Sign up.

Thank me later.

Use decent materials.

Your knitting experience highly depends on the materials you use. Certain yarns and needles are more comfortable than others (and this is slightly different for different people) so it's important that you use materials that offer you the best experience.

In my experience helping new knitters get started wool yarn and bamboo needles are the most forgiving. Wool has a little bit more ease to it than other yarns and the bamboo needles "grab" the yarn a little so that you don't have a heart attack due to stitches sliding off the tip of the needle.

You don't have to spend a ton of money to get started!

I have always been on a serious budget for hobbies- my sewing and knitting purchases come from birthday/Christmas/mother's day gifts almost exclusively- so I know what you're thinking when you're looking at all that yarn and noticing what looks like the very same blue for $5 cheaper. There's a reason that yarn is so much cheaper- you're getting what you pay for, and it's not very easy to work with.

I know, I know-- you don't want to put a lot of money into a hobby you might not stick with. But spend that $5 extra and knitting will be a truly different experience.

For the budget conscious, take a look at Joann's and Hobby Lobby if you have them close to you. Joann's runs regular 40% off coupons in the newspaper and I used these coupons to slowly acquire bamboo needles (Clover brand). You can also find some wool there (I like Wool-Ease). Hobby Lobby also runs good sales on their needlework section periodically and they also carry clover needles. Hobby Lobby has a store brand of wool that I like called I Love This Wool that is a nice beginner wool

If you don't have either of those stores near you another great option is They have yarn in a variety of prices, but their Wool of the Andes worsted weight is about $2.00 per ball. Their shipping is reasonable and purchases over $50.00 have free shipping.

I mentioned before that needles are a preference, but bamboo has a little more grab than other types of needles so it is a little easier for most beginners. There are also acrylic needles and metal needles available, with varieties of each type.

I own and regularly use Boye metal needles (I use the double point boye needles for socks) and I have Addi Turbo Click interchangeables that I use as often as possible. I do use my bamboo clover needles some (especially in larger sizes of double points for sleeves and such) but mostly stick with the Addi's now. Knitpicks has a "try it set" of needles that includes 1 set of each type- acrylic, metal and wood- if you'd like to try knitting with each kind.

I'll be back tomorrow with more tips on getting started.

Do you have something to add to this post? Have you found a great starter yarn or a bit of advice to add? Any questions you want to make sure I answer?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yarn Along

Yarning along with Ginny, sharing a current knit and current read...

I was so sure that I'd have my Textured Tunic finished by this week, but I ended up taking the Omelet shawl with me on our little road trip across the state for a wedding over the weekend instead of the sweater. I did make great progress on the shawl, but I haven't done much on the sweater because of that. I did get a little time yesterday to get pretty close to finishing that second sleeve, but I need another hour or so to finish it.

And then comes the seaming.

I'm a seaming wimp, I have to admit. I can do it, but I seriously do just about anything to avoid seams. I'm trying not to do that this time around. It's only sleeves right? And then weaving ends and adding buttons.

I'm reading a few things right now (Naamah's Blessing and Patchwork Style) but I'm also back to my beloved mitten book. I started looking at mittens back in June but never actually got to them. This time I'm starting to think more seriously towards fall. The boys need a few pair each and I definitely need some... now to decide how much color work I'm actually interested in doing for little guys that may just lose their mittens as fast as I can knit them...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Becoming a Knitter

I've been asked a few times about knitting- how to get started, how to learn new techniques, how to learn to knit lace- and I thought I'd tell you a little about how I got started.

I've been knitting since the fall of 2008. I kind of tried it out once or twice before that but because it didn't work right the very first time I tried it I abandoned it. Maybe I should admit here that I'm a recovering perfectionist. I've been known to be a habitual hobby starter and not so much a hobby stick-with-it-er due to that darned perfectionism, but when I tried again in 2008 I was determined to really learn.

I started with Knitting for Dummies and decided that I didn't want to "make" anything- that set my expectations too high for something I was just learning. So I cast on a certain amount of stitches (maybe 40 or 50) and went for it, knitting row after row after row until it felt automatic.

Then came the endless purling- which I was convinced I would never be good at.

After that I tried a couple of dishcloths- a knitting friend recommended that I try that next and while it was good to learn the yo (yarn-over), I wouldn't recommend using cotton yarn that soon. Your materials really do matter while you're learning and cotton isn't very forgiving. I also turned out a few patterned dishcloths that required knitting AND purling on the SAME ROW and I thought I'd die before finishing one properly.

It was at this stage that my husband said, "Aren't hobbies supposed to be relaxing?" as I muttered to myself and ripped out mistakes only to re-knit and have to re-rip...

But I was determined, so I went forward.

I made a few little baby things, a few projects here and there, and then I read my first Elizabeth Zimmermann book (Knitting Without Tears) and felt like a light really went on. I can't explain it fully, but it changed the way I was thinking about knitting in general:

You can always take it back out if you make a mistake.

If it doesn't work you can just try again.

What a relief! This informs my attitude on pretty much everything crafty now.

So I went for it- mittens, cardigans, sweaters, shawls, scarves- and I know that somehow I'll sort out what I need to know as I learn more about knitting. There have been certain projects that have really stretched me as a knitter and helped move me in a certain direction, but I certainly want you all to know before I start waxing poetic about my knitting knowledge- I've learned everything I know from books, ravelry, youtube videos and the videos on I'm soooo not an expert, just a girl who seriously loves to knit and doesn't mind feeling a little dumb while I learn something new.

So I'm planning to answer some of those knitting questions I've been asked later in the week. If you want to ask something please comment with your question so I can include it in that post!

For more on becoming a knitter:

Getting Started (Part 1)
Getting Started (Part 2)
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