Are you just starting out on your knitting journey? Do you wish you could knit beautiful sweaters or intricate lace patterns? Well I’m here to tell you that – YES YOU CAN! It won’t happen overnight, but you can do it. I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips that I have shared with the many beginning knitters that I have taught over the years. Hopefully these will help you along your journey as well.
- Slow and steady wins the race. This can be a challenge for new knitters. We can definitely be the impatient sort (or maybe that’s just me) and we want to be proficient as well as prolific knitters overnight. There is no knitting fairy godmother who will bippity boppity boo you into being an instant knitter. And to top things off, everyone learns at their own pace. Remember, knitting is not a race or a contest. Take your time in the beginning and speed will come (I promise!).
If you are knitting slow and steady in the beginning, this will give you time to really pay attention to how your stitches are formed and how they look while on your needles. If you pay attention to this in the beginning you will be a better knitter down the road as it will be easier for you to recognize and fix any mistakes you might make.
- Tools and materials – you get what you pay for. Let me clarify here, I am not advocating beginners to go out and blow their life savings on the most expensive tools and yarn. Not in the least. Knitting needles are a personal preference for each knitter. Some knitters prefer metal, some bamboo, and some even prefer plastic. If you can find a yarn shop where they will let you try knitting with different types of needles before buying, all the better. If you have the needles you are using, chances are you will not enjoy knitting.
The type of yarn you are using can affect your attitude towards knitting. I’m not saying you have to go out and buy that expensive cashmere skein for your first project. I worked in my local yarn shop for several years and we always steered our beginners towards a wool/acrylic blend of yarn that was inexpensive but was nicer to work with than 100% acrylic. Now, if you only have access to 100% acrylic yarn, by all means use it. There is nothing wrong with it. Just know that there are other options out there and most knitters find that some wool in their yarn makes it much easier to work with and they get a much nicer finished product.
- Find a LYS (Local Yarn Store). I know that not every town has a LYS, but if you are lucky enough to have one nearby – PATRONIZE IT! Your LYS will have a wide selection of yarns as well as a few different brands or types of needles to choose from. They are also your best place to get advice on patterns, tools, and yarn substitutions. They offer lots of inspiration. There is nothing better than walking into a yarn store and being bombarded with gorgeous yarns in gorgeous colors and lots of models on display. Your LYS is also the place to get assistance with your projects or to take a class. Some shops even offer private lessons where you get tons of one-on-one time with a knitting teacher. But probably the best benefit of your LYS, is the social aspect. Look for knitting groups to join or drop-in knitting. Surround yourself with people who enjoy knitting as much as you do!
- Start small. Most beginning knitters are not up to the challenge of the commitment a large project requires. There are some knitters who can sit down and commit to an entire scarf knit in garter stitch, but most of us would be completely bored after working 4 or 5 inches. Keep things simple at first. Knit lots of swatches (small squares) that let you practice keeping your knitting even and new skills (ie. cables, simple lace, etc.). You could use smaller squares as coasters or knit them a bit larger for dishcloths. (In fact, dishcloth patterns are a great place to start!) You could even knit larger squares (about 12″ square) and then connect them to make an afghan. The Building Blocks book by Michelle Hunter is a great resource (I’m not affiliated, I just think it’s a great book)!
- Last, but not least – enjoy yourself! When you are learning how to knit, frustration can come easily. I recommend that beginners sit down and knit for 10-15 minutes and then take a break. Come back to it a little while later and knit for another 10-15 minutes. This will help you build the muscle memory without becoming overly frustrated. Also, don’t beat yourself up. You are going to make mistakes (I still do, even after 15 years) and beginners often have finished pieces that just look . . . wonky (that’s a technical knitting term). It happens to all of us. You are just learning. Save those first few “wonky” pieces and then compare them to what you are knitting 6 months to a year later. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how far you will have come in that time. Just keep practicing!
But the best advice I can give is to just relax – it’s only two sticks and some string. Ripping out and starting over are part of the process and unlike brain surgery, if you make a mistake, no one is going to die (I hope!).
What other advice would you offer to new knitters? I’d love to hear other tips you may have. Let me know in the comments below!
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