Ok, so I know not all of you are seasoned knitters, but I DO know that there are so many awesome THINGS out there in the knitting world that you really want to make! And maybe you feel like you’re still just a beginner and not ready to tackle a more complex knitting project, or maybe you’re really comfortable plugging away with your knits and purls. But, if you’re looking for a little inspiration to take your next knitting leap, I’m here to give you a little nudge.
Practice makes perfect as they say. The easiest, cheapest, and most efficient way to finally take off your beginner training wheels is ALWAYS to practice, practice, practice. And in knitting, practice means… well… knitting! Just knit, knit, knit, knit, knit all day long! That would be awesome if we could just knit all day and not have to do anything else, right?! #dreamlife
Anyway, I’m sure you’re asking “ok well that’s great but… WHAT things should I be knitting so that I can get BETTER?” and I have two answers for this question.
First, you should be knitting something that scares you just a little bit, but that you really REALLY want to make. Need an example? My first real knitting project, that was more than just knitting endless rows of knits and purls, was this really awesome hoodie.
Kerrera by Gudrun Johnston
I dove head first into learning how to do ALL of the knitting things; gauge swatching, increases, decreases, garment measurements, shoulder shaping, seaming + finishing, and some crazy double garter stitch (wwhhhhhaaat???). But because I wanted to make it SO badly, I didn’t let the complexity of the project get in my way, instead I just tackled it one step at a time, which is pretty much all knitting really is anyway (sssh, don’t give away the secret!).
The second answer to the question is NOT A SCARF! Seriously, don’t knit a scarf right now. I mean, I have nothing against scarves, they’re great, but they are sooooooo long and can feel quiet tedious and never-ending and if you feel like you’re barely making any progress on your knitting then you’re going to feel discouraged and that’s the LAST thing you want to feel. Also, they’re usually not very challenging when it comes to knitting technique.
But, if you really just want to practice your knits and purls over and over again, I recommend knitting a bunch of different gauge swatches instead. That way, in addition to honing your knitting skills, you’re also learning about gauge and how different needle sizes and different yarn weights result in different types of knitted fabrics. You’ll want to make sure you have a few different needle sizes and few different weights of yarn to knit with, so if you don’t already have a variety it may not be the most economical option. But KnitPicks [link] is a fantastic resource to build your little knitting arsenal (which sounds way more badass than stash) if you don’t have one already. They have pretty much everything you could ever need and are really affordable (and you don’t even have to leave your house!).
Now, if you’d rather do your practicing while making something super amazing that you’ll really love and already know what project you want to take on, here’s what you should do to get yourself prepared.
1. Read The Pattern Info Section + Gather Supplies
You don’t have to read the whole entire pattern, especially if it has a lot of pieces or a lot of knitting charts, but you’ll want to be familiar enough with what the pattern will require from you. These are the basic things you’ll want to know about your pattern and make sure you have before you start:
- Needles (the size and type)
- Yarn (weight and yardage)
- Gauge Size
- Stitches + Techniques (also called Abbreviations)
- Other notions
Once you’ve gathered all your supplies, the next step is to start your project swatch. Sorry. I know you really want to just start the pattern, because you are so super excited, but you can’t. Swatching is important and you can’t just skip it. Why? Because reasons. Everyone knits differently, so there’s no guarantee that the way the pattern designer knits will match the way you knit. Swatching lets you know how your specific way of knitting is going to compare to the pattern.
For example, if you use the required needle sizes and yarn weight and the pattern says the gauge is 24 stitches x 30 rows = 4″ (in stockinette) then you should be able to cast on 24 stitches and knit 30 rows in stockinette stitch and end up with a 4″ x 4″ square. This is pretty much the definition of “getting gauge.” In a perfect world, this will magically happen on the first try, but unfortunately we don’t live a perfect world and more often than not your 24 stitches and 30 rows will not be a 4″ square, which means that if you just start knitting your project, the size you knit isn’t going to be the same size the pattern designer intended, which can really mess up your finished product, ESPECIALLY if it’s a garment. That shit is not going to fit right if you don’t get gauge.
Still confused about swatching and gauge? Check out Glenna Knits’ post on it! She did a super amazing job explaining it and it’s way better than I could ever do.
3. Cast On!
Last step! So. You have all the of right tools and swatched to confirm that your needle size and yarn weight is correct, now the fun part begins! Find the beginning of your pattern and cast on the amount of stitches it calls for using the recommended cast-on method. It’s as simple as that. Just keep following along with the pattern, taking it one stitch and row at a time, and you’ll be golden.
Sound too easy? Too good to be true? Ok, I guess you may be right. Knitting is not always straightforward and you’ll often come across something in your pattern that you’ve never done before or you’re not quite sure if your doing it right.
So what do you do?
Having the support of additional knitting knowledge makes a world of difference, especially when you’re doing something new. And the knitting community (both online and offline) is one of the most supportive when it comes to teaching. I even have a Pinterest board that’s all about learning knitting techniques!
Here are a few options for you to explore if you ever need a little help to move forward with your knitting progress.
Local Yarn Shop
If you’ve never visited your local yarn shop, you’re missing out on so much. Not only is it a great place to buy all your knitting goodies, but it’s also a great place to go for help and moral support from your fellow knitters! Most yarn shops usually have a space dedicated for sitting and knitting. Some shops even have regular sit ‘n’ knit nights or afternoons, so you should definitely stop in your local yarn shop and check out what kind of knitting hangouts they have going on.
Being able to sit and knit with other knitters can be invaluable especially when you are first starting out. Also, having the support of a group while you’re working on a complex project (or any project really) can ensure that you don’t get forever stuck and frustrated and end up abandoning all hope of actually completing the project. Usually people at your local yarn shop want to see you succeed and make something amazing and be super happy with it, so they’ll be more than willingly to share their knitting knowledge and help you through those rough parts of a pattern so that you can keep making progress and keep growing and learning as a knitter.
Meetups are another alternative to your local yarn shop and can be really great if you’re not fortunate enough to have a local yarn shop or if your local shop doesn’t have any regular sit ‘n’ knit times. You get to hangout with fellow knitters on a regular basis while you work on your project and you get all of that collective knitting knowledge to support you through any sticky parts of your project.
Meetup.com is a great website for all sorts of meetups, not just knitting. Simply type in your interest (in this case, knitting) and select the distance range and location. Once you hit enter, you’ll be presented with all of the knitting oriented meetups that are in your area and you can join as many or as few as you’d like. I’d recommend starting out with just one and going to a couple of their scheduled meetups and seeing how you like it, before committing to a whole bunch of different meetup groups.
If you’re not quite ready to hang out with other knitters and would rather figure things out on your own first, there’s a website for that. Hooray internets!
KnittingHelp.com is a giant collection of how-to videos covering almost every possible knitting technique you could need, from cast-on methods to various stitch types and more. If you ever come across something in a pattern that you don’t quite understand, you should definitely check out KnittingHelp.com and see if you can find a demo video to help explain the technique so you can better understand it.
Ravelry is another great online resource for getting help on your knitting project, especially when you have trouble figuring out something that’s specific to a pattern. As a way to provide support for their patterns, most designers usually have a group setup on Ravelry that you can join and then start conversations with other knitters who are also working on the same patterns. It’s a great way to collectively work through trouble areas in a pattern, especially when the problem is specific to the pattern itself and not necessarily to a knitting technique. And since the group is created by the designer, he/she will usually jump in to help answer any questions that come up about their patterns. It’s also a really great way to help support the designers by giving them collective feedback on their patterns so they can see how easy or difficult it is for people to actually follow theirs patterns and be able to take that info and make adjustments as necessary.
So for all of you experienced knitters, how did you get to be so good?
What are your tips and tricks for beginner knitters looking to get better at their craft?