On Learning How to Knit

I regularly receive requests for a post on learning how to knit.  I hesitate to write on the topic because I know that there are comprehensive resources available online that are far superior to anything I might share here, and I don’t want to be redundant.  But since you guys have been asking, I have put together some basic tips and links for you:

It took me several attempts over many years to really get into the rhythm of knitting.  A close friend taught me in college, but it didn’t stick.  A few years later I took some classes at a local yarn shop and stuck with it for a little while, knitting a set of bean bags for my kids before losing interest again.  It wasn’t until about seven years ago, while pregnant with Beatrix, that I was struck with a strong urge to knit that hasn’t subsided since.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten much of what I learned from those few knitting classes, so I turned to books for help, not having any knitting friends at the time.  The one that I found most helpful was an older edition of Teach Yourself VISUALLY Knitting.  Over the years my collection of knitting books has grown, and a couple of others that I found helpful in my early learning days were Knitting Without Tears and Knitting for Baby: 30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions.  These days when I need to learn a new stitch or technique I typically turn to Youtube or Knittinghelp.com.

So for the basics:  ask a knitting friend or relative to teach you, and if that isn’t an option, try your local yarn store or see if lessons are taught at your community center.  If you have a local yarn store, definitely check it out!  Hopefully there will be helpful staff to help you choose yarn and needles, and classes to teach you as well!  If these options aren’t available, then move on to books and the internet.  Knittinghelp.com has many helpful video tutorials starting with the most basic beginning knitting, to more advanced techniques.  And that is only one of the many places you can find knitting instruction online.

You might benefit from this post about teaching children to knit, and here is a tutorial for an easy first project, a knitted headband.

A good basic place to start as far as needles and yarn go is worsted weight wool yarn and size 8 needles.  I tend to use circular needles for everything, and many of mine are from Knitpicks.  There are lots of different lengths.  For knitting a headband or narrow scarf, or maybe a hat in the round you would want a 16″ needle, and for a larger project, like a shawl, you would want something longer, 24 to 32.”  You can pick up a basic worsted weight wool yarn at your local craft store or yarn store.  There are lots of online options as well, and I will cover that in another post, soon!  Of course you might want to knit with bulky yarn and big fat needles.  Larkspur has been knitting basic garter stitch scarves lately in bulky yarn.  They go quickly!

Once you have mastered the basics (casting on, knit and purl stitch, binding off) you might feel ready to move on to some slightly more complex patterns.  I have included links to a few of my beginning knitter favorites, simply because they are the patterns that I knit when I was a beginning knitter!  (If you have easy beginner patterns you’d like to recommend, please leave them in the comments!) Before you begin a new pattern, you will want to obtain the yarn and needles called for.  However, since every knitter holds the yarn and controls tension differently, you may need a different size needle than what the pattern calls for to “get gauge.”  Please read an explanation of the importance of gauge and how to make a gauge swatch before starting a project!  Here’s a good one, and here’s another.

Here are some easy first shawl patterns:

Simple Yet Effective Shawl (my first shawl was knit from the fingering weight version of this pattern)

The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief

I starting knitting in the round early on so most of my first projects were hats and other circular objects.  Here is a video tutorial on how to knit in the round.  You will want to buy some stitch markers.  My favorites are these.

And here are some patterns that are knit in the round:

Girl’s Cap Sleeve Spring Shirt

Milo vest

My Wee Legwarmers are an easy first project for knitting in the round on double pointed needles

Simple Newborn Hat with a Touch of Lace (my own pattern)

I hope that this information will help those of you who want to learn to knit to get started!  Be persistent and keep trying.  Knit every day, even if your knitting is funky looking.  Knitting is awkward and fiddly at first, at least it was for me!

Comments

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  8. I always work the gauge first to see what size my ktiitnng will be. With the hats, if they are loose, it’s okay. Or it will fit someone else. If you reduce the number of stitches, you should be fine.

  9. Thank you SO much for this post! I have been one of those people that have asked you for any information you could give concerning knitting and I sensed your hesitation in doling it out. This post hits the nail squarely on the head for us latent beginners and I can’t wait for your next treasure-trove of knowledge posting. I need to purchase Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books and devour them totally. Tell Larkspur she has a beautiful scarf and it was a job well-done.

    In my searches via the Internet, I found a great video by Lorilee Beltman concerning Continental knitting:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuRLFl36tDY

    this has helped me tremendously as I am a Crocheter first and being able to keep my yarn in my left hand is very comforting and not confusing at all.

    Thank you again for the wonderful photos; you are a better photographer than you admit to!

    • I am an English style knitter or “thrower”…I’ve tried several methods of teaching myself to knit continental but this video is by far the best. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Cindy in NC says:

    Last fall I took a 6 week class at my LYS to brush up on my basic and very rusty knitting skills. Knitting still doesn’t come as naturally to me as crocheting, but I am slowly improving. Like Kristen, I found the patterns and tutorials at Tin Can Knits very helpful once I finished the class and no longer had access to an “in the flesh” teacher. I also like the video tutorials on the Purl Soho website.

    Cindy in NC

  11. I haven’t read the entire post yet but I wanted to stop to add that my library offers crochet and knitting classes for free. Maybe others out there can check out their local library for classes. Our classes run year round in a 6-week rotation. It’s been such a good resource and I’ve learned a lot! I love knitting but admittedly haven’t done much of it this summer. I’m really looking forward to cooler weather and needles in my hands!

  12. Excellent! Over this past year I had a couple women from church get me started on knitting, but with our daughter being born and moving across the country, I forgot everything. 🙁 However, Columbia has some great local yarn stores I am excited to check out! I will also look into these books.

  13. Thanks for the encouragement to “be persistent and keep trying.” As we move into the fall season, it’s my intention (yet again) to pick up the knitting needles and learn a bit more. I’ve had this, oh, I’d say five year blanket that’s not yet finished (and that’s just a knit stitch!). I will pass it to my knitting queen mama to put together in the end. How embarrassing to say at 40 +! My 17 yr old has far surpassed me, knitting little animals to sell and give as gifts, and even knit a poncho last year. I’m up for the challenge to start again. Thanks for the post!

  14. I love this. There is too much information out on the internet these days and it can be overwhelming. I’ll definitely come back to this post when I’m ready to start. Thanks!

  15. I taught myself by watching Newstitchaday.com, the best video tutorials around for EVERY knitting and crochet stitch you can imagine.

  16. Believe it or not we don’t have a local yarn store, so this will come in handy. Thanks for sharing!

    I would love (LOVE) to know how you organize pictures on and off your computer. Do you make albums? Right now, I have thousands of pictures just sitting on my computer. I don’t do scrapbooking and my perfectionist tendencies make creating a photobook difficult, but I want to do something with them, especially now that we have kids. Any ideas would be welcome. 🙂

  17. Larkspur always looks so wise beyond her years in the photos you post. Those beautiful soulful eyes! Thank you for the links to knitting patterns; I have been knitting for a few years but have yet to move beyond relatively basic projects and I have been itching to try some more complex patterns that I can still handle!

  18. Thanks for all those great resources. I just signed up for another 4 weeks at a local yarn store for more knitting lessons. I am loving it! All I want to do now is knit, knit, knit. I’m knitting a cute little baby sweater so I can start on The Barn Sweater for me soon. Gotta use up all my sheep’s wool!

  19. Larkspur I love, love, LOVE your scarf!! The color is beautiful
    and it looks beautiful on you!!!!!
    Ginny, thank you for the ‘easy’ or beginner patterns. I am a self
    taught knitter and I have resigned myself to knitting simple things and I
    enjoy it that way. What I love about knitting is not so much what I make
    but the process… the actual knit and purl routine of knitting, the gentle clicking
    of the needles…..it helps me to relax and wind down. So, with that I keep with
    simple basic knitting, but I always love to look and admire the more complex knitting
    projects of others and just love checking them all out on ‘yarn along’ every Wednesday!
    Thank you for that!
    Gods peace!
    Corinne

  20. Thank you!!!

  21. florentine says:

    i started knitting last october and love it. with the kids around, it’s one of the few ways for me to get creative any time and any place… i knit on the bus, on playgrounds, wherever there’s enough time 🙂
    i was never motivated enough to knit hats or scarves or socks, and though i find shawls lovely, i don’t (know how to) wear them. so i started with (at the time) challenging little girl’s dresses with a touch of lace and pullovers for my boy. one grows with the task, i believe…
    one pattern i can really recommend for beginners is the christopher robin pullover http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/christopher-robin-pullover
    it may seem daunting for a beginner to start with a pullover, i agree. but once you feel fairly safe with knit and purl stitches, give it a try – especially if you’ve got a small boy (or two or three or more). it really is very simple and straighforward to knit, the pattern is written very well (no chart), and the pullover itself is really cute.

    ginny, i also really want to thank you for your blog – the pictures you take are beautiful and the posts are the perfect mix of amusing, fun, information, down-to-earth and much more! thank you!

  22. lovely post to get even more people knitting in this world!! I highly recommend 100% worsted wool that is plied. That usually is least likely to split and if a stitch falls off the stitch is there to easily put back on as opposed to slippery yarns.

    Love your daughter’s scarf!! Beautiful color, beautiful stitches 🙂

  23. I have a history similar to yours, Ginny, although I have only been passionate about knitting for about 18 months. My first project was a tea cosy, then wrist warmers and a couple of blankets before I decided I needed to knit something that wasn’t square! I didn’t know anyone personally who could teach me, and was intimidated by classes but I found YouTube really the most helpful place to go for advice and tutorials. I’m left handed ( and my mother, a great knitter, lost all patience with my ‘kack- handed’ approach and declared me in teachable) and I’ve found that being able to rematch the videos over and over helps me make sense of it. I’ve now knitted a top down sweater, a cardigan and am currently knitting an Aran sweater for my daughter. I try and learn a new skill with each project and although my knitting has a very ‘home made’ look, I’m feeling much more confident in my abilities now.

  24. love this post as well as inspirational comments .. 🙂

  25. SO glad to see this post! I just recently took up knitting (again). I learned a couple years ago with my daughter but never kept it up. She knits beautifully and I have vowed to pick it up again and not stop! I was reading soulemama’s post a few weeks ago and she featured this cute scarf she made (in a couple days) and I taught myself the pattern(easy drop stitch scarf) and I am loving how it is showing me how to fix mistakes and my tension is so much better. Great for a beginner. heres the link! http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/drop-stitch-scarf-2 I can’t wait to see more posts about knitting! thank you

  26. I knitted consistently for over a year before it stopped being stressful and started being relaxing, ha! (And it’s still stressful at times now, if I’m doing something challenging.)

    Tin Can Knits has a learn-t0-knit collection called the Simple Collection, which is something I wish I’d had when I first started. It starts with scarves and ends up with socks and sweaters.

  27. Melanie King says:

    My BFF taught my daughter to knit with a poem:
    In through the front door
    Up around the back
    Down through the middle and of jumps Jack

    I have since taught several others to knit with the same poem and it is so funny to me how differently they all knit, but they do and do it well!

  28. Melinda C says:

    My favorite pattern for teaching knitting is a simple basket weave stitch wash cloth. Learn knitting and purling in equal measure and a quick project whose inevitable mistakes won’t bother you as you do the dishes.
    CO 30 sts
    K 5, P 5, K 5, P 5, K 5, P 5
    turn and K knits and P purls
    after 5 or 6 rows, P knits and K purls
    repeat this pattern for another 5 or 6 rows
    continue until your wash cloth is the size you like
    BO
    This is also excellent for learning to recognize knits and purls.
    Good luck and have fun!

  29. Gwendolyn says:

    I love the pictures of the girls. They are coming right along!

  30. Thank you thank you! As I move into purling I could use some help, because books just don’t do it for me, but videos are great. Thanks for this, Ginny!

  31. I second Knitting for Baby. Excellent book for step by step instructions.

  32. About 3 years ago, inspired by your beautiful photos and descriptive writing, I began knitting. Multiple shawls, hats, vests, and scarves later, I am still enthralled and knitting happily away…thank-you, Ginny!

    I have learned that I can combine my love of reading with knitting by listening to books; a most addictive and blissful combination! Bless you for gifting me this lovely creative outlet!

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