Yup, I’m still a beginner myself. And I would love for you to learn from my mistakes.
I had a rough start of it. I just could not get the hang of it. I had to pull apart the first three projects I started.
“Knitting is HARD!” I complained to my husband.
Part of the problem was that I didn’t have a live teacher to instruct me — I was just watching a random assortment of Youtube videos without any real instruction on how to best begin. (Things got a little better when I bought The Idiot’s Guide to Knitting — I started at the beginning and am working my way through.)
But an even bigger problem, I soon realized, is that I was using the wrong materials.
I was using skinny aluminum needles and thin, slippery, cotton yarn.
The materials I chose were too fiddly and too small. My yarn kept slipping off my needles, I couldn’t see what I was doing, and my yarn had no give. It was stiff and tight, making it difficult to manipulate.
After watching this video, I realized what I needed to do. I needed to start with different materials. So I went to my local yarn shop and selected some new needles and yarn.
After re-starting with my new materials, I quickly caught on. They were much easier to use. My confidence quickly grew, and soon I was knitting and purling with relative ease.
So if you’re looking to start knitting, I thought I’d pass along the advice no one gave me.
If you’re a brand-new knitter starting her very, very first knitting project, here’s what you need:
some large bamboo needles and some chunky, variegated wool yarn.
Let me explain the benefits of these materials.
Needles: Large, Bamboo
I got some US Size 10 (6mm) bamboo needles (like these). (Standard size is around size 8/5mm).
- Bigger (thicker) needles makes it easier to see your work and to count your stitches. They’re also easier to manipulate when you’re still new and clumsy.
- Bamboo is much less slippery than steel or aluminum, so your stitches aren’t always slipping off. Newbies tend to be terrified of their stitches falling off (because it does happen), so they’re more likely to hold their yarn in a death-grip (I know I did!), which makes it hard to knit well. With more grippy needles, you can relax a little and focus your energy on getting the movements right.
Yarn: Chunky, Acrylic/Wool, Variegated
I purchased Patons Shetland Chunky yarn in Harvest Variegated. Here’s why it’s perfect:
- Getting an acrylic/wool blend is great because it’s a little more grippy than, say, cotton or silk. Just like with the bamboo needles (above), more grip helps keep your stitches from sliding off. It also has some stretch to it, making it more forgiving when you’re just learning the movements. (Pure wool would probably be great, too, but it might be a little pricey for a first project. And plain acrylic is probably just fine, too, but the texture might not be as pleasant.)
- A thicker, chunkier/bulkier yarn is easier to see, so you can count your stitches and keep track of your working yarn better.
- Variegated colour, I learned by accident, helps you to catch your mistakes more easily. If you’re working along and all of a sudden one of your loops is a different colour from the surrounding loops, you know you’ve probably done something wrong. (Perhaps you’ve dropped a stitch or wound your working yarn over your needle when you weren’t supposed to.) This gives you a chance to stop and investigate before it’s too late to fix your mistake.
An example of how variegated colour can help you:
A common mistake among new knitters is getting your last stitch twisted, so that you end up with what looks like two stitches instead of one. You end up working both loops, adding an unwanted stitch to your row. With variegated yarn, it’s much easier to notice this mistake. Take a look:
Oops! These last two loops shouldn’t be purple. They look out of place for a reason. The stitch must be twisted. There’s an extra loop here – don’t knit!
Adjust your stitches so that they match the surrounding loops. You’ll notice there’s only supposed to be one loop where you previously saw two.
Ahh, that’s better! Disaster averted. I may not have caught that with a single-coloured yarn.
And there you have it! The ideal knitting materials for your first knitting project.
(As my first project, I decided to make a blanket for my daughter’s doll, using this dishtowel pattern [the second one]. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to combine knits/purls/garter/stockinette without getting overly complicated, and not too big a commitment. Just a suggestion. You can see mine here.)
NOTE ON SELECTING YOUR MATERIALS: make sure the size of your needles and yarn are compatible. Your yarn ball band should have a recommended needle size on it. I went back and forth between a few different yarns and needles until I found a good match. In general, bulky-weight yarns work with a size 10-11 needle. Extra-bulky might require a 11 or 13.
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