Picked up a pair of knitting needles for the first time today, and I’m just not sure where to start. I have a couple of books, 'lil bit of yarn, but I don’t know any knitters that could give me any pointers.
Getting the stitches down is a little frustrating so far, but I’m getting better, so I’m not concerned about that. What I’d like to know is, what’s the easiest thing to make when you’re just starting?
Scarves, maybe? I have a whole book for scarves, but sifting through that book makes me feel overwhelmed. I figure they’re just long rectangles, so it shouldn’t be too complicated. Right?
Scarves are the place to start. Like you said, they are just long rectangles.
Don’t let the books scare you. Pick a yarn you like that’s pretty and simple (none of that eyelash yarn just yet) and cast on as many stiches that will make the scarf half as wide as you want it to be when it’s finished. For example, if you want a scarf that is 6 inches wide, cast on enough stitches to take up 3 inches on your needle. Don’t cram the stitches together or stretch them way out, or this little rule of thumb won’t work.
Now, do a garter stitch, the simplest one. Knit (as in, make a knit stitch such that the loop of the previous stitch falls away from you, to the back of the work after you’ve made a new stitch, when you slip the old stitch off the needle) all the time. When you get to the end of the row that you cast on, flip the work over and knit some more. Proceede until the scarf is long enough to please you. Cast off. Tie in ends. Ta da! Your very first scarf. The work will be stretch and fairly thick, but it will be ready to wear.
Project two: Repeat the above, but partner up your simple yarn with one of the exotic eyelash or sparkly yarns.
Project three: Figure out how to purl. You want the loop of the old stitch to fall towards you when you slip it off the needle. Once you’ve mastered this, you’ve got almost everything you need. Many patterns are just different ways of altering when you knit and when you purl. Now, you’re ready for those fancy stitch pattern scarves. And after them, hats!
More simplistic fun: Try playing around with different needle and yarn sizes in different combinations. Smaller (size 7 or 8) needles with chunky yarn make thick, stiff projects. Good for making bathmats or potholders. (If you make potholders, make sure to use 100%wool. It’s the only fiber I know of that is flame retardant). Similarly, big needles with skinny yarn yields a lacy-like project. Don’t get too carried away though. Loosely knit things will tend to stretch and become misshappen.
Stitch and Bitch is a pretty good introductory book with some great beginner-intermediate projects.
My aunt loves to knit. It’s just not my thing. But I’ve learned a few things from watching her. If you have a knitting store near you, they’ll usually be glad to answer any questions you have and probably even get you started. I can’t really help you more than everyone before me has, but I’ll just put in my 2 cents: make your first scarf all knit stitchs. You can worry about purling later.
Scarves are definitely the easiest way to start and learn the basics, definitely find a yarn store near you that you like and are comfortable with the people. I find when I go into my favourite store, people are always willing to chat, make reccomendations and give tips.
One good online resource for the various stitches is knittinghelp.com/. The videos are shown using both English and Continental style and have been a huge help for me since I’ve outpaced my Mom’s abilities and my Grandma isn’t near enough to show me things.
Another place to start is The Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crochet or Knitting for Dummies. Both of which are great resources and have simple patterns to work on (starting with scarves and dishclothes) before building on them.
Just remember to enjoy yourself and don’t worry if you drop stitches (or add them, or whatever) it’s all part of the learning experience and eventually you’ll be doing such things deliberately as part of the patterns. For me, knitting is definitely about the experience, not so much the finished object. I like having something in my hands to do, and I find knitting very soothing and satisfying, especially when whatever I’m making is done and I have something to show off!
Also, I suggest not bothering with the fancy yarns for your first projects. Lion Brand yarns, found in craftstores such as Michaels and AC Moore, are great. Their website has a bunch of patterns, as well.
For an easy beginner project, I suggest picking up a skein of their homespun yarn. It is a pretty good amount of yarn for the price. If you want a 4-inch wide scarf with this yarn, follow these directions:
On size 10 needles, cast on 14 stitches.*
Knit in the garter stitch (this is all knits. No purls. Just keep doing knits). Keep going until the scarf is the length you want. Bind off.
A useful tip: Walmart also has a minimal selection of yarns, so if you’re shopping there, you can pick some up. They have a few of the homespun shades. Also, they carry a brand of metal knitting needles that are very cheap. I’m not a big fan of the plastic Lion Brand ones since the end fell off of one of mine, but these are way way less expensive (like, $2.89) and way more durable.
*Want to know how I came up with 14? Look at the yarn description where it says “Gauge.” It says that if you cast on 14 stitches, and knit 20 rows, you’ll get a 4x4 knitted square. Also, size 10 needles are the recommended size for this yarn- if you use smaller or larger needles, the gauge will change. If this sounds horribly confusing, don’t worry about it too much- it’s not all that important for a basic project.
Monica suggested Homespun and you do get a lot of yarn for your money but I personally find it slippery and prone to split stitches (that’s when you accidentally stick your needle into the yarn rather than the stitch and knit half the stitch). Another good Lion Brand yarn is Jiffy or Wool-Ease.
And yes, the thing to do is to make a garter stitch or knit stitch only scarf.
I’ve got a good variety of needle sizes (13-6, I think they are), and picked up some eyelash yarn. I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t going to work, though I couldn’t see my stitches well enough to tell what I was doing. Terrible.
So now I have plain ol’ wool yarn. I can cast on decently enough, but can’t seem to knit my first damn stitch. Even with three books trying to explain it, with pictures, it just isn’t turning out right at all, but I’m not sure why.
I keep scaring my cats with my baffled “What? How the hell…”
Pullet, why do you cast on for only half the width? It seems like it’d make more sense to cast on the full width, though I guess that’d be unweildy for larger projects. How on earth do you get it the full width after that?
Here’s what Pullet’s talking about when she (or he) says “cast on for half the width”. For most of us, newly cast on stitches take up a lot less room than the stitches do once you’ve knit a row or two. Mine generally lie right next to each other. Thus, if the stitches you cast on measure 3" wide right after you cast them on, after you’ve worked a row or two, you’ll find they’re actually 4" or 5" wide (this is a pure guess – I’ve never done before and after measurements).
Pillows are another fun thing to start with or experiment with. They’re vaguely rectangular, but can be any shape you like or wind up with.
You don’t have a location listed in your profile, but you might want to stop in at your local yarn store. The good ones have or know of knit-ins – places where people hang out and knit. Usually all skill levels are welcome and the experienced knitters can help newbies out and offer advice and encouragement. They’ll work with you until you get it. If you like, e-mail me your location (my e-mail address is in my profile) and I’ll see what I can do.
Good luck and enjoy! Before long, you’ll be like me, knitting hats, fingerless gloves, and, on one occaision, a tea service just for the fun and challenge of it!
I’m in Tacoma, WA. There’s a Jo-Ann fabric store nearby (where I got my stuff) that has knitting classes, but they clash with my work schedule, so I can’t do that.
Maybe I’ll go back down there and see if they have any other ideas.
Siege, that makes sense. I’ve been looking at my cast-on stitches and thinking “Hang on now, that looks way too narrow. Ah well.”
I’m much the same. I can sit there and stare at the pictures and explanations and not make heads or tails of them. If you go to knitting help that I linked to further up, there are videos for knitting, purling, various cast-ons. When I can’t figure out instructions I always go there and see if she has a video for what I’m trying to do, then watch it several times to get what she is doing before I try it myself.
Since you are in Tacoma, check out Lamb’s Ear, she’s got a lot of stuff and is a pretty nice lady, although I’ve never met her in “real life,” we just read each other’s blogs, but she’s open until 9 tonight (Thursday).
Oh, and I meant to say ditto on the scarves to start, just plain garter stitch scarf for your first project. You’ll be working on getting the motions into your muscle memory, knitting tension consistency, and learning what a stitch that isn’t twisted looks like, making little mistakes, and eventually, seeing why those little mistakes happened.
One more suggestion: use a light colored yarn to start. It can be hard to see the stitches on a dark color. Also, use a good wool yarn. Cotton doesn’t have enough stretch. Considering how much time you’ll spend you might as well use a yarn witha good feel rather than acrylic.
Check out this women’s blog for tips on yarn stores. She is from Tacoma and visit’s Mrs. Blather’s store a lot. See here in her blog for her review of the store. If you scroll down I am the man on the left in the green shirt.
I think my first project was the world’s stupidest and possibly ugliest hat - and that was followed by a ton of varying Barbie clothes (mostly sleeveless tunics) - but I learned to knit really young.
I don’t actually know anywhere in Tacoma, but if you’re willing to drive north, there’s a ton of shops in Seattle that are very friendly and helpful (and one that is neither friendly, nor helpful, but does have nice yarn).
These may not be right for your first project, but make for a good intermediate project. These are patterns I designed myself. They feature a lacy column of leaves motif which is pretty easy and repeats every 8 rows. The only “advanced” stitches in the pattern are:
YO (yarn over)
SKP = Sl 1, k1, psso (psso = pass slipped stitch over knit stitch)
p2tog tbl = purl 2 together through back loops
K2tog = knit two stitches together
P2tog = purl two stitches together
This would be a good pattern to learn these stitches.
Slight hijack- while we’re talking about your scarf pattern, I’m a little confused as to what this “pass slipped stitch over knit stitch” entails. Can you explain in a bit more detail? It’s a gorgeous scarf, and I’d love to attempt it.