Helpful Tips For the Beginner Knitter

by dustytoes

It may take some patience and practice to learn to knit, but knitting is a hobby people all over the world find addicting!

Ever see an absolutely gorgeous knit item and wish it could be yours? As a beginner knitter producing such an item may be your ultimate goal. In the mean time, practice makes perfect, so take the time to get to know your needles, stitches, cast ons, and bind offs.

A lot goes into knitting, but it can be very relaxing once you get the hang of it. As a bit of a beginner myself, I decided to share tips for others taking the knitting journey.

Without someone next to us to show us the way, we must rely on videos, websites, books, and forums to inspire us to continue our quest to become knitting queens (and kings).

Knits and Purls

Knits and purls are the basics of knitting.  These two stitches alone can help you create some wonderful hats, scarves, washcloths, and other simple-to-knit items.

Lots of people begin knitting socks.  I have never knit a pair of socks in my life!  I may try to one day, but I began knitting by creating warm, winter scarves for myself.  

Doing knit and purl stitches back and forth across the short row of a scarf will help you see just how the stitches look when put together, or piled row upon row.  This is good practice for getting used to your needles and figuring how to hold the yarn comfortably.

I began knitting using straight needles, but circular needles can take their place.  If you want to save money, buy circular needles that can be used for either knitting in the round, or a back and forth project like a scarf.  

How to Make a Basic Knit Stitch

Purl Soho has some of the best knitting videos I've seen. This one shows us how to knit.

Casting On and Binding Off

Before you can knit anything you must know how to get the yarn onto the needle.  This is called "casing on" or doing a "cast on".

There are many more ways of casting on than I ever knew about, but all you need for a simple item like a scarf, is the basic cast on.  I have also learned the "long-tail cast on" and have found it easy and fast.

On my blog, I have a page of video tutorials showing various ways to cast on.  Use either way to cast stitches onto your needles and then you can begin knitting and purling your scarf.

When you get to the end of your scarf, or dishcloth, you will have to stop knitting.  The stitches will need to be hooked together by the easy cast-off.

See the excellent video below to see how to bind off when finishing your project.

How to Bind Off in Knitting

This is the basic way to bind off anything you knit.

Choosing Yarn and Needles

To begin, try a heavier weight yarn with wood / bamboo needles.

All you really need to begin knitting is a set of needles and some yarn.

Needles can be made of many types of material, the most popular being metal, plastic, or wood / bamboo.  Metal needles will be slippery compared to wood, so I suggest using wood for more control - stitches won't slide off the end of the needle as easily when you don't want them to!

Yarn comes in all sizes from very thin "lace" weight to super bulky.  I love the feel of the bulky "Rasta" yarn from Malabrigo.  I've made one hat and scarf set, and am making another scarf.  It may be a little too thick for beginners, but don't start off with a really thin yarn.

A "normal" yarn would be anything called "worsted weight", and that type of yarn is perfect to start with.  For knitting a scarf with worsted weight yarn, choose a needle size 6, 7 or 8.  Gauge is not important in a scarf, but often you will be told to "check your gauge" for other projects.  More on that at another time.  A long scarf will take about 3 skeins of yarn.  A hat will use 1 skein or less.

Find a free pattern to follow, whether a scarf or something else, which will tell you needle size, yarn type.  I have a section of free patterns saved on my Pinterest knitting board.

Choose a light color yarn because the stitches are easier to see.  Merino wool comes as machine washable or hand wash.  Unless you want to hand-wash your item, look for yarn that can easily be cleaned.  If you wash a wool item incorrectly, it can shrink up and "felt".  You don't want that to happen after all that hard work!


ChiaoGoo and Takumi Clover Are Two Brands I Buy

Steel needles will be more slippery. There is more control with wood / bamboo. These needles come in many sizes, in straight or circular.
ChiaoGoo Red Lace Circular 32-inch (8...Clover Takumi Bamboo Circular 36-Inch...

Remembering Where You Left Off, Put the Needles in the Correct Position

Don't start knitting the wrong way!

Once a project is begun, you will stop knitting at some point and put down the project.

When you go back again to continue, it can sometimes be difficult to remember how to hold the needles correctly and begin knitting again.  

This is something you may not think of until the time comes.  Which needle is held where?

On straight needles there isn't much of a problem because the right hand needle will be empty because you finished the row.  Pick it up and begin - the yarn will be coming off the left hand needle where the project is.  

However, if both needles have stitches on them, because you stopped mid-row, the needle with the yarn hanging off it will go in your right hand.

On circular needles, it's the same thing.  Even though the ends of the needles are attached by a cord, pretend they are not, and follow the advice above for straight needles.

When working in the round, the yarn will always be coming off the right hand needle.

This may not make sense until you accidentally begin knitting the wrong way and totally mess up your item... it has happened to me more than once!

Bulky yarn is fun to use and may help beginners see stitches easier.

I am using circular needles to knit the scarf shown.
Bulky "Rasta" yarn in natural color
Bulky "Rasta" yarn in natural color

Where to Buy Yarn and What Type to Buy

Think about what you will be knitting and what that item will be used for.

Yarn is sold everywhere.  The local Walmart has cheap yarn, and craft stores will also carry all types of yarn.  If you live near a nice store, go there and pick out your yarn in person.  Salespeople can help answer questions too.

When you fist start out, don't spend a lot of money on yarn.  Buy something that will work for your project.  A simple dishcloth takes very little yarn, but it should be cotton, or a blend that is washable.  

If your first project is a scarf to wear in winter, find a warm wool yarn.  Merino wool is a favorite with knitters because it is not scratchy like regular wool can be.

I've been knitting long enough to know that I dislike acrylic yarn and will only use natural fiber yarns.  There are so many beautiful hand-dyed yarns to choose from I don't know why anyone chooses cheap man-made fiber.  

That is my preference.

Sock Yarn

Sock yarn is made by many companies, and can be used for many items besides socks. Shawls are big with the knitting world and the color combinations are endless.
Madeline Tosh Sock Yarn
Madeline Tosh Sock Yarn

Buying Yarn Online

Read my blog post about my experience with shopping at four online yarn shops.

Some of us don't live near a fun yarn store.  When I recently began some serious knitting, I had to scour the internet for good online yarn stores.  That link goes to my blog page where I list my 4 favorite places to buy nice yarn.  

As you get more experience, and branch out to make pretty items like shawls, sweaters, hats and mittens, it's worth spending a little extra money to have nice yarn to work with.  After all, much effort, time and love goes into knitting a special item.

Yarn Can be Found on Amazon

Although I suggest buying yarn from a reputable yarn store, Amazon does offer some of my favorite types of yarn. I'm linking them here for you to see.
Lily 10300202084 Sugar 'N Cream Yarn,...Yarn | Tosh Merino Light (Accra Evening)Malabrigo Rios - #866 Arco Iris

Changing Yarn Color, or How to Add a New Ball of Yarn While Knitting

These videos show various ways of adding yarn to a project.

What Comes Next?

So you have mastered casting on, knitting and purling, and binding off.  

I hope some of what I have included on this page has been helpful.

There is much more to come.  I am learning a lot about knitting myself, so we can learn together!

One of the first projects I tried was knitting a winter hat for myself.  Learning to knit in the round is not difficult.  In fact, it is easier in some ways.

Practice some new stitches and ways to combine stitches to create a pattern.  (Dishcloth knitting is a good way to do this. The Sugar' n Cream cotton yarn - shown above - is what I use for my dishcloths.  It's cheap, and a big spool contains lots of yarn.) 

My Knitting Blog

I'm a New Englander at heart, and it's where I learned to knit. The blog combines knitting with stories from that area.
Knitting books you may like to add to your collection.
One of the first things I knit was a shawl. A shawl can be a very easy project and might be perfect for a beginner knitter to make. Shawls can be knit in various ways ...
On this page I try to help beginner knitters understand short rows, and the important shaping they do when knitting sweaters.
Updated: 07/06/2018, dustytoes
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frankbeswick on 07/03/2018

Fair Isle garments are available in the shop on the isle, but I do not know whether there are any other outlets for it, such as mail order.

There are knitted garments from other parts of Europe. When I visited Cape St Vincent, the most southwesterly point in Portugal and Europe, there was a craft market where I bought a lovely knitted cardigan with a hood.

dustytoes on 07/03/2018

I will definitely look for the Sirdar Crofter. It sounds awesome. The Fair isle I've seen is so impressive, and I'm sure it's time-consuming to create, but the end products are lovely. One day I may attempt it.

Veronica on 07/03/2018

We now have a fair isle cheat wool. It is sensational and called Sirdar Crofter. Whereas I used to sit and have little bolls of wool hanging down at the back of my knitting , .. NOW you have one ball and it knits into a fair isle garment. I have knitted using Sirdar Crofter for my grandchildren and everyone thinks they have a clever grandma who knits them fair isle garments. When my niece posted a picture of her baby on F/b wearing one of my Sirdar Crofter hats, I was inundated with requests but I don't have time to do them.

If you google Image Fair isle you will see some of the hand knits . Unsurprisingly, American visitors and Chinese Visitors spend the most on hand knits. In Ireland the Americans spend hundreds of euros on Hand knitted garments

dustytoes on 07/03/2018

How interesting! The long dark winters are perfect for knitting. I'd love to see some of their garments.

frankbeswick on 07/03/2018

Dustytoes, there was a television programme on Fair Isle this week on British television. It showed how the inhabitants still knit woollen garments for sale to tourists. About twelve ships a year land and disgorge tourists, all in Summer, so the island's knitters spend the dark nights of the northern winter knitting garments for sale.

dustytoes on 07/03/2018

I do remember your Alzheimer's page... I know the secret is to simply "do it". Like all things, practice makes us better.

Veronica on 07/03/2018

If you recall, I made my Alzheimer's twiddle mitt and put a page on here. It is a straight piece and would be lovely made cotton yarn for hot climates where Alzheimer's is also prevalent.

It is a question of keeping going at it. There are ladies at our knit and natter who are truly amazing and make truly beautiful things. You never know who is out there wanting some knitting support

dustytoes on 07/03/2018

Veronica, a Fair Isle pattern!!!... I know where to go for knitting advice! I'll bet that is a lovely garment.
I am really a beginner with lots to learn. A little old woman gave me lessons when I lived in New Hampshire, but then life got in the way and I had to move on and teach myself. I now learn mostly through online videos. Not a lot of knitting is done here in the Florida heat and I don't have any nice yarn shops nearby. (I soooo miss New England!)
A group would be really helpful. I'm on Ravelry, and have just begun a knit-along where we are knitting a "mystery" shawl. I can barely keep up with the experts, but it's fun. I simply overlook my mistakes and move on... hahaha!

And Frank, I wore lots of knitted mittens and sweaters made by my grandmother. Wish I still had them all. I certainly did not appreciate them like I should have.

Veronica on 07/03/2018

What a delightful post. Thank you so much. I have started a Knit and Natter group at church for the community and we do lots of charity projects as well as our own knitting. I recently made a little bolero / shrug for my 2 year old granddaughter and knitted a rose to decorate the lapel. I made Frank's baby grandson a woolly hat for his first winter.

My mother taught me the basic stitches but I didn't knit regularly until my oldest son was born 35 years ago.
My best piece ever was an Icelandic Arran wool Fair isle [pattern that I made for my husband 26 years ago... and he still has it.

frankbeswick on 07/03/2018

None. But I wore the hand knitted clothes that my mother made during our childhood and into early adult life.

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