10 things I wish I knew When I started knitting

Knitting has been an almost lifelong obsession of mine. I don’t know what initially attracted me to knitting. Maybe it was the clicking noises needles make while people work, or the pretty things I thought I could make at 5. I vividly remember getting my first needle set at that age, holding yarn between the two needles and tried clacking them together for way too long before realizing it wasn’t working. Fast forward to age 12 when I actually first learned how to knit.

My mom, as a crocheter, took a little beginner knitting class. She came home and decided to teach me before she forgot by the next day. We couldn’t find needles anywhere, so I grabbed 2 colored pencils. Over the next 2 or so weeks, I religiously worked with those pencils knitting and unraveling seemingly endlessly. Not long after this learning phase, I got a needle set and my first beginner book and I took off!

All of my learning came from books and trial-and-error. While my struggle to figure the craft out has made me the knitter I am today, there are at least 10 things I wish I knew, that would have made life so much easier…

1. Videos are you best friends!

When I was learning how to knit, videos or classes never crossed my mind as a resource. Back 14 years ago, I was not very computer literate, but there were other resources available. I could have pursued resources with more visual aids, like the library. All I had were books, and my imagination to figure out new techniques. Only in recent years have I discovered YouTube as the best knitting resource. And I honestly don’t know how I lived without it! The amount of tears and frogging (term used when you unravel all your work) that could have been avoided if only I knew….

2. How to read knitting

This is one of those things that comes with time and experience. If my books emphasized showing how each stitch was supposed to look, so much frogging could have been avoided! The best skill as a knitter is picking up your knitting and knowing exactly where you are by reading your work. Fluent knitting literacy is something I’m still striving for. In order to write your own patterns you need to know this skill. Knowing how you want your product to look like, and all the possibilities that can help you achieve that.

3. How to fix minor problems without undoing everything

This goes along with how to read knitting, but if I knew a way to fix a mistake a few rows back without taking everything apart, I would have been a much happier camper! The amount of frogging I did because I dropped a stitch and didn’t know how to just go to the problem and get the work back on my needles, or how to just pick up the dropped stitch with a crochet hook… I firmly believe these types of fixes should be taught early on to all new knitters. I know figuring it out myself definitely built some character, but I wish someone had taught me just a few techniques….

4. Don’t be intimidated with trying new things, but also get comfortable first

I love trying new techniques and stitch combinations. However, as a beginner, I did not pace myself. If I had only slowed down just a little bit, I could have actually learned the technique instead of instantly forgetting when the project was done and leaving future me to figure it out all over again. I wish I had taken my time with a few projects utilizing a new technique, instead of just one and done. I remember doing a fancy headband with an “xo” cable pattern and having to re-learn cables later on because I had not repeated the technique after that single project.

5. Gauge does actually matter (in some circumstances)

I know I am a terrible influence (and knitter) for hating, nay despising, gauge swatches. Gauge swatches are a sample of knitting all patterns suggest you make before you start on the actual pattern in order to understand how your yarn acts, and if it reaches the right dimensions.

When I first learned knitting I thought they were a colossal waste of time, which in some cases they are (sorry not sorry, knitting police)! In the cases of toys and and things like small accessories, as long as you’re using the right size yarn and needle I find gauge useless. Clothing is a completely different monster all together though! I have made WAYYY too many costly sizing mistakes because I did not make a gauge swatch. Something like a hat you can’t necessarily just chose a different material yarn without testing: one if the right dimensions are reached, and two if it’s stretchy enough (don’t ask how I found that out…).

6. Learn about and try different material knitting needles

Different material knitting needles react differently with your work and give you a completely different experience. When I was just learning I swore by bamboo needles and despised metal ones, but my views have changed since my knitting experience and goals have changed.

Bamboo is very “grippy” with yarn which makes it great for beginners afraid of losing stitches, but the enemy of speed. Metal is very slippery making it a borderline nightmare for beginners since stitches can just slide off (sometimes seemingly if you just look at it the wrong way) but for a confident knitter speed is unmatched! Plastic has the grip of wood but bends like no one’s business. If you don’t mind noodle-needles as a beginner, these do nearly the same job as bamboo and they can be cheaper. Now I haven’t tried other wood besides bamboo, but I can imagine the nicer sets you can get probably fit somewhere between bamboo and metal needles, in terms of grip.

7. Learn yarn and needle sizing and how they go together

Certain sized yarns go with certain sized needles. Oh the frustration that could have been avoided with knitting that was turning out too lacey or so tight that I could barely get it off my needles! A good rule of thumb that I learned, is to read the labels of the yarn. They suggest a gauge swatch with needle size recommendation. I used that suggestion as the default needle size (unless the pattern I was using suggested otherwise). This is really useful if you’re branching out and trying your own patterns like a basic scarf, or washcloths. Using the gauge guideline on your yarn gives you a solid base necessary for exploring.

8. Circular needles are not the enemy

Even though circular needles are not the same as straight needles and may seem foreign, there are many things that they can do better than straight needles and even double-point needles! For whatever reason as a beginner, I viewed circular needles as useless and unnecessary.

First thing circular needles are better at is large projects, like blankets or shawls. The become a breeze with circular needles, and you just use them like a straight needle working back and forth. Circular needles can technically take up less space in your draw, and anything double-point needles can do I now find circular does better. For my work with double-points, I always found annoying gapping in between needles, irritating poking into my forearms, and the nightmare of juggling the needles themselves. The magic loop method with circular needles quite literally converted me from a hater, to circular needle’s biggest fan!

9. Use the yarn! Don’t wait to be a good enough knitter, mice might get to it

My first ball of yarn I bought for myself was this gorgeous green indie dyed wool yarn. I bought it for 26 bucks at a yarn festival. The price tag intimidated me, and I used it as a goal for “when I’m good enough I’ll use it”.

Years ended up passing and by the time I felt confident enough to use it, I found mice had gotten to it before I had. I’ve been able to use the scraps between the nibble marks to make tiny embellishments, but nothing as fantastic as what I could have made if only I hadn’t waited… So learn from my mistake, use that glorious yarn you’ve been saving, you’ve never been a better knitter then you are right now!

10. Knitting can easily be expensive, find ways to cut corners

As previously mentioned, my first ball of yarn I bought was 26 dollars. While this was a specialty hand-dyed high-quality yarn, it is very very easy to run the tab up with knitting. This is something I never thought of when I first learned, but should be something to stay mindful of if you want high quality work without that high price tag. Some tricks I’ve learned is to shop sales, clearance, buy in bulk when you can, and thrift stores literally will be your best friends!

Hope these tips can help new knitters out there! While I came across all this information through struggle and tears, I believe these are important things for everyone new to the craft. Let me know what some tips are you wish you’d known when you first started.

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