Are Knitting Kits a Good Idea for Beginning Knitters?

Whether it’s your first project, your 10th, or your 100th, putting together a kit, or ordering one, gives you a sense of instant gratification.  It seems like it would make your life so much easier.

If you’re a beginning knitter, it seems like a knitting kit would be the obvious way to start.  Everything’s right there, no need for expertise.  Well, sort of.

So, the simple answer is “yes.”  The rankest of beginners should find everything they need in a knitting kit:  the pattern, the needles and the yarn.  If you choose your project wisely, this will be enough.

A good kit for beginners won’t require much, if any finishing techniques, i.e. no sewing pieces together after the knitting is done, so no other tools or supplies will be needed.  Except for the needle to weave in the yarn ends.

Not having something you need to complete the project can throw a huge wrench in the works, especially for beginners who may not have figured out, or be comfortable with, work-arounds.

Simplicity, the key to a successful beginner’s knitting kit

There are a lot of skills that a beginning knitter needs to master.  Experience is the only way to develop your knitting skills, but the easiest way to begin is to keep it simple.  This applies to every aspect of your kit.

The Pattern.  The project should be super simple.  It should be only one rectangular or square piece.  Some of my favorites for beginners are:

  • A scarf
  • A washcloth (for dishes or humans)
  • A pillowcase – if you’re comfortable with a little sewing

A scarf is always my first choice for the beginning-est of beginners.  You should expect a scarf to be 5 feet.  If it’s a one color pattern, with only one or two stitch patterns, that can get boring after a while.  Scarf kits shouldn’t be too difficult to find, although they’re not as popular as other kits.

A potholder or two could be a good alternative,.  They’re small, quick projects that require little yarn or time.  Going by the number of free washcloth patterns, they’re pretty popular, but perhaps harder to find in a kit.

I rarely hear pillowcases mentioned for beginners, but I think they could be a good choice, especially if the knitter has some experience with sewing.

A pillowcase could be knitted as a rectangle that’s folded and sewn together on the sides,  leaving an opening to slide in a pillow with a fold over flap.  Alternatively, a knitted front could be sewn to a cloth backing or a plain cloth pillow case.

If this were in kit form, I’d try to find one that included the pillow.

The yarn should be simple, not too many colors in one skein or ball, and definitely a smooth, even texture.  The project overall shouldn’t require more than two colors.  One would be better.

An important knitting skill to develop is the ability to “read” your knitting.  It’s much easier to learn to read your knitting with a smooth, solid color yarn.  The color itself doesn’t matter too much; light, dark, or in between, go with what you like.

The thickness of the yarn, usually called the “weight” of the yarn matters.  For beginners, DK or worsted weight are ideal.  Thicker yarns can be good, too.  Stay away from the thin, fine yarns.

Don’t forget to make sure you like the feel of the yarn.

The needles.  If you’ve read my other posts on interchangeable circular needles and wooden needles, you know I have very strong feelings about needles.

Most beginners start on cheap, straight needles.  I’m not sure this is a good idea.

On the one hand, if you’re a beginner, you don’t know if you’re going to become a serious knitter, so why should you waste money on good needles?

On the other hand, good needles, like good yarn, are much more pleasant to use.  Poor quality needles (or yarn) could definitely cause you to dislike knitting.

I’d recommend wooden or bamboo needles, and yes, fixed circulars, if available.  Again, most kits provide straight needles, but one of their main drawbacks is the ease with which you can lose a straight needle, especially when you’re a beginner. .  I find stitches are less likely to fall off a circular needle, too.  Maybe that’s just me.

The Stitch Pattern.  There are a lot of really tempting patterns out there, from  colorwork to cable to brioche stitch, but for beginners, the kit should only call for garter stitch or stockinette stitch.  The occasional stripe of a different color, going from the beginning of the row to the end, would work, too.

Except for small projects like washcloths, almost every pattern will require you to learn to weave in ends, so this kind of stripe will add very little complexity to the project.

What WON’T Be in the Kit?

Anything you need for finishing your project after the knitting is done.

If you need to weave in ends, you’ll need a large eyed blunt needle, sometimes called a darning needle.  Craft or sewing stores, as well as your local yarn store, (LYS), should have these.

If you need to use any thread to sew you knitting to something else, say if you made a pillowcase, you’ll need the thread and the cloth.  I’ve yet to see backing of any kind provided in a knitting kit.  Sewing stores are good sources for these.

Some useful tools that you can be sure won’t be included are:  measuring tape, stitch gauge, large eyed blunt needles, a crochet hook and stitch markers.  More on these later.

Where do I Find a Beginner’s Knitting Kit?

My first choice is DIY.  Here’s how I do it:

  1. I  find a pattern I like, make a copy of it and put it in a plastic sleeve.
  2. Collect the appropriate yarn, making sure to include at least one extra skein/ball.
  3. Collect the appropriate needles.
  4. Put all of the above in a project bag.  (The size of the project bag will usually be determined by the amount of yarn required, but you could have a small, portable project bag, like this one, and store the rest of the yarn at home.)
  5. I do NOT include finishing tools because they are only needed, briefly, at the very end.  However, a crochet hook may be helpful for dropped stitches.

Keeping it simple, pre-made kit sources:

Many major online yarn suppliers sell kits.  Many even have a sort of diy tool on their websites, with recommended and alternative yarn choices listed under a pattern. Two that I like are:

I’ve also seen a LOT of knitting kits advertised in knitting magazines and catalogs.  Really, any decent-sized yarn supplier is going to sell kits.   But be careful, most kits with a lot of eye appeal are also too complex for beginners.

Speaking of yarn suppliers, don’t forget your local yarn store.  For the ultimate in customization, go to your LYS, tell them what you want and let them put a kit together for you!

Final Thoughts

The truth is, the simplest patterns don’t usually get made into kits because they have less appeal than more complicated patterns.  It’s too bad because beginners stand to benefit the most from knitting kits.

That doesn’t mean you should give up, but the kits listed in magazines and catalogs should probably be your last choice.

I’ve never come across a knitting kit that included absolutely everything you’d need.  Again, your best bet is to go to an LYS.  Second best is one of the online sites with diy tools.

Final Tips:

  • If your pattern is relatively recent, the recommended yarn should be readily available.  If the yarn has been discontinued, seek help from your LYS to get an appropriate substitute.
  • Knitting needles are readily available.  You can get them online, at craft or sewing stores, or at your LYS.  Online stores will have the best selection, but for a simple pattern any of the above should be able to provide what you need.
  • Project bags are not included with kits.  If you do order a pre-made kit, it will probably arrive in a thin, clear plastic bag.  If you want to keep everything together, and you really should, get a project bag that you’ll be comfortable taking with you.  Make sure it closes securely!
  • My favorite all time knitting tool is stitch markers.  No one includes them in kits, but for accurate counting, and visual cues of where you need to do something different, they can’t be beat. For example, putting a stitch marker every 10 stitches makes it easy to keep track of your stitch count.  Every beginning knitter ends up accidentally adding or subtracting stitches.  Make it easy on yourself.  Use stitch markers.

I could go on, but I think I’ve coverd the essentials.  Let me know what I’ve missed!

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