Your Knitting Library: Don’t Buy that “How to Knit” Book!

“How to Knit” books cover the basics of how to make a knit stitch, a purl stitch, casting on, casting off.  They might give you more, they might not. These skills are arguably the bare minimum of what you need to begin knitting.  It’s not a lot, but when you’re beginning to knit, it feels like a lot.

Knitting is a two handed activity.  You have to do different things with each hand at the same time.  And the things you’re doing with your hands are fine motor activities.  That is, these are small movements that require fairly refined muscle control.

All of this adds up to a fairly challenging skill to master.

Know Thyself:  Learning Style

What works for you?  How do you learn most easily?

There’s a wide range of opinions on learning styles.  It’s generally agreed there are at least 3, but possibly as many as 170 learning styles.  For the purposes of this article, only the basic 3 will be discussed.  Chances are you will find one of them fits you at least somewhat.

Understanding which one works best for you can help you figure out the best way for you to learn how to knit, or how to learn any other skill you need.  Here are some of the most common learning styles:

  • Visual:  Visual learners learn best by watching, observing, sometimes reading, and by doodling.  They benefit from illustrations and videos of things they are trying to learn.
  • Auditory:  These are people who need to hear instructions.  Lectures work well for them.  It also helps if they can repeat instructions or information out loud.  Videos work well for this group, too.  Listening to music while learning can also be helpful.
  • Kinesthetic:  Also called tactile learners, kinesthetic learners need to do, touch, and move to incorporate new information.  They learn best from doing and experiencing.  This can be difficult in a classroom, but works great with knitting!

(If you want to learn more about learning styles, you can find more information here.)

Right off the bat, it looks like most beginning knitters will benefit from watching videos.  If you’re an auditory or visual learner, you can still benefit from having some knitting instructions from a book or article, but you’ll probably find it easier to learn from a video.  Fortunately, knitting videos are everywhere online.  From major yarn manufacturers like Lion Brand, to the Craft Yarn Council, to individual knitters, there are a wide range of videos, Youtube channels, and teachers available online.

For kinesthetic learners, learning from a video or a book may be a bit more challenging, but you’ll probably be more comfortable with movement and just jumping in and doing it.  In knitting, there is no replacement for doing, which puts it firmly in your comfort zone.  If, however, you’re really struggling, your best bet is probably in-person lessons.

No matter which learning method you choose, there’s no substitute for the experience of trying to coordinate two sticks and some wiggly yarn.

Your Knitting Library

Learning to knit can be challenging.  That’s part of what makes it good for you.  And knitting is very good for you.

Knitting helps with a variety of mental and physical health indicators, such as pulse rate and stress levels.  Learning to knit, while initially more stressful, can help keep your brain healthy longer.  (More on that here and here.) You should plan on being a knitter for a long time.

What does that have to do with buying a “how to knit” book?

You’re going to have a knitting library.  A little pre-planning of your knitting budget is a good idea.

There are a LOT of knitting books out there.  As a beginning knitter, you will want to build your knitting library.  If you buy a “how to knit” book, you’ll outgrow it pretty quickly.

There are several general reference style knitting books.  These books are fairly large because they’re full of all kinds of information.  They have basic “how to knit” instructions, as well as information on a variety of other techniques you may want to learn as your skills progress.

They include information on finishing techniques – you will absolutely need this, unless you’re already an accomplished seamstress or tailor.

They include:

  • advanced instructions on increases and decreases and when you should use which one.
  • a stitch library you can “ooh” and “ahh” over until you’re ready to take the plunge of modifying or designing your own patterns.
  • a few patterns, which may or may not appeal to you.  Honestly, the patterns are the last reason to buy one of these books.

The point is, you can buy a one-stop shop reference book for about twice as much, or less, than you would have spent on a “how to knit” book.  That may sound like a big price difference, but the value difference is much larger.

I get it, you’re still nervous.  You still think the magical, hand-holding, “how to knit” book will get you over the knitting hump.

Don’t Panic! You CAN do this!

Probably the biggest reason people buy “how to knit” books is because they’re overwhelmed by the two sticks doing different things and all that wiggly yarn.  In other words, it’s the experience that’s causing them to, well, panic.

Quick quiz, do you have a drivers’ license?

If yes, you can learn to knit.  Sure, it’s a whole different set of skills, but driving does require you to pay attention to a whole bunch of different things all at once.  A basic beginning knitter’s project only requires you to pay attention to your yarn and your needles.  A good beginner’s pattern will have you doing only knit stitches, row after row after row.  It’s an excellent way to begin.

Your work will start out uneven.  There will be holes in places there shouldn’t be.  One or both edges might grow, for no apparent reason.  We all start out this way.

Knitting is like any other skill.  First, master the basics, like holding the needles, holding the yarn, and the basic knit stitch.  The way to do that is by repetition.  You will improve, one stitch at a time.

You’re not going to get that out of a book.

Be patient with yourself.  As a knitter, you will never stop making mistakes.  That’s a good thing.  For more on this, see my article here.

A book, no matter how good, is not a replacement for perseverance, patience, and self-knowledge.  If you let it, that’s what knitting will teach you.

Finally, when you’re tempted to give up, remember that children who can’t even read yet can learn to knit.  That’s not to make you feel stupid, it’s to point out that, barring some serious cognitive or muscle control issues, you CAN do this!

What are your knitting challenges?  What’s helped you?  Let me know below!

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