Fast Knitting Projects for Beginners (& Everyone Else)

How do you measure knitting speed?  Do you count it in stitches/minute, or the amount of time it takes for you to finish a project?  The truly speedy knitters measure it in stitches/minute, but maybe you just want to have a pile of finished objects to show off to friends and family.

Many beginning knitters envy the ability of more experienced knitters to finish projects quickly. There is also a perception that speed equals competency. In reality, neither one may be true.

Knitting isn’t a race. For most of us, it’s not a job either. It’s something we do because it feels good. When you’re first beginning, other knitters will look so much more masterful, pulling off stitch patterns that look like magic, creating drool-inspiring knitted objects. It may seem like they doing it very quickly, too. 

Compared to where you are, that may be true. Or they might be putting in a whole lot more hours of knitting than you realize. Depending on the stitch pattern, an experienced knitter quickly develops muscle memory, which allows her to watch tv, listen to a lecture, attend a zoom meeting, even chat with friends, and continue knitting. While practice does increase speed, experienced knitters are also better at knitting more often.

It may be hard to believe, but you will get better and you will get faster.

Patience, the First Lesson of Knitting

When you’re first starting to knit, there’s a lot to learn.  You have to watch your hands and consciously direct their every move.  Then you look around on Youtube, or elsewhere, and see knitters who have been doing it for years.  Some of them work on being as fast as they can.  Watching their hands fly through their knitting is amazing and before you know it, you’ve got speed knitting envy.

The first thing you should know is, it probably won’t last.  I am in awe of those speedy knitters but I don’t have any desire to be one.  I am happy being a slow knitter.  Before writing this article, I reviewed a number of knitting forums (fora?) to see what other knitters had to say about fast knitting.  At least half of the posts were by knitters like me.  We’re knitters who don’t care about being fast.  For us, the point of knitting is the enjoyment of knitting. 

As one poster put it, “whatever speed you knit at is the right speed.”

Knitting has significant health benefits, if you keep doing it. If a quick win is what you need to keep knitting, go for it. There’s no rule anywhere that you have to do big, involved knitting projects. Do what works for you. Make fun little projects like finger puppets or toys. Why not?

Benefits of a Quick Win

There’s no getting around it.  Being a beginner can be frustrating.  Getting a project done fast can help. 

Wanting to start with a project you can get on and off your needles quickly can be a really good idea. The most important benefit of getting to your first finished object (FO) is avoiding discouragement. There are other benefits.

Every FO you produce will build your confidence. Feeling confident feels good, even great, and it will inspire you to try bigger and better things. That’s important. We’re never too young or too old to have more confidence and courage.

There’s no denying quick wins build momentum. Momentum will keep you knitting so you get those health benefits and a lifelong hobby that will give you a sense of accomplishment, opportunities for friendship, and so much more.

Process Knitting vs. Production Knitting

Many experienced knitters, myself included, consider ourselves to be process knitters. Our goal is not to finish projects, it’s to enjoy the process of knitting. We enjoy the whole process, choosing the pattern, finding the yarn, and even adding to our needle collections. Finishing the project brings a sense of accomplishment, but it’s really not the goal.

Becoming a better knitter is a process and it will be unique to you. At different times, you’ll have different ideas about what kind of knitter you want to be and what a “better” knitter does. Eventually, your speed envy will die down, or you’ll realize that you’ve become much faster than you were. Maybe both.

The other half of the posts offered ideas about how to increase the speed of your knitting. Most of those knitters didn’t comment on production versus process knitting, so I don’t know how they viewed this question. It’s worth taking a look at it.

First of all, what matters most is what makes knitting enjoyable to you. Some knitters really enjoy knitting quickly. Some knitters get a lot out of producing FO’s, finished objects, which would make them production knitters. I suspect there are more process knitters around than production knitters, but it really doesn’t matter. You will benefit most from knitting, in my opinion, if you knit in the way that you enjoy. Fortunately, this doesn’t appear to be something that knitters get judge-y about.

Putting aside what kind of knitter you will become, don’t get discouraged!

What makes a knitting project fast?

  • Small and simple wins the race.  Choose your projects carefully.  Smaller, simpler projects are easier to finish.  Think about your skill level.  If you’ve just learned knitting and purling and you want to be fast, don’t try to knit cables, entrelac, lace, or intarsia!  
  • Cheat.  Others may feel differently about this, but I always feel like a bit of a cheater when I use a bulky yarn.  There are even heavier weights of yarn, or you can knit with more than one strand of yarn and end up with a crazy gauge like 1 stitch/inch.  That project will be done quickly!
  • Needles matter.  This one is actually a little tricky.  If you’re just learning to manage your yarn, a more slippery needle, such as one made out of metal, can slow you down because you’ll have to put more effort into keeping your yarn under control.  Bamboo and wooden needles are “stickier,” which makes it easier for a beginner to knit.  You’ll have to use your judgement on this one.
  • Fiber matters, too!  Basically, animal fiber based yarns are less slippery than plant based fiber yarns, silk being one exception to this rule.  Remember, slippery equals harder to handle.  Choose wisely.

Small, Quick, & Easy

For this post, I’ve left off the ubiquitous beginner’s scarf.  While I still feel it’s great choice for beginners, scarves need a certain amount of length to be functional, so they’re not the fastest projects to work on.  In fact, they require about the same amount of yarn as a sweater!
When I reviewed beginner patterns, I found over 24 types of projects that are small and simple enough to be fast to complete.  I’m sure I could have found more, but I need to finish this post this month. 

I’ve grouped the project types into general categories and listed several more specific examples that I think is a good fit for someone looking for a quick and easy beginner project.

  • For Babies:  booties, bibs, mitts, blankets, and toys
  • Home Dec:  pot holders, place mats, table runners, pillows or poufs, dishcloths
  • For the Bath:  spa mitts, washcloths, towel trim, toilet paper covers, bath mats, and more
  • Accessories:  headbands, cowls, hats, wristers/gauntlets/cuffs, smartphone cover, bags, clutches, necklaces
  • Trinkets & Toys:  “sock” monkey, lots of animals & toys for people and pets, other pet gear

For free and paid patterns for any of these categories, see my article on some of my favorite pattern sites here.

Knitting is Good for You

Being a beginning knitter is a great place to be.  Research shows that when we learn new skills, even as adults, our ability to remember improves.  For this reason alone, you should begin knitting now.  And since there are always new knitting skills to conquer, while receiving other significant health benefits, knitting will always be a new skill.  (For an example of this, see my article on my knitting mistakes.)

Of course, with knitting the benefits never end.  As your skill level increases, you can experience knitting as a meditation, with all those wonderful health-building effects.  There are social benefits as well, especially if you get out of the house and join a knitting circle or group.  Online knitting groups exist, too.  You’re only alone as a knitter if you want to be.  

Not for Beginners Only

Small, fast knitting projects are attractive to knitters of all levels.  You’ll probably never stop making them, no matter what your skill level.  Here are some of the reasons why you should always have a small, fast project on your needles.

  • They’re fun! 
  • They’re less stressful than projects with demanding techniques and working on them can be more relaxing.
  • It feels good to finish, really finish, a project.
  • Most knitters have more than one project going at any one time.  One of them is typically small, because we like to knit wherever we are and small projects travel more easily.
  • Small projects help us keep going when we are also working on bigger, more complex projects.  Sometimes you need a break from the intensity of a complex project or the boredom of working on the same blanket day after day after day.
  • Small, easy projects are the brain candy of the knitting world.  If you think that they’re only for beginners, they’re not.  It’s likely, if you become a lifelong knitter, you will also be a lifelong knitter of small, quick, easy projects.

Final Thoughts

I remember how I felt working on my first project, frustrated with how long it was taking me to make any visible progress. Even after I developed some competency and was able to establish a good knitting rhythm, I wanted to be a better knitter. I imagined that better knitters were faster knitters. Partly, I thought this because I saw articles about how to knit faster and recognition for fast knitters in general. Time and experience have completely changed my perception of fast knitting.

I have tried continental style knitting, which is supposed to be faster, and I hated it. Why would I knit in a way that I dislike that much?

I tried focusing on knitting faster, probably because I wanted to finish a project by a certain date, but still, it worked. If you really focus on something, that’s what you’ll do, and I did knit faster. I didn’t enjoy it. Knitting fast feels like work to me. Other knitters report that knitting faster hurts their arms, hands or shoulders.  Why would I do that to myself? 

Enjoy where you are.  It’s a good place. 

If you’re just learning, you will be improving your brain health.

If you’re a little further along, you’re still learning.  There’s no end to new techniques, styles, patterns. 

Your knitting experience can be whatever you want it to be. 

Most of your fellow knitters will celebrate you for whatever you choose to do.

It’s possible you’ll run into an overly critical knitter.  Just smile and walk away.  There are lots of kind, positive, supportive knitters out there who’ll love what you’re doing.  Go hang with them. 

Be good to yourself.  Your knitting is wonderful and so are you.


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