When you’re knitting your first project, the pattern will tell you what yarn and needles to use. It probably won’t tell you much about how to make your first knitting experience more successful.
Here are a few easy ways to make your first attempts at knitting more fun:
- Center pull only! There’s a very tempting, easy to reach free end of yarn on the outside of your skein or ball of yarn. Don’t use it! If it’s flapping around, wind it around a couple of strands that are firmly in place on the ball and ignore it. What you want is the end of yarn that’s buried in the middle of the ball or skein. You’ll have to go on a bit of a fishing expedition to find it. It’s worth it!! There are a few circumstances where knitting from the exterior of the ball works and is even a good idea. Your first several knitting projects do not meet those requirements. Pull your yarn from the center of the ball only.
- Tension your yarn, not your shoulders. Almost all beginners start off tense. Stiff, tight shoulders, arms, and hands. Let your shoulders sink away from your ears. Take a deep breath. Everything will be ok. (You shouldn’t need a massage after your knitting sessions!)
- Thread your yarn through your fingers, or not. If you’re knitting English style, you’ll be told at some point to thread your yarn between the fingers of your right hand. It took me years to get to that point. Turns out you can knit pretty consistently without threading your yarn through your fingers. Does it help? I guess. Don’t stress over it.
- Use the cable cast on method. Almost everyone tells beginners to start with the long tail cast on. Why? I have no idea. It’s not a particularly easy cast on. It requires you to come up with a pretty accurate estimate of how much yarn you’ll use in your first row before your knit it! Does this sound easy to you? It doesn’t to me. It’s also a pretty rigid cast on and if you don’t get the tension right, you could end up with a cast on row that’s much tighter, inelastic, and pulls in the bottom of your project oddly.
I suggest the cable cast on. It’ almost exactly the same as knitting a regular row. The difference is that instead of letting the original stitch slip off the needle, you slip your new stitch onto your left hand needle and then knit another stitch into that new stitch. Supposedly, the way you twist the new stitch when you put it on the needle will make a difference. Not that I’ve noticed, but consistency is the key to a smooth cast on edge, so I try to always do things the same way.
5. Contain Your Yarn! Yarn is troublesome. Ask any kitten. It’s temptation in fiber form. It doesn’t behave on it’s own, as every beginning knitter knows, and just wait until you get close to the end of the ball or skein. You’ll pull on the yarn, expecting the nice, smooth strand you’ve been getting, and instead up comes a great big knot. At some point, the whole thing will fall apart. If you don’t have it corralled, it will find a way to become a rat’s nest. You can buy a gizmo called a “yarn bra” or “yarn sleeve” or you can use a tube sock or a small (clean!) plastic bag and create your own yarn bra. Put your yarn in it right from the start. It’ll cut way down on the yarn wandering off, falling apart, and spontaneously recreating the Gordian knot.
6. Start small. Choose small projects to start with. Your first project will look very different from your 10th project. Don’t make it a big deal. Don’t spend a lot of time or yarn on it. Just get it out of the way and move on.
- washcloths, aka a square
- wristers/mitts/fingerless gloves
7. Stitches aren’t cast in stone. You can go back and re-do your knitting. You can rip out entire rows, or inches and inches of rows. It’s part of being a knitter. That’s why there are so many terms for it. You don’t rip out stitches, you tink them. “Tink” is knit backwards. When you tink an entire project, it’s called frogging. Ribbit, ribbit. Get it? On Ravelry, when you frog an entire project, you can list it as “frogged,” complete with a cute little frog icon. It doesn’t mean you’ve given up. Unless you want it to. For more on making the most of your knitting mistakes, check out my post here.
Knitting is a very forgiving hobby. That’s probably one of the reasons it’s so popular. It also does wonderful things for your mental health. You don’t have to do it well, you just have to do it and accept where you are. It’ll change. You’ll get better and your life will be richer for it.!