Welcome back to the second installment of Never Been Knit - the blog following the adventures of a virgin knitter...aka. me, and hopefully also you!
WE’VE OFFICIALLY DECIDED TO LEARN TO KNIT. NOW WHAT?
We need to get the tools!
WHAT DO I HONESTLY ACTUALLY REALLY NEED TO BEGIN KNITTING...
That’s it! Pretty simple, huh? Not really much excuse to not start knitting. In fact, I bet you could pop down to your local op shop and pick up both for a coupe of bucks and be ready to go.
However not all tools are created equal and to get started on the best foot possible I’m a big believer that you should invest the best equipment that your budget will allow. Higher quality materials will be easier to use, deliver more consistent results, and overall make for a nicer learning experience.
Picking up a new craft is bloody hard work! Your first attempts are not going to be perfect, so you are better start off with the best gear that you can so that you have the best chance possible of allowing your technique to improve, and lets you focus on the act of doing without being hindered by crappy equipment that lets you down, breaks, and make things twice as awkward.
What I’m saying is that you are better than substandard, baby. You deserve the best!
THESE AREN’T YOU GRANDMA'S KNITTING NEEDLES…
The biggest BOMBSHELL moment on my knitting journey to date was when Ethan said ‘I’ll get you some needles’ and proceeded to hand me some rather beautiful, but short, little rainbow sticks that looked like very expensive pens.
This was not what I had envisioned! I grew up with knitting needles being long, spear-like, plastic things that could be used as a murder weapon if needed.
Not any more! These days many are knitting with interchangeable cable needles - shorter instruments made from wood or metal, with a metallic end that screws into a cable that joins the needles together.
Think of them like a ‘needle-lite’ in that you keep only the front 50% of your traditional needle - the ‘active’ portion where you make your stitches and movements. The balance of the work is taken over by a cable that holds your work for you. No doubt we'll have heaps more to learn about these cables in the future, but for now we're just concerning ourselves with these beginning steps.
However I love it when even things as traditional as knitting still find ways to make space for new design and innovation - I think it’s a lesson to us all that none of us are beyond evolution.
A 4mm needle (with cable) is ample for us beginners and will get us on our merry way. When I asked Ethan why he set me up with the ones he did, he said that 4mm is a nice size to learn on, they can be maneuvered easily, and we can start a whole load of projects on this size.
The beautiful Knit Pro Symfonie needles that Outlaw supplied me with are made from laminate birch and feel really nice on my fingers. Warm, soft, light, but with enough substance behind them to let you be as heavy handed and awkward as you need whilst you get to grips with the basics.
WHAT ABOUT YARN...
To begin with we’re only going to be mucking about, getting a basic feel for the yarn and handling needles. Things like making knots, casting on, and a knit stitch. It’s all gonna end up as a glorious mess at times so this isn’t the time to be spending up large amounts of hard earned cash on your dream yarn. You don’t want to be getting stressed out if you mess things up and have to cut a load of yarn loose and start over.
Remember, we’re creating a nurturing, positive, creative space, with space to grow and permission to fail!
Having said that, I come back to my original point of you deserving something that’s of nice quality. Something 100% natural that won’t agitate your fingers or feel icky, but still robust enough to withstand numerous attempts at things, and won't tangle up as soon as you touch it.
Yarn comes in many weights and types. Different countries call weights different things. Don’t get caught up in them all right now. To begin you’ll be wanting a ‘DK’ weight- which stands for Double Knit - or 8 ply yarn.
Bandit yarn, from Outlaw, is perfect for beginners - 100% wool, DK, and lovely bold colours. It also has a sassy cat on the label which makes it a winner in my books. That's what I'll be starting with.
HANG ON, WHAT ARE THOSE TWISTY WADS OF YARN OVER THERE? THEY LOOK FUN...
Stop right there, pal!
When you go to buy your tools, you might notice that there’s different shapes and sizes of yarn packaging. There’s your traditional Ball o' Wool - ones like we imagine cats playing with.
There are also things called skeins, which I can best describe as looking like those twisted donuts you can sometimes get. They look delicious and oh sooooo appealing! You're going to want a skein, cos I did!
Skeins are their whole thing, and have many advantages for the seasoned knitter...but that’s not for us right now.
Ignore the skeins and just grab a ball of yarn. We’ll get into the what, why and how of skeins another day, but for now we must KEEP IT SIMPLE.
RECAP: TO BEGIN KNITTING YOU WILL NEED...
NOW GO AND BEFRIEND YOUR LOCAL YARN STORE...
My final piece of advice is to go to your local yarn/ knitting store and ask for assistance. Independent retailers like Outlaw Yarn live for yarn crafts, it’s why they exist, they are your local friendly experts, and would love nothing more than to get you set up on your new knitting journey.
They’ll probably also be able to give you some resources and pointers on how to get started, or show you the basics. They might even have a beginners knitting group, or upcoming workshops, that you can attend.
This is the power and joy of local retailers - they care and so often the business is as much about community than it is about selling you gimmicky shit that you don’t need.
If you’re in Christchurch, pop into Outlaw Yarn and say that I sent you! Ethan and the team are the loveliest and would love to meet you. Who knows, we may even cross paths one day, in the New Year I hope to make it to some of the fabulous workshops and classes that Outlaw HQ host.
Happy getting! See you in the next post where we’re going to cast on our first stitches...eek!
I'm Lou, an Ōtautahi based personal stylist and craft-lover, and this is Never Been Knit - my journey from complete knitting virgin to...well, let's find out together!