Kia ora! Welcome back to Never Been Knit where I share with you my stories of being a newbie knitter and explore the fabulous world of yarn crafts and knitted garments!
As you’ll know from my last post, I’ve been steadily working away on my second-ever project - the Kingston Sweater. As I’m nearing the completion of it I’ve been thinking a lot about my knitting journey so far, and reflecting on what I've learnt, and what I’d tell me of 4 months ago, when I first picked up some needles and yarn, having never made a stitch in my life. It was a daunting time!
Whilst my skills are still rudimentary, and every session with my needles is a lesson full of trials and errors, I think it’s nice to be able to acknowledge what I have picked up and what tip and tricks have made my journey easier - and it's nice to be able to share these with other beginners, so that you know you're not alone in feeling quite 'ummm....what am I doing here' so much of the time!
In today's post I thought I’d share with my 5 tips for beginner knitters, things that I have figured out along the way that have really been game-changers in terms of my skills, confidence and attitudes towards knitting. And if you are reading this post because you too are thinking of learning to knit, I urge you to simply start! You'll never know until you try and the learning process has been one of the most fun parts of this journey - so I help these tips help you. Good luck!
TIP 1: GO BIG!
Taking on a project in a chunky yarn, was the real lightbulb ‘a-ha!’ moment for me on this journey, and it only happened a couple of weeks ago when I picked up some of Outlaw's new Lissy Cole Auaha Haukura chunky yarn and embarked on the Kingston Sweater.
Chunky yarn means big, toddler-crayon-sized, needles, and what this means is :
For me, I realised very quickly that I’m a project motivated knitter. I’m in it for the finished product and it’s this that keeps me motivated to do an extra row, or pick up the needles. My first project was a beanie and whilst it’s at least a tenth the size of a sweater, it took me many many weeks to complete. As a new knitter I’m already slow, add to that small yarn and fine needles and well, I felt like I was knitting forever and could barely see my progress. I got bored, impatient, and lost interest.
Swap to a chunky yarn and you have less stitches per row, a row takes up more space, and the project needs far fewer rows (or rounds). When I can see that what I’m doing is making something form, I feel excited and motivated….and I knit more as a result.
Secondly, the yarn and needles are much easier to hold and manoeuvre. I used the analogy earlier of bigger needles being like toddler’s crayons, and there’s a reason why kids learn to write with supersized pencils and grip guides - be kind to yourself when you start knitting - treat yourself like a kid learning to write!
Thirdly, the big yarn means you can see every stitch really clearly. I finally learnt what a knit stitch looks like vs a purl, and why! I could see if I made a mistake. I understood what it looked like when a stitch was twisted, And I immediately knew if something was not quite right in the row I just made, all thanks to the larger scale of yarn. Big yarn is like knitting under a magnifying glass, and it’s perfect for beginners to learn the why’s hows and what’s of your knitting anatomy.
My other advice on GO BIG - is don't be scared to pick a larger project, even if you're completely new t the craft. Knit what gets you excited and if that's a cardigan or sweater - go for it! You are going to be spending a great deal of your spare time handling and staring at your projects, not to mention paying for yarn, needles etc. You might as well go straight for what you want to make rather than what you think your experience level thinks it SHOULD make.
Whilst these garment patterns are larger in scale, I've learnt that for the most part it’s all repetition - which means a jumper is really good practise for a novice. The trick is to pick a project that's suitable for beginners and are mostly made up on a single stitch. The Kingston sweater I'm currently making is 90% knit stitch and after so many hours of doing this over and over, I’ve gotten so much faster and smoother in how I work, which is lovely to see. When you're not constantly having to count rows and worry about introducing new techniques, when you're just doing the same monotonous thing over and over, it’s a really great way for a beginner to get very confident at the basics!
TIP TWO: LEARN TO READ!
Related to my last point on the chunky yarn, it really does pay to learn to read your knitting - which simply means 'look at what you've done'. At first you have no idea what you’re looking at and how what you do to the yarn or needles affects the look. But if you take a few moments after every row or two to look back over your work, it will tell you a lot about how you're going.
You can see consistency, you can spot mistakes, and look for variations in your tension. And it;s a lot easier to fix mistakes when you pick them up early rather than not realising for another 12 rows.
TIP THREE: RIP IT UP!
My Kingston sweater got off to a false start. I thought I was doing just great, except when I took it into Outlaw to show Ethan he pointed out that I’d been missing increases. The only fix was to rip it all out and start over.
These words filled me with dread. But all of my hard work! I can't just undo it all and start over! Those lost hours!! But I took his advice and I started over. And it was the best thing I could have done. Not only was it a chance to fix not only the mistake in the increases, but I also got to redo the other niggling errors that had come though on it.
And the second time through was a breeze, once I got going. I knew the pattern. I knew how it should look. And all that time on the first attempt, I realised, wasn’t wasted - it was a practise run! Without realising it, I'd gotten so much faster during the first attempt that came the second, I got through the same amount of work in a much shorter amount of time - which only encouraged me further!
Since then, whilst working on my sweater, I’ve ripped out rows and entire sections another couple of times. Knowing that I could redo them and get something I’m truly happy with, rather than being left with a finished product that I feel ‘meh’ about, was suddenly much more appealing to me. As a long-time sewer, the idea of a re-do is often non-existent, or means risking ruining your fabric - so I think that contributed to my aversion. However sometimes it's the cleanest, kindest thing to do for yourself, and you should not be scared to do this. Sometimes, practise really does make perfect - and believe me, that's a big statement from a very impatient creative like myself!
TIP FOUR: THE INTERNET IS YOUR TEACHER!
We live in a beautiful age on online resources and I have seldom been more grateful for YouTube than over the past months whilst I’ve been learning to knit. To be able to not only read, but see, someone undertaking a tutorial for a certain stitch or technique, or show you how to problem solve, has been invaluable.
There's A style of knitting tutorial out there for everyone - I love Sheep and Stitch videos - and whilst I’m knitting I keep my laptop to my side with the tutorial tab open, so that I can refer to it anytime. It’s like having your own personal knitting tutor, on call 24/7!
TIP FIVE: RELAX! IT'S JUST YARN!
Like, seriously, don’t sweat it. It's just a big ball of wool and two sticks. It’s not worth losing sleep over! I’ve found a huge variation in how my anxiety around knitting affects my output. Whenever I’ve really built something new up to be VERY HARD AND DIFFICULT AND SCARY and I'm feeling tense - I’m almost guaranteed to screw it up over and over and over, which only leads to more frustrations, and then more mistakes. But when I pour a glass of wine, put on a trashy podcast, and know that if I muck it up, I’m free to rip it out and start over, well - my knitting is quick, relaxed and comes out perfect.
If you feel yourself getting stressed, put your knitting down and come back to it later. It'll be a much better use of your time!
Before i started knitting I used to imagine it to be like rhythmic gymnastics - the way the gymnasts twirl, spin, flip and throw their ribbony batons in the air. I thought there must be some kind of wizardry involved in making a knitted garment - complicated finger snaps and clicks and twists and intricate cats-cradle style workings. And I know I’m a newbie and there are techniques and stitches that are more like this, to begin with it’s all knit, purl, and slight variations on that - for example you might go a different direction, or slip a stitch onto the second needle. But essentially, it's the same basic things.
Once I figured this ou, it really slayed that imaginary dragon in my head that said KNITTING IS TOO HARD AND NOT FOR YOU.
When you take these above ideas, combine them, and realise that it’s all a bit of fun that you can undo at any time, you can finally relax, put your feet up and really lean into the things that makes knitting so great and that millions of people love so much about it - relaxing, soothing, productive and beautiful!
If you’re new to knitting or have been persuaded to give it a go - Outlaw Yarn have everything you need to get going, including the fabulous Lissy Cole chunky yarn that set my wheels-a-spinning! The team at Outlaw HQ are super knowledgeable and friendly, adn will help you with all you need to know to get started on your own knitting adventures!
Don’t be scared, and get out there and make!
Until next time,
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!