Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advice for the new knitter

My friend Tien has been interested in knitting and crocheting lately, and of course I have done my best to encourage her. Knitting is a wonderful hobby and I could not imagine my life without it anymore and I’m sure that she would love it too. She’s not going to get active though before the school ends this fall, but I have already educated her about Raverly, needles, yarn and pretty much everything else knitting related. I’m just eager to share my world with her. Anyway. I started to think about things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out... so I could tell these things to Tien!

So here’s my advice for the new knitter:

Learn to knit in English. It’s easier to find help, for example how-to videos and photo-tutorials, if you know the knitting terminology in English. And when you’re just starting out you’re going to need help. And even though almost all the women in Finland know how to knit and purl, and probably how to decrease and increase too, there’s so much more in knitting and the information is usually available in English only. It’s better to learn it first in English and then in Finnish when you need it. However, you should probably not end up like me: I still can’t understand Finnish knitting patterns!

Get a reference book. I bet that there are people who disagree with me in this, but I think it’s wise to get a book that contains all the basic knitting stuff. I recommend Stitch ’n Bitch since it has worked for us and it’s not expensive either if you do a price research at first. Sometimes you just don’t bother to google or you just want to do things easily on your own couch. Book becomes especially handy when you’re learning to make seams. Anyway. If I would have known then what I know now, I would have gotten the book in English. It would have been do much easier!

Get familiar with Ravelry . Ravelry is like a bible to knitters and crocheters and the sooner you get in to it, the more you’re going to get out from your new hobby. It’s guaranteed. Ravelry is basically the source of all knitting and crocheting inspiration. Without Ravelry you would be alone in the universe so show it respect. Learn how to search for yarn and pattern information, find some groups to follow. Favorite things. Everything might be confusing at first, but just do it.

Start cheap, but be alert. I think it’s totally OK to buy cheap needles at first, and cheap yarn too. You probably don’t want to invest too much to a hobby you’re not completely sure of. But be aware that you might get passionate about it one day. And when that day comes, you’re not going to like that all you’re needles are crappy and that every inch of your house is covered with acrylic yarn. So it’s better to get just a couple of needles first. Don’t get straight ones before you have tried to knit everything with circulars. You don’t need straight needles for anything really. So get like one set of 3.5mm DPNs and one 4mm circular needle and try to deal with them until you’re sure that your new knitting hobby is going to last. And get better equipment and yarn as you progress.

Socks don’t make great first projects. They look so harmless, but if you’re just starting out, you don’t need that frustration that comes from the French heel. It would probably kill all the joy and enthusiasm you have for knitting. Hats and mittens, on the other hand, make great first projects. It would be rather difficult to mess with a hat the same way you could mess with a French heel.

Experiment. You’re likely to get bored if you stick with just one level, so don’t be afraid to step on the next level even though you might feel that you’re not ready yet. Knitting is easy, really. Even the most complex looking lace could be made of just increasing and decreasing stitches and throwing some simple yarnovers along the way. And cables are just stitches reorganized on the needle. The more you achieve, the more you’re going to like it.

Get yourself a knitting mentor. Like me or J.R. for example. It’s usually easier to learn if someone shows you first what to do, and easier to get help if you can show the work to someone. However, it’s not always possible to get a knitting buddy, so you can substitute that with the generous community of Ravelry.

Is there something you wish that someone had told you when you started out? Or anything you would like to disagree with? Now it would be a perfect time to share.


Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree on most - with just two small remarks. I'd say that straight needles are useful for learning (to start with, it's harder to cast on with circulars, esp if you're doing a long-tail cast on), when you're still working out how to hold your needles and such. And for first projects, I try to convince everyone that a scarf is a must! It's basically a gigantic swatch that you can actually wear when it's done :) While a hat may come out ok, it will probably be much more wonky as a first project than a scarf could ever be...

Amoena said...

Fridica: I think you're absolutely right, it's definitely harder to cast on with circulars, especially if you don't have previous knitting experience. In Finland girls have to learn how to knit at school (socks and mittens are compulsory), so the default setting is that you already know how to hold the needles.

I'm currently knitting a scarf... and it's so boring even though it's more than just stockinette or garter stitch! Maybe the scarf could be reduced to a pot holder? It's still easy to knit and usable, but takes far less time :D I think when you're eager about something, you want to get things done fast and see the possible wonky end result asap :D

Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

I'm a HUGE fan of dishclothes for first projects! you can do interesting lace patterns, do it on the diagonal to learn increases and decreases and before you know it, you're done and you've got something useful to boot! :)

Amoena said...

SarahI wonder if dishclothes are a cultural thing, since I have never understood them really. What's the purpose of those things? To wash dishes? It's confusing! :D

o_O said...

I bought the Stitch n' Bitch book when I decided to teach myself to knit after over 10 years of only knowing how to crochet - brilliant book. Not overwhelming or 'dry'. Also, I agree about the circs, I only use them and have a tonne of straights that I just don't use, not comfy in my hands. I have made a few dishcloths, I like them for doing dishes with, but everyone else in my family hates them! I also crochet mine, faster and more texture. Not sure about first project, I wanted to learn socks and was scared off of them by my Mum ("they're too hard"), learned to knit, got a book about how to knit socks, and haven't stopped since :-D Heidi (Jellybean - Ravelry)

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