So you want to learn to knit, but you feel like there are barriers in your way? You don’t have anyone who can teach you, you don’t have the time or money to take classes, and the equipment you need is so expensive!
Worry not, I am here to help.
To help you set yourself up so that you can learn to knit cheaply and easily, we’re going to cover several things.
- Your Knitting Starter Kit
- Learning Resources
- First Project
- Support Networks (tomorrow’s post)
- So You Want to Knit For Real (tomorrow’s post)
- Building up a Stash – Gifts and Bargain Hunting (tomorrow’s post)
Your Starter Kit
I never originally planned to learn how to knit. I originally wanted to learn to sew. Thinking myself ever so clever, I decided to avoid spending massive sums of money I didn’t have by going on Freecycle. Sure enough, I was contacted by a very kind person who, no longer having time to enjoy their hobbies, wanted to get rid of their craft supplies. We talked, arranged a meeting, and I came home a couple of days later with more craft supplies than I knew what to do with.
Four suitcases full, in fact.
In amongst the suitcase full of fabric offcuts, the suitcase full of doll stuffing and the suitcase full of miscellaneous junk it turned out she’d snuck into the bags (including old clothes she’d presumably planned to cut up for scraps, an inflatable guitar and a bedsheet with a rather disconcertingly large, splatter-shaped stain) was an entire suitcase full of yarn. My first instinct was to panic, not knowing what to do with it, and then to celebrate. No problem! I said. I’ll learn to knit! Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was these were cones of machine knitting wool, and without a knitting machine they had limited use. That was five years ago, at the very start of my crafting adventure, and I still have all those cones, now. I keep meaning to turn them into shawls or lace work, but somehow it never quite happens.
My point being, while Freecycle is an excellent resource, it’s best to avoid using them until you know enough about your craft to be able state specifically what you need. Even if you don’t come away with one person’s entire craft room emptied into binbags, you could easily come away with mismatched bags of knitting needles, bent and broken and with half of them not making matching pairs, with a sack of laceweight knitting yarn that you can’t tell has been half destroyed by moths, or balls of unlabeled mystery yarn.
For the time being, resolve to spend a small amount of money. And I do mean small. To start learning to knit you’ll need very few resources, and picking up the items listed below will kit you out well to cover your first few projects.
- One pair each of 4.0mm, 4.5mm and 5.0mm knitting needles
- One set each of 4.0mm, 4.5mm and 5.0mm double-pointed needles.
- One set of large knitter’s needles
- One or more balls of DK weight yarn.
Now, if your budget is really tight, you don’t need to buy all of these at once. It’s recommended, simply because these are the most common pieces of equipment you’ll need, but you can get away with just picking up one pair of knitting needles size 4.0mm or 4.5mm, and one set of double-pointed needles the same size, You’ll just need to take care when sourcing your first patterns.
Note that I’ve linked you to some Ebay shops. I linked these to give you an indication of how much you should expect to pay. I understand your trepidation at seeing links to a cheap Chinese seller on Ebay – they can sometimes have a bad reputation – but those cheap bamboo needles are absolutely fine. Almost my entire collection of knitting needles is bamboo, sourced from shops similar to the ones above. Would I like to own some sets of fancy acrylic or metal needles? Sure! But those cost money I don’t have.
There is a wealth of information out there, for you. You don’t need to buy books on knitting, you don’t need to pay for classes. The internet has far more than just cats and porn on it! Most of what I learned, I learned from sourcing youtube videos. I’ve started making a handy playlist of videos that teach the very basics. Four things you will need to know, which make up the core of every knitted project you will do. How to cast on. How to knit. How to purl. How to cast off. Every single project you knit will contain these. Many projects can be created with nothing more.
Now, is there more to knitting? Sure! And I’ll add more videos showing more things to learn when it comes to knitting. There are even multiple ways to cast on and cast off, for example. But for the first few projects you make, the first four videos on that youtube playlist cover the most important things.
Your First Project
So, you’ve picked up some needles, some yarn and you’ve had a few practice runs with the youtube tutorials. You’re eager and ready to try your first actual project! Excellent! But you don’t have the money to splurge on books of patterns to try. That doesn’t matter. There is a website called Ravelry, which is quite simply the single best possible resource you could ask for as a knitter.
Ravelry is dedicated to knitting and crochet, and has a number of pages. Set up a free profile for yourself, and then check out the “patterns” tab. Click “pattern browser and advanced search” under the search bar. I want to show you something, quickly. What you’re looking at here, is a database. Collated here are all the patterns that exist, virtually, both those that can only be purchased within knitting books and those which you can view online or download as PDFs. There are, at the time of writing, 240,919 knitting patterns on Ravelry. Of those, 68,119 are free.
I’m going to show you two things. First, I’m going to show you what you need to input into the search criteria down the left hand side to find patterns suited to learning. Then, in case it’s all a bit daunting, I will link directly to several patterns on Ravelry that I believe are ideal for new knitters.
First, how to search.
There are several criteria boxes along the left-hand column. These let you narrow down your search very specifically, if you wanted. For example, I might want a free pattern for a knitted beanie hat, in DK yarn, with cables, for babies. I can specify all of that and more.
For our purposes, we want to sort the patterns that can be made with the needles and yarn you have, that are free, and that are easy.
Along the left-hand column, select the following boxes
In case you can’t see that, we’ve selected free patterns, for knitting, which have a photo, for DK weight yarn, that can be knit with 4.0mm, 4.5mm or 5.0mm needles. Now, if you only bought one needle size, make sure you select only that size.
If you look at the top of the screen you’ll notice that new patterns have appeared, and that the criteria you’re searching by are listed at the top, so you can reference them easily.
Of course, we still need to make sure we’re looking at the easiest patterns first. Notice the drop-down box. Click it, and select “Difficulty (easiest first)”. This will sort all the patterns that fit your search criteria in order of difficulty. The difficulty of each pattern is rated by other Ravelry users.
At this point, you should only see patterns that are suitable for beginners. If in doubt, try and stick to patterns in a single colour, or simple striping, and which don’t have advanced components like chunky cables. Just in case, here are the patterns I recommend you start with, to help introduce you to basic knitting concepts.
Cowls and Scarves
- Whirl Me Away Cowl
- Striped Scarf
- Bamboo Infinity Scarf
- Blue Scarf
- Silly Fox Scarf (great for newbies)
- Really Basic Beanie
- Just Right Big Head Hat
- Kuno Hat
- Striped Light Stashbuster Hat
- Child’s Square Hat
Gloves and Mitts
Feet and Legs
That should give you more than enough to play with for the time being. Remember to take time, have fun, and if you see anything you don’t understand, I’ll be listing support networks and other resources tomorrow!