Archive for the ‘Budget Learners’ Category

Yesterday I talked about how a person could gather supplies and information to enable them to learn their first knitting project.  Today, I’m going to talk about how to take that further.

Once you have a couple of projects under your belt, and have mastered knit and purl well enough to do them without thinking about it too much, it can be tempting to jump in and try for something exciting.  Then, when the latest project goes wrong for the third time and you throw it away in frustration, it can be easy to give up.  That’s where most people end up, and it’s the reason so many people relearn the basics over and over again, without ever getting to the point where they can make something more complex than a plain scarf.

One of the best resources you can have is a good support network to lean on for help, advice and encouragement.  But where do you go for that, if your friends and family aren’t crafters?  Once again, the internet steps in,

First, don’t rush.  When you pick a new pattern, there will be a list of stitch abbreviations at the front.  Note these, and if there are any referring to techniques you aren’t familiar with, go back on Youtube and I guarantee there will be at least half a dozen videos made by knitters, showing you how those techniques work.  Bookmark those, save them to a playlist, and watch them as you work on the pattern, until you’re comfortable enough with the techniques to have them memorised.

I mentioned Ravelry yesterday, specifically as a resource for free patterns, but they offer much more than that.  In addition to keeping databases of patterns and different types of yarn, Ravelry provides a community.  The first and most logical step is to make sure you create a project on Ravelry to help you track each knitting project you take on.  This can be linked to the yarn you’re using, the pattern, and updated with personal notes detailing your progress, as well as photos.  You can then easily compare your project to those made by others working on the same pattern, to see if anyone else has had similar issues.

But best of all, are the “groups”.  Joining different groups on Ravelry gives users access to miniature forums themed around different issues.  I, personally, belong to several including a group for UK spinners, a group for plus-size women trying to make their own clothes and several groups specifically for getting advice, and for helping learners.  I recommend anyone taking up knitting (or indeed crochet) join Ravelry and get involved with the groups on there.

But maybe you’re not the sort of person who likes chatting online.  Maybe you’ve watched all the videos but still can’t make sense of something, and you need someone to guide you through the work.  Meetup,com may be the website for you.  Meetup is a website designed to help people find like-minded friends and get together in groups, usually themed around mutual interests.  There are local Meetup groups for people that like walking, for writers, for dog-owners.  And there are Meetup groups for knitters.  Most groups get together regularly, with group members paying some token amount like £1 to cover the cost of hosting the group.  It is well worth browsing Meetup to see if there are crafting groups in your area.

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Next step is going to be expanding your collection of supplies.  As soon as you move beyond beginner patterns you’ll find yourself working with different yarn weights and different sized needles.  I’m going to suggest you go straight back to Ebay for your knitting needles, but this time look for bamboo needles sold as sets.  I said yesterday that, aside from the knitting needles I inherited from my grandmother and a few lucky finds from charity shops, my entire needle collection is bamboo,  That’s true, but I didn’t buy them in individual sizes.  Instead I grabbed listings like this one, this one and this one.  For less than the price of a new bra, you’ve just found a full set of sizes for all three types of knitting needle, which will provide you with the materials you’ll need for almost any knitting project.

Once you have these, it’s really only the yarn that’ll cost you money.  That, and sometimes there will be a knitting pattern you want that costs money.  I highly recommend asking for vouchers for online knitting shops and even for Ravelry for your Christmas and birthday gifts.  Also, watch sales on Ebay.  There are always knitters selling bags of unused, labeled yarn in perfect condition.  Pick up bargains as you see them and keep them at home for the perfect project.  Just make sure the yarns are of a weight you’ve knitted before, or that is required for a pattern you’ve been wanting to try.  There’s nothing worse than having a massive stash of lovely laceweight yarn, when you’ve found you don’t have the patience for anything finer than DK or worsted.

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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.

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.

Learning Resources

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.

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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

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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.

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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

Hats

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!