Knitting: advice to my beginner knitter self

Okay, two weeks since my last post. I’ve been knitting and sewing these last weeks, I completed some projects but I have nothing to show you. Because it’s not worth a post (3 new Renfrews. I don’t think you need to hear more about it except that pattern is perfect and easy), because I am waiting for an awesome sale for wool fabric to continue my jacket project, because I seriously don’t know what to think about my version of the Chardon skirt (from Deer and Doe).

So let’s talk about knitting. No project to show at the moment, so instead let’s talk about all the things I wish I knew when I first start knitting.
I am self-taught, well kind of. When I started college, I asked my Mom to teach me to knit a scarf. My Mom helped me to buy a terrible acrylic yarn, gave me a set of straight needles and taught me the stockinette stitch. I knitted a long scarf, all stockinette. For some reasons, the lateral edges kept rolling (I guess because no blocking). I hate it (does that surprise you?). I found it terribly annoying and I decided I was done with knitting.

I finally changed my mind 2 years ago because my mother-in-law was more convincing than my Mom and Ravelry had way too many cool projects. At that time, my family was very far away (they are still far away today) and I didn’t have any knitting friend. So I bought a cheap knitting book for beginner, practiced a bit and bought better material to knit a hat. Of course I made some mistakes, some big, some minors, but you learn by practicing!
So here are some advices if I had to go back in time or to teach someone to knit today.

  • Start with an easy and fast project (a hat, a mug warmer, baby clothes, a coster, a tablecloth etc.). It’s fun and instant reward!

© Julie Farmer (source: Ravelry)

My cousin is pregant, I am thinking about knitting that lovely hat for her baby. It’s quick, easy and super cute. Great learning project!

  • If you are not comfortable with your stitches, practice them until you think you correctly understand it. Before to knit my hat 2 years ago, I practiced with crappy needles and crappy yarn the ribbing pattern. Turnt out I didn’t understand that the yarn needed to be switched from back to front when switching from knit stitch to purl stitch. So I had a lot of yarn over stitches!! It took me a while to figure out why I was having more and more stitches on my needles!!

IMGP9488My first practice project. See the difference between the mess in
the first rows (bottom) and the end of the project (top)?!?
(I used it as a tablecloth when I dyed my hair with henna, hence the not so great / stained color)

  • Knit your gauge (unless you are knitting a shawl or a blanket, then it’s up to you) and wash it the same way as you plan to wash the finished project! Sometimes weird things happen :S
  • Join a group of knitters! The more, the merrier! Knitting is much more popular than you think it is and it’s not a club of Grannies! Check on Ravelry, Meetup.com or Yahoogroup! to find a group next to your place. You will make lots of friends and learn a lot from your more or less experienced new friends 🙂 You might even find someone to help you with your project and that will kindly correct your mistakes (in my group, there is a woman who doesn’t mind weave in end. Seriously, that’s priceless!)
  • If you can’t find a group and feel completely lost with the knitting instructions, yarn requirement etc., go to a yarn store (a real one, not a Jo-Ann or Michael’s store. Just avoid the yarn store in Sunnyvale, CA) and ask kindly the staff. Usually, these people are very friendly and very happy to help you. Sometimes, they have a knitting area in the store where you can sit, knit and socialize, and even a Doctor Knit session. For my first sweater, I was completely lost with the instructions and went to Nine Rubies in San Mateo, CA, to buy the yarn but had no idea what I needed. The lady there was so friendly and so helpful, it changes everything and I didn’t end up frustrated.
  • Try different materials and invest in quality. It doesn’t have to be top quality and overly pricey yarn or tools, but invest in beautiful fibers. Avoid acrylic and instead go for wool, alpaca, merino etc., especially if you plan to wear that sweater a lot. Cheap yarn can be uncomfortable to knit or have a poor finish. Some brands are not that expensive (like Cascade 220 sport, 100% peruvian highland wool, 164 yd/skein, about $5/skein). Same goes for needles. Try different sort of needles (straight, circular, acrylic, wood, bamboo, different brands) I realized I like to work with sharp needles, some of my friends use only specific brand of needles. You have to try first!
  • Don’t be afraid! Sure, you don’t want to start with a lace project, but cables are quite easy (it’s just a stitch inversion), ribbing is easy too (once you understood the yarn position front and back ;)). Whenever you don’t know what does that mean or how to do it, just ask! Either your knitting friends, Ravelry forum, the designer of the pattern or YouTube! Personally, I like tutorials from the knitwitch, but there are other free resources, like Purl Soho. While writing this article, I discovered Twist Collective, lots of great articles there.
  • If after watching tutorials and your friends, you still don’t get it or you just hate that technique, well, just use what works for you! As long as you get the right result, it’s okay! I hate seaming with a needle, I make a terrible work at it, so instead of using the matress stitch technique, I use the slip stitch crochet seam technique. The result is much better than the needle work and it works very well for me.

I think that’s a good start. Any other advice that you would like to share and wish you knew before? Please feel free to share it in the comments, I would love to hear about it, there is so much to learn!

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