Congratulations on your choice to start knitting. You are going to love it! My own knitting adventure began only a few years ago, and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. I still remember what it is like to be a beginner knitter, and the stumbling blocks are fresh in my mind. I am bursting with advise and tips that will be of help to any new knitter, and I have collected videos and websites that I’ve used myself for learning how to knit. Hopefully, I can guide you through your first days and weeks of knitting with as much joy and as little frustration as possible. Let’s get started.
In principle you can get started on any type of needles using whatever yarn you get your hands on. If you have a friend who already knits, do ask if you can borrow a pair of needles and some scrap yarn to get started. However, certain choices of yarn and needles will make your first day as a knitter easier.
Choose your needles …
Most new knitters find a simple pair of straight, single-point needles the most straight-forward to knit with. The length of them doesn’t matter too much, so choose whichever feels more comfortable to you. Knitting needles come in a variety of materials and you will develop a personal preference pretty soon, but for your first pair, I will suggest bamboo. Bamboo is cheap, light-weight, and most importantly it has good surface drag, ensuring your stitches don’t slip off the tip by accident. Once you have found your own knitting style and rhythm, bamboo needles may have too much grip for you, slowing your knitting down, but they are an excellent choice for beginners.
You will want a medium size of needles – the size is the diameter. Each yarn will have a suggested needle size, and you should start with yarn and needles that match. My suggestion is to start with needles with a diameter of 4.5-5.5 mm, that is US sizes 7-9. This is appropriate for medium weight yarn. These needle sizes are super common and easy to knit with. Children often learn better with slightly larger needles with a diameter of 6-8 mm, US sizes 10-11. The corresponding yarn weight is bulky or chunky, size 5. I am a fan of Clover Takumi Bamboo needles, available online for $ 6 for a set.
Choose bamboo straight needles, size 4.5-5.5 mm, any length
… and your yarn
You will need medium weight yarn to go with your 4.5-5.5 mm needles. Medium weight yarn is sometimes recognized by the number 4, and depending on your country it is either called worsted weight or aran. Take a look at the yarn label and double check that you are getting a yarn appropriate for your needle size.
A typical yarn choice for beginners is acrylic yarn. You can buy acrylic yarn in an arts and crafts store or even in a general merchandise big-box store. Acrylics is not the nicest yarn to touch, but it is cheap, easily available, and easy to care for (machine-washable). If you want to start with a good quality acrylic yarn, I can recommend Paintbox Simply Aran. You can buy it online for about $ 3 per 100 g.
Personally, I got started with cotton yarn, and I liked it, but some people find it difficult to work with because it is inelastic and slippery. On the other hand, if your first project is going to be a dish- or wash-cloth (perfect beginner’s project), I highly recommend to get a ball of 100% cotton, for example Lily Sugar ‘n Cream. It is machine-washable and extremely durable, and cotton has great stitch definition. You can buy it online for $ 2.45 per 70 g, or even cheaper in bulk at a Michaels store.
While there is no reason to splurge on your first ball of yarn, it can certainly feel more inspiring to learn to knit with a nice wool yarn. If you are dying to get wool between your hands, I recommend Cascade 220. It’s a widely available and affordable wool yarn and it comes in all imaginable colors. You can buy it online for $ 10.50 per 100 g. Wool is a good choice for your first scarf, but be aware that it is hand-wash and dry flat. Cascade 220 is sold in a hank, so you will need to wind it into a ball (how to video).
If you want to know more about yarn types, check out this site.
You will want to choose a light color for your first yarn, because light colors show of the stitches much more clearly than darker colors. Good stitch definition is important when you are first trying to learn how to recognize a knit stitch and a purl stitch, not to mention spot your mistakes early. I prefer practicing new stitches with a solid color yarn, but I have knitting friends who swear they find it easier with a variegated yarn. As long as the colors are light, either is probably fine. Do stay away from fancy looking yarn to begin with. It’s fun to buy, but difficult to knit with.
Tip: Save the yarn label. You will need the information later.
Before you can learn how to knit, you must learn how to cast on. Casting on is the process of creating a certain number of stitches on the needle. Once the stitches are made, you can start to knit. There are many methods of casting on, some easy, some more advanced, each with their own properties. Down the line, you should take the time to expand your tool set of cast-on and cast-off methods, but you can get very far knowing a single method: The long-tail cast-on. This is the most popular cast-on, because it is easy to learn and a fast way to get stitches on your needles. It is also super versatile, meaning it works well with almost all knitting projects.
Purl Soho has a great video showing the long tail cast-on, starting with a slip knot. NB! if your are casting on a specific number of stitches, the slip knot counts as the first stitch. Go ahead – watch the video and practice casting on 10 stitches a few times. Keep at it till it feels natural.
Here’s another video of the long tail cast-on, without a slip knot, from Suzanne Bryan. This is my preferred method for casting on. Suzanne also presents one method for determining how long of a tail you will need for casting on a specific number of stitches.
It can be very helpful to watch more than one video for any new technique you are learning. A useful tip is that you can slow down the video speed to see everything in slow motion. Once the video is playing, click the settings button at the bottom of the video panel and select “Playback speed”. Best of luck.
Ready to knit
Having learned how to cast on, you are now ready to learn how to knit. Cast on 20 stitches and follow along to the next blog post…