There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to make your own clothing -oh wait, there is! Being able to make your clothing, AND your complements, AND half your home decor as well! Almost anything you can think of, you can knit: jumpers, dresses, scarves, blankets, rugs, placemats, handbags, bracelets, etc! Lots of options, and only one question: how do I get started?
EVERYBODY’s FIRST PROJECT
If you want to start like 90% of beginners, you will surely buy some yarn that caught your eye at the store, a matching set of needles, and then go for knitting your first scarf (see mine below!). In my next post I will show you all you need to get started with your first simple project. Many beginners choose to start off with a knit/purl scarf (don’t worry, we’ll get to what this means soon) because it gives you the chance to practice the two basic stitches for a looooong time, until you a) catch some speed, and b) stop making so-called beginner mistakes, such as losing a stitch, or creating an extra stitch accidentally where you shouldn’t. You will know what I mean soon enough… Here is a picture of my very first scarf, which was made using only knit stitches. I strategically took the pictures so that it looks nice, but in reality if you extend it, it looks as regular as an unpaved road in a lost village up the mountains…
FIRST TIME AT THE YARN STORE
The yarn store is like candy wonderland. Once you step in, you’ll be “trapped” there till forever! Out of the blue, you will have ideas about thousands of different garments. But, let’s not forget that this is your first project! So let’s take things one step at a time, and don’t go bananas buying all sorts of yarn.
The first thing you will notice: YARN ISN’T CHEAP! Especially good yarn. That is why you should think your projects through. A common beginner’s mistake is spending about 50 euro in yarn on a project that is going nowhere, either because the design was too ambitious, the proportions were not well calculated, etc. That’s why I don’t recommend buying the most expensive yarns for your first project.
The second thing you will notice is that THERE IS LIKE A MILLION TYPES OF YARN! Knowing the basic categories (wool, cotton, cord, hemp…) won’t be enough, you’ll be confronted with all sorts of sub-types and combinations. Well, you don’t need to know them all as of now: eventually, you’ll be familiar with most yarn types if you keep going to the store regularly. And if you’re an experimenter, you’ll even start considering making yarns yourself through recycling, or using unconventional materials for your projects (e.g. this!).
The most important for your very first project is to pick a yarn you like. The yarn does not only have to look good on you, but also feel good. How will its texture feel on your skin? Do you prefer wearing “cleaner” fabrics (e.g., cotton) or are you the mohair type of person? Do you have any allergies? How much stretch do you like in your garments?… So, don’t be shy and touch all the yarns, and stay in the shop all the time you need. As a knitting-lover (probably), the shop assistant will understand you, give you tips and leave you some space so that you can choose carefully.
A COUPLE TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST VISIT TO THE YARN STORE
TIP 1: go to an actual knitting store, you can wait to buy on the internet until you are more experienced and know what to look for.
TIP 2: if you are not very sure of whether you’ll enjoy knitting, don’t pick up a very thin yarn but rather something bulkier. Why? Because you will see results sooner (it’s a quicker knit), and it’s important to stat motivated during one’s first project! My first project was done using 5mm yarn -not thin, not too bulky either.
TIP 3: Ask the shop assistant: the shop probably has some special layout you haven’t figured out yet (e.g., shelves are ordered according to type of yarn, of needle size, etc.).
TIP 4: Ask the shop assistant again! She’ll know all you need. And the most important tip:
ALWAYS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS
You thought you would just pick up a yarn ball straight from the shelf, go home and knit? WRONG! Yarn, like any other product, comes with instructions. READ THEM! In the worst of cases, the instructions will only show the yardage (how many meters / yards) and weight of your yarn, together with the composition (e.g., 100% Cotton) and the needle size (e.g., 5-6,5mm). However, in many cases a lot of useful information is included. For instance, the washing instructions, the number of balls needed to knit a garment (although this is not the case for the ball band I show you on the right), and some even include barcodes that you can scan with your phone. Usually, these lead to the page of the manufacturer, where you should be able to find patterns constructed for the yarn you bought. Another important element that almost always appears on ball bands is the gauge (the grid right below the needless, on the right side). This is highly underestimated by beginner knitters, but is crucial if you want to follow a pattern, for instance if you are knitting a jumper. Basically, it is what will allow you to calculate the number of stitches and rows you will need for your garment to turn out as it is supposed to. It will also help you in determining how much yarn to buy. No need to say, you should get yourself some tape measure, if you want to get serious with knitting!
NOW YOU JUST NEED NEEDLES!
You’ve read the instructions, and now you know what needles to buy! Is that really so? Just like with yarn, you will encounter different types of needles. First, you have the traditional long needles, like you can see on the left-side picture. These come in several materials, such as metal, wood or plastic. On top of the needle there will be an indication of the needle size in mm. In case you already have some at home (e.g., from a relative) but you can’t seem to find their size (the numbers might not be visible after some years), you can buy yourself a “needle gauge”, which looks like a plastic ruler with some holes in which you can fit your needles and find out what size they are. Needle gauges can cost about 1-2 euro and are a basic element! However, there are more needle types beside the traditional, such as the circular knitting needles.These needles are shorter, and connected by a cord, which is usually interchangeable, and also comes in different sizes. I honestly prefer these needles, even if I am not going to do circular knitting. Why? Because they are easier to manipulate, and using them implies moving your elbow and shoulder a little less. So, in my opinion these needles may save you a lot of trouble if you have weak joints. Also, they are better to travel, if you plan to knit on the go!
There are other types of needles (e.g., double-pointed needles) and loads of additional equipment you can use for knitting. For the time being, I will only show you one very inexpensive item that may just save your life, called a point protector! With point protectors, you can secure your work on the needles, without having to worry about whether a stitch or two may go overboard!
LAST TIP: YARN STORES ALSO HAVE SALES!
Yes, you heard right! Just like any normal store, yarn stores also have sales, so be sure to check them out! So, if you have some big projects coming ahead, who knows? You might get lucky!
In my next post I’ll show you how to get started with knitting, hands-on! I will accompany the text both with pictures and short video tutorials!
Excited? Keep tuned!