Hello! Welcome to my Learn to Knit for Beginners series of posts.
In the next few posts I’ll be exploring the basics of knitting. I’ll also provide some hints tips and tutorials to help you learn to knit.
What’s this all about?
In this introduction to the Learn to Knit for Beginners course I’ll describe the equipment that you will need to learn to knit and give you an overview of the things that we are going to cover in Lessons 1-7. That means you can beg, borrow or buy the tools you need to start knitting straight away.
Lesson 1 will be released over the weekend! EDIT: You can now find Lesson 1 here!
I will do my best to avoid too much “jargon” and to explain it when I do but there is a lot of it around! To help, I’ve included at the end of each lesson a “Jargon Buster”, a short list of definitions of the types of jargon you may hear or have heard, or I have used in the lesson.
So what will each lesson cover?
In Lesson 1 and Lesson 2, I’ll cover how to hold your needles and yarn before showing you how to make the basic knitting stitches, Knit stitch and Purl Stitch. We’ll then look at the different types of yarn and how to choose yarn for your projects.
I’ll also share a simple beginner pattern for a knitted scarf which you can get started on yourselves!
In Lesson 3 of this Learn to Knit for Beginners course, We’ll take a look at knitting patterns, how to read them , where to find them and how to decide if the pattern is right for you. We’ll concentrate on the pattern for a knitted scarf that I will share in lesson 2, to make sure you have the techniques you need to get started.
Once we have the basics covered, in Lesson 4 and 5, I’ll explore some of the mistakes that we have ALL made when we start knitting and give you some tips and tricks on how to spot these mistakes and fix them.
By this point you’ll have learned how to make basic knitting patterns and so in Lesson 6, we’ll move onto increasing or decreasing the number of stitches to allow you to create shaped pieces of knitting. I’ll show you some simple increase and decrease stitches and we’ll discuss the relative pros and cons of each stitch.
In the final lesson, Lesson 7, we’ll look at “blocking” knitting to make it the right shape or size. We’ll also learn how to knit “in the round” using circular needles or double-pointed needles. We’ll also explore cable knitting, it really is much simpler than you might think!
Hang on – I’m sure I can hear you thinking “I can’t learn to knit”…
I’m here to tell you….Yes you can.
If I can knit (I am so uncoordinated I fall over my own feet!)
You can Knit!
For these lessons, it doesn’t matter if you can’t knit at all; haven’t knitted since you were taught (possibly badly!?) at school; or have generally dabbled with knitting unsuccessfully before. I hope that you’ll find something useful in this course and it will give you the confidence to join the thousands of other people who love knitting.
A quick note before I get started, if you crochet, some of what I’ve said below will be obvious, as the same principle applies for crochet too. So please bear with me!
What equipment will I need and isn’t it expensive??
All you really need to get started with knitting is a set of knitting needles and a ball of yarn. That really isn’t expensive! As with so many hobbies, as you get into it you will probably want to invest in more needles and will inevitably need more yarn but you can do that as you need it, you don’t need that to start and you won’t need anything complicated for this series of Learn to Knit for Beginners posts.
Which needles should I buy?
The answer to that question is, what do you want to knit?
I’ll give you a brief explanation of the different types of needles before making my personal recommendation for what you choose for knitting along with this course. As you’ll see below though, knitting needles are very much personal choice so feel free to go with what you think will work best for you.
Let me explain…
How do I know what size a knitting needle is?
You will buy knitting needles in pairs. Knitting Needles come in lots of different sizes and lengths. In the UK the “size” of a knitting needle usually refers to its circumference. The USA (I think) use numbers instead. There are lots of places online that you can find charts which convert the UK to US sizes and vice versa.
I’m going to use mm to describe the knitting needle size throughout this Learn to Knit for Beginners course as it is what I’m used to. If you are confused though, please post in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help!
For example. The two knitting needles below are the same length but they have a different circumference. The one on the right is an 8mm knitting needle and the one on the left is a 2mm knitting needle.
The size of a knitting needle is usually printed on the base of the needle or sometimes on the end.
How big or small do they get?
The smallest knitting needles you can get are normally 2mm circumference and the largest is getting bigger all the time (with some EXTREME knitting going on!). The largest one I have is a 20mm but they go even bigger. They go up by either whole sizes (for the larger needles) or increments, for example you can get a 2mm, a 2.25mm a 2.5mm a 2.75mm, etc.
Tip from me…!
One essential piece of kit I’ve found is this knitting needle sizer. You won’t need one for this course, but if you get into knitting it’s very useful for working out what size your knitting needles are when the marking has rubbed off!!
Straight Knitting Needles and Circular Knitting Needles – what’s the difference?
Straight Knitting Needles
The needles in the above examples are known as “straight” knitting needles. They are used to knit along a row one way, then turn around and knit along the row the other way. This is often called “knitting flat”, because if you are knitting for example a cardigan, you would knit the sleeves “flat” and then seam them to make them into a tube.
Straight knitting needles also come in different lengths. As you can see from the picture below. Longer needles are useful if you wanted to knit a sweater on straight needles as you will need space to “slide” the stitches along as you make them.
Typically needles measure between 25cm and 40cm. The length you choose is up to you but for this course we will only be making small swatches so if you choose to use straight needles you won’t need really long ones.
Circular Knitting Needles and Double Pointed Needles (DPN)
You can also get “circular” knitting needles and “Double Pointed Needles” (normally abbreviated to “DPN”) like the ones below. These types of needles are normally used to knit “in the round” for things like hats or socks (don’t worry I’ll get into what this is in a bit more detail in Lesson 7 of this Learn to Knit for Beginners course).
The needles on the left are “circular” and the ones on the right are “Double Pointed Needles (or DPN)”. DPN’s will come in a set as you will need 4 or 5 to knit with.
As you can see, circular knitting needles are joined by a piece of cable. When you are knitting with them, the knitted fabric will slide onto this cable. When you are knitting “in the round” this allows you to knit in a circle.
The cable length for circular needles varies and you can get really long ones. These are great for if you are knitting a shawl or blanket and need a lot of stitches on a needle. There is a limit to how many you can get on a straight needle.
On that note, Circular needles can also be used to knit “flat” by simply going back and forth. So if you are knitting something large, I’d advise using circular needles to knit flat!
Do I prefer straight needles or Circular needles?
My personal preference is to use circular knitting needles to knit both “Flat” and “in the round” because I don’t like the way that straight needles have so much “end” to stick out and jab the person sitting next to you. I find that circular needles fit more nicely into my hand.
I’ve been told however by someone who I taught to knit though that they prefer the extra room to hold a straight knitting needle. So it really is very personal. I’d encourage you to try both types of needle out to see which you prefer.
Tip from me!
A quick note, I’ve heard circular needles also called “Interchangeable” knitting needles. This is usually referring to the method of connecting the cable to the needles. Some needles are fixed to this cable and some can be “interchanged” to use the same cable with different sized knitting needles.
Wood, Metal, Plastic? What type of material should the needle be in?
There are lots of different options when it comes to both straight and circular knitting needles. You can get wooden ones, bamboo ones, aluminium ones, steel ones and plastic ones. The type that you buy is again very personal, some people will ONLY use bamboo because it is light and feels “warm” to the touch when you’re knitting, others love the feel of a metal needle.
What material do I prefer?
Personally I use all different types of needles and don’t find much of a difference. I have a slight aversion to plastic needles but I can’t honestly tell you that I have a good reason for that!!!
Ultimately what type material for the needle you choose might depend on the type of project. Sometimes fine lace type yarn “slides” on the needles better if they are metal. That is a bit too advanced for now though!!
What about the knitting Yarn?
What is “Yarn”?
So there is no confusion. A ball of “Yarn” is what you might call a ball of “wool”. That REALLY confused me at first. It is referred to as “yarn” rather than wool because sometimes yarn is made from “wool” but sometimes yarn is made from other materials, for example cotton or hemp. It’s just simpler to refer to the whole category of “materials you use to knit with” as yarn. So I will!
How do I know what type of yarn to use with which needles?
Now we’ve learned about knitting needle types and sizes, lets learn a little about knitting yarn. There are LOADS of different types of yarn. We’ll explore a little more about that in Lesson 2, as well as giving you some advice on how to choose yarn for your projects. For now, look at the band of paper / card that is wrapped around the yarn. This is called the “ball band”.
On the back somewhere it will have information on what type of needles to use with that particular yarn.
It will look a little something like this…
In the first two images you can see a set of crossed needles with some numbers around. The number describes the recommended needle size for knitting with that yarn. The last image just describes the size of the needle. Your yarn might do either.
- For the first one, that means I should use an 8mm knitting needle
- For the second one, that says I should use a 4mm knitting needle
- And for the final one I should use a 4.5mm to 5mm knitting needle.
Basically, the larger the yarn, the larger the knitting needle required to knit it with. Sounds simple because fundamentally it is!
There are so many types! What do i need for this Learn to Knit for Beginners course?
Which knitting needles to use?
I recommend learning to knit on size 5mm or 6mm needles. They are big enough to see what you are doing but not too big!
Which yarn to use?
For yarn, I recommend any yarn which suggests you use a size 4mm to 6mm needle. It might be called a “chunky” “Aran” or “DK” weight yarn. Its easier to see what you are doing with a thicker yarn and easier to fix mistakes.
For this Learn to Knit for Beginners series, you will only need one ball of yarn but to make most projects you will need more than one.
If you want to make the Beginner Scarf Pattern that I will share in Lesson 2, you will need additional yarn. I will share exactly what you need for this pattern when we get there. To allow a bit of flexibility, I will give options for a chunky”, or “Aran” weight yarn for this pattern. For now, !’d recommend getting one ball of practice yarn.
I’d also recommend buying a “solid coloured” yarn, not a “variegated one” as its easier to see what you’re doing as you start to learn to knit. The yarn on the left is “variegated” and the one on the right is “solid”.
Tip from me!
If you already have some yarn and some needles (but they are size 4mm, 4.5mm or 7mm or something) not the 5mm-6mm that I recommend then try it out with these needles first, before buying more. You can always go back and start again if it’s not working for you!!
What am I going to use to teach you to learn to knit with?
For this Learn to Knit for Beginners course I will use this red “DK” (Double Knitting) yarn and size 5mm needles. I will also use the 4.5mm needles to show you some things on straight needles too.
I recommend sticking with the needle size recommendation on the yarn if you can. If you do buy DK, though and it says to use a size 4mm-4.5mm needles I recommend you still knit with a 5mm needle. Just while you learn to knit. It’s just a bit bigger and easier to see.
That’s it for this introduction post. As promised, here is my jargon buster
|“Aran”||This refers to the weight (or thickness!) of a yarn. Aran is slightly thicker than DK.|
|“Chunky”||This refers to the weight (or thickness!) of a yarn. Chunky is thicker than both DK and Aran|
|“DK” (or “Double Knitting”)||This refers to the weight (or thickness!) of a yarn. DK is a medium-weight yarn. A good all-rounder!|
|Ball Band||The piece of card or paper wrapped around the ball of yarn describing what it is, what brand and weight it is, what needles to use, etc. (this may be a piece of card attached to the yarn rather than wrapped around!)|
|Circular Knitting Needles||Knitting needles which are joined by a cable and used to knit “in the round” or “flat”|
|Double Pointed Needles (or DPN)||Knitting needles with points at both end. Used in sets to knit “in the round” for things like hats and socks.|
|Interchangeable knitting needles||Circular knitting needles with cable which can be removed allowing different needles to be attached to the cable|
|Knitting Flat||Knitting back and forth on a set of knitting needles, turning at the end of each row and knitting back the other way.|
|Knitting in the Round||Knitting round and round in circles without needing to turn around and knit back the other way. Used to make items like hats and socks|
|Solid yarn||Yarn which is the same colour throughout|
|Straight Knitting Needles||Knitting needles with a point at one end and a head at the other end.|
|Variegated yarn||Yarn which has assorted colours or shades in the same ball|
|Yarn||The material used to knit with. Including wool, cotton, hemp and lots of other materials too.|
I want to hear from you!
If you have any thoughts, questions, comments on what I’ve told you so far in this Learn to Knit for Beginners course, please post them below. I’ll do what I can to help!
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Lesson 1, coming soon.
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If you don’t already of course!! – if you do then thanks!