Looking back, I've learned a lot in the last month and wanted to share some tips and projects that have really helped keep me from getting overwhelmed. Maybe if you're a new knitter, they will help you too:
1. Start small. I mean, small in size. Like, don't go all out nuts and start a queen sized blanket or something. Knitting takes a long time and it's easy to get overwhelmed when a project feels never ending. I'm definitely sticking to small projects until I work up some speed.
2. Make something useful. I mean, maybe there will come a day when I'll totally need a knitted halter top with pom-pom trim...but that day is probably a long ways off. Knowing that I'll be able to use my knitted item right away helps to keep me inspired. Right now, the only small useful things I can think of are mittens and hats...and you probably already own some. I say make new ones anyway...replacing store-bought with hand-knit is the best! This is the hat I'm making...I like this pattern because you don't have to use double pointed needles:
3. Learn something new, one project at a time. While I'd love to jump right into making the perfect "drinking hot chocolate at a cozy ski lodge cable-knit sweater", I think starting one right now would actually fry my brain. Instead, I'm choosing patterns that are mostly familiar but have a few stitches or techniques that I don't know. If I keep learning a few new things with each project, that complicated sweater won't be complicated for long.
After only three projects I know:
-binding off (nice and loose!)
-knitting in the round (circular needle)
-knitting in the round (double pointed needles)
-knitting a thumb hole
-increase (knit into front and back)
-decrease (knit two together)
-knit in new yarn
-change colors with "jogless" jog
-how to correct a mistake that happened three rows down...(I figured it out without the help of the internet but if you want to know how to do it without tearing your hair out first, here's a great tutorial)
Most of these things felt really hard at first but I don't think they're hard anymore. I still have trouble holding my double pointed needles but that will work itself out eventually. I also started that hat three times before I got the ribbing right. It's okay to start over, fix mistakes or, if you're cool about this sort of thing, ignore tiny mistakes and just keep on going.
4. Use colors that you absolutely love. This seems obvious but it's amazing how many times I catch myself thinking "I should make something neutral so I can wear it with more things". And while that IS true, I would have much more fun knitting (and wearing things) in colors that are more "me". Like this gorgeous sweater...I'm planning to knit it up in cream and coral. While the grey is beautiful and could be worn with many different colored camisoles underneath, I probably wouldn't wear it much since I'm not really into light grey. Choose colors you really love and you'll be more excited to wear the things you make (which is totally the point!)
5. Use good quality yarn. In addition to creating a long lasting garment, whatever yarn you choose will spend a lot of time in your hands while you're knitting it up. Before last Friday, I'd never felt a non-scratchy/itchy wool. I didn't think they existed but they do! Find a yarn you love and just go for it...life's too short to knit with scratchy yarn. (Unless, of course, your project requires scratchy yarn...but I have no idea what such a project would be or why you'd want to make it.)
6. Make something you just can't stop thinking about. This can go against most of the above guidelines (of course, numbers 4 and 5 should still be applied). If you truly love something, chances are you will work hard to learn the necessary skills and will have the patience/perseverance to finish it. Here's a project that's super huge, not really something I'll use a lot, requires no new skills or techniques and will take forever to finish. But I LOVE it and will totally make it the second I can decide what colors I want to use.
7. Ask for help. There are so many wonderful knitters out there who would be happy to help you, either online or in person. I asked my aunt to help me figure out the pattern for my first project. While I mostly wanted to watch her make the stitches, I ended up learning something even more important: how to hold the needles and yarn in a way that was SO much more comfortable for me! If you don't know anyone who knits, there are a million youtube videos and blogs that can show you anything you want to know.
Also, if you have any tips or projects that would help out a beginning knitter, please feel free to post them in the comments. They will be much appreciated!