On Knitting

So, knitting. I guess it's all I've been talking about lately. I'm just as surprised as you by my current obsession.  I don't expect this to turn into a knitting blog (um, how can it if I'm too lazy to take pictures of my knitting projects) but for now, I'm just really excited to be learning a new skill.

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:
-longtail cast-on
-binding off (nice and loose!)
-garter stitch
-stockinette stitch
-rib stitch
-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.

So, there you go...my 7 tips for a successful knitting project. Well, those AND the Purl Bee. Seriously, go to there. All their projects are gorgeous!

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!


  1. you've learned all that in three projects?! wow!

    i agree with everything you said, and want to add --

    - it's just yarn. if you hate what you've done, you can rip it out and use it again! and even if you love what you've made ... you can use that hat for a season, change your mind next winter, and make a new hat with the same yarn. or socks. or ...

    - know yourself. i looove that mesh-y sweater but decided against it, because it would look terrible on me & i would never never wear it ... but maybe i can steal the look for something else ... a scarf, maybe?) so if you love the look of ornately-cabled Aran sweaters but live in Florida, why not find a handwarmer pattern with the same cables?

    - if you're scared, start small. instead of steeking (cutting open) your first sweater that took three months to knit, try steeking a mug cozy.

    - you're allowed to ________. doesn't matter if it's not traditional or you're only going to wear it once or if you bought the yarn to match your toenail polish. do what works for you. there are no rules.

    - if you don't like to knit, that's okay too. enjoy your hobbies!

    1. Thank you for all your wonderful advice! I'm already going to rip out the yarn on my first handwarmer and use it for something else. I just didn't like it enough to make another one...but I found a neat scarf pattern that would be really cool with the same yarn.

      And steeking, as a word, sounds terrible! And then to find out that it means cutting up knitting?! Ugh...gross! But I suppose it has to be done...someday, in the far, far future I may try it. Maybe.

  2. oh! one more thing. you NEVER have to use double-pointed needles if you don't want to use them. try using a circular needle with the "Magic Loop" or "traveling loop" technique, or two circular needles. you can use stitch markers to represent the different needles if you need to do that to follow the pattern.

    (most of the time i use circular needles, but i enjoy DPNs, too ... my only problem is that i tend to drop the little double-pointed ones :)

    - jane!

    1. I'm going to try the magic loop! It seems really impossible but I really want to be able to knit two of the same things at once. I just bought a really long circular needle for another project so I think I'll give it a try. My brain feels like maybe it's not ready to be filled with another new knitting technique, though...so maybe I'll probably wait until the weekend. I'll keep you posted!

  3. You are already kind of a wizard at knitting. I sincerely do need you to move across the street from me now, because I need you to teach me in person. I can knit and purl, and make a scarf….and it kind of ends there. Ha!!

    When I use the Furminator brush on my dog, so much soft undercoat comes out that you could build several new dogs with it. But I have actually thought of having it spun into dog hair yarn. I am not sure if this is awesome or gross, or maybe both. But I kind of love the idea of it.

    I am unable to discuss knitting without saying this (skip to 2:32) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Tx8jnndMes

    1. Haha! ...and knitting and knitting...

      I would totally teach you all my new knitting tricks. It's really fun to make things other than squares. Who knew?

      OMG, our cat's fur is SO soft and long...sometimes when the cats wrestle and she looses a big chunk of fur, I try to spin it into teeny tiny little yarns but it's so fine and just pulls apart. I guess I'm not very good at spinning cat hair...sad. But! I (obviously) don't think a dog hair yarn is gross...certainly not any grosser than wool...I mean, have you SEEN some of those sheep? They're so dirty!! They live outside! I never let the kitties outside!

      Oh man...we would be the bestest, weirdest friends ever. I want to live by you! Ian is not a fan of NC, though. It's warm there pretty much all the time though, right? That might win him over. Oh, and he'd also have to be able to find a job teaching philosophy...so, that's sort of like finding a unicorn right now.

  4. yeah i second the magic loop comment. i have tons of DPNS but i never use them anymore. i have a lot of long circs instead. investing in an interchangeable needle set is definitely worth it if you plan to keep knitting.

    btw, i don't mean to dissuade you but have you ever tried doing lots of seed stitch? it's boring as hell. i'd rather watch paint dry personally. that's sort of my beef with the purl bee. they make the most dull projects look enticing.

    also you can hold the working yarn in either hand. i don't know if you aunt knits english or continental but either way is technically correct. also it helps to know how to do both if you ever want to do stranded colorwork (because you can hold one strand in each hand). there are videos under "english or continental" here: http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/learn-to-knit

    1. Thanks for the advice! I've looked into the magic loop technique and want to try it but I still just don't "get it". I'll have to give it a try and see if I can wrap my brain around it...I already have a really long circular needle that will probably work. So far I'm not really a fan of dpn's.

      OMG, after doing a 1/1 ribbing on the cuff of those handwarmers, I know seed stitch is going to be SO slow! I mean, it'll take forever with all the yarn in front, yarn in back going on. But I do love how seed stitch looks. It's so flat but not flat.

      I totally agree that the purlbee makes projects look enticing, even if they are not especially challenging or complicated. For now, though, I guess I'm okay with dull projects until I get better at figuring out how to make exciting projects. There's a lot of knitting info out there...and those patterns are like reading a different language!

      It's good to know that it's okay to hold the yarn in both hands. I was holding it in my left and the only way I could knit that way was to stick the left needle between my legs...totally NOT the way you're supposed to knit! But now that I hold it in my right hand, I can hold both needles just fine. I'd eventually like to do colorwork so it's good to know that both hands can be used. That thought sort of freaks me out right now!


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