Knitting Tips & Tricks

Tips for starting your first project

It’s difficult to find positive things and silver linings of the covid-19 pandemic. But I’ve been thrilled to notice that many of my near and dear ones as well as people all over the world are making use of the increased home-time and have started knitting! Not only is that great news for me, to get more knitting-buddies, but I firmly believe that knitting is also good for your mental health. Knitting is yoga for your brain!

I want to support all the beginner knitters, even though I probably can’t be physically present and helping picking up those dropped stitches. So here’s my two cents about what to consider when you’re about to onboard the lifelong journey of mastering the art of knittery and knitcraft!.

1. Choose a project that inspires you

Many people feel that the right way to start knitting is to choose a simple project, e.g. a garter stitch scarf. And I can totally understand why – there are no increases or decreases, crosses, yarn overs, cables etc. so you don’t need to mind which row you are working on. You can just repetitively focus on mastering that knitted stitch and finding you own “handwriting”.

Personally, a garter stitch scarf would be a project I probably couldn’t finish, ever. Why? Because it doesn’t inspire me. I wouldn’t be able to concretely see the progress and I would just get lost in the never-ending knit stitch ( I’m not a fan of the purl stitch, but it does serve a purpose).

So my advice is to choose a project that inspires you, no matter what the “difficulty rating” is. You will get enough excercise as you go along – and you can always practice with swatching! A project that gives you the kick will also keep you interested all the way to the bind-off. And after all, cables, patterns, lace, and colorwork are just knits and purls, some with a little twist 🙂

Still, I would perhaps not choose a sweater as my very first project, or even socks (many people dread the heel). For example mittens and beanies are really nice “first projects” to practice patterns and colorwork with! But if you feel confident, just go for it and cast on that sweater! There is no knitting police coming to arrest you for being ambitious.

2. Choose a bit bulkier yarn

When you’re just starting out, you are probably very eager to see the results and the progress that you are making. The simplest way to get a project done faster is to choose a little bulkier yarn, e.g. worsted weight yarn, and thicker needles (EUR size 3,5 – 4) to go with that – or whatever size is recommended by the yarn of your choice.

Another advantage of a bulkier yarn is that it’s also easier to see what you are doing. With a thin yarn (e.g. lace or fingering weight) it’s more difficult, since the stitches are smaller. After couple of projects (and enough of dropped stitches, knits instead of purls and vice versa and split yarns) you’ll be more confident and seasoned with fixing and avoiding mistakes, and you can see what to do even with a thin yarn.

Also, at least to my experience, bulky yarns tend to tangle a bit less – but on the other hand they split easier. But still, working with a bulk or thick yarn gives quick rewards and that thrill of finishing a project.

3. Choose a light-coloured yarn

I’m immediately going to contradict myself and say that of course you should go with the yarn that pleases you and that makes your project enjoyable for you.

However, the advantage of working with a light-colour yarn is that it is once again easier to spot those mistakes and dropped stitches, and fix them. With a dark yarn it might be difficult to spot if you’re fixing a knit or a purl, and which way the dropped stitch should sit on the needle.

Once your eyes are more “trained” then only sky is the limit to what color yarn to use!

4. Choose quality needles that feel good in your hand

You know how in Harry Potter the wand chooses its owner, and that the features of the wand (which tree it’s made of, the core, the length, and the flexibility) all affect how it suites the owner and the power and quality of the spells that the which or wizard then makes?

Well, it’s not that precise and mysterious with knitting needles, but you should nevertheless try at least a couple of types to find what best suites your style. Nowadays the selection of needles is almost as wide as Ollivander’s selection of wands, so you really don’t have to work with the metal / plastic hand-me-down needles that you possibly tried (and hated) in school.

Personally I find bamboo a bit too “sticky”, and prefer e.g. my birch needles, which are slightly more slippery (that’s probably because my stitches are quite tight). But that also depends a lot on the stickiness of the yarn. This is another reason to always swatch before you start a project!

When I cast on my Venezia shawl, I started with some ancient metallic / plastic loop needles. After the first couple of rows I was exhausted and I honestly felt that I’ve completely lost my knitting skills and mojo. I had dropped and split several stitches, and every loop felt heavy. Then I changed to wooden long DPN’s, which I almost never use because they’re so clumsy compared to loop needles. And what a difference it made! The stitches started flying off the needles and my own happiness level increased by 150%.

So don’t underestimate the impact the needles have on your work! But remember that “Wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them” – meaning that no needle will magically make you knit faster or fix your mistakes, but they can help – and make the practising more rewarding! When you’re a skilled knitter, then you can probably knit with a carrot and still make the fabric look good.

So there! That was my wise words of advice to all you aspiring knitters out there. These are by no means any divine truths – there are as many ways as there are knitters. More importantly, remember that knitting is supposed to be fun, not a burden!

If you are worried about not finishing a project you started, check out my post about “too many wip’s” and the pointless feeling of guilt surrounding an unfinished object (UFO).

Happy knitting!

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