Thursday, 23 December 2010

Knitting - getting started is the hardest part

Hi chapettes.

I know a few people who read my blog are wanting to start knitting and feel daunted by the whole process and so I thought some posts from a fairly recent starter might be just the thing to get more people on the road to yarnsville.  All advice in here is my opinion, and, as I know knitters can be a finicky bunch, I’d like to state that I’m more than happy to be corrected (phnar) at any time.

So – why did I start?  Well, I’ve needed some kind of creative outlet for a while as my job can be very repetitive. I tried dressmaking and while I do enjoy it there are a lot of drawbacks that stop it being an ideal hobby for me:  
  • it requires a lot of space for laying out fabric
  • it needs fairly expensive equipment that can often go wrong
  • unless you have a dedicated sewing space (and if you do I’m green with envy) it needs preparation 
  • it isn’t portable.

As a result I decided that knitting and crochet would be my hobbies of note: portable, little equipment needed and very useful, given how tough it can be finding vintage knits in good condition, let alone in a wearable size.

I hadn’t used either of these crafts since school but was confident I could pick it back up again and so borrowed my flatmates old knitting needles and bought some yarn and gave it a try.

What a disaster!  I couldn’t even cast on, and after several attempts where the yarn either tangled or slipped off the needles I gave up, amid some hot, fat tears.

It took me another year to try again, and what prompted me to give it another try was stumbling across some YouTube videos.  Wow!  I never know YouTube was so full of useful stuff, I thought it was all teenagers whining about Britney, cats falling over and 80’s music videos.  

After watching a few knitting videos I decided to pay a visit to Loop, a local knitting shop based in Angel Islington, and treated myself to some bamboo needles and a gorgeous skein of worsted weight (i.e. pretty darn thick) yarn.

This time it finally seemed to click.  I’ll be honest, casting on is still a chore and possible my least favourite bit about the whole knitting process, but I can do it, and once I got the cast on down I found it fairly simple to pick up the two major stitches, knit and purl, as well as a basic increase and decrease.

To help cement my fledgling skills I also took a beginners knitting course at Fabrications (and their blog) a lovely little knitting shop near my home.  It was a great course, quite unstructured and more of a drop in session but I learned a lot.  Barley Massey, who runs the course, is an angel.  Barley - if you are reading this I owe you £1 for some seaming needles :)

Since then I’ve finished a scarf, a knitted snood, and a couple of sweaters.

If you want to start I'd advise getting hold of some bamboo needles (4 or 5mm, bamboo is best as it isn's slippy) and some DK or worsted weight yarn (I'd go cheap acrylic to start with) and just persevere and noodle about with cast on, knit, purl and cast off.  It will click.  If  I can do it, you can!

I'll share my favourite YouTube knitting videos and knitting sites in a future blog.


  1. Oh, gosh, I've wanted to knit for so long!! I tried a knitting book- didn't work at all! Then, I realized that my grandma is very good at it and she gave me a quick lesson. I could knit like a mad woman until I put it down for longer than a few days and totally forgot how to do it! I really want to pick it back up again but I have to teach my daughter and my cats to leave the yarn alone :)

  2. I hated knitting all my life thanks to horrid teachers and equipment. But it is the best thing to keep yourself occupied when quitting smoking. That's how I started knitting. So like you, with books youtube and lots of errors. Now I consider it very zen.

    I like to knit while waiting for hairdressers, having a coffee with a friend, or on long trainrides. It's always a conversation starter.
    I'm struggling with 'foreign' knitting when it comes to yarns (ply?!) and gauge.

    Sewing doesn't have to be expensive, find a second hand machine and you really don't need a separate room.

  3. I agree that learning can seem like a very daunting task! Luckily pretty much every woman in my family knits and I actually learned at age 5. I dropped it for years and began again as a sophomore in high school. I started with a sock and I believe it's now been frogged because it was SO bad. But once you get over the initial learning it can be so fun and it really is not that hard after the initial awkwardness goes away.

  4. I really love the little red 40's top you knitted. Can you recommend the pattern or a similar one for this *average* knitter? I'm slow but I get there in the end..