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Learn to knit
November 24, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn how to knit. Where do I start?

I know the basics of knitting using two needles, but that's it - and it's been awhile. I've made quite a few scarves in my day, but nothing more complicated than that. What is the best resource for learning how to knit more complicated things like hats, legwarmers, and sweaters? I also really want to make a big, warm blanket, but I don't think that would be super complicated (it's basically bunch of scarves sewn together with yarn, right?)

I joined Ravelry, but I'm overwhelmed - maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I can't find a basic "so you want to learn how to knit" page there. I'm pretty sure it's for more experienced knitters. I... don't really know how to read a pattern, or how to choose yarn, or how to use circular needles - I might not even remember how to cast on anymore.

I'm looking for a book or two, or really good and detailed blogs/tutorials for beginners. I looked at a few of these knitting blogs from a previous question, but they're not really what I'm looking for.
posted by k8lin to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stitch 'N Bitch is a good one-book resource. It covers all the basics in a lively, entertaining way, plus it has a bunch of cute patterns of increasing challenge.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:19 AM on November 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


I recommend Stitch N' Bitch by Debbie Stoller. There are tons of fun and funky projects in it, lots of beginner stuff that isn't boring, and is written with sass. My favorite thing about it is the wonderful, clear illustrations for the different stitches.
posted by Brody's chum at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2012


To know how to begin, literally, look for you tube videos on how to "cast on" and also just generally google "cast on" to see diagrams of what's actually happening.

The two first basic stitches are knit and purl -- you can have a lot of fun starting there.
posted by vitabellosi at 9:29 AM on November 24, 2012


Mrs graymouser, who has become quite a knitter, suggests watching people do it – if you can go to a knitting meetup or take a class at a yarn store (not a JoAnn's fabric or similar big craft store, a real dedicated business for yarn), that's the best way - you have to watch someone do it over and over. If not, watch youtube videos. The principle is basically the same, watching someone do it repetitively.
posted by graymouser at 9:30 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


What really ramped up my knitting skills was the discovery that there is a world of instructional videos for knitting techniques online. I found that using books like Stitch N Bitch was helpful in some ways, but the illustrations really didn't help me figure out the motions my hands needed to be making. I guess I learn better from watching/listening than reading and looking at diagrams?

The Learn To Knit website is a great source for this, especially if you want short, simple "how do I use a circular needle" type stuff. But just going to YouTube and searching the relevant key word (perl, kitchener, bind off, whatever) will get good results.

On the off chance that you are a looking at diagrams type learner, there used to be someone on Ravelry who made these amazing hand-drawn instructional diagrams, and it's driving me crazy that I can't find it now that I've stopped using Ravelry and don't knit as much anymore. But if you have a Ravelry login it's worth poking around in the forums to find that stuff. The user spent a lot of time in the Technique and Troubleshooting parts of the forum spreading the love with rad diagrams that I unfortunately found impossible to understand because I don't learn that way.
posted by Sara C. at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the best way to learn to knit is by watching/being taught. Your local yarn store probably has classes or a knitting group where someone would be glad to help you. Otherwise, check out YouTube, there are tons of instructional videos. It think it's really a lot easier to see it being done rather than trying to read how to do it. I have this book, which has pretty clear instructions and illustrations, and some gorgeous patterns. Everything I've made from it has turned out beautifully. Good luck!
posted by catatethebird at 9:40 AM on November 24, 2012


Here to second the recommendation for knittinghelp.com. What worked for me was a combination of learning in-person (took classes at a local yarn store) and practicing on my own, with books and internet videos for help.
posted by pril at 9:45 AM on November 24, 2012


Ravelry has some learn-to-knit groups and many links to resources.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:55 AM on November 24, 2012


I wonder if Sara C. is thinking of TECHknitter who has tons of info on her site, although it's probably better after you've been knitting a while and are looking for more advanced techniques (check the index).

I also recommend knittinghelp.com for basics, the Stitch n Bitch book for when you're at home and don't want to go on the computer, and hanging out with knitters. Those three things were basically how I learned. Ravelry keeps me interested in knitting. There is no "so you want to learn to knit" page on Ravelry -- it's more of a database and social network than an instructive site. However, if you join some groups for new knitters, you'll find people very willing to help. Also join the group for your city to meet other knitters.
posted by pised at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2012


I learned to knit out of the back of a magazine using a guide like this one plus a bit of kibitzing from my grandad. Basically, knitting consists of roughly six things: cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease and cast off. Most patterns are not going to require anything else, and, if they do, you can google it (you can google those six things, too--admittedly 'increase' and 'decrease' come in varieties). For whatever reason, I have a terrible time looking at YouTube videos and figuring things out. I'm much better at finding a tutorial where someone's taken photos and then thinking "Right, I have to get things into this position" rather than trying to mimic movements.

Knitty has done some good tutorials in the past.

The thing that matters when picking yarn is that you want to get the same gauge/tension as the pattern. So if the pattern used worsted weight yarn, you want to find worsted weight yarn, too. Ravelry has made finding what weight the random long-discontinued yarn in a pattern is a lot easier. You can also see what yarns other people used. Once you have the yarn, you want to find needles that get you the right gauge (which is basically always given as X stitches to 4in/10cm--sometimes it tells you how many rows, as well)--bigger needles (in diameter and size, in both the US and metric systems*) means fewer stitches per inch and smaller needles means more.

My suggestion would be to pick a pattern you want to knit. Good characteristics would be knit flat (not in the round/on circular or double-pointed needles), no cables, not lace and relatively small (you want to finish this project in a reasonable amount of time). Preferably something scarf-like where it doesn't matter much if your gauge is off (assuming you don't have a lot of needles lying around). Figure out the weight of the yarn. Go to Michaels or somewhere similar and buy some yarn of that weight and needles if need be. Practice any and all of the six things listed above that occur in your chosen pattern. Once you feel comfortable with them, go find yarn you want to knit the project out of. (This could be the same yarn you practiced on. Or go to the yarn shop and buy something nicer, but not expensive. Or back to Michaels for nicer, but not expensive. (More expensive yarn at Michaels costs roughly what the low end of yarn shop yarn costs.)) Knit project. Rejoice. Now that you've acquired some confidence, pick whatever pattern you want to knit next, who cares if it's 'hard'. I think I went from a half-finished garter stitch scarf, to a knit flat hat, to socks because it didn't really occur to me to be intimidated. The socks didn't turn out that well, but they're wearable--my mom wears them to bed to keep her feet warm.

*The old British needle-sizing system had smaller numbers for bigger needles, but you probably don't have needles sized like that and if you do, you probably know.
posted by hoyland at 10:01 AM on November 24, 2012


One more vote for knittinghelp! I was taught the basics - cast on, cast off, knit and purl - by a friend and have learned everything else from the internet - mostly those videos. I also bought Knitspeak, and it's been invaluable in helping me decipher patterns. I find its explanations (a combination of text and diagram) very easy to follow, and where they aren't entirely clear, I go over to knittinghelp.

I think the pattern archives at knitty are really useful if you want to look at/search by different levels of difficulty and see what feels doable. I spent a lot of time trawling ravelry as well. I haven't been there in a while, but back when I was just starting to move past scarves, I found that the knitting forum at craftster was very friendly, full of helpful people, and also a great pattern and tutorial source.
posted by 9000condiments at 10:03 AM on November 24, 2012


One more - Purl Soho's great blog the purl bee also has a bunch of great projects and tutorials, of which some are likely to be good launchpads for bigger/more complex projects.
posted by 9000condiments at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing the Stitch-and-Bitch book - it's how I learned. It shows you how to do all the stuff you've said you need to know (starting, making stitches, how to read a pattern....)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:11 AM on November 24, 2012


Yay, knitting! Another vote for both Stitch 'N Bitch and knittinghelp.com, specifically the videos that go through an entire project: English style or Continental style. Pick the style that feels most comfortable to you. I knit English-style, but know many who knit Continental or combined.

I'd suggest dishcloth rather than a scarf as a first project, since gauge still won't matter and you'll get that sense of accomplishment quicker. I'd try it with acrylic though, since it tends to be easier on your hands than cotton.

If you can find a local yarn store -- Ravelry has a pretty good search function for such things -- and/or a local knitting group, they may be able to help. Mine's helped me greatly.

Oh, and join the MeFi group on Ravelry, if you wish: MetaStitcher.
posted by wiskunde at 10:12 AM on November 24, 2012


Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti is the best learn-to-knit book I know of. Making the "Dumb Baby Sweater" and the "Stupid Baby Bonnet" (so-named by her students) you'll have the technical skills nailed and will be able to approach just about any pattern you want with confidence.

One of the things I like about Righetti is that she points out that there's really only one actual mistake possible in knitting: sticking the point of a needle through the yarn and thereby splitting the fiber. Everything else — added stitches, decreased stitches, dropped stitches, etc. — isn't a mistake, it's a genuine technique, just used in the wrong place.
posted by Lexica at 10:18 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I took a class, but Vogue Knitting helped me tremendously when I wasn't in class and needed help. Are there any local knitting stores near you? They can help you get started.
posted by cecic at 10:23 AM on November 24, 2012


For specific YouTubers, I like Very Pink Knits and The Knit Witch. Both have large collections of clear videos with the motions broken down slowly and clearly. I am a serious fumblethumbs, and I still use YouTube to learn new things. The Stitch n' Bitch books and Maggie Righetti's Knitting in Plain English are fantastic, but sometimes you just need a video!

Also, may I suggest dishcloths? I got both of the Mason-Dixon Knitting books for Christmas a few years ago, and I became a dishcloth-makin' fool after reading them. Dishcloths are a perfect learner project, because they're so much smaller and quicker than scarves, and they're great little canvases for learning new techniques. I essentially use mine as big gauge swatches/practice pieces, so I have cabled dishcloths and all sorts of foolishness.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2012


I learned knitting out of books and the internet, and I didn't't think Stich 'N Bitch was a great book to learn from, maybe because it wasn't the first knitting book I came across.

I would suggest deciding on something you want to knit, then doing some research on how to do it. Or if there is a particular technique you want to learn, try to think of a pattern that makes use of the technique.

Something that could combine your desire to knit a big warm blanket with learning to knit could be Barbara Walker's Learn-to-Knit-Afghan Book. You knit 63 squares, progressing through patterns of different complexity. At the end, you'll have squares you can stitch together for an afghan, examples of which you can see online.

And then pretty soon you'll be examining knit items at stores reverse engineering it in your head ...

For the basic things, like casting on, I do highly recommend taking a class at a yarn store or even Jo-Ann fabric. (Or MeMail me and we can go over some of the basics over coffee :) )
posted by research monkey at 10:27 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If really depends on your learning style. Some people can learn quite well from books, but I never could, the pictures confuse the heck out of me. If you can, then there are hundreds of books out there for you, several of which are suggested above.

If you're a visual learner, I suggest finding a beginners pattern for something you'd like to knit that's not a scarf (a simple knit/purl pattern) and looking on YouTube for anything you find confusing. I learned a lot that way.

However, if you need someone to show you, and you live in or near a city of any size, I'd suggest joining a knitting group. We had one in my old university and you can learn quite a bit from other members who are usually more than happy to help. Classes cost money, knitting groups are usually free. You might be able to find one on meetup.com or at your local yarn store, or at your library. I stumbled across mine by chance in the Starbucks.
posted by patheral at 10:42 AM on November 24, 2012


I've had luck with the Patons's Next Steps book.
posted by sarahkeebs at 10:45 AM on November 24, 2012


Yes, I was thinking of TECHknitter! Thanks pised!
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on November 24, 2012


Agreed on knittinghelp. I found Knitting In Plain English to be more useful to me than Stitch and Bitch, but flip through both at the library or bookstore to see which one has a tone you can handle.

Next, I would go on Ravelry, search for a group in your geographical area, and join it, because they're likely to have an in-person meeting. Knitting seems to be the sort of thing that so many people learn better by seeing real hands do it in front of you, so it's very helpful to find nearby people to knit with. If you have a local yarn shop, springing for lessons isn't a bad idea either. The level you're at, knowing how to knit and maybe purl but not knowing how to read a pattern, is a really common one for yarn shops to pitch classes to. So if you do have any access to local lessons I'd bet that you could find something just right.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:34 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I learned to knit about 2 (3?) years ago, and now can knit sweaters and other "hard" stuff; you will be amazed at how quickly you can learn it.

I want to nth youtube. My grandmother knits but is the worst teacher in the world (she just wants to do it for you) so youtube was a lifesaver.

I also suggest using acrylic or wool yarn to start. I found cotton really hard to work with, my hands got tired, and my projects didn't look as good as I wanted, so it was easy to get discouraged. Use wool if you want to wear it, I find that it is worth the expense, but I am not a yarn snob; if you find wool itchy then use a nice acrylic yarn.

For a really fun easy book of patterns, look for Baby Beanies by Amanda Keeys the patterns start from ridiculously easy and progress from there. I have made many baby hats from this book and people are always amazed. Its nice to work from because you can finish a project really quickly, and if you want to make a bigger size you can just add more when you cast on.

Use the advances search on Ravelry to look for easy free patterns, it works really well.

Also find one friend or knitting store that you can go to when you get stuck, they will be more than happy to help you.
posted by heybearica at 11:57 AM on November 24, 2012


Another great book is Knitty Gritty which I would combine with videos and real life classes.
posted by shibori at 12:08 PM on November 24, 2012


I learned to basic knit and purl from my local yarn shop. I also recommend knittinghelp.com. It's a great resource for picking up other techniques.

When I was ready to make something other than a scarf, I signed up on Craftsy.com for a Laura Nelkin class. I learned a lot and the great thing about the classes on Craftsy is that you can go back and rewatch as many times as you need to. You can also ask questions and the instructors will answer within a day or so.
posted by mamaquita at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2012


I tend to learn best by watching videos - Knitting Help has some really great ones, but not so many that it's overwhelming. Once you get the basics down, Ravelry is great for finding patterns and yarn recommendations.
posted by krakenattack at 1:23 PM on November 24, 2012


I learned to knit through the KnitFreedom website by Liat Gat. She sells an eBook for a very reasonable price with embedded videos that take you through the steps slowly and includes common knitting mistakes. Signing up for the KnitFreedom YouTube channel is free and includes most if not all her videos. Also the videos are high def and high contrast,and she knits American style for those who need that. She has a group on Ravelry with folks who love helping newbies. Good luck!
posted by luciddream928 at 1:35 PM on November 24, 2012


Biased recommendation here, but Beyond Knit and Purl, by Kate Atherley (my company published it) is a good next-step book after Stitch 'n Bitch, as well as a solid reference. Kate is Knitty.com's senior tech editor and a very talented teacher as well.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:47 PM on November 24, 2012


(Feel free to MeMail me with any questions, as a knitting book publisher I know a lot of people in the industry and could help you refine your searches perhaps!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:49 PM on November 24, 2012


Thanks, y'all. I got a copy of Stitch n Bitch, a pair of needles, and successfully knit all my Christmas gifts by hand this year. It's really not that difficult once you get the hang of it. I found that the book, YouTube, and Ravelry made a great combination.
posted by k8lin at 12:21 PM on December 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


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