Knitting 101
November 25, 2015 6:42 PM   Subscribe

Do you knit? Did you have absolutely no experience with knitting before you started? Do you remember how you learned? Knitters of MeFi, please share your wisdom!

I'm not crafty at all, but I think I want to try knitting. I like the idea of being able to do something productive while visiting or watching TV--and something that will keep my hands busy so I'm not so tempted to snack in the evenings.
I'm looking for VERY BASIC instructions for beginners that won't cause me to get frustrated and give up before I can even give it a chance. My schedule is probably not going to allow me to take a class right now. What are the best books/YouTube videos/other resources that will get me started? What supplies are best for beginners? Or is knitting difficult to learn unless I can actually take a class?
MeFi knitters, please advise me!
posted by bookmammal to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
Knitting is really not very hard to learn. It takes practice to get your tension even, but the act of knitting is itself relatively simple. I used to keep multiple copies of the Patons Learn to Knit booklet on hand because it was cheap and people found it easy to follow so I'd just give copies away to people who wanted to learn. It's out of print now as far as I can tell, so I don't any more, but it is still a good resource if you're willing to pay eBay prices for one. has some good YouTube videos that are very, very calm and very detailed.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:57 PM on November 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I had been tuaght as a child, but remembered nothing. I relearned with the first stitch and bitch book. It's a bit outdated by now, but the drawings were much more helpful for me than photographs. I also just went to a yarn shop and bought a skein of worsted weight yarn and the needles that matched. The ladies at the shop told me to pick a color and yarn I loved so it would be fun from the beginning.
posted by umwhat at 6:59 PM on November 25, 2015

I agree with jacquilynne, those are the best resources I've found.

That being said, I've just spent a day teaching a group of people how to knit, and nothing really beats in-person instruction. Do you have a friend who knits and could sit with you for an hour, just until you get the basic motions down?
posted by third word on a random page at 7:00 PM on November 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

You don't need a class, don't worry! The super basic Knitting 101 videos will teach you - very slowly - how to knit. However, if you can get to a Stitch-n-Bitch anywhere near you at any time, any knitter will be happy to show you how to cast on and how to knit a row, reverse, and knit back in the other direction. You will likely not need any more help than that to get started, and that will get you very happily through a basic scarf.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I relearned with the first stitch and bitch book.

learned from that book, too!
posted by listen, lady at 7:03 PM on November 25, 2015

I learned from Stitch and Bitch, which has already been mentioned several times now, although I think my grandmother also taught me as a child and I subsequently forgot.

I don't think you need to take a class, but if you have a friend who is a knitter, it can be helpful to have a pleasant afternoon knitting session with them, so they can come to your rescue if you have any questions or accidents.

Many of my best garments are at least partially constructed from swear-words, I think they add character.

Knitting is not difficult, you can do it!
posted by misfish at 7:05 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think it's probably pretty easy to learn to knit from a video, you can watch them as often as you want to till you get it. The problem comes when you make a mistake, or even recognising that you have made a mistake. Experienced knitters know how to fix problems with the minimum of unravelling, whilst beginners may find themselves having to start again.

I'd suggest finding a local yarn shop to buy your first needles and wool at. Then you can go back and ask for help if things go haywire.
posted by kjs4 at 7:07 PM on November 25, 2015

Tin Can Knits

This is where I learned. Basically I went through all of her tutorials and then her simplest patterns to hardest.
posted by Marinara at 7:07 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

I learned to knit from children's how-to books. For learning the basics of the craft, the very simple explanations from kids' books were very helpful. Kids Knit! by Sarah Bradberry is probably the one I used the most when starting out.
posted by darchildre at 7:15 PM on November 25, 2015

I learned how to knit from a book I bought at Michaels years ago and from the Knitting Help videos linked earlier in the thread. Buying a kit would be a good start, they usually have needles, instructions (not just for a specific project but usually there's things about casting on, different stiches etc.) and other odds and ends that you'll eventually need.

I knitted a lot of dishcloths when I first started out, which I think was a good way to begin because they're small and good for practicing all different kinds of stitch patterns. I made tons of these, years later I still love to make them. They're super easy, super cheap to make (one ball of Lily's Sugar and Cream yarn is about $1.30 at Walmart) and actually useful once they're finished. (The old Dishcloth Boutique site where I got other patterns is gone but the patterns have been saved on Ravelry.)
posted by kassila at 7:17 PM on November 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Youtube videos are definitely enough to get you started. I taught myself to knit from books and from youtube videos. I knitted scarves and hats for months and wondered why the edges were never pretty and straight like they should be. This was because I had been knitting all wrong! Ha. So once you get the basic stitches down, ask a friend or someone at a yarn shop to watch you do a few stitches to make sure you're doing them right. :-)
posted by ilovewinter at 7:20 PM on November 25, 2015

I taught myself how to knit and I made blankets and all sorts of things for 2 decades, hating every minute of it, until I reread what I had learned and realized that I had been doing my knit stitch wrong all those years, which is why my rows where never perfect. Long story short- learn on your own but have a friend check your progress.

I used to teach people how to crochet (also self taught but correctly) and the first lesson was this:

Choose your yarn first. Find the best quality yarn in the color that you love because it doesn't matter what you are making, if you hate your yarn, you will not be happy. Beginners should choose smooth yarn. Bernat and Pattons make good yarn. Stay away from Red Heart, which is crap. When you are choosing your yarn, roll a piece in your fingers and watch as the strands come apart. The ones that come apart in a big, gaping way (Red Heart) will come apart like that while you are using it, causing you lots of frustrations. Choose a yarn with small gaps or none at all. Start out with a strong, solid color that will allow you to see your stitches easily.

Start off with simple projects like dishrags, because your hands need time to learn what they are doing. If you start off with a scarf, the end and the beginning will not look the same.

If you make the same mistake on every row then it is no longer a mistake, it is a pattern. Be consistent and it will all work out in the end.

I prefer bamboo or rosewood needles to the metal ones because they are less slippery and I can keep everything on easier. They are more expensive but most craft stores have coupons.
posted by myselfasme at 7:29 PM on November 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

Echoing the Stitch n Bitch book and the Knitting Help website for videos. I went from not understanding knitting at all to making socks in a few months.
posted by joan_holloway at 8:11 PM on November 25, 2015

Kids Knitting is the book I learned from and is the book I recommend for anyone looking to learn. It's a very popular book and in most library collections for a reason. They explain a few basic stitches in wonderful detailed step-by-step with clear visual instructions. The projects they have you do are also super cute and finish fast. This is important because, as you learn, you will find the look of your knitting will morph. Mine started out big and loopy and then got tighter than a gnats ass. Now mine is a nice consistent firm stitch.

Once you get through this book, you are ready for just about anything. You will find that youtube videos of certain techniques make sense, as do books that step you through specialty stitches. Really, knitting is a pretty basic toolkit of a small number of distinct stitches put together in infinite variety.

myselfasme gives good advice on yarn (and everything, really). Choose a light colored yarn that is simple and strong and is probably what they call sport weight or worsted weight and I would suggest #8 or #10 bamboo needles. It's a nice large size so you can see your stitches but not so large that stuff gets big and loopy. I would say bamboo because it grabs the yarn a bit. Stitches falling off of the needles when you are first learning is a problem. I would avoid metal because it's slippery.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:47 PM on November 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh! And I would avoid cotton yarn until you are confident. Cotton doesn't like to be knitted and puts up a fight. It sort of gets bound up on itself and your stitches are already going to be tight because you are learning! Acrylic can be good for starting out as it's cheap and available. I typically knit wool, and rather plain wool at that because I am a traditionalist.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:50 PM on November 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I also learned from Stitch and Bitch and youtube. Never took a class, but the men and women at my local knitting shop were invaluable. There are lots of videos about how to knit, not so many on how to troubleshoot when you mess up.

My only advice about materials is stay away from the long, straight metal needles that are often sold in beginners kits. I found them heavy and difficult to wield. I only knit with short, say no longer than 8" bamboo needles, or circular needles.
posted by wrabbit at 11:24 PM on November 25, 2015

I'm completely self taught. I also second starting with wool and bamboo or wood needles. My favorite starting book is by Sally Melville. It has photographic instructions, not illustrations. All of the patterns use only the knit stitch. No purling, that is in book two. The best general reference I have is Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook. It might not make sense at the beginning, but it is really cheap now, and I find it more interesting and useful than Vogue Knitting.

My favorite needles are Addi bamboo circulars.
posted by monopas at 12:08 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

It depends on what sort of learner you are - if you learn best by copying someone else then get someone to show you, otherwise the Patons Learn to Knit pamphlet is great.

If you do get someone to show you, it can be easier to learn if they show you how to knit, then how to cast/bind off then how to cast on. Casting on (getting the first set of stitches on the needle) is the hardest part, IMHO.
posted by girlgenius at 12:48 AM on November 26, 2015

Don't worry too much about the first yarn you choose; just know that if there's something you don't like about it (it's too fuzzy, too stiff, the strands split, etc.), there's other yarn out there that doesn't have that problem. Red Heart or other plain-jane craft store acrylic is fine. I do recommend, though, that you choose a light color of yarn for practice - it's way easier to see the stitches. The variegated multicolor clown-barf kind can be good for that too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:38 AM on November 26, 2015

At my friends' suggestion, I taught myself from the book Stitch and Bitch. If I wanted to watch something in motion, I just googled it and looked for videos so I have no specific online references to recommend - but I will check out some of the ones mentioned above. If you are lefty (as I am), try continental as most of the manipulation is done with the left hand. I was afraid I was going to have to translate everything to be backwards from normal instructions and patterns, but continental works just fine for me.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2015

I knit, although very poorly because I don't practice at it. The only thing that worked for me when I was learning was sitting next to a friend who is an experienced knitter and having her help me. I've tried watching videos/reading books and it just doesn't compute. There are tons of knitting groups that meet at coffee shops in the evenings.

My friend also gives private lessons sometimes for a small fee. You don't have to take a class but I definitely recommend in person instruction.
posted by betsybetsy at 6:01 AM on November 26, 2015

I am a knitter, too. I tried learning from books, but I personally found videos to be invaluable because they give the kind of context and subtle detail that a book, in my opinion, can't. I strongly recommend the high definition videos on knit freedom . com (sorry, I'm on my phone, so can't provide a link). The creator, Liat Gat, shows not only how to knit, but goes into a lot of detail and slowly explains how to hold yarn, position hands, and explains common mistakes as she goes. She teaches both American and English styles, which was super helpful for me because I learned that I knit much better holding the yarn in my left hand, even though I'm right handed.

The posters above are right that knitting is easy, but it's like anything else - you need to be taught how to do it right or you end up with bad habits that are hard to unlearn. When I learned from a book I was twisting all my stitches because I didn't pick up on some important details of how to do it properly. Not to slam on books... I have Stitch N Bitch and love it, but for me books worked well as a reference, videos work better to teach technique.

Nthing the advice to go a class in person if you can. That's always best.

If you have a local yarn store, ask them to help pick out yarn and the right size needles. Worsted weight with a size 5 or 6 needle size would work unless you want to knit bigger.

Ravelry and meetup are great resources for local groups. Also, Ravelry has several excellent forums for both beginners and experienced knitters. I take pictures of mistakes I can't figure out and nice people always help me fix it. Super supportive community. I can't recommend that enough.

I've made hats, fingerless gloves, berets, baby blankets, cowls, and learned to knit in the round (seamless). Sweaters are next.

Good luck! Knitting is a wonderful way to relax, meet some nice people and get creative.
posted by onecircleaday at 6:35 AM on November 26, 2015

If you can't get to a class and don't have a friend who knits, someone at a yarn store would probably be willing to give you a private lesson. You can learn from books and videos, but just one lesson will help a lot.

It can take a while to learn to get your stitches even, but don't be discouraged. You'll get it.
posted by FencingGal at 7:11 AM on November 26, 2015

Everyone else gave great advice, but here's what I would add: dive into it. Make things that challenge you. I taught and an still teaching myself to knit. I have an entire collection of imperfect knit goods that taught me as much about knitting as any class or book. Learn the two basic stitches and then challenge yourself. Use different colors. If you're interested in making round things, like hats, gloves, etc. get some double pointed needles and try it.

The first few things you make will likely not look very good, and they may not be things you'd willingly wear in public, and that's fine. Make them anyway. The only way you will learn is by doing it.
posted by Amy93 at 10:21 AM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

26 answers in, and only one Ravelry mention?? I blame Thanksgiving.

Ravelry is like Facebook for knitters and crocheters, if Facebook were way better designed, respected your privacy, and helped you keep track of all your knitting supplies and inspirations. Besides all the great resources people above recommended, there are groups on Ravelry devoted to helping new knitters. You may not learn to knit directly from Ravelry, but it will be an awesome resource once you learn.
posted by booksherpa at 5:55 PM on November 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah, Ravelry will also help you find any yarn shops and/or knitting groups that happen to be nearby. I know you said a class is unlikely in the near future, but the shop people will help you at least a bit any time they are open, and the knitting group will most likely be drop in -- i.e. no commitment to come regularly.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:13 PM on November 26, 2015

If you start off with a scarf, the end and the beginning will not look the same.

My first project (after a few small practice swatches) was a scarf. The first 12" are definitely different from the rest of it. I was knitting much too tightly, and it too me a while to realize I needed to relax a lot. Also, every 15 rows or so I dropped a knit and didn't notice it, so there are about a dozen small holes in the pattern over the course of the scarf. Nevertheless, I love it so much. It's mine, and I made it, and it has character.

I learned from this video by Chandi at Lots of good close ups, slow, clear explanations, and she also talks about knitting left-handed if you're right-handed, which is faster, and is less tiring for your fingers.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 6:15 PM on November 26, 2015

Another vote for Knitting Help! That website set me up for all the basics and then some. I spent a lot of time looking through patterns on Ravelry and Knitty to get me going. As the patterns got more difficult to comprehend, I also invested in a copy of Knitspeak, and it has been invaluable.

I like bamboo needles most. Plastic is sort of difficult and the metal ones are too smooth and I keep losing stitches on them. Get a cable needle and some stitch markers - cabling is easier than you think, and stitch markers are essential when knitting in the round.

Just jump in and start something! I'm still a solidly intermediate knitter who has never moved beyond hats and scarves, but both keep me happily occupied. Good luck!
posted by 9000condiments at 3:43 AM on November 27, 2015

I am learning to knit right now! My boss is teaching my team. We are using this hat + hand warmers pattern from Purl Soho. It's nice to have a printed pattern with directions to reference even if you're also watching videos. (Although I think their instructions for width of the hand warmers is off so I added some more rows.)

Agree with Foam Pants that you should use wool yarn to start, and also wooden needles. Both have more grip so it's less slippery.
posted by radioamy at 11:25 AM on November 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these great responses! I've checked out a few of the YouTube links and am feeling much more confident and excited about actually being able to do this! (You have to understand--I do not generally "do crafts" so this is a big deal for me!). I'm picking up the Stitch & Bitch book from the library this week and will go to a yarn shop later in the week to get some initial supplies. I think there is a homemade scarf in my future!
Thanks again to all of the knitters of MeFi!
posted by bookmammal at 4:16 PM on November 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me make my brand new awful job less awful   |   Are there progressive children's books in Russian? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.